Since RWA is coming up, this week’s Teaser Tuesday is being replaced by a one time special feature: my guide to New York.
Next week, a wave of romance writers will arrive in my city. Having been a conference attendee in other cities, I know that there’s enough to occupy one without ever leaving the hotel. However, for those who do wish to roam farther afield, here is my highly ideosyncratic guide to my favorite bits of New York.
I. Caffeination (You knew that was coming first, right?)
There are three Alice’s Tea Cups, but all have the same wonderful mismatched china, extensive tea menus, warm scones, and sparkly fairy wings. Make a meal of it by getting the multi-tiered “Mad Hatter”– their sandwiches are as good as their scones.
Where: 64th & Lex, 81st between 2nd & 3rd, or that other one on the West Side.
— Le Pain Quotidien
You can find these scattered all across the city. This bakery/eatery makes an incredibly strong pot of coffee.
Where: all over the place.
— Cafe Sabarsky
Hidden away in the Neue Galerie on 86th & 5th, this is well worth the hike from the conference hotel in midtown. The Sarbarsky is a Viennese cafe, complete with coffee mit schlag and the best tortes you’ll find this side of Vienna. I highly recommend the Klimttorte.
Where: In that huge mansion on 86th & 5th.
A fun independent coffee house near Union Square. They actually do that whole “leaf drawn in foam” thing in your latte.
Where: 19th & Irving.
— And, of course, Starbucks. If you go more than four blocks without hitting one, you’re accidentally in the wrong city.
II. Cocktails (Trust me, I’ve researched this thoroughly.)
— The Campbell Apartment
My favorite hidden bar, the Campbell Apartment is tucked away in a corner of Grand Central. A secret staircase leads you to an opulent Gothic apartment, all dark wood and red velvet. There’s even a minstrels’ gallery. Try the Prohibition Punch– but only if you don’t have to be coherent later.
Where: 43rd & Vanderbilt.
There’s nothing like bubbly. And this one is even (sort of) walkable from the conference hotel! A champagne bar with neat little alcoves, Flute has a champagne happy hour on Tuesday, with half-priced drinks.
Where: 205 West 54th
— Le Colonial
This restaurant lives up to its name with teak and palm fronds. Go straight up the narrow stairs to the second floor bar for cozy, ill-lit tables and the biggest, fruitiest martinis you’ve ever seen (my favorite is the passion fruit). It’s a fabulous place for a clandestine gossip session.
Where: 57th between Lex and 3rd.
— The Metropolitan Museum
Yes, the Met now serves cocktails! On a Friday evening, you can try out the elegance of the second floor balcony or the less formal Petrie Court downstairs.
Where: Somewhere in the 80s on 5th. You really can’t miss it.
My advice to the conference attendees? Stay away from all the faux French bistros/faux Irish pubs around Times Square. Take a stroll down 9th Avenue. As you start getting into the 50’s, away from the tourist madness, you’ll find excellent– and often reasonably priced– food at little hole in the wall places. Check the menu and the prices before going in, though. Sometimes the hole-in-the-wall look can be deceptive.
— Haru, for reasonably priced sushi (there’s a branch right on 43rd and Broadway).
— La Bonne Soupe, for casual, filling French food (55th between 5th and 6th).
— Rosa Mexicano, for excellent guacamole (62nd & Columbus)
There are also lots and lots of chains for a quick, cheap bite. You’ll find Chipotle, Goodburger, Cosi, and, of course, every form of frozen yogurt and diet ice cream known to man (hello, Tasti D!). But if you really want to be decadent, find a Mr. Softie truck (they’re scattered all over) and treat yourself to a chocolate and vanilla twist cone. With sprinkles.
One more thing to consider: pret a manger from the grocery store. (There’s also the store, Pret a Manger, that sells a good, pre-fab sandwich.) If what you want is just a sandwich or salad to go, try the ready made food aisle at Citarella ($5.99 for most of their sandwiches) or Trader Joe’s (even cheaper, but in fewer locations). Other supermarkets and drug stores now also sell wrapped sandwiches and salads, but I’m particularly attached to the Citarella ones.
For everything else, there’s Menupages. Menupages is your best friend in finding a restaurant. They index them by name, cuisine, area of the city, and all sorts of filters for special features. See that map on the home page? Just click on the part of the city you’re interested in, and then narrow your search by price, cuisine, or whatever else. We will not discuss the hours I have wasted recreationally reading menus on this site.
For a much more comprehensive– and conference area oriented– food and restaurant guide, check out this one from Smart Bitches Trashy Books.
The Metropolitan Museumo is a thing of beauty and a joy forever, but everyone knows about that already. Sadly, my pet museum, the New York Historical Society, is closed for renovation until November, but here are some other great New York institutions:
— The Frick Collection, an amazing European art collection in situ in Henry Clay Frick’s old home on 70th & 5th.
— The Morgan Library & Museum: check out the gilded age opulence of J.P. Morgan’s study, the rare book collection in his massive library, and the special exhibits up in the more modern portion of the museum. Current exhibitions include “The Age of Elegance” and medieval fashion.
— The Museum of the City of New York: one of my favorite hidden treasures and a boon to writers of historical fiction. Check out the amazingly detailed gilded age and art deco dollhouses!
There’s a reason we all carry such large shoulder bags– they contain shoes. You can get pretty much everywhere in New York on foot. I’ve done in in three inch heels, but the real trick is to throw a thin pair of flip flops or your comfiest, most broken down flats into your shoulder bag, then change into your real shoes whenever you get when you’re going. While walking, treat it as if you were driving. Stay in your lane, don’t randomly stop in the middle of the street (if you have to check a map, or your phone, retreat into the lea of a building, out of peoples’ way), and maintain a speed commensurate with the flow of pedestrian traffic around you. You get places very quickly this way.
Quick and convenient. Aside from foot (above), this is the most reliable way to get around. Study the subway map before you get to the city to figure out which lines will get you where and be careful not to get on an express if you want a local. Although it’s been cleaned up a lot, the subway isn’t the most pleasant place in the world– but it makes up for it by being fast. There’s no other way I could get from the Upper East Side to Union Square in fifteen minutes flat. Here’s a link to the official subway map, conveniently color-coded.
Ubiquitous and more pleasant than the subway, but often mired in traffic.
To be used judiciously. A taxi at rush hours can be slower than taking the subway, and you’ll sit and fume while the meter clicks. On the other hand, if you’re going someplace later in the evening or someplace that would require multiple subway line changes, the taxi is your friend (and now they’re required to take credit cards). Just press the button to turn off the annoying little television.
Does anyone else have any suggestions for the attendees? If you are an attendee, and want more specific recommendations, ask away!