What to Eat and Drink with One Day in Manhattan

A martini at Flora Bar. Photo by the author.

I’ll be transparent: The most successful pieces on our site are neighborhood guides. Everyone wants a quick route to a good meal or a guaranteed excellent cocktail. Life, of course, is much more messy than that. One person’s perfection is another person’s misery. The joy I take in, say, a Toki Highball from the tap at Black Emperor might not be the right cup of tea for someone who prefers a vodka martini with a twist at the NoMad (especially because I’m a gin martini with an olive girl, myself). But I’m going to try to make some suggestions for what to do with one very packed and fantastical day in Manhattan, if difficult subway navigation, pricey cab rides, or exhausted cycling legs were of no concern. It’s maybe a bit predictable—I’m a vegetarian cocktail lover of a very specific age (33)—but maybe it will help you realize your perfect day, or provide a little bit of inspiration on how to follow your muse. So here goes, with the caveat that my favorite bar in New York City is actually the Macdougal Street Ale House.

Start with a bagel.
Obviously. Wherever is closest to where you’re staying will be fine, but certainly check out the New York-cum-Montreal stylings of Black Seed or the perfect bialy by Kossar’s.

Then have a drink.
The Garibaldi, a blend of foamy fresh orange juice and Campari, at Dante, will be perfect, or maybe one of their Bloody Marys—virgin or not.

Give your stomach a break with some book shopping.
I prefer McNally Jackson in Soho, which stocks all the hot books everyone is tweeting about alongside small press options, a ton of translated international fiction, and a stellar Spanish-language section. When the book browsing is done, go to their Goods for the Study to check out more pens and pencils than you ever thought were on the market and perhaps convince yourself that you need another notebook.

Lunch is dealer’s choice.
Stay in the West Village and go for a falafel at Taïm, or take a trek to Flora Bar in the Met Bruer museum on the Upper East Side. The former promises casual satisfaction, while the latter will make you feel rich and famous—without a care in the world, aside from what goes in your martini and which of Natasha Pickowicz’s fabulous desserts you’ll try.

While you’re in the neighborhood…
Check out what’s showing at Half Gallery—a tiny, fascinating, insanely well-curated space—or just see what’s on view at the Met Breuer or the Met proper. You’re in fancy land now. But if you stayed downtown, I recommend popping into Spring Lounge, sitting at the bar, and eavesdropping. You didn’t have a martini with lunch.

Now is the time for sweets.
I’m sorry? But go to Confectionery in the East Village! Have a chocolate from Lagusta’s Luscious or a fabulous vegan macaron by Sweet Maresa’s. Maybe put a marzipan cookie in your coat pocket and forget about it until some delightful moment when you really need a cookie. I wouldn’t know anything about this.

Take a walk!
Tompkins Square Park is right there. Take a seat on a bench. Enjoy New York City. Watch the rats scurry.

Wait, do you need coffee?
Abraço—cash only!—and Ninth Street Espresso are your only options.

Now it’s dinnertime.
And the only option is Superiority Burger. Sure, it’s open for lunch, but this spot—despite all the nonchalance of its appearance and demeanor—is an occasion to be savored, whether you score one of the sparse seats inside or have to eat it on a park bench, with the rats, or over at Doc Holliday’s on the corner. Maybe you’re a big believer in the burger, but I say ask if they have the yuba verde and go for the big one, always with the exquisitely acidic salad—the only salad on earth with enough olives to satisfy me. Dessert will likely happen again. I’m not sorry.

One more drink.
If you’re a reasonable person, stop by Amor y Amargo for a bitter beverage—or maybe wine is more your thing? Walk over to Avenue C for Lois, where it’s all on tap (full disclosure: I used to pull those taps and change those kegs!). Beer? Proletariat, of course! If you can keep going, though, I suggest Blue and Gold, Bua Bar, and St. Dymphnas as follow-ups… Please google their locations and eat some pizza.