Not For Tourists Guide to New York City - Not For Tourists (2016)
Map 12. Midtown
Welcome to the heart of everything—clogged arteries and all. An utter tourist hell to some, Midtown may also be where you slave away in an antiseptic glass tower for more than half your waking day. But while many avoid the area altogether, Times Square and its side streets possess ample virtues. If you can tolerate the slow walkers, group photos, and incessant invitations to comedy shows, you’ll be rewarded with some of New York’s finest art and most impressive architecture, the brightest lights this side of Tokyo, world-famous hotels and cathedrals, a pair of iconic animal statues, and of course a little animal known as Broadway.
Topping our Midtown list is The Museum of Modern Art. Yes, it’s pricey and gets packed on the weekend, but the art will blow your mind and the sculpture garden is divine. Bargain tip: it’s free on Friday evenings. If you still enjoy the smell and feel of real-live books, the main branch of the New York Public Library (guarded by the famous lion statues Patience and Fortitude) is spectacular. Inside, visit The Map Room and The Rose Main ReadingRoom, one of the most beautiful spaces in the world to get lost in a book. Right outside, you can bask on the lawn of beautiful Bryant Park, stare up at the sky, and transcend the chaos of the city. At least until a pigeon poops on you or a swarm of moviegoers tramples your mellow.
For a dose of glamour and history, stop in at the Algonquin Hotel, where famous writers, entertainers, and socialites used to cavort and carouse in the 1920s. To see how the ultra-rich used to (and still) live, pop into the gorgeous Plaza Hotel. If you have a small fortune lying around unused, we hear the Edwardian Suite is quite suitable. Gaze at the exquisite, 1908 facade of the Alwyn Court Apartments and decide if you would rather live behind those walls or just look at them like a fine sculpture. When it’s movie time, catch it at the plush, gold-trimmed Ziegfeld Theatre, which boasts the biggest screen in the city.
Times Square is the dominion of tourists, but it’s worth sneaking in late at night when they’re back in their hotels, so you can check out the cool pedestrian plaza where the street used to be (though we kind of miss the comfy lawn chairs from the first summer they tried it). One of the area’s greatest assets is, of course, the Broadway theatre scene. If you need cheap tickets to a play or musical, weave through the crowds to the TKTS booth. After braving the line, grab a seat on the actually-really-awesome bleachers that climb over the booth like a staircase. The real gems, though, can be found on the periphery of the square, including the striking New York Times Building, the exhibits at Discovery Times Square (brave the tourists—it’s worth it!), and the rare tourist-free bar, Jimmy’s Corner.
Midtown is home to oodles of thrilling architecture. Arguably, the most exciting is the Hearst Tower, a stunning masterpiece blending old and new, and the first “green” skyscraper in New York. Sprouting through the roof of the original 1928 building is an angular tower built with recycled steel, completed in 2006. Duck into the lobby to check out the one-of-a-kind water sculpture. Other architectural highlights include Carnegie Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Thomas Church, Villard House, Rockefeller Center, One Bryant Park, and the American Radiator Building. And finally, don’t miss the trippy Austrian Cultural Forum, which hosts a number of events open to the public.
For a change of pace, check out Little Brazil’s small strip of restaurants, bars (some with live music), and shops. Or go north a block to the famous Diamond District, which appeared in the 1940s when Orthodox Jews transplanted here from war-torn Europe. Finally, stare up at The Debt Clock and ponder how this nation’s permanent structural deficit will likely bankrupt your theoretical grandchildren. You may decide you need a drink after seeing how the debt-to-GDP ratio creeps inexorably ever upward; on second thought, make that a double.
✵ 30 Rockefeller Plaza ✵
30 Rockefeller Plaza [W 51st St]
Tallest building at Rock Center;
RCA = GE = Comcast.
✵ Algonquin Hotel ✵ 59 W 44th St [6th Ave]
Where snark was invented.
