New York is full of attractions and adventures. But whether your taste runs to the fine arts or the performing arts, historic structures or shopping, everyone’s gotta eat. We’ve put the two together, pairing iconic city venues with equally memorable restaurants within easy walking distance, making for a perfect afternoon or evening.
The Destination: Set on the site of the fallen World Trade Center, the new National September 11 Memorial & Museum (Liberty St., btw West & Greenwich sts., 212.266.5211) is a subterranean recreation of that fateful day in 2001, composed of videos, audio recordings, photographs and hundreds of artifacts. The Dining: From the museum, it’s a seven-minute walk to a comfort-food dinner, lunch or brunch at North End Grill (104 North End Ave., 646.747.1600). Walk past the bar into an industrial-chic dining room, with dark wood-planked walls and floor, flying-saucer-shaped lights and black leather banquettes. The menu is big on à la plancha and grilled items—from clam pizzas to a whole branzino to cauliflower—while dessert brings childhood faves (Creamsicle pie, doughnut holes stuffed with vanilla-bourbon cream). Thru Sept. 30, the restaurant is offering a special on short rib burgers and draft beer for September 11 Memorial & Museum ticketholders.
The Destination: The gentle hills and winding paths of Central Park always offer an oasis from the asphalt jungle—and one particularly serene spot is Strawberry Fields (Central Park West, at W. 72nd St.). Marked with a black and white mosaic medallion, with the word “IMAGINE” in its center, it commemorates former Beatle John Lennon, who lived nearby. The Dining: A dinner (or a Sunday brunch) at Dovetail (103 W. 77th St., 212.362.3800) would be appropriate after your brush with nature, since flowers and herbs often decorate the dishes. Four-course prix fixes include an entire veggie course, but meat eaters needn’t fear: Seared foie gras and some variety of veal pasta have been carnivorous hits ever since the spartan-but-sleek restaurant opened in 2007.
The Destination: Next to the Statue of Liberty, no structure symbolizes NYC like the Empire State Building (350 Fifth Ave., 212.736.3100), and its observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors offer 360-degree panoramas of all the city’s wonders every day of the year. The Dining: Two blocks east of the Art Deco landmark lies another institution—Wolfgang’s Steakhouse (4 Park Ave., 212.889.3369). Though it’s just hitting its 10th anniversary, it feels more established than that, partly due to its digs—which feature vaulted blue-and-white-tiled ceilings by architect Rafael Guastavino, ca. 1912, and frosted-glass chandeliers. The menu includes USDA prime “steak for two, for three, for four;” and sides, such as cottage fries and creamed spinach.
The Destination: You can’t come to NYC and not see a Broadway show. Whether it’s the cheeky dark humor of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, this year’s Tony Award-winning Best Musical (Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St., 212.239.6200) or the lush romance of The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running musical in Great White Way history (Majestic Theatre, 247 W. 44th St., 212.239.6200), there’s a tune for all tastes. The Dining: Dwarfing even Phantom’s record is Barbetta (321 W. 46th St., 212.246.9171), founded in 1906. The oldest restaurant in the Theater District, it’s perfectly placed for a pre-matinee lunch, or pre- or post-show supper. And a lavish production it is: a veritable stage-set décor, evoking a Piemontese palazzo of the 1700s in the main dining room, and a lovers’ garden on the outside patio, with flowering bushes and low-hanging trees. The fare, served with Latin flourish, features delicate classics from the Piedmont region, such as lighter-than-air gnocchetti ai formaggi (small dumplings in cheese sauce) and vitel tonné (veal in a tuna-mayo sauce).
The Destination: If it’s August, the various performing halls of Lincoln Center are filled—as they’ve been for nearly 50 years—with the sounds of the Mostly Mozart Festival (212.721.6500, thru Aug. 23), which includes performances of the works of the 18th-century composer and his contemporaries. The Mark Morris Dance Group is also doing a New York premiere ballet, Acis and Galatea, based on Handel’s opera (Aug. 7-9). The Dining: Many Mostly Mozart events are late-night concerts, which allows plenty of time for a leisurely dinner at Jean-Georges (Trump Hotel Central Park, 1 Central Park West, 212.299.3900). Founding chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten heats up luxe French classics with Asian/Middle Eastern/Latino flavors, like sea urchin with jalapeño and yuzu and butter-poached lobster with lemongrass. The dining room, which also serves lunch, is a modern, streamlined white-on-white, its sole touches of color being the flowers at each table and in the verdant garden through the windows.
