Gregor Telfer (GT) is a foodie scotsman, working in the film industry and living in the Big Apple. Here, he gives us the lowdown and talks us through some of his favourite places to eat and drink in New York. In the first of two parts (the second is his guide to Brooklyn), Gregor travels through Manhattan from north to south of Union Square, and then from the fashionable West Village to land in the fast paced East.
New York has 5 boroughs: the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Best known and most visited are Manhattan and Brooklyn. This first guide is for Manhattan which of course, has its own subsections and communities. I won’t list them all here, but I’ll take you through the basics:
Harlem is north, at the top of the city. We are not regulars in Harlem, but there are some cool places to eat. Go to Amy Ruth’s to eat soul food. During my visit, the locals were tucking into big piles of chicken wings!
Upper East and West sides
The Upper East and West Sides begin alongside Central Park. It’s wealthy and conservative here, which is not really our thing! Of course, there are cool spots like the Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History, but this isn’t a neighbourhood we visit to go and eat.
New York natives will be more specific about the borders of Up, Mid, and Downtown but, broadly speaking, Midtown runs from Central Park down to Union Square. Here, you’ll find all the big brand shops and skyscrapers you could wish for. Swanky stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdales are based in Midtown, not to mention legendary hotels The Plaza and The Four Seasons.
If you’re above Union Square and ready to eat, head for Eataly the packed Italian food hall. Situated next to the beautiful Flatiron Building, Eataly offers great Italian fare. It’s not cheap, but it is high quality. Midtown is also home to the world famous Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and New York’s beautiful Grand Central Station. Grab a drink in one of the station’s bars overlooking the main concourse, and watch the city ballet unfold beneath you. Try the Grand Central Oyster Bar in the food hall. No messing, with a great selection of oysters.
Speaking of oysters, NY loves ‘em! There are dozens of oyster bars in the city, most of which do a happy hour special. A good glass of wine and oysters for a dollar? Yes please! Don’t hesitate to ask about happy hours, staff will be happy to tell you! I recommend Balthazar in Soho. It may be big, flash and touristy, but the wine and oyster selection are excellent. In the West Village Blue Ribbon is worth a visit. It’s a sushi spot really, but again, the oysters and wines are high quality. Go, eat oysters in Manhattan. It’s fun!
East and West Villages
From south of Union Square, the shenanigans really begin. Here we have the East and West Villages, Soho, the Meatpacking District and the Lower East Side. These are the neighbourhoods where New Yorkers go to eat up and get down! The West Village is more gentrified than the East. Numerous sophisticated celebrities like Anna Wintour and Julianne Moore, have made the West Village their home.
There are loads of places to choose from, but why not check out award-winning gastropub The Spotted Pig? It’s very popular, so be prepared to wait. To live like a local, visit on a Sunday afternoon when it’s more relaxed and neighbourhood oriented. Nearby,The Corner Bistro makes some of the best burgers in the city. This West Village eatery has been around forever, making it one of NY’s great spots for burgers, beer and fries. It’s moodily dark in here, even on the brightest day!
After a pit stop at the Corner Bistro, why not wander over to the High Line Park Way? It’s an elevated section of railway track that has been meticulously reworked as a park. It’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Grab an ice cream from one of the vendors, or sip a sherry at Terroir? It’s good for light bites too.
Next stop, the East Village! It’s definitely more grimey but also, more fun! There’s a real craze for ramen right now. Read this Vogue article and take your pick! I recommend either of the Momofukus, the Noodle Bar or Ssam Bar. Both are essential eateries in my opinion. Start with pork buns and the chilled house sake….perfect! I can’t recommend these places highly enough – one visit is not enough. These guys are serious, and the food is seriously delicious.
New Yorkers love a cocktail and some of the best spots are in the East Village where you have to find your way there…PDT (short for Please Don’t Tell) is fun and classy. Enter through a phone booth in a hot dog joint on 8th St, the heart of the East Village. You can order the dogs to go alongside your cocktail too! Alternatively, find your way to The Angels Share, where some very serious young Japanese men create truly well crafted cocktails. Head through a slamming noodle joint, up the stairs, to the little wooden door on the left. This lovely, tranquil, bar is hard to find, but a gem if you do.
In the Lower East Side, things really get late night. This district is packed with bars, so just go for a stroll and see what takes your fancy! Orchard, Ludlow and Essex streets are right in the thick of it, with bars packed until the early hours of the morning. Bars in NYC shut at 4am, so this is the ideal neighbourhood for night owls.
For eats, Dirt Candy offers excellent vegetarian food served with fun and flair. Dirt Candy is an absolute must-go! Not too far from there is Mission Chinese Food. The food is super-duper spicy, and the crowd is the hippest you’ll find anywhere.
Next up: Part 2 Brooklyn