✵ Alwyn Court Apartments ✵
180 W 58th St [7th Ave]
100-year-old apartment building with awesomely detailed exterior.
✵ American Radiator Building ✵
40 W 40th St [6th Ave]
Massive gold-and-black Art Deco gem looms over Bryant Park.
✵ Bryant Park ✵ 6th Ave & W 42nd St
Summer movies, winter ice-skating, hook-ups year round.
✵ Carnegie Hall ✵ 881 7th Ave [W 57th St]
Stock up on free cough drops in the lobby.
✵ The Debt Clock ✵ 6th Ave & W 44th St
How much the US has borrowed—pennies, really.
✵ Diamond District ✵
W 47th St b/n 5th & 6th Ave
Big rocks abound! Center of the world’s diamond industry.
✵ Hearst Tower ✵ 300 W 57th St [8th Ave]
It’s green! It’s mean! It’s fit to be seen!
✵ Little Brazil ✵ W 46th St b/n 5th & 6th Ave
Small stretch of Brazilian businesses. Gisele not included.
✵ Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) ✵
11 W 53rd St [5th Ave]
Is there anything these Rockefellers don’t do?
✵ New York Public Library ✵
5th Ave & W 42nd St
Wonderful Beaux-Arts building with stunning reading room.
✵ New York Times Building ✵
8th Ave & W 40th St
Renzo Piano’s impressive new home for The Gray Lady.
✵ One Bryant Park ✵ 1111 6th Ave [W 42nd St]
New York’s third-tallest building: sleek, elegant, and environmentally friendly.
✵ The Plaza Hotel ✵ 768 5th Ave [W 58th St]
Now anyone can be Eloise with her own Plaza condo.
✵ Rockefeller Center ✵
45 Rockefeller Plaza [W 49th St]
Sculpture, ice skating, and a mall!
✵ St. Patrick’s Cathedral ✵ 5th Ave & E 51st St
NYC’s classic cathedral.
✵ Times Square ✵ 7th Ave & W 42nd St
It looks even cooler than it does on TV!
✵ TKTS ✵ Broadway & W 47th St
Get cheap Broadway tix underneath the cool looking stairs.
✵ Villard House ✵ 457 Madison Ave [E 51st St]
Killer brownstone palazzos by holy fathers McKim, Mead & White.
✵ Ziegfeld Theatre ✵ 141 W 54th St [6th Ave]
Glorious 1969 movie palace. 1,100 seats and red carpeting.
✵ Blue Bottle Coffee ✵
1 Rockefeller Ctr [5th Ave]
Cult coffee that’s more lab than shop.
✵ Cosi ✵ 1633 Broadway [W 50th St]
Starbucks-lite with fire roasted sandwiches.
✵ FIKA ✵ 41 W 58th St [5th Ave]
Swedish oasis in Midtown: strong coffee and homemade pastries.
✵ Zibetto ✵ 1385 6th Ave [W 56th St]
A real Italian espresso bar. Un caffe, per favore!
✵ Rockefeller Center Greenmarket ✵
W 50th St & Rockefeller Plaza
Wed, Thur & Fri, 8 am-6 pm, Jul-Sept
Grab a cocktail at the elegant and laid-back Faces & Names, or belly up to the bar at Jimmy’s Corner for a beer and a shot. Bowl some frames at, uh, Frames in Port Authority or the nearby Bowlmor Lanes. Other options: Iridium for jazz, King Cole for class, Caroline’s or HA! for comedy, or escape it all on the patio of Bookmarks.
✵ Arena ✵ 135 W 41st St [Broadway]
Anything-goes excess is back, albeit in midtown.
✵ BB King Blues Club ✵ 237 W 42nd St [7th Ave]
Check out the live gospel brunch on Sundays.
✵ Blue Bar ✵ 59 W 44th St [6th Ave]
If you’re in the mood for a Harvey Wallbanger.
