When people choose to visit or live in New York they expect secrets. The sparkling lights of skyscrapers and cobblestone streets of downtown neighborhoods are of course also expected, but every person in New York City wants to know more about the hidden Manhattan, the underground.
The most mysterious and wonderful restaurant I’ve been to in New York is Bohemian. The minimalistic Japanese restaurant on Great Jones Street is behind a locked door, down a dimly lit alley, on a non-conspicuous street. You knock, they answer, They ask if you have a reservation, you say yes. The door opens wide, you sit down and have the best Japanese food in the city.
The phone number for Bohemian is the golden ticket to getting a seat at the low, intimate tables (the restaurant only sits about 20). When you call to make a reservation, the line is almost always busy, which only adds to the excitement to getting a seat here for dinner. So how do you get the number? Ask someone else who knows it. The employee on the other side of the line will ask who gave you the number, and ask if you’ve dined there before. Good luck.
A better-known hidden restaurant, by people who brunch (as a verb) is Beauty and Essex. The quaint pawnshop on Essex Street has a secret in the back, which is a luxurious, low-lit restaurant with small dishes like avocado toast and mini grilled cheese, and desserts like boozy milkshake shots. Beauty and Essex is great for a Saturday night when you want to get out of Meatpacking, or a brunch for out-of-towners. (P.S. as a New York native I never thought I’d come here on a first date … I’m with him a year and a half later.)
Similar to Beauty and Essex, Bathtub Gin is also hidden behind a façade. The sometimes burlesque, sometimes filled with businessmen gin bar is located right behind Stone Street Coffee in Chelsea. The only giveaway is the bouncer on the street on weekends. A great place to grab a drink that’s halfway between Penn Station and Chelsea Market, but make sure to make a reservation!
One of the more cinematic and suspenseful hidden bars in New York is Trinity Place. I had the experience of living in Financial District for a few months this summer, and discovered it while hurrying home on a Monday night after work. Truly something out of a movie, this old bank converted it’s 35 ton bank vault doors dating back to 1904 into a restaurant and bar filled with a whirlwind of suits. If you’re ever in FiDi, it’s definitely a cool New York experience.
Along with secrets, one thing that all people in New York City love is a rooftop. The search for the best rooftop drink starts in March and continues until November. The problem is that so many are crowded, or don’t deliver on the view. One of the most special Manhattan experiences you can have is drinking a cocktail on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and looking at the leaves changing color in Central Park. The best part? You choose how much you pay to go to the Met. Many people don’t know this, but you could give a dime, and enjoy all the museum has to offer.
I love a city backyard. There’s something grounding about sitting on a patio surrounded by plants in the middle of SoHo. Saturdays, a surf shop on Crosby that serves great coffee and a big area in the back to sit and think. Another airy and spacious yard belongs to Greecologies, a grass-fed Greek yogurt store on Broome with a magical garden in the back. A healthy alternative to hangover brunch is enjoying probiotic-rich sour cherry and rose Greek yogurt.