You don’t need a guide to New York City. There are a million in existence, and you likely have friends to tell you where to go and what to eat. But yet, it pains me to see the streams of tourists heading to Times Square or Fifth Avenue, missing some of the city’s best gems. Sure, if you want to eat at Red Lobster and see bright lights, do it. But I always think it’s nice to see the quieter, less traveled parts of a city as a visitor. If I designed a day for someone visiting—provided they didn’t need to do bucket list things like go to the Met or eat at Katz’s—here’s what I’d do. This isn’t quintessential New York and it doesn’t check any famous boxes. But it’s a collection of seriously fantastic and pretty places that are worth seeing:
Get up early and take a run in Central Park around the dusty reservoir path. Go before the crowds descend, and savor the rare stillness that reverberates over the water in the morning.
Go early to Balthazar for breakfast. It’s touristy and the weekend brunch is way, way, way too crowded, but weekday breakfast is a beautiful thing. The main room transports you to Paris: burnished mirrors everywhere, red leather booths, tiny tables overflowing with bowls of milky lattes and delicately soft scrambled eggs and buttery croissants that flake absurdly at the mere poke of a finger. Get some sort of egg dish and an almond croissant.
Wander west through the cobblestone streets of lower Soho and make your way to the West Village. Stop to peek into the garden at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, which is lovely and feels lifted from the pages of an old British storybook.
Walk the twisted streets of the West Village. My favorite are the off-grid blocks: Commerce Street, Barrow Street, Grove Street. Look into the windows of the fancy brownstones on Bank Street. At night when they’re lit up from the inside you can see glimpses of gorgeous interior design: a bright peacock blue dining room wall here, a chandelier dripping with glass there.
For lunch, go to Taim. Don’t be deterred by its shoebox-like size. Get the hummus sandwich and the date and banana smoothie. Eat it outside in the little triangle-shaped park on 12th Street and 7th Avenue.
Walk over to the West Side Highway and down the running path along the Hudson River to the ferry terminal by Brookfield Place.
Rent a Citibike. Bike back up along the Hudson to 14th Street. Return your bike here and take a walk through Chelsea Market. Stop in Anthropologie to covet some dresses, buy a baby 2” brownie (it’s rich enough that you won’t want more!) at the Fat Witch Bakery.
Outside Chelsea Market, take the stairs to get on the Highline and walk up to the end at 34th Street. Sorry, this is not an ideal part of the city. Get on the subway and get out of there!
For dinner, go to Frankie’s 570 on Hudson Street in the West Village. Get the meatballs with pine nuts and raisins, a Queen’s Punch cocktail with ginger beer and gin, and whatever special salad they have.
For dessert, there are a million places to eat. However, my favorite place to eat dessert is in my pajamas at home on a very comfortable couch with a good book in hand. This has the two-fold benefit of 1. Being very close to my bed and 2. Allowing me to have exactly what I want for dessert, like a piece (or three or four) of this dense, moist pound cake with its crust of sugared glaze.
Brown Sugar Pound Cake
For the cake:
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.
In a stand mixer or bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until very light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each one. Add in the vanilla and mix to combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, beating until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smooth the top, and bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
While the cake cools, whisk together all of the glaze ingredients (add more milk, depending on how thin you want the glaze to be). Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack, and drizzle the glaze over the top. Wait for the glaze to set before slicing and serving the cake.