Ah, New York. It’s definitely the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do” which is said best by the wise sages, Alicia Keys & Jay-Z. I happen to have a little history with New York City.
My love affair with the big apple began when I was 5-years-old, pounding the pavement with my mom during the summers trying to make it as a model (and not to brag on my 5-year-old self but, ahem, I graced the covers of national magazines and booked some serious ad campaigns…so let’s hear it for kindergarten Womanista on the catwalk!) Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you see it) that modeling prowess ended at about age 7, so…the pretentious bragging about my illustrious modeling days ends here.
Here’s a pic of me at age 4, just before my modeling career took off:
It was enough, though, for Manhattan to creep into my heart and never really leave. Every time I get back to the city I’m inspired to try new restaurants, check out timeless shops, and experience the essence of New York. So, with the help of some seriously fabulous NYC friends (and my own experiences) I compiled a list of the “Best” of New York City. I share with you my favorite, womanista-worthy hotspots…
Best place to spend the afternoon Shopping/Lunching/Being Fabulous: The Meatpacking district. You can easily wile away an afternoon cruising the chic streets of the meatpacking district and picking up showstopping pieces from Stella McCartney, Yigal Azrouel, Diane Von Furstenberg, Jeffrey, and Alexander McQueen. Once you’ve quenched your thirst for fashion (or maybe your credit card just needs a break…) stop into the 5 Ninth bar & restaurant for a glass of vino. 5 ninth is located in a gorgeous townhouse right in the middle of the action. During the warm months, you can grab a seat in the garden. If it’s chilly outside, curl up next to one of the six fireplaces to warm up.
Best place to get the perfect highlights & blowout: John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman. When I was living in New York after college and literally had $4 in my bank account (on a good day!) I desperately needed some highlights and decided to hit up the sketchy looking hair salon from which i had a coupon. I walked out with orange hair and called my mom crying (yes, moms are the best at receiving teary phone calls!) She told me to head straight to John Barrett and she would pay for some serious hair repair. I have loved it ever since. I have never left John Barrett without perfectly coiffed, bouncy, shiny hair. I’m not sure how they do it, but it’s perfect every time.
Best Place to have a sunset cocktail: Jimmy at the James Hotel. You can catch a perfect sunset over Manhattan from a perch high above SoHo. The rooftop bar features floor to ceiling windows, creative, handcrafted cocktails, and an amazing view of the downtown city skyline.
Best place to have a fun dinner with friends: Catch in the meatpacking district. This multi-level bar and restaurant has some of the best seafood in New York, and a chic yet relaxed, vibey atomosphere. Order some fresh oysters on the half shell and a glass of champagne and let the fun begin!
Best place for a romantic italian meal: Il Cantinori in the West Village. When I lived in New York after college, this was one of the first real “meals” I had in the city. My best friend Abby raved about it, and her boyfriend at the time (now husband!) was kind enough to treat us to dinner since (see John Barrett post…) I had about $.50 to my name. It.was.and.still.is.incredible. There are so many great, authentic Italian restaurants in New York City, but there is something about Il Cantinori that tops my list. The Food. The quiet village street. The candlelight. The Italian waiters. The wine. Just go, trust me.
Best place to “sweat it out”: Equinox Soho. Since I hate working out (remember my post about Flywheel?) it’s probably a little surprising that I’m listing a gym on here, but womanistas have to stay healthy…sigh. This gym is also the antithesis of what probably comes to your mind when you think of a gym. It’s cool, clean, features great classes, and is fabulous. Plus, I once ran on the treadmill next to Jake Gyllenhaal here! (Ok, I didn’t. But this gym is super cool and that probably COULD happen!)
Best place to find the perfect last minute date outfit: Scoop in the meatpacking district. Scoop is one of my top 5 favorite boutiques anywhere. They feature awesome lines like Helmut Lang, Rag & Bone, Missoni, and Zac Posen. What I love about the store is that you can find everything (clothing, accessories, shoes, bags, etc) and only make one stop! Plus, you can find an amazing t-shirt and perfect pair of jeans here just as easily as you could walk out with a dress for a red carpet. Plus, the staff is always friendly!
