There isn’t much like the magical feeling of the holiday season in New York City. We chatted with our friend and fellow Compass agent from New York Michael Sandak on some of his favorite spots to eat, drink, stay and check out during the holiday season plus all other times of the year as well.
Where should people look to stay in the city?
Michael: Some of my favorite hotels in the city are the Bowery Hotel, the Nomad Hotel, the Greenwich Hotel, the Gramercy Park Hotel, the Crosby Street Hotel, the Ace Hotel, the Mercer, the Public Hotel and the New York Edition. If you want a more classic New York vibe, the Pierre, the St Regis and the Plaza Hotel are also all incredible.
When visiting New York City, what are some of the things you think people should check out surrounding the Holidays?
Michael: I think there are great alternatives to the typical tourist route for visitors. The more typical ones I do recommend are Central Park (which can be beautiful to walk in the winter if dressed warmly and with boots if there is snow on the ground) and walking along 5th Avenue in Midtown to see the store fronts at Bergdorfs, Bloomingdales, Saks and a few others. I would also check out the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center and walk through Bryant Park where there is a winter village that is really beautiful.
A good alternative to the viewing deck on the Empire State Building is either Top of The Rock (at Rockefeller Center) or the observation deck at One World Trade. The Dyker Heights neighborhood in Brookyln is also great to check out for the Christmas lights! For me one of the best ways to see NYC is through a food tour.
From Italian to Chinese food, New York City is definitely known for its wide array of food options. What are some of your favorite spots to check out?
Michael: For pizza I recommend Di Fara (Midwood), Joe’s (West Village), Prince Street Pizza (Soho), Rubirosa, specifically the vodka slice (Nolita), John’s on Bleecker (Greenwich Village), Patsy’s (specifically the East Harlem shop), Motorino, specifically the Brussels Sprout slice (East Village) and Speedy Romeo (Lower East Side).
For burgers I recommend Emily, my personal favorite burger, as a bonus they have good pizza too (West Village), Corner Bistro, a dirt cheap dive bar with one of the best burgers in NYC for decades (West Village), Chumleys (West Village), Sadelles (Soho), Minetta Tavern (Greenwich Village), and PJ Clarke’s (Midtown East).
For Chinese food Xi’an Famous Foods is awesome (Chinatown) as is Wo Hop (Chinatown) and RedFarm (West Village) and for peking duck, Peking Duck House (Chinatown) and Decoy (West Village under RedFarm) are both great.
For Jewish delis, must dos are Katz’s, Russ and Daughters and Yonah Schimmels Knish are all right next to each other (Lower East Side), and the Second Avenue Deli is also fantastic (Murray Hill). For Italian subs, Faicco’s Italian Specialties is your best bet (Greenwich Village).
For fine dining I highly recommend Gramercy Tavern – fun fact, I got engaged here (Gramercy), Momofuku Ko (East Village), Buvette (West Village), Jean Georges (Upper West Side), The Grill (Midtown East), Carbone (Greenwich Village), Il Mulino (Greenwich Village), Del Posto (Meatpacking District), Casa Mono (Gramercy), Gotham (Greenwich Village), Sushi Yasuda (Midtown East) and Sushi Nakazawa an offshoot of the restaurant featured in Jiro Dreams of Sushi (West Village).
We can’t forget dessert, so I would recommend Ample Hills Creamery (Astoria), Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (West Village), Oddfellows Ice Cream (East Village), Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream (several locations), Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream (Lower East Side), Momofuku Milk Bar (East Village) and Dominique Ansel Kitchen (West Village), and Veniero’s Pasticceria & Cafe (East Village) .
What other spots or destinations should people check out when they’re in town?
Michael: I’m not a huge fan of indoor activities, but if you wanted to stay indoors, the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art of the Museum of the City of New York are all excellent. It’s also extremely somber, but the 9/11 Memorial Museum is a powerful reminder of the resilience of this great city.
The Highline is a must do and I would walk the entire thing which means starting in the Meatpacking District and walking all the way up to Hudson Yards. On the way you will get a fantastic view of some of the coolest new architecture in NYC which is being built in West Chelsea. Once you finish you can check out Hudson Yards, Manhattan’s first new neighborhood in decades. You can buy tickets and climb the Vessel which is a very cool art structure that is at the center of Hudson Yards. To warm up you can spend some time shopping in the fantastic Hudson Yards mall.
I also highly recommend just walking around some of the more interesting neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village (stop at Washington Square Park where even in the winter there is often live music), the West Village and Soho for some shopping. You can just wonder through these 3 adjoining neighborhoods all day.
I’d skip tourist traps like Little Italy – the Italian food in NYC is top notch, and none of it Is found in Little Italy. Instead of heading to the Statue of Liberty, if it’s a clear day, you can walk around Battery Park City and get a great view of the statue from there.
If someone wanted to venture out of Manhattan, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge is an awesome way to do it. Once you are in Brooklyn, walking around Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo is a lot of fun. You could also head further north and check out an incredibly vibrant Williamsburg neighborhood which has great nightlife and amazing views from countless hotel rooftops.
What are some of your favorite bars around town?
Some of my favorite bars in the city are the bar at the Beekman Hotel, the Nomad Bar (the bar food here is also awesome), the Campbell (in Grand Central – which is a worthy stop in it’s own right). Some very cool speakeasy type spots that I love are Angel’s Share, Apotheke and Employees Only. For warmer months The Press Lounge has amazing rooftop views of the city – I also got married here! If you want to bar hop in the West Village (my favorite neighborhood), The Spaniard, Happiest Hour, Highlands and Wilfie and Nell are all within a few blocks of each other. On the theme of the holiday season, Rolfs which is a German bar in Gramercy does an over the top Christmas light display.
Lastly, are there any listings we should check out?
One listing to check out is a 3 bed, 2 bath home in the Upper West Side part of One Sherman Square. The apartment’s layout is ideal and includes a master suite separated from the other two bedrooms, a large living room with a separate dining area and a 24-foot-long private terrace with extraordinary views of the historic Upper West Side. Perched high on the 17th floor, this home boasts open city views from its plentiful windows which makes it remarkably bright.
Another is a 2 bed, 2 bath loft in the Flatiron District. This 1200 square foot home features two large bedrooms, a bright and welcoming living room, a separate dining area, an open kitchen and two full bathrooms. It also includes 14 foot ceilings throughout, large windows, and recessed lighting.