Located on West 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues lies one of my favorite old New York haunts. The Donut Pub. When you consider the long counter and the silent patrons, holding their cup of coffee and paper close, sugar crumbs nested in the corners of their doughy mouths, it does indeed recall one of those Irish pubs of Hells Kitchen lore. Here, donuts are serious business.
It’s not service with a smile. The oreo cookie covered vanilla filled iced is announced quite seriously. If you order a box, you have stepped up a level and are eyed with suspicion. “Are you going to be a regular or this this just a donut junkie pit stop?” their eyes seem to inquire of me. I tell them with my eyes, “Donut junkie. You got me.”
All these choices and my favorite is still, the apple fritter. Please leave one for me.
Christmas time in NYC can be overwhelming. Where to go when you have limited time and resources? Oddly enough, Grand Central is a must see. Food, shopping, splendor abound. There are even several secret bars for you to tipple away the stress of the maddening crowds.
The Oyster Bar is located between the first and basement level, and the meeting of the two walkways. (Check out the whispering corners) Have one of their famous fish stews at the counter and recollect the 1950’s, or slip into their back bar, The Saloon. The Saloon is a great place to catch a peek at a celebrity or a overhear some stock tips, but it’s not expensive or pretentious. Grab a spot at the bar and get to know your bartenders name. You’ll get a nice, stiff drink and some good advice. (Ladies, the restroom here is divine.)
If you want to live large, or even medium rare, have a burger at Michael Jordan’s. On the balcony overlooking the main floor below, you will feel like a King (or Queen as the case may be) munching away on one of the best bites of beef in town. The view is simply one of a kind.
Want to sneak away for your cocktail? Then you must don your finest shoes (there is a strictly held dress code) and visit The Campbell Apartments, where you will indeed feel like you are visiting another era. The 20’s or 40’s, I’m not sure, but it sure as heck ain’t today. Lush banquets and wooden panels reaching up to levels will cull you into a state of recollecting past lives, or perhaps lives yet to be lived…
It’s possible in one of those lives, you were a tennis player! If you like, you can play out this memory at the newly refinished tennis courts on the upper level. Yes, that’s right. I said tennis courts. The Vanderbilt Tennis Club is stunning, and can now claim it is the newest tennis court in Manhattan, despite the spaces history of once being the CBS television studios, due to it’s extensive reconstruction.
Rather “work out” your issues with the credit card? The Christmas Fair at Grand Central will allow you to be indoors in a beautiful setting, sipping your cocoa while you peruse oodles of handmade gifts. Too delightful.
Finally, there are light shows both indoors and outside of the Great hall of Grand Central. A truly magical experience for both children and adults. Don’t miss it!
SO. You like yourself a good sandwich, deli style, and you DON’T wanna pay a bundle at one of those “famous” midtown Deli’s or go all the way downtown to Katz’s? slip on over to Eisenburg’s Sandwich Shop on 5th Avenue at 22nd Street.
There you will find New York ‘tude served up friendly and affordable. Salami on Rye? Oh yeah. Matzo Ball soup? DONE. Root beer. Let’s talk turkey. They even have KNISH.
(Remember when you could buy Knish on the street like a hot dog??)
You might even spot a famous face. Anthony Bourdain is a fan… and so are Aaron Neville and Lou Reed! Holy Egg Cream! What IS this place? Nope, it’s not a swanky club, it’s a deli. Counter service, et al. And they got the de-cor to prove it.
Okay. You’re planning a trip to NYC. You want to hit the best places to shop. You think, “Fifth Avenue.” BINGO. But hang on, there are a lot of shops to choose from and new, strange feeling on the street. Something that feels a bit like “black Friday.” That’s right. Shopping fever. Ugh.
This fever can be attributed to a plethora of new stores that are catering to those looking for a discount. BUT YOU ARE IN NEW YORK. IS this time to go to H and M? Zara? Uniqulo? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on where you’re standing.
I suggest you stand inside Bergdorf Goodman. At Christmastime, the windows are in their full glory, but anytime they offer total fantasy and escape. Mad creatures and female mannequins donned with glittering adornments blow magic at you from inside their fairy wonderlands. But don’t just wander the block outside. Come in. Come in.
