Every time I visit New York, I’m discovering new places. I’ve had a love affair with the city for the past 15 years and whenever I’m in town, my friends introduce me to their latest haunts. I know what it’s like to travel to a new city, feel the overwhelm set in and go, “What is there to do?” so here’s a cheat sheet of 20 places I think you’ll love just as much as I do. I’ve done my best to keep it eclectic since the mix of high and low is what makes exploring a city so interesting and fun.
Before we get started, you may be wondering how such a random mix of places came to be. Well, when I got into town to visit Gala 2 weeks ago, she pulled out a bright pink pen and paper and we conjured up all the places we’d been wanting to check out. Virgos are obsessed with lists and it felt so good checking places off, one by one.
Most people visit The Smith for their tasty food but the best kept secret is in the basement. Walk through the restaurant and head down the staircase where you’ll find the best black and white photo booth in town. I’ve used it dozens of times and the contrast is always perfect. The strips never come out dark and streaky and they’re only $3.00. Get that debit card ready!
2. Cafe Mogador
Part of charm of the East Village are quaint little cafes that are great meeting spots for friends. Cafe Mogador has been at the edge of St. Mark’s Place for a few decades now and is a total crowd pleaser, whether you’re ordering their trademark Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine or are just in need of a great basic breakfast of french toast and scrambled eggs.
Sometimes, you just want a really good sandwich. Barnyard has a variety, from meat to veggie options and if you don’t like one of the toppings, it’s cool since they make everything fresh to order. If you want a salad or specialty cheese to go with your sandwich, they have tons of options. Total comfort food.
Okay, so this bar is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s in a basement, dimly lit and metal is the go-to music selection. I’ve been visiting this place with friends since 2002 and it hasn’t changed a bit and to me, that’s part of its charm. Gotta love a good local bar with absolutely no pretension.
When you’re in need of a sweet treat but trying to watch your diet, this East Village mainstay since 1991 has you covered. The menu is organic and raw vegan so you can dine without the guilt. I’m obsessed with the cashew milk chai lattes and carrot cake while Gala is a huge fan of the brownies and hot chocolate.
If housewares and interiors are your thing, this place is a total mecca. With six floors brimming with perfectly curated collections of everything from rugs to dishes to couches to bedding, you can get lost for hours. What stands out most is the lack of sameness at ABC — the selection doesn’t feel like another whitewashed Pinterest-inspired room. You’ll discover tons of exclusive items you’ve never seen before, even if you spend hours a day online.
New York is full of fashionable folks and when they need to unload last season’s cast-offs, many end up at Buffalo Exchange. I’ve been shopping at these stores since I was a teenager and just spent an hour at the East Village location with Gala, selling three suitcases worth of treasures. I love Buffalo Exchange because the items are always in like-new condition and prices are super reasonable, even for designer goods.
A foodie’s dream, Dean & Deluca has been a staple of New York life since the 1970s because it’s packed with hard to find gourmet items. Searching out a rare chocolate bar, a special brand of sea salt or fancy tea? They probably have it. David Bowie used to shop here once a week and it’s no wonder why — their selection is always interesting and intriguing.
Ever since Laduree opened in Soho a few years back, I’ve been meeting friends and clients in their beautiful backyard garden area. I love the colorful macarons, massive statues and mix of fabrics and textures draped throughout the rooms. It’s a very luxurious, French-inspired experience that will transport you away from the busyness of Soho for a bit.
10. David Barton Gym
If I’m going to work out, I want my gym to feel like a nightclub. David Barton is the most eccentric gym I’ve ever seen, with dramatic lighting, dance music and plenty of gear to whip you into shape. If you wear all black and feel out of place in mainstream gyms, this is definitely your place.
This is hands down, my favorite dinner spot in town. Since its doors opened in 1984, Indochine has fed everyone from Warhol to Madonna to Keith Haring to Duran Duran. Every art and music star of the 80s and 90s made their way here for its exotic French-Vietnamese menu. The most amazing part is that the interior is completely unchanged. You feel like you’re entering 1984 with massive murals of palm leaves on beige walls, while being surrounded by tables of people in suits and beautiful dresses. I’m obsessed with the people watching here. It’s fun to guess what everyone does — are they gallery owners, managers of modeling agencies or foreign bankers? Probably a little of each.
12. Joe & The Juice
I originally discovered this chain in London a few years back and was smitten with their bright coffee cups in baby pink and lemon yellow. They now have a Soho location with their signature selection of coffee and juices, plus fantastic sandwiches. The dramatic pendant lights and book-patterned wallpaper are the perfect backdrop for your next selfie.
13. By Chloe
If healthy and stylish are two buzzwords you live by, this restaurant is for you. It’s super chic and full of plant-based vegan options including burgers and salads. Beyond that, I’m obsessed with their awesome Instagram packed with some of the best food styling around.
14. Barcelona Bar
When you walk in, this teeny tiny bar seems very nondescript…until you see the menu. Specializing in shots, Barcelona Bar will keep you entertained for hours. Why? Because the shots have themes. My hands-down favorite is the Harry Potter. When you order, the bartender puts on a striped scarf, hands you a wand, lights your drink on fire and mumbles an over-the-top spell before blowing your drink out. Poof! Hows’s that for entertainment?!
15. Aura Photos
If you’re in town and looking for a unique keepsake, getting an aura photo taken at Magic Jewelry is really fun. For $20.00, they’ll sit you against a black backdrop, place your fingers on sensors and two minutes later, your portrait is waiting. An employee then shows you a chart so you have a better understanding of what the colors represent.
Whether you’re in need of a black rabbit mask, a fresh pair of fishnets or a Lip Service PVC skirt, this is your place. It’s a goth wonderland that you wish had existed in your small town back when you were 15.
17. The Apartment
Admittedly, I didn’t make it here due to the epic blizzard but based on the website alone, I’m obsessed. The Apartment is a tightly curated experience inside of a shop designed to look exactly like an apartment interior. The best part is that all the objects and decor are shoppable!
A healthy, fruit and veggie-focused cafe with some of the cutest decor around, this place doesn’t disappoint. I was so smitten that I just shared a full post about it.
19. Insomnia Cookies
Who knew that such a place existed?! The premise is simple — your sweet tooth kicks in late at night, nothing is open and you just really, really want a cookie. Insomnia Cookies delivers warm, fresh-baked cookies throughout the city until 3 am. We had ours delivered to a bar we were at for the ultimate indulgence.
This location has a hidden gem — a backyard garden area complete with brightly colored tables and chairs. Incredibly private, this spot is the perfect place to sit down for a drink after a long day and catch up with a friend. It feels a little bit like a modern take on Alice In Wonderland and that should be enough to convince you to visit.
I hope this list has given you some new ideas of things to try in New York. Have fun!