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New York is a great town to live in AND to visit. To avoid recreating the wheel every
time someone asks me for recommendations on where to go and what to do when they visit New
York, I've put together this list of my recommendations.
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My friend Tom Giovagnoli taught
me this: For most people it takes
one minute to walk Street to Street
in NYC. It takes three minutes to
walk Avenue to Avenue. As long
as you're covering ground in the
main grid of the city, its easy to
calculate how long it will take to
walk from place to place. Going
from 42nd and 6th to 50th and 9th?
That's eight minutes worth of Streets
and nine minutes worth of Avenues,
for a total walking time of 17
minutes. I'm a nerd, I've tried this
with a stop watch and it's an
incredibly accurate rule of thumb.
  • Carmine's (200 West 44th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues / MAP) Popular, albeit slightly touristy,
    Italian place. Huge, family-style portions. Lasagna is good. Caesar salad is good. Bread pudding
    dessert is beyond description. Doesn't take reservations for parties fewer than 6 and tends to be a wait.
    I'd go early.

  • John's Pizzeria (260 West 44th Street, at 8th Avenue / MAP)Just off Times Square. Great "whole-pie"
    pizza. Not a "slice" place. Not a corner joint. Real sit-down casual place. Very good thin-and-crispy style.

  • Kyma (300 West 46th Street, at 8th Avenue / MAP) Really wonderful Greek place. The most amazing
    chicken soup you've ever had. Truly. Makes you re-appreciate chicken soup. Great for a t,heater night.

  • La Bonne Soupe (48 West 55th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues / MAP) GREAT French bistro,
    toward the northern/uptown edge of Midtown, not best for theater night. Quaint, small, and the best
    French Onion Soup ever.

  • La Locanda (737 9th Ave, between 49th and 50th Streets / MAP) Fabulous Italian recommended by a
    lot of the "foodies" in the office. Very fresh ingredients. I've sampled tortellinis all over the country and one
    of the best is at La Locanda. This is one of my all-time favorite Italian places.

  • Orso (322 West 46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues / MAP) — Simply magnificent, as long as you
    stick to what they do best: pastas and contemporary Italian creations (their steak was a modest
    disappointment). A New York classic, Orso will ply your thoughts for days afterward with its fresh,
    incredibly flavorful and unique dishes. If you're lucky, maybe they'll have the veal meatballs with polenta or
    vegetable rissoto the night you're there.

  • Sardi's (234 West. 44th Street, at 7th Avenue / MAP) Famous theater district celeb hangout with all the
    caricatures on the wall. Fun even for a burger at lunch.

  • Astro Restaurant (1361 6th Avenue, at 56th Street / MAP) The best burger in the WORLD as far as I’m
    concerned. Classic little NYC diner.

  • Café Frida (368 Columbus Avenue, between 77th and 78th Streets / MAP) Fabulous! Cafe Frida is my
    current  favorite Mexican restaurant in New York. Flavors are fresh, strong and pronounced. The
    enchiladas with tomatillia sauce are incredible. I love the rice and beans served side-by-side in a little pot
    next your plate. The corn soufflé is wonderfully decadent, and the skirt steak is tender and tasty, not to
    mention generous in size.

  • Café Lalo (201 W. 83rd Street, at Amsterdam Avenue / MAP) Incredible bakery, pastries, dessert place.
    Famous as a location from "You've Got Mail." Usually crowded but worth it.

  • Café Luxembourg (200 West 70th Street, near Amsterdam Avenue / MAP) I ate here on my very first night
    in New York, and although it's only a five-minute walk from my apartment I tend to save its ambiance (and
    prices) for occasions when I want to treat myself or others. It's a terrific French Bistro, which makes it a bit
    of an anomaly on the Upper West Side. Some compare it to Downtown elegance. Others compare it to
    East Side snobbery. I say yes, the prices are steep, but the service has always been excellent when I've
    been there, and the food is always exciting. Try the acorn squash ravioli if it pops up on the list of specials
    the day you go. It's truly excellent.

  • Coppola's (206 W 79th Street, between Amsterdam and Broadway / MAP) Very good Italian place.

  • Tavern on the Green (Central Park West, at 67th Street / MAP) Famous general restaurant on the
    western edge of Central Park. Food isn't bad, but it's mostly about the atmosphere and experience. Great
    dinner or lunch stop if you're already in the park.

