People have been talking a lot about the renaissance across the river in recent years, and with good reason. But the true embodiment of the New York dream—the ruthless, gilded metropolis that melts those “little town blues” (to quote Frank Sinatra)—is not Brooklyn. It’s Manhattan. People come into Manhattan and people go. More than the other boroughs, the restless island has been reinventing itself for centuries. Preservationists have a tough time of it in this city, as reinvention is basically the Manhattan way. As a result, there is a perpetual blitz of new commercial establishments to discuss and patronize—and, of course, critique. New Yorkers are nothing if not critics. Balancing out this been-there, bought-that attitude, however, is a long- standing love of the new. Nowhere is this passion more evident than in the food scene, where chefs are constantly striving to outdo themselves, if not the business partner they just broke up with. Most new restaurants have a shorter shelf life than a plate of sushi. (Nightlife can be similar, but more on that later.) While our Manhattan guide is timely to be sure, one of our goals was to make recommendations that will be useful beyond the present.
This Passport is fast-paced and jam-packed, but so is this town. It’s built on a grid, after all. Cheek by jowl is the norm. Manhattan waiters tend (for better and for worse) to bring you the check before you ask for it. If there’s one major city where you could rightfully expect to hit fifty spots in a couple of days, this is it.One neighborhood especially suited to bulk consumption is Chelsea, with its long blocks of world-class art galleries. Visiting a dozen or more in one go is something New Yorkers do regularly. Before the likes of Larry Gagosian transformed this old warehouse district into a hotbed of white-cube commerce, Manhattan’s contemporary art scene was based in SoHo. That neighborhood is now a shopping mecca, one whose towering lofts turn out to be ideal for displaying the sort of antique and newly crafted furnishings found at home-design temples like Wyeth and BDDW. Scott Morrison’s denim shop, 3x1, and Carson Street Clothiers are two of the city’s freshest menswear boutiques. For most of the new players, though, head east into Nolita, the Lower East Side, and the Bowery. This is the home turf of Taavo Somer, whose mini-empire of bars, restaurants, and menswear (the latter at Freemans Sporting Club) has done much to guide the last ten years of authentic-feeling, heritage-inflected hipness. Somer’s name, like Morrison’s, is one known mostly to insiders. New York is arguably even more defined by megastars like Bobby Flay. Known to Food Network viewers around the country, the prolific chef has held onto his integrity and even returned to the kitchen at Gato, his new restaurant in NoHo. It’s one of many top-notch Italian restaurants in this guide. This is a hat-tip to one of the great national cuisines, of course, but also to how in New York (including, notably, at the many civilized variations on Italian to be found in the West Village) ethnic traditions with deep local roots are so often reborn as something invigorating and contemporary. See also: Black Seed Bagels, for a new take on a Jewish-deli staple, and Red Farm, for updated and ethically sound Chinese. Uptown is for the establishment, the Manhattan cliché goes. This is true enough at throwback emporiums like Bauman Rare Books and J.J. Hat Center. But not so fast: the New York outpost of Rei Kawakubo’s racy retail concept, Dover Street Market, opened late last year in (gasp) Murray Hill. And your dapper grandpa would have had no problem sipping Calvados at Brandy Library, perusing Drake’s ties at the Armoury, or getting a hot-towel shave at Fellow Barber—all experiences to be had in today’s downtown. Compared to the downtown competition, at least, Rose Bar and the Top of the Standard (which you may know of by its informal name, the Boom Boom Room) offer a grown-up approach to New York nightlife. They’re on the mature end of the hip spectrum. As when they first opened, their plush opulence (courtesy of Julian Schnabel and the in-demand design team of Roman and Williams, respectively) promises a refreshing break from the city’s mean streets. Are those streets even that mean anymore? Sounds like a discussion to be had over cocktails.