✵ Bookmarks ✵ 299 Madison Ave [E 41st St]
Escape the Midtown ruckus at this nifty rooftop bar.
✵ The Carnegie Club ✵ 156 W 56th St [7th Ave]
Drink your 50-year-old cognac with your 22-year-old date.
✵ Caroline’s on Broadway ✵
1626 Broadway [W 50th St]
Laughs in Times Square. A classic.
✵ Chicago City Limits ✵ 318 W 53rd St [8th Ave]
Improv. Think fast, sucker!
✵ Dave & Busters ✵ 234 W 42nd St [6th Ave]
Another dateless Friday night.
✵ Emmett O’Lunney’s Irish Pub ✵
210 W 50th St [Broadway]
Above-average Irish pub popular with the after-work crowd.
✵ Faces & Names ✵ 159 W 54th St [7th Ave]
Fabulous staff, elegant vibe, superb bar and very good food.
✵ Flute ✵ 205 W 54th St [7th Ave]
Munch on strawberries and cream with your bubbly.
✵ HA! Comedy Club ✵ 232 W 44th St [7th Ave]
Stop in for some great laughs and a minimum of two drinks.
✵ Heartland Brewery ✵ 127 W 43rd St [6th Ave]
Heartland HeartLAND HEARTLAND!
✵ The House of Brews ✵ 302 W 51st St [8th Ave]
Fratty but friendly atmosphere, great beer selection.
✵ Iridium Jazz Club ✵
1650 Broadway [W 51st St]
Good mainstream jazz venue. Pricey.
✵ Jimmy’s Corner ✵ 140 W 44th St [Broadway]
This cozy joint is the best bar around here, trust us.
✵ Judge Roy Bean Public House ✵
38 W 56th St [5th Ave]
When you need a craft beer in Midtown.
✵ King Cole Bar ✵ 2 E 55th St [5th Ave]
Drink a red snapper and admire the gorgeous mural.
✵ Paramount Bar ✵ 235 W 46th St [Broadway]
Tiny, pretentious, unavoidable.
✵ Point Break ✵ 12 W 45th St [5th Ave]
No Swayze or Keanu. Just drunken Midtown office slaves.
✵ R Lounge ✵ 714 7th Ave [W 48th St]
Sip cocktails with (gulp) tourists and take in the fine view.
✵ Royalton Hotel ✵ 44 W 44th St [5th Ave]
Starck + Schrager = cool.
✵ The Rum House ✵ 228 W 47th St [Broadway]
Dive smell gone, but fun still remains.
✵ Russian Vodka Room ✵
265 W 52nd St [8th Ave]
Russian molls and cranberry vodka. Awesome.
✵ Sardi’s ✵ 234 W 44th St [7th Ave]
Absorb the sacred DNA at the upstairs bar.
✵ St. Andrews ✵ 140 W 46th St [6th Ave]
Over 200 Scotches at this bar and restaurant.
✵ View Lounge ✵ 1535 Broadway [W 46th St]
Down a drink on the 48th floor, then get out.
✵ Whiskey Trader ✵ 71 W 55th St [6th Ave]
Awesome lounge/sports bar hybrid with good drink specials.
✵ 21 Club ✵ 21 W 52nd St [5th Ave]
212-582-7200 ✵ $$$$
Old, clubby New York.
✵ 53rd & 6th Halal Cart ✵ 6th Ave & W 53rd St
Serving halal food to cabbies and devoted fans (7:30 pm-4 am).
✵ Akdeniz ✵ 19 W 46th St [5th Ave]
212-575-2307 ✵ $$
Turkish oasis in Midtown.
✵ Angelo’s Pizza ✵ 1697 Broadway [W 53rd St]
212-245-8811 ✵ $$
For total tourist pizza, it ain’t half bad.
✵ Applejack Diner ✵ 230 W 55th St [Broadway]
Endless cup of coffee.
✵ Aureole ✵ 135 W 42nd St [Madison Ave]
212-319-1660 ✵ $$$$$
Well-done but unimaginative.