Best place to close a business deal: Salon de Ning at the Peninsula. The rooftop bar at the Peninsula in midtown is a spot for power players. The lounge features two terraces with insane views of the city (you can see all the way to the hudson river from one side, and down fifth ave to central park on another) as well as a cozy, candlelit bar enclosed with floor to ceiling windows. This is the place to be to impress your clients, have a great cocktail, and enjoy the views.
Best place to spend a pretty afternoon in nature: The Highline, followed by The Biergarten at The Standard. Ok, so I realize this isn’t that “naturey” – but in a concrete jungle like NYC, being able to walk through a “field” (and by field I mean elevated walk way over the city that is actually a park and gorgeous flowers are growing…) on a pretty day, that’s about as close to nature as you can get! Plus, following it up with an ice cold beer at The Biergarten will make you feel like you are in a vast German field! Or not. But it’s still a great way to spend the afternoon.
Best place for a totally NYC mani/pedi: Sakura. For the most part I stick to regular ol’ pretty manicures in “normal” colors like “Bubble Bath” by OPI or“Sugar Daddy” by Essie. But sometimes to feel like a New Yorker, you have to take a fashion risk. And the easiest way to do that is with a fab 3D manicure! My fabulous friend Ali always has some sort of crazy/awesome/cutting edge nail art (in fact, once when she was visiting Nashville she asked the nail salon for a 3D design and was met with blank stares…I told her to stick with something more “regular”…) But in NYC, Sakura is her place for all that fabulousness. Check out some of the amazing stuff they do on their Facebook Page.
Best place for a drink after a long work day: The rooftop bar at STK. Clearly there is a running theme with some of my favorite NYC bars – many of them are on rooftops! After a long day at work, sometimes you just need to see the sky and unwind. STK is super-hip, always spinning cool tunes, and the drinks are inventive and strong. Just what you may need after a long day at work!
Best hotel that is actually relaxing in NYC: The Greenwich Hotel in TriBeCa. Some hotels in New York can be anything from restful, with loud hallways, busy street corners, and a scene that is more “scene friendly” than guest friendly. The Greenwich Hotel is an upscale boutique hotel with only 88 rooms and is everything that those other Manhattan hotels are not. It is quiet & serene, yet still superbly decorated for a superior, relaxed stay. Plus, it features both a spa and a gym so you can still have all of the amenities you expect from a top-notch property. Wake up and enjoy coffee in the morning by the fire in the drawing room and you will swear you are in some cozy village in the English countryside and not New York City!
Best place to hang with the “Ladies who Lunch”: Fred’s at Barneys. Fred’s is pretty much an institution with the Upper-Eastside fashion crowd. After a full morning of picking up designer staples at Barneys you can people watch and enjoy a great salad in the store restaurant, Fred’s. The best part about it? The food is actually awesome!! And the service is friendly!
Best place to celebrate a milestone with some bubbly: The Bubble Lounge in TriBeCa. Tucked away in TriBeCa, the Bubble lounge serves up more than 300 Champagnes and sparkling wines – perfect for celebrating a birthday, a promotion, a fabulous date, or just being in New York. The decor is warm and relaxed but still feels luxe. It’s also unpretentious, which is awesome for a lounge that specializes in champagne.
Best place for good, legit sushi: Blue Ribbon sushi in SoHo. This tiny sushi restaurant on Sullivan St. is a darling in the city. Not only is the atmosphere cool without trying too hard, but the sushi is totally, 100% the real deal without trying too hard! Just fresh, delicious fish. The menu is extensive and I never worry about what to order because I know it will be good, because everything there is good.
Best place to go when you want to hang with the locals (and maybe some celebs): The Cabin Down Below in the East Village. This chill, candlelit, hole in the wall speakeasy plays host to one of the toughest door guys in the city…and you would never know it when you walk by the pizza joint facade. The entrance is secret, and only “in the know” New Yorkers will venture to this place for a cozy, late-night hang. The last time I was there, I was allegedly in the presence of some A-list celebs. But even if I had known they were there, I wouldn’t have been able to see them due to the almost sheer darkness that this basement bar embraces. It’s a super cool place to go when you want to be in the scene, without being in the scene.
What about you, womanistas? Do you love New York City as much as I do? Have any insider tips that I should know about for my next visit?
Happy living fabulously in New York, womanistas!
xo, the Womanista