It occurred to me recently that I hadn't really talked about my favorite places to eat and drink around town since I extolled my love for brunch and bourbon-drinking in Brooklyn. Seeing as these are two of my favorite activities in the city (part of my happiness formula, of course), I thought I'd give Manhattan (specifically below 14th street) the same treatment.
If you're like me, you're kind of poor, and maybe not going anywhere for the holiday weekend. I'm fine with it, as I have a jam-packed summer ahead and ugh, the Atlantic is way too cold for swimming now anyway. Like Labor Day on the other end of the season, Memorial weekend is a fantastic time to be in NYC—because everyone else is gone. Brunch waits diminish, bar stools open up and the city is your Oysters Rockefeller. I'm looking forward to visiting some of my favorite haunts old and new, so here is just a taste to perhaps inspire your own staycation.
// CLICK THROUGH FOR MORE... //
// BARS //
11TH STREET BAR: This cozy spot on 11th between Avenues A and B has become a frequent landing spot for me with my roommates, friends and especially dates. The low-key atmosphere, frequent live music performances and friendly bartenders invite easy conversation and lingering for round after round.
LOVERS OF TODAY: I've only been to this little spot on 7th Street once, but the intimate, cooler-than-cool atmosphere and delicious drinks have been on my mind ever since. Apparently it turns into a rather exclusive experience late night on the weekends, but my friends and I had a delightful, bustling few rounds of delicious cocktails with names like Another Girl, Another Planet and Hong Kong Garden.
AMOR Y AMARGO: My just-married friend Anderson introduced me to this bitters-centric bar just a few weeks ago. It's tiny, intimate and purposeful. You can buy cocktails in glass flasks and artisanal bitters off the shelf. Oh, and their mixologist-bartenders wear vests and are extremely knowledgable.
EMPORIO: Among the gems sprinkled throughout the Nolita neighborhood, Emporio is a stand-out happy hour spot. Grab a spot at the bar, order a $5 glass of wine and enjoy the airy atmosphere of exposed brick and sparse floral arrangements. Soon, a parade of snacks will appear—flatbread pizza, olives, hummus and pita... All to enhance the flavor of that perfect and perfectly inexpensive Muscadet.
WALKER'S: This is my roommate's favorite bar in all of New York. We often make our way there after walking from the East Village down to the Financial District and across to the west side, by which time we are famished and totally exhausted. Walker's never fails to have a perfect table open outside, a cheerful waitress and a decent hamburger. What more do you want, anyway?
DONOSTIA: Tully, Moira and I happened into Donostia a few Sundays ago, just as the sun was setting over Tompkins Square Park. We sidled up to the marble bar, ordered some wine, and watched a parade of tapas delivered to the customers around us. The atmosphere is charming, the service is a bit slow, but the Basque menu is unique and notable for such a quaint little corner of Avenue B.
// BRUNCH //
GOAT TOWN: Come for the kale salad, stay for the grits. This cute little spot on 5th Street has become a favorite brunch go-to in the East Village. The biscuits, bloody marys and bacon are all mouth-wateringly perfect.
THE CARDINAL: This is one place I'd recommend making a reservation and requesting a table in the sunny, bustling upstairs level. The Southern food and $5 unlimited mimosas are choice, but being seated in the dark basement level is a drag.
RINTINTIN: I cannot say enough good things about this little slice of Mediterranean heaven on Spring and Elizabeth. The spicy cucumber margarita is killer, the avocado sandwich is amazing and the people watching out the open windows is ideal. Oh, and the soundtrack is dead-on and the decor is perfect, too.
GRAPE & GRAIN: This little hidey-hole on 6th Street between B and C is an all-time favorite for just about anyone who's been there. My roommates and I take family, visiting friends and dates their consistently for pizza, small plates and wine. The atmosphere is low-key and charming and you'll love it for brunch or dinner. (Oh and if you're just looking for beer and wine, try their tiny sister spot right next door, Against The Grain. And, pop into the community garden next door to that—it's one of the best in the 'hood.)
GEMMA: The last time I walked by the outdoor tables at The Bowery Hotel, Mike Tyson was there, dining right next to the sidewalk. I have never been to Gemma without seeing someone at least kind-of famous. Anytime you go, you're bound to be in the presence of someone cooler, richer or more connected than you—but you'd never know it. There's almost always a table open during peak brunch hours, and despite being pretty big and busy, the din of the crowd is never overwhelming. Great food, friendly service and surprisingly reasonable prices keep me coming back again and again.
What are your favorite spots to brunch and drink in Manhattan? Share them in the comments, I promise I won't tell anyone...