✵ BG ✵ 754 5th Ave [W 57th St]
212-872-8977 ✵ $$$$$
Another reason to spend the whole day at Bergdorf’s.
✵ Big Apple Deli ✵ 1190 6th Ave [W 47th St]
212-921-1919 ✵ $
Standard deli, excellent selection, accurate orders, not a chain.
✵ Blue Fin ✵ 1567 Broadway [W 47th St]
212-918-1400 ✵ $$$
Sleek, stylish seafood & sushi spot in the W Hotel.
✵ Brasserie 8 1/2 ✵ 9 W 57th St [5th Ave]
212-829-0812 ✵ $$$$$
A must for brunch. Lovely for cocktails and dinner too.
✵ Burger Joint ✵ 119 W 56th St [6th Ave]
212-708-7414 ✵ $
Fancy hotel lobby leads to unexpected burger dive. Awesome.
✵ Cafe Zaiya ✵ 18 E 41st St [Madison Ave]
212-779-0600 ✵ $$
Japanese food court that’s cheap and fast.
✵ Carmine’s ✵ 200 W 44th St [7th Ave]
212-221-3800 ✵ $$$
Pre-theater Italian standby with ungodly portions.
✵ Carnegie Deli ✵ 854 7th Ave [W 55th St]
212-757-2245 ✵ $$$
Still good. Still really, really good.
✵ Cinema Brasserie ✵ 2 E 45th St [5th Ave]
212-949-0600 ✵ $$$
Good spot for a business power lunch.
✵ Cold Stone Creamery ✵
253 W 42nd St [8th Ave]
212-398-1882 ✵ $
Because ice cream without trendiness ain’t worth a lick.
✵ Cosi ✵ 1633 Broadway [W 50th St]
212-397-9838 ✵ $
Sandwiches for the masses.
✵ Cosmic Diner ✵ 888 8th Ave [W 53rd St]
212-333-5888 ✵ $
Great food, large portions, they do take out.
✵ Estiatorio Milos ✵ 125 W 55th St [6th Ave]
212-245-7400 ✵ $$$$
Fancified Greek food for people with expense accounts.
✵ Faces & Names ✵ 159 W 54th St [7th Ave]
212-586-9311 ✵ $$
Fabulous staff, elegant vibe, superb bar, and very good food.
✵ FIKA ✵ 41 W 58th St [5th Ave]
212-832-0022 ✵ $
Great Swedish take-out sandwiches and salads.
✵ Gabriel Kreuther ✵ 41 W 42nd St [6th Ave]
212-257-5826 ✵ $$$$$
Danny Meyer alum’s Alsatian-inflected four-star dining experience.
✵ Hallo Berlin Cart ✵ 5th Ave & W 54th St
212-947-9008 ✵ $
The streetside equivalent to the restaurant. They got wurst.
✵ Haru ✵ 229 W 43rd St [7th Ave]
212-398-9810 ✵ $$$$
Excellent mid-range Japanese. Loud, good.
✵ Joe’s Shanghai ✵ 24 W 56th St [5th Ave]
212-333-3868 ✵ $$
Uptown version of killer dumpling factory.
✵ John’s Pizzeria ✵ 260 W 44th St [8th Ave]
212-391-7560 ✵ $$
A tad touristy, but fantastic pizza and a great space.
✵ La Bonne Soupe ✵ 48 W 55th St [5th Ave]
212-586-7650 ✵ $$
Ooh la la, the best salad dressing accompanies my soupe a l’oignon.
There’s something for every taste in this area. Greasy burgers tucked inside a fancy hotel at Burger Joint, cheap but ah-mazing chicken parm at Luigi’s, street food at the halal cart at 53rd & 6th. For high-end experiences, savor the French-American fare at The Modern, the seafood at Le Bernardin, David Chang’s Ma Peche, or the vintage charms of 21 Club. Carnegie is the old standby deli, with its overstuffed sandwiches and autographed headshots on the wall.
