Yeah, yeah, we all want to fly into Manhattan, book a suite at the Mercer and grab a table at Frenchette for some Tribeca star gazing to go with your 72 USofA dollars for some roast chicken for two . Oh yeah, you forgot that the Mercer will run you over $1000 a night and reservations for Frenchette are only offered 30 days in advance (if you can even get one at all) for the privilege of dropping a couple hundred dollars on dinner in one of the hottest spots in town.
The good news is, there is no need to worry that you can’t do NYC like the rich and famous do because the city has something to offer everyone, even last minute travellers like myself. The flight is only an hour long and if you fly Porter, you can avoid the drama of Pearson although it does mean landing in Newark, but you can’t have everything. Check Expedia for the best hotel/flight combos if you can’t find a great seat sale.
For my perfect mid week getaway, I rarely venture north of W14th, apart from a trip to the MOMA or an occasional run up to Harlem for late night drinks at The Red Rooster. I love walking so sticking to lower Manhattan is perfect for me and when I don’t have a whole week, it’s better to concentrate on a smaller area.
The neighbourhoods are a bit grittier, more affordable and full of really interesting shops and restaurants that won’t put you in the poor house. Stick to the Lower East Side, Tribeca, Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown and you are a hop, skip and a jump to Brooklyn as well. If you are only there for 2 or 3 days, you don’t want to spend half your time in the subway travelling all over the city anyway, right?
We just discovered Hotel 50 Bowery and let me tell you, it is a gem. At about $200US/night, you cannot beat this little boutique hotel in the heart of Chinatown for value, service and room quality. Get a city view King room for an amazing view, pop up to the Crown, their stylish rooftop bar with one of the best views of Manhattan and almost nightly entertainment of some sort.
Honourable mention goes to the NobleDen Hotel in Little Italy
Rubirosa – one of downtown’s best pizzerias with classic Italian fare to go along with it. It stays open a bit later than other Little Italy restaurants during the week too
Parm – just up the street from Rubirosa, get the meatball parm with a side of spicy rotini and a side of calamari with a negroni to wash it down. You’re welcome.
Forlinis’s – old school ltalian American, Sinatra playing in the background, leather banquets and at lunch, crammed full of lawyers, judges and paralegals from the SDNY so you know it’s good
Momofuku Noodle Bar– lower east side favourite – go late at night, grab a seat at the back bar
Madame Vo BBQ – tabletop grills and a fabulous oxtail congee make this hot, lively Vietnamese place worth a bit of a wait
Ground Support– great for a coffee (or turmeric latte if that’s how you roll) pit stop while shopping in Soho and to catch up on a little work, if that has to happen
Russ and Daughter’s Cafe – Jewish comfort food and a great breakfast option
Shopsin’s General Store – slammed on the weekend but not so bad for weekday breakfast
Balthazar – great brunch splurge – it’s still super popular after all these years for a reason
Egg– my favourite breakfast/brunch spot in Williamsburg, hipster capital of Brooklyn
Anthony and Son Paninni Shoppe – two can split a take out, gargantuan hero sandwich from this Brooklyn favourite
Mona’s – lots of live music and a grungy, old school village dive bar vibe
PleaseDon’tTell– kind of hidden behind a phone booth in Crif Dogs, this speakeasy will probably have you waiting for a seat but it’s a must visit
Mace if you need something a bit more upscale but still low key
Genuine Liquorette sits in the basement under the Genuine Superette restaurant in Chinatown with a Farrah Fawcett bathroom. For real.
Walk – when the weather is nice, you can easily kill three days just walking the neighbourhoods, looking at street art, murals, fabulous old store fronts etc. Let yourself get lost. Grab a metro card and put $10 on it for the subway ride into the city from the airport (because you only have a carry on RIGHT??), to get you over to Brooklyn or a late night trip back to the hotel when you are too tired to walk anymore. The card cost’s $1 and single ride is $2.50 and easily refillable at the machines in all of the stations.
Shop – from clandestine bootleg purse shopping on Canal Street to quirky, independent shops, you will never run out of things to peruse. In the East Village places like East Village Hats, Bonnie Slotnik Cookbooks, Cafiero Select for some serious antiquing abound. Brooklyn is full of funky, second hand stores, barber shops and all other necessities for the hipster life. Telling you about every great place will take out half of the fun of wandering around and finding these places yourself.
Take a tenement tour for a really eye opening peek into the history of this city built on the backs of immigrants.
Take the subway to Brooklyn and then take the ferry back to Manhattan for amazing views