Forty Hours in Manhattan

September 19, 2013

Where should Cayla eat on her 40th birthday?  She has 40 hours in New York.  Here’s my answer.

Start with breakfast at Buvette in Greenwich Village, a tiny shoebox of a place that serves very satisfying bistro food. As the day wears on the cozy room becomes very crowded, with people piling in for the fine food and great wine. But I love it best in the morning, when it’s truly a neighborhood place.

Afterward, wander over to the Lower East Side and stop in at Russ and Daughters for the city’s finest smoked salmon and fantastic bagels. Turn right as you leave and go down the street to Katz’s Delicatessen. Take a ticket and examine the generous display of meats; if you can resist a pastrami sandwich you’re a stronger person than I am. (Be sure to tip the carver and tell him you don’t like lean meat.)

Turn right again, as you’re leaving, and wander down Orchard street to Mission Chinese, for an entirely different way to experience pastrami. They turn it into a searingly hot version of a kung pao dish. (The salt cod fried rice will put the fire out.)  At dinner the line here often stretches to three hours, but lunchtime is a different story. 

If it were me I’d spend the next few hours at the Tenement Museum, restoring my appetite.  Or wandering around Little Italy, stopping in at Di Palo’s to buy a hunk of their impeccable Parmigiano. Then I’d go to Chinatown, stopping in for dumplings at the Nom Wah Tea Parlor, the oldest dim sum purveyor in the city.

Dinner?  For me it would be Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria; I love their food. Some homemade salume to start, then a salad (somehow theirs always tastes better than anyone else’s), a plate of spaghetti cacio e pepe and finally the spectacularly rich rib eye.

The next day you might want to stay above 14th Street. If that’s the case, I’d suggest, breakfast at Maialino (porchetta and fried egg sandwich), then a wander through Eataly.  I’d stare at the gorgeous display of meat at the butcher, appreciate the produce, and perhaps have a tiny bite at Il Pesce, the wonderful fish bar. For lunch I’d opt for the prix fixe lunch at either Nougatine at Jean Georges or Del Posto; they’re the two best deals in New York. Fabulous food in fantastic settings – for under $40. Finally, I’d have a farewell drink at Michael Lomonaco’s Center Bar, look out at the view and toast the city. 

One more thing.  If you’re not a plan-ahead person: many of the best restaurants in New York offer no-reservations bar menus, which are the best way to get a taste of greatness at a reasonable price. The Salon at Per Se offers a wonderful a la carete menu, as does the bar at Eleven Madison Park. The new bar at Le Bernardin is also a no-reservations opportunity to experience truly superb food. For something less formal (and much less expensive), consider the bar at Gramercy Tavern; you can simply walk in and share a meal with someone you love in one of the most appealing rooms in Manhattan.


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