✵ Le Bernardin ✵ 155 W 51st St [7th Ave]
212-554-1515 ✵ $$$$$
Top NYC seafood.
✵ Luigi’s Gourmet Pizza ✵
936 8th Ave [W 55th St]
212-265-7159 ✵ $$
Best chicken parm under $20 in town.
✵ Ma Peche ✵ 15 W 56th St [5th Ave]
212-757-5878 ✵ $$$
Hip food in Midtown? Sir David Chang has arrived.
✵ Mangia ✵ 50 W 57th St [6th Ave]
212 582-5882 ✵ $
Caterers with a café.
✵ Margon ✵ 136 W 46th St [7th Ave]
212-354-5013 ✵ $
Great Cuban sandwiches but the coffee is the real hit.
✵ The Modern ✵ 9 W 53rd St [5th Ave]
212-333-1220 ✵ $$$$
With gnocchi to die for, spend a lot and then STILL splurge on dessert.
✵ Molyvos ✵ 871 7th Ave [W 56th St]
212-582-7500 ✵ $$$$
Top Greek. Someday we’ll check it out w/ your credit card.
✵ Nobu 57 ✵ 40 W 57th St [5th Ave]
212-757-3000 ✵ $$$$$
Uptown branch of wildly popular and renowned downtown sushi joints.
✵ Norma’s ✵ 119 W 56th St [6th Ave]
212-708-7460 ✵ $$$$
Inventive and upscale brunch. Cool menus.
✵ Obica Mozzarella Bar ✵
590 Madison Ave [E 57th St]
212-355-2217 ✵ $$
A strange but tasty concept.
✵ Oceana ✵ 120 W 49th St [6th Ave]
212-759-5941 ✵ $$$$$
Le Bernadin Jr.
✵ The Palm Restaurant ✵
250 W 50th St [8th Ave]
212-333-7256 ✵ $$$$
Upscale but friendly, everything is delicious and staff is superb.
✵ Park Italian Gourmet ✵ 60 W 45th St [6th Ave]
212-382-0580 ✵ $$
How is this old-school sandwich shop still here? Go today for lunch.
✵ Petrossian ✵ 182 W 58th St [7th Ave]
212-245-2214 ✵ $$$$$
The decor’s not updated, but the fare is FINE.
✵ Pigalle ✵ 790 8th Ave [W 48th St]
212-489-2233 ✵ $$$
French bistro, friendly atmosphere, great food.
✵ Pongsri ✵ 244 W 48th St [Broadway]
212-582-3392 ✵ $$
Great, spicy Thai.
✵ Pret a Manger ✵ 135 W 50th St [6th Ave]
212-489-6458 ✵ $
British sandwich chain.
✵ Pret a Manger ✵ 1350 6th Ave [W 54th St]
212-307-6100 ✵ $
British sandwich chain.
✵ Redeye Grill ✵ 890 7th Ave [W 56th St]
212-541-9000 ✵ $$$
Sprawling and diverse.
✵ Robert ✵ 2 Columbus Cir [W 58th St]
212-299-7730 ✵ $$$$$
Posh dining atop the Museum of Arts & Design. Someone take us, please?
✵ Russian Samovar ✵ 256 W 52nd St [8th Ave]
212-757-0168 ✵ $$$
Classic Russian food and flavored vodkas.
✵ The Russian Tea Room ✵
150 W 57th St [7th Ave]
212-581-7100 ✵ $$$$$
Exquisite Russian dining experience & New York icon.
✵ Sofrito ✵ 244 W 57th St [Broadway]
212-754-5999 ✵ $$
Mofongo for the gods.
✵ Thalia ✵ 828 8th Ave [W 50th St]
212-399-4444 ✵ $$$
Chic atmosphere, excellent food.