"No photos," the stern fellow by the front door may remind you, if you’re like me and can’t stop snapping after all that fantasia outside. But there is much to steep into your sense memory. Perfumes in the basement (check out Killian) or the special Manolo Blahnik section on floor three.
But what to my wondering eyes do appear? It’s a shoe sale! Just a little AFTER Christmas, many of the best glitterati go “on the rack.” I suggest if you are interested in becoming a Bergdorfs “insider,” take a leap of faith in yourself and apply for their credit card (TRY to restrain and use it for the sales!) It will also allow you to become an “In Circle" member. THEY will send you an e-mail when it’s SHOE SALE SEASON!! HOORAY!!
Who says shopping Fifth Avenue can’t be glamourous AND attainable?
Real people. Live audience. True stories. One of the most riveting cultural experiences I have had in a long time. Listen here now or on Stitcher or check out their podcast. Next NYC show is tomorrow, Nov. 28th at The Bitter End (147 Bleeker btwn Thompson and Laguardia.) 8 dollar tickets at the door. Arrive early. Prepare to wait on line. Eat dinner before you come. It can be a long show, but I promise you it will be worth it. This weeks theme… “Freaks.” 5 minute time limit per story teller. Wanna share? Sign up.
There is no substitute for the hot chocolate at Marie Belle. It is a demanding but sensual mistress who bends only slightly to your will. Thick like cake batter and made without milk (can it be possible?) she is the purists chocolate phantasmagory. Images of Paris and the decadence of turn of the century Absinthe battle with the smell of Peruvian Chile fields as the power of cacao surges through your veins like heroine.
Oh yes. It’s that good.
Visit her shop on 484 Broome Street in SOHO and head right to the back. There you will find a stunning little Viennese style Cafe. Take a seat at one of the golden tables with white marble tops and order a hot chocolate. It comes in four types: Aztec, Dark, Mocha and Spicy. I like Aztec and Spicy because of the taste of chilies. It is a flavor that speaks to something ancient in me. While you sloooowy sip from your little white china cup (it’s too rich to gulp) observe the crystal chandelier resting over your head and consider why you aren’t nicer to yourself like this more often.
Where to sup in NYC really depends on two things: your budget and your willingness to travel. Although Manhattan is only 13 miles long, it can take 45 minutes or longer to get what is really only a few miles, even if you take the subway. Why this is, I can’t tell you. Perhaps it is the cities way of telling you to slow down in the middle of all the madness- you’ll get there when you get there. Meanwhile, there are a million amazing things to consider.
One of those things is where to get a decent cup of coffee and I don’t mean Starbucks. In the Grande Clean Up of the City (circa 1995), the addictive chain sprung up on every block. If you need a sugar dosed hit of non-organic milk laden joe to go, you can find one easy (and no judgement. Been there, sucked that shit down). But if you want to sit and consider the mystery of life with a frothy cup of gorgeousness, you’re going to have to go to the Upper East Side.
Via Quadronno, located on East 73rd Street between 5th Ave and Madison is simply beyond measure. This is proven by the sholads of rich, leather and fur clad Europeans who cram inside at the bar to fight for a cup of the old country. You may have to hoist up your self esteem to allow yourself the pleasure, but trust me, it is worth putting on those blinders. Rich foam tops the full and flavorful espresso. Tiny, elegant biscotti cut the smoky beverage with a piquant sweetness. Believe me, as this sumptuous cup of elegance is absorbed into your bloodstream, you will feel what New York has over most American cities- the unique attachment to quality that staying close to history can offer.
I love New York at night. In the dim light of the yellowed street lamps, one working, another not, and the traffic lights ever changing from red to yellow to green- my future is always right next to me, not too far ahead.
I feel as if I am inhabiting the fullness of who I am, walking alone at night, dodging the angry drunks, stopping for the strange. The man with the cat on his head. Literally! He had a cat balanced on the top of his head. I stopped and talked to him for a while, about the other animals he had at home, about this cat, whose name I can’t remember. I remember she was white with black spots and was very calm, very pleased to be sitting on this man’s head.
He told me some story of trouble and asked for a donation. I was happy to part with five bucks, the magical five bucks. Everything worth having can be bought for five bucks.
Every time I walk alone at night it is the beginning of me. I revisit myself again in the dark, where no one knows who I am or where I came from. Where there are no expectations of how I should walk or talk or act or be. On a dark street in New York, everything is possible.