48-Hour Guide to New York’s Institutions
If you like to kick it old-school, then hit up these New York institutions that have stood the test of time.
These gems serve the Big Apple’s iconic foods—bagels, pizza, hot dogs, Porterhouse steak, egg creams (and more!)—which you must knock off your requisite New York City eating list. Note: It’s gonna be a big two days so bring your A-game and your friends when you attack this ambitious itinerary of Gotham’s classic haunts.
Breakfast: Barney Greengrass
There’s no better place then this 109-year-old delicatessen to get a bagel and a schmear, but not without some smoked fish. Known as the “Sturgeon King of NYC”, founder Barney Greengrass passed away in 1956 to which Groucho Marx said, “He may not have ruled any kingdoms or written any great symphonies, but he did a monumental job with sturgeon.” Sturgeon is not the only expertly smoked fish to be found in this culinary temple, there’s whitefish, nova, lox, gravlax to name a few. These days you will find his grandson Gary Greengrass at the register where you settle your bill, just don’t forget to tip your waiter. Barney Greengrass 541 Amsterdam Avenue at 86th Street; 212-724-4707; Open Tuesday through Sunday 8am to 6pm; No reservations; barneygreengrass.com
Walk: Stroll two (long) blocks east on West 86th Street to Central Park. Enter the park at 85th and wander across to the Great Lawn, down to Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Fountain and up the stairs to hit the Naumburg Bandshell. Through the Literary Walk and pass the Central Park Zoo. Exit on Central Park South and with the Plaza Hotel in front of you, cross Fifth Avenue at 59th Street and walk east one block to Madison Avenue. Take a right downtown to 42nd Street and go left one block to Grand Central Terminal. (1 hour on foot without stops)
Snack: Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Time to rest your heels and slurp some oysters under the glorious vaulted ceiling at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. This historic restaurant housed inside the most spectacular Beaux-Arts style building in Gotham will celebrate its 114th birthday in 2017. Obviously oysters are the specialty and come from points around the world, but with all those options it’s best to order from the daily picks. Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant 87 E. 42nd St., Grand Central Terminal, Lower Level; 212-490-6650; Open daily 11:30am to 9:30pm; Closed Sundays; oysterbarny.com
Subway: Cruise through Grand Central Terminal and gaze up at the celestial mural on the ceiling (which was painted backwards) then head to the 4/5 train line to Union Square/14th Street. Transfer at Union Square to the N or Q downtown and take to Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue. (1 hour, give or take)
Lunch: Nathan’s Famous
Time to load up on New York’s best frankfurter at the iconic Nathan’s Famous. Founded by Nathan Handwerker in 1916, the flagship location has stood on the corner of Surf Avenue and Stillwell for more than a century and is the setting of the heated, annual Fourth of July battle—the International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Order a few snappy dogs with sauerkraut and top with a squirt of yellow mustard. After you’re done head over to the boardwalk to digest as you take in the Atlantic ocean air. If you still are hungry, try a side of their crinkle cut fries at their second location and you’ll be all set. Nathan’s Famous 1310 Surf Ave, Brooklyn; 718-333-2202; Open Sunday-Thursday 9am-11pm, weekends 9am-12am; nathansfamous.com
Subway: Head back to the station and take the D or N train towards Manhattan. Get off at Grand Street. (Less than 1 hour)
Shop: Di Palo’s Fine Foods
Step into this most authentic of Italian delis and you may find yourself being offered samples of proscuitto, provolone and imported products from one of the fourth generation of family now running the store. Continuously serving the Little Italy nabe since 1910, Di Palo’s is the palace of mozzarella with handmade balls that are juicy, oozy and warm. Di Palo’s Fine Foods 200 Grand Street at Mott Street; 212-226-1033; Open Monday-Saturday 9am-6:30pm, Sundays until 4pm; no website
Walk: Enjoy time exploring (what’s left) of Little Italy. Walk west one block to Mulberry Street and turn right up to Broome for an espresso and a cannoli at Caffe Roma which has stood on that corner since 1891. Once done walk two more blocks on Mulberry to Spring Street. Hang a right to the corner of Mott Street. (Under 5 minutes)
Dinner 1: Lombardi’s
If you want to leave New York City being able to say you visited the very first pizzeria in America, then head to Lombardi’s. Their first “tomato pie” was sold out of their grocery store at 53 ½ Spring Street more than 110 years ago. Though this is not the original location, the pizza is the original style. Prepared in a coal fired oven mastered by the pizzaiolos who crank out steaming hot pies from morning until night. Note: Lombardi’s is cash only and serves full pies only, not by-the-slice. Lombardi’s 32 Spring Street at Mott; 212-941-7994; Open Sunday-Thursday 11:30am-11pm, weekends until 12am; (Limited reservations for parties of 8 or more) firstpizza.com
Walk: You’ll need a little breather before heading down to Chinatown. Walk south on Mott Street to Pell. Left on Pell Street and right on to the historic Doyers Street.
