48 Hours in NYC—a Mini Guide
I’ve spent a lot of time in New York City. I grew up nearby, and I lived there during college, both uptown and downtown, while I interned in the summers. Now, when I visit from California, I usually stay with my family—and I get the local Upper East Side experience. But for a change, earlier this month, I decided to try something new.
I didn’t want to stress out trying to hit every much-hyped new spot in 48 hours, and I didn’t want to leave it all up to fate, either. Instead, I booked a great hotel, made one solid dinner reservation, visited some old favourites, kept my eyes peeled for places I’d heard about, and most importantly, left room for my favourite thing: discovery. I couldn’t have asked for two more-perfect days.
What follows is a pretty fantastic way to spend 48 hours. But I hope you don’t trail this too closely. Instead… make it yours.
Booking a room at The Marlton in Greenwich Village, just off Washington Square Park, was key. The petite boutique hotel is now one of my all-time favourites and truly made the trip. Reopened last fall following a multimillion reno by hotelier Sean MacPherson (The Waverly Inn, The Bowery), the hotel is exquisitely designed, with refined Parisian-inspired details like brass fixtures, crown moulding, marble bathrooms, and Serge Mouille lighting.
The Marlton feels like every boutique hotel should: a little bit like home, a little bit like fiction. I relished sitting in the lobby, which had the A/C on full blast and the fire roaring. I enjoyed getting to know the staff members. I loved my avocado toast in the restaurant every morning.
Serendipitously, the New York outpost of my absolute favourite San Francisco wine bar, Amelie, is located just across the street from The Marlton. After checking into the hotel in the late afternoon, we popped in for a glass of Sancerre and some light salads. Charming, congenial, and French, our server was just as I’d imagined he’d be.
After our late lunch, we headed west toward Chelsea to the city’s four-year-old linear park, the High Line, which I had yet to see. Along the way, I discovered Story, a beautifully curated retail shop that takes the viewpoint of a magazine. Every four to eight weeks, it completely reinvents itself with a new theme or “issue,” changing like a gallery.
An old, elevated section of a railway recycled into an urban park with grass, walkways, benches, and intriguing sculptures and art, the High Line, which celebrated its ribbon-cutting in June of 2011, now gets nearly five million visitors annually. It’s a lovely place to spend a sunny summer day—or just avoid the honks and grit of 10th Avenue. What took me so long to get there?
Thanks to a little intel, we ended up at Alta Linea, the Italian-inspired outdoor bar and restaurant at The High Line Hotel, at 10th Avenue and West 20th Street. With aperitifs like negronis and Aperol Spritz, a bit of shade, and cosy yellow-striped cushions, it was the perfect endcap for our afternoon stroll. If you need a pick-me-up, Altea Linea also serves coffee from cult roaster Intelligentsia.
We started the evening meeting friends for drinks at Omar’s La Ranita. Located in the basement of a West Village brownstone just a block from The Marlton, the elegant space, designed by BHDM Design, a MyDomaine favourite, has a strong cocktail list and a Mediterranean-influenced menu. Its owner, Omar Hernandez, also opened a neighbouring members-only private dining club, Omar’s, which has an unmarked door and requires a little more finesse to visit.
Next, we made a great escape up to the theatre district to listen to a set at jazz club Birdland. Open since 1949, it’s a bit of an institution and has seen everyone from Chet Baker and Duke Ellington to Michel Petrucciani and Norah Jones. I wouldn’t recommend eating dinner here—the menu is a little basic—but it satisfied us.
When a friend invited us to the Lower East Side’s Happy Ending, I had flashbacks of my early days as a 20-something in NYC, bumping into The Cobrasnake in its hipster disco basement. I was hesitant. But now it’s more than the former massage parlor–turned–sweaty dance club I remembered: A nicely designed French restaurant and bar upstairs serves steak tartare and white negronis, plays good tunes, and seems to cater more to the 30-plus crowd. Lower East Side, check.
If shopping is your game, SoHo is your playing field. On day two, after having breakfast at The Marlton, we headed south, making a point to cruise through Washington Square Park, to SoHo to see the latest openings in the neighbourhood and visit some old favourites. From major retail chains to indie boutiques to furniture showrooms to art galleries, the downtown shopping district has it all. We browsed hard. Pop International Gallery, which was showing photographs of Marilyn Monroe, was a favourite.
Between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Ed’s Lobster Roll serves only one thing—the lobster roll. I quickly got over my dismay of not being able to order an oyster sampler or the New England clam chowder: This lobster roll is epically good, with bread that’s practically soaked in butter. Better yet, I learned a loophole: You can still get your mollusk fix if you order a Bloody Mary with an oyster shooter.
A strong dinner reservation is key to every New York visit, but why risk a short trip on the hype of the latest buzz restaurant when there are so many tried-and-true places to choose from? We ate at Babbo, the critically acclaimed enoteca that solidified celeb chef Mario Batali’s career when it opened in 1998. Located in a wonderful little carriage house just a couple of blocks from The Marlton, the high-end Italian experience served us a feast of sinful pasta dishes.
To my delight, the bar/restaurant at The Marlton, Margaux, has old fashioneds and negronis on tap. Needless to say, I couldn’t leave New York without trying one, and a midnight pasta coma is an ideal occasion for a digestif. They didn’t disappoint, especially when enjoyed by the aforementioned roaring hotel lounge fire with good company.
With a few hours to kill before we headed back home, we cruised around the East Village, which is an easy walk from the hotel. We made a beeline for counter-serve coffee spot Abraço Espresso & Bakery to fuel up with an iced coffee and espresso (cred among the bike messengers is always a good sign). Co-owner Jamie McCormick geeked out with us in a conversation about optimal roasting/brewing times, and we walked away with a bag of beans we were excited to brew at home.
I've long been a fan of St. Mark’s Bookshop, and what better time to browse the stacks than when you’re about to board a plane, a train, or an automobile? Open since 1977, this independent bookseller has a nicely curated selection focusing on the arts, from advertising to poetry to fiction to literary journals.