The Destination: Back when it was bohemian, Greenwich Village was full of jazz clubs. Those glory days live on at the Blue Note (131 W. 3rd St., 212.475.8592), swinging since 1981. With two shows nightly, it covers almost every variety of jazz. Headliners this month include the multifaceted Arturo Sandoval (Aug. 5-10) and trombonist Conrad Herwig teaming with pianist Michel Camilo (Aug. 19-24). The Dining: Blue Hill (75 Washington Pl., 212.539.1776) is ideal before or after a set at the club. The 14-year-old restaurant was a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement, and most ingredients on Executive Chef Dan Barber’s two tasting menus come from regional farms, hence, dishes such as “this morning’s farm egg,” often served with asparagus in a cheese broth, and a “rotation salad” featuring sprouted grains and turnips. The décor is warm and woodsy, decorated with large floral and plant displays.
The Destination: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka The Met, 1000 Fifth Ave., 212.535.7710) is NYC’s most comprehensive fine-arts institution, both in physical size—the Beaux Arts building spans four city blocks—and in cultural scope; exhibits on view include the gowns of designer Charles James (thru. Aug. 10) and the photography of Garry Winogrand (thru Sept. 21). The Dining: Just as the museum’s closing bell is ringing, the doors are opening at Bemelmans Bar (The Carlyle, 35 E. 76th St., 212.744.1600), a few blocks south. The cozy 1947 hideaway is named, and famed, for Ludwig Bemelmans—best known as the creator of theMadeline storybooks—who painted the murals ringing the room and the lampshades adorning the black-glass tables. Guests can recline on a tufted-leather banquette while enjoying substantial classy snacks such as Kobe beef hot dogs, lobster mac ’n’ cheese and ahi tuna tacos—listening all the while to live jazz combos; the Chris Gillespie and Earl Rose Trio are among those playing throughout August.
The Destination: Bordering Central Park since 1877, the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West, at W. 79th St., 212.769.5100) is famed for the Hayden Planetarium, with its state-of-the-digital-art space shows, and exhibits devoted to extinct critters, like the current Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs (thru Jan. 4, 2015). The Dining: Though not quite as old as the museum, nearby Ouest (2315 Broadway, 212.580.8700) is also considered a neighborhood landmark—cited for bringing innovative dining to the once gastronomically challenged Upper West Side when it opened in 2001. Celebrated chef/owner Tom Valenti’s sophisticated American cuisine celebrates plant life with seasonal mixed-green salads and creatures of the sea (ocean trout, octopus) and land (venison, poussin).
The Destination: As the name implies, the Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53th St., 212.708.9400) celebrates creative works from the late-19th century to today, embracing all art forms, from painting to film to crafts. The museum’s sculpture garden, with its rotating cast of cast-bronze and metal pieces, is a must-see this time of the year.
The Destination: It has locations all over the world now, but Tiffany & Co. (727 Fifth Ave., 212.755.8000) is always associated with its polished granite Midtown flagship, a department store of everything that sparkles and shines, including silver, crystal, leather, accessories and perfume—wrapped in a robin’s-egg blue box or bag. The Dining: Walk down the block to BLT Steak (106 E. 57th St., 212.752.7470). The scene is cool contempo, all earth-toned, suede/leather surfaces and ebony tables. While the steak’s the thing—the offerings include several different cuts of Wagyu beef and dry-aged meats—there’s a choice of eight sauces, unusual side dishes such as caramelized Brussels sprouts, and complimentary popovers and a charcuterie platter to start.
The Destination: Saks Fifth Avenue (611 Fifth Ave., 212.753.4000) celebrates its 90th birthday on its namesake boulevard this year, but there’s nothing dowagerlike about the store, which is constantly renovating its in-store designer boutiques, and offering the latest in high-end makeup, bags and shoes for femmes (two of its 10 floors are for gents). The Dining: Stroll across the street in your new Louboutins to The Sea Grill in Rockefeller Center (19 W. 49th St., 212.332.7610). A fixture overlooking the Summer Garden and the golden Prometheus statue, the light, airy eatery offers novelties such as smoked swordfish pastrami and a variety of simply grilled fish dishes, served at lunch and dinner. In the late afternoon, the regular bar morphs into a sushi bar/lounge.
The Destinations: While known for its designer boutiques, the Upper East Side has its department stores, too. Recently renovated—there’s now an entire floor for footwear—Barneys New York (660 Madison Ave., 212.826.8900) offers everything for the well-heeled him or her, especially if tastes in clothes, accessories and jewelry run toward the fashion-forward. And perhaps no other store embodies born-in-NYC style the way Bloomingdale’s (1000 Third Ave., 212.705.2000) does, with its iconic brown shopping bags and Art Deco facade. The Dining: Since shopping is so draining, it’s handy that Le Cirque (151 E. 58th St., 212.644.0202) is close by both emporiums. For more than 40 years a destination for society dining, the venerable spot has been introducing global influences into its French and Italian cuisine. Another place to park your purchases, offering quicker fare is the adjacent Le Cirque Café, which also has live jazz on Monday evenings. So, drink in the grand destinations of this city, and then: Feast afterward!