Dinner 2: Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Chinatown is filled with hidden gems with cuisines representing all regions of China, but Nom Wah Tea Parlor is the oldest-running Chinese restaurant in New York City. Here on Doyers street once known for its bloody gang battles in the early 20th century, you can feast on dim sum; roast pork buns, siu mai, dumplings both boiled or pan-fried and soup dumplings bursting with savory juices. (Walk-in only for parties of 2) Nom Wah Tea Parlor 13 Doyers Street; 212-962-6047; Open daily Monday–Sunday 10:30am–10pm; nomwah.com
Taxi: If you still have energy, hail a cab and head west to the Financial District. Tell your driver your destination is Pearl and Broad Streets. (10 minutes by car, or 25 minutes on foot)
Nightcap: Fraunces Tavern and Museum
This oldest restaurant in New York has morphed into a modern-day tavern, much different than the watering hole where locals and travelers gathered when Samuel Fraunces opened what he named the Sign of Queen Charlotte (or Queen’s Head Tavern), after England’s Queen Charlotte in 1762. Over the years the building saw many different iterations from boarding house to a Foreign Affairs office to the location where George Washington bade farewell to his officers on Dec. 4, 1783. It became a meeting place for patriots during post-Revolutionary times that even hosted meetings attended by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Today, this Colonial American tavern serves over 200 whiskeys and 130+ craft beers and has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Fraunces Tavern 54 Pearl St at Broad Street; 212-425-1778; Reservations accepted. frauncestavern.com
Breakfast: Russ & Daughter’s Cafe
One bagel is not enough to sustain oneself on a visit to New York City. Russ & Daughters Cafe however is a contrast to the old-school digs of Barney Greengrass. The first sit-down offshoot of the Russ family offers a modern atmosphere and menu filled with tradition from ingredients sourced from the 101-year-old appetizing store of the same name (see below). Get a nosh of the greatest hits on the shareable Hattie Platter—whitefish, kippered (baked) salmon, Gaspe Nova smoked salmon, sable—presented with plain and scallion cream cheeses for lathering on the bagels, bialys, shissel rye, pumpernickel, and challah bread baked at Russ & Daughters Bagels & Bakery. With two locations of the cafe, the latest housed inside the Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue, there’s options to get a taste on both ends of the city. Russ & Daughter’s Cafe 127 Orchard Street between Rivington and Delancey; 212-475-4880; Open weekdays 10am-10pm, Saturday and Sundays 8am-10pm; russanddaughterscafe.com
Walk: Stroll up Orchard Street to Houston and turn left. (5 minutes)
Shop: Russ & Daughter’s
Bear the crowds of tourists and step inside to this 113-year-old Jewish appetizing store. If you want to make a purchase, you will have to take a number and wedge your way in to take a spot on line. Do not leave without at least tasting a piece of their buttery, bite-sized rugelach. It is easier to obtain as there is a separate queue across from the main counter where fewer people are lined up. Russ & Daughters Appetizers 179 E Houston Street; 212-475-4880; Open weekdays 8am-8pm, Saturday until 7pm, Sunday until 5:30pm; russanddaughterscafe.com
Snack: Yonah Schimmel Kinishery
This sparse counter-service bakery has a focus: knishes. Wrapped in flaky dough these large savory pastries are filled with everything from kasha (a bulgar wheat) to sweet potato; the traditional variety being potato. Get one to share with mustard to dip and be sure to take a look at the shop’s original dumbwaiter that travels down to the basement. Yonah Schimmel Kinishery 137 East Houston Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues; 212- 477-2858; knishery.com
Subway: Walk one block west on Houston and hop the F train from the 2nd Avenue station. Take the F to 34th Street/Herald Square, exit and go north on Sixth Avenue two blocks to West 36th Street.
Lunch: Keen’s Steakhouse
This clubby steakhouse established in 1855 was once a meeting place for newspaper reporters, theater actors, and garment workers. Famous for its mutton chops and owning largest collection of churchwarden pipes in the world, it is a place of worship for those who love USDA prime beef. Try a Chateaubriand for two or a Porterhouse for three, even if you can’t finish it. Keen’s Steakhouse 72 West 36th Street; 212-947-3636; Open weekdays 11:45am-10:30pm, Saturday 5-10:30pm and Sunday 5-9:30pm; keens.com
Walk: Stroll over to Fifth Avenue and take a right to walk past the Empire State Building. Walk down 8 more blocks to Madison Square Park and to take in the Flatiron Building. Head 2 blocks farther south past 23rd Street on Fifth Avenue.