  • Gramercy Tavern (42 East 20th Street at Broadway / MAP) It's hard to believe the same person who
    gave us the decadent burgers, fries and shakes of the Shake Shack (see below) also gave us this
    homage to classic American tavern fare. Rustic ambiance warmed by earthy colors and a first-class
    earthy menu have made Gramercy Tavern a New York "it" restaurant since 1994, thanks to restaurant
    wizard Danny Meyer. In fact, Zagat's rated it NYC's favorite restaurant three years running since 2005. It's
    not cheap, but you'll be delighted at the relaxing mood, top-notch service and truly fine menu.

  • Les Halles Brasserie (411 Park Avenue South at 28th Street / MAP) Celeb-chef/author/TV personality
    Anthony Bourdain (I recommend his book "Kitchen Confidential") delivers informal French fare in a
    comfortably rustic setting true to the real-deal brasseries you find in Paris. Every few weeks I meet Harold
    Augenbraum, executive director of the National Book Foundation, here for breakfast and wonderful
    conversations of literary and marketing matters. The service ranges from pleasantly unhurried to
    unpleasantly really unhurried. But ... the French press coffee is so good I've taken a 20-minute cab ride
    just to get a pot. (Not a cup ... a pot.) The freshly squeezed OJ is what juice is supposed to taste like. The
    cheese omelet is tastier than other omelets with twice the ingredients. The home fries carry a whiff of
    rosemary and other earthy herbs and are crisp and delicate, not at all greasy. And the pain au chocolat
    melts warmly in your mouth.

  • Magnolia Bakery (401 Bleecker Street at 11th Street / MAP) Featured on a "Sex and The City" episode.
    Famous for wait for it cupcakes. People literally wait in line to buy $2.00 cupcakes. They're good,
    though not always excellent. It is a unique NYC experience though.

  • Mesa Grill (102 5th Avenue at 16th Street / MAP) — One of celeb-chef Bobby Flay's places, Mesa Grill
    features remarkable combinations of flavors in a unique take on American Southwest cuisine. This place
    is a treat (and you pay for the pleasure). I recommend the pork tenderloin with sweet potato tamale. And
    the dessert sampler is one of the best dessert decisions you'll ever make.

  • Risotteria (270 Bleecker Street / MAP) — The entire menu consists of different risottos. Interesting and

  • Shake Shack (Madison Avenue at 23rd Street / MAP) — NYC Restaurateur Danny Meyer has elevated the
    "road side" burger shack to an art, but maintained the thoroughly decadent nature of it's menu: hot and
    incredibly tasty burgers, crinkle-cut fries (with or without cheese — oh  yeah!) and shakes that should
    make the fast-food places across the street avert their gaze in embarrassment. There's always a line and
    it's always worth it. For my KC friends, it's not exactly the same as Winstead's, but it's in the same
    ballpark, complete with hot fudge shakes (I say again — oh yeah!) One of my most delightful late
    summer afternoons was spent at a table in the midst of the beautiful Madison Square Park with a box of
    Shake Shack indulgences while listening to an old-fashioned band-in-the-park concert. (The band was
    as good as the food.) It's a great place to watch people or squirrels but not your diet. (Note: The Shack is
    shuttered in the colder months. I found out by accident. Major bummer.)


  • Il Palazzo (151 Mulberry Street / MAP) Good Italian, great veal scaloppini

Jazz Clubs
  • Birdland (315 West 44th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues / MAP) — Very nice, sizable room with good
    sight lines, even if it ISN'T the original. Decent menu. My fondest memory is of a true "happening:" Jazz
    vocal legends Kurt Elling, Jon Hendricks, Andy Bey and Mark Murphy on the same set. Any one would
    have been incredible. All four at once? It's what I always dreamt a night of jazz in New York would be ...

  • Iridium (1650 Broadway at 51st Street / MAP) — Intimate room. Very good burger on the menu. Home to
    the primal energy of the Mingus Big Band every Tuesday night. (It's not unusual for Charles' widow Sue to
    show up and tell a few stories that will morph legend into spine-tingling reality for you.)

  • Café Loup (105 West 13th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues / MAP) — You MUST go to the jazz brunch
    on Sundays and hear the extraordinary Bob Kindred play with some of the finest musicians in the city. It's
    a relaxed room and the music commands listening through artistry, not obtrusiveness. The menu is
    excellent (and surprisingly affordable) French Bistro fare.

Book Stores
  • The Strand (828 Broadway at 12th Street / MAP) A legend in New York since its founding in 1927, the
    Strand claims to house 18 MILES of new and used books. It's a wonderful place to browse deep and
    wide in an impressive array of topics. The staff is knowledgeable, and the prices are decent,  even
    surprisingly low at times. There's an annex in the Financial District and a kiosk in Central Park, but if you
    want the authentic bibliophile experience, nothing replaces this anchor location on Broadway, just south
    of the Flatiron district.

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by John Armato unless
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