✵ Tina’s Cuban Cuisine ✵ 23 W 56th St [5th Ave]
212-315-4313 ✵ $$
Straight up classics like rice, beans, roast pork and plantains.
✵ Toloache ✵ 251 W 50th St [8th Ave]
212-581-1818 ✵ $$$
Designer Mexican in Midtown.
✵ Virgil’s Real BBQ ✵ 152 W 44th St [6th Ave]
212-921-9494 ✵ $$$
It’s real. Hush puppies and CFS to die for.
✵ Apple Store (Fifth Avenue) ✵
767 5th Ave [E 59th St]
Giant glass shrine houses all things Apple.
✵ Bergdorf Goodman ✵ 754 5th Ave [W 57th St]
Hands down—the best windows in the business.
✵ Billy’s Bakery ✵ 1 W 59th St [Central Park S]
Yummiest treats this side of homemade.
✵ Burberry ✵ 9 E 57th St [5th Ave]
Signature “beige plaid” purveyor.
✵ Chanel ✵ 15 E 57th St [5th Ave]
Official outfitter of “ladies who lunch.”
✵ Drama Book Shop ✵ 250 W 40th St [7th Ave]
Alas, poor Yorick…
✵ Ermenegildo Zegna ✵ 663 5th Ave [E 57th St]
A truly stylish and classic Italian designer.
✵ Forever 21 ✵ 1540 Broadway [W 45th St]
Open til 1 am, lifesaver during late-night wardrobe emergencies.
✵ Henri Bendel ✵ 712 5th Ave [W 56th St]
Offbeat department store specializing in the unusual and harder-to-find.
✵ Lee’s Art Shop ✵ 220 W 57th St [Broadway]
Excellent art store in surprising location.
✵ Mets Clubhouse Shop ✵
11 W 42nd St [5th Ave]
For Amazin’ stuff!
✵ MoMA Design and Book Store ✵
11 W 53rd St [5th Ave]
Cutting-edge, minimalist, ergonomic, offbeat, and funky everything.
Midtown is home to one of the great world shopping districts. Legendary retailers like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue are majestic retail palaces, while numerous boutiques and flagships for individual brands jostle for position. In Times Square, there are several touristy chains, as well as a Forever 21 that’s open until 1 a.m. and comes in handy forlate-night wardrobe emergencies. For unique finds, check out MoMA Design Store or Muji, and stock up on spirits at Park Avenue Liquor or Oak and Steel.
✵ Muji Times Square ✵ 620 8th Ave [W 40th St]
Like a Japanese IKEA, but cooler and without meatballs.
✵ Oak and Steel Fine Wines & Spirits ✵
1776 Broadway [W 57th St]
Excellent selection, very knowledgeable staff.
✵ Park Avenue Liquor Shop ✵
292 Madison Ave [E 41st St]
Amazing selection of scotch. Makes us wish we had more $$$.
✵ Petrossian Boutique ✵
911 7th Ave [W 58th St]
Caviar and other delectables. Bring the Gold Card.
✵ Roberto’s Winds ✵ 149 W 46th St [6th Ave]
Saxophones, horns, clarinets, and flutes. If it blows, bring it here.
✵ Saks Fifth Avenue ✵ 611 5th Ave [E 49th St]
Fifth Avenue mainstay with lovely holiday windows and bathrooms.
✵ Steinway & Sons ✵ 109 W 57th St [6th Ave]
Cheap knockoff pianos. Just kidding.
✵ The Store at Museum of Arts and Design ✵
2 Columbus Cir [8th Ave]
Not your average museum store.
✵ Sunrise Mart ✵ 12 E 41st St [5th Ave]
Pick up a bento box, lunch special or Japanese groceries.
✵ Tiffany & Co. ✵ 727 5th Ave [E 56th St]
Grande dame of the little blue box.
✵ Uniqlo ✵ 666 5th Ave [W 52nd St]
Japanese t-shirts and more T-shirts—in every color!