Snack: Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop
If you hadn’t just had a steak, we’d suggest a tuna melt or egg sandwich—so instead step into this classic coffee shop and grab a stool at the counter for a traditional egg cream. If you aren’t familiar with this New York beverage, it has no egg or cream. Instead this frothy drink is made with milk, strong spritzes of seltzer and a hefty dose of U-Bet chocolate syrup. It is an acquired taste that you may not love at first sip, but at least you can say you tried one of New York’s own. Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop 174 Fifth Avenue at 22nd Street; 212-675-5096; Open weekdays 6:30am-8pm, Saturday 9am-6pm and Sunday until 5pm; eisenbergsnyc.com
Walk: Continue down Fifth Avenue and past 14th Street down to 10th Street. Take a right on 10th and follow across 6th Avenue and the Jefferson Library, a former women’s prison. West 10th meets West 4th, but best to get lost in the charming neighborhood before finding your way back to Charles Street.
Perhaps it’s not yet reached centenarian status, but this eatery with framed oil paintings of bullfighters donning its walls is from an era when authentic Spanish restaurants dotted the West Village. Sevilla is one of the few of these classics that prevailed and it’s also recently been recognized by the James Beard Foundation as an American treasure. Many go for the pot of aromatic Shrimp in Green Sauce, the affordable broiled lobsters with plenty of clarified butter, or, my personal go-to, Pollo Riojana in a garlicky, red wine sauce with roasted red peppers. Entrees automatically come with a salad slathered in a zesty dressing or soup starter, a platter of saffron rice and pots can serve up to two, but you will be hit with a service charge for sharing. Just order your own and take home the rest in a doggie bag. Sevilla 62 Charles Street at West 4th; 212-243-9513; Open 365 days a year Sunday-Thursday 12pm-12am and Friday-Saturday 12pm-1am; sevillarestaurantandbar.com
Subway (or Taxi): Head to midtown, to Rockefeller Center. Walk east on Charles Street to Seventh Avenue. Cross the avenue and turn right onto Waverly Place. Walk down Waverly Place two blocks to cross over Christopher Street and continue on Waverly past Grove Street. Waverly bends to the left. Take Waverly to Sixth Avenue and take a right to head to the West 4th Street station. Hop on either the B/D/F/M to Rockefeller Center. Get out at 47th Street and head north to 49th Street to Rockefeller Plaza to enter 30 Rockefeller Center.
Nightcap: Rainbow Room
Spectacular at sunset or any time of night, this landmark rooftop restaurant and bar first opened in 1934 and has always been a class act. Case in point: It was a regular haunt for Louis Armstrong and glamorous actresses like Joan Crawford. The art deco restaurant has seen many changes over the years, except for the stunning view. Perched on the 65th floor atop Rockefeller Center it is the ultimate way to end your stay; sipping retro cocktails while awing at this magnificent city. BarSixtyFive at the Rainbow Room 30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th Floor; 212-632-5000; Open to the public Monday-Friday 5pm-12am, only accessible on weekends to those with dinner reservations; rainbowroom.com
Bonus Day 3:
Lunch: Patsy’s Pizza
Don’t make the mistake of going to the Patsy’s spinoffs, this is the real deal. With an interior that hasn’t changed since opening in 1933 it was a favorite of Old Blue Eyes. Patsy’s Pizzeria 2287 1st Avenue at 117th Street; 212-534-9783; Open Monday-Thursday 11:30am-11pm, Friday-Sunday 11am-12am; thepatsyspizza.com
Shop: Porto Rico Importing Company
This coffee purveyor overflowing with bean-filled burlap bags has four locations, but the Bleecker Street one has been selling coffee and teas since 1907. Porto Rico Importing Company 201 Bleecker Street; 212-GR7-5421; Open Monday-Friday 8am-9pm, Saturday 9am-9pm and Sunday 12pm-7pm; portorico.com
Dinner: Peter Luger
This Brooklyn institution in operation since 1887 was first established as Carl Luger’s Café, Billiards and Bowling Alley by owner Peter Luger. It changed owners, but kept the Luger name and stills serves the best cuts of meat in the five boroughs. Peter Luger 178 Broadway, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-387-7400; Open Monday-Thursday 11:45am-9:45pm, Friday and Saturday11:45am-10:45pm and Sundays 12:45pm-9:45pm; Reservations by phone; peterluger.com
Drink: Ear Inn
Before you step in for a pint at the oldest bar continuously serving alcohol in New York since 1817, take notice of the cleat which marks the island’s water line in the 19th century. The Ear Inn 326 Spring Street between Greenwich and Washington Streets; 212-226-9060; Open daily 12pm-4am; earinn.com
Midnight Snack: Katz’s
Since it is overwhelmingly crowded during the day, hit this pastrami emporium after midnight. Katz’s Delicatessen 205 East Houston Street at Ludlow; 212-254-2246; Open Monday-Wednesday 8am-10:45pm, Thursday until 2:45am and continuous from Friday at 8am-10:45pm Sunday; katzsdelicatessen.com