It’s coming up on a year since COVID hit, and things are still far from normal—even with more and more Americans getting vaccinated by the week, life simply isn’t the same anywhere. In New York it feels especially glaring. I’m not paying an absurd amount of money for a tiny apartment to sit on the couch watching so much Grey’s Anatomy I may as well be a surgical resident at Seattle-Grace—when you live in NYC, you’re paying for the city itself; for the many, many things you can’t find anywhere where else in the world. As of now, many of those things are still shut down. So I’ve got a list going of all the places I can’t wait to get back to when the City comes back to life, sooner or later (including several NYC hotspots that are particularly awesome in the warmer months). Some of these are technically open, but since I’m being pretty cautious and not about sitting outside in January—here are the restaurants, nightlife, and workspaces I miss the absolute most.
Ed’s Lobster Bar: Feels a lot like my favorite seafood restaurants at the Rhode Island shore, except nicer. The menu is pretty diverse, so lots and lots of options, even some for those who don’t like seafood. Also, the clam chowder is as good as any I’ve ever had, and being from New England, spending summers in Narragansett, I have had a lot of clam chowder.
Bar Pitti: One of my early favorites––I’ve loved this place since I first moved here. Well-priced Italian food, especially amazing pasta, and old New York charm. It’s simple and low-key and so, so good. Also notoriously good for celebrity spotting if that’s your thing.
Veselka: I’ve never had anything here other than their pierogis, and I probably never will. They’re that amazing. This is a pretty well-acknowledged fact, but I want to impress that they’re so good that this will probably be my first night out in Manhattan when the City starts up again. It’s $12 for 8 of them, and there are several fillings. I would say pierogi feel like more of a winter food, but I have too many good memories of eating these outdoors, set to the very singular sound of a July night in the EV.
Pietro Nolita: Pink as fuck. That’s literally what it says on the napkins. EVERYTHING. Is pink. The website says they serve seasonal Italian, and I’m not sure what that means, but their food tastes like Call Me By Your Name, which is my one of my favorite books / movies, set “somewhere in Northern Italy”, in the summer of 1983. Although the general vibe here is more 60s mod. It’s like one big photo op, but don’t be annoying and take pictures. It’s a small place and the bartenders are probably cooler than you.
Jack’s Wife Freda: Favorite brunch spot in the city, full of light and color. Classic American fare with a Mediterrean twist. Very trendy in a not annoying way. This place just feels like summer; very alive, and even though it might not feel the same for a while (it’s usually packed), the food is consistently amazing. I recommend the Madame Freda and Rosewater Waffles.
Little Italy Street Cafes: My favorite is and will always be Il Cortile, which has the best gnocchi in New York, but I am adding this as a general suggestion because there are so many amazing little restaurants with a lot of outdoor seating down in Little Italy. Carb-up, and don’t skip dessert (dank cannolis).
The Cobra Club: My favorite bar in Bushwick, right off the Jefferson Street L train. It’s a classic dive bar with a few twists—it’s very millennial, but not in a way that compromises its dive bar soul. They’ve got everything. The bartenders and drinks are great, and there’s usually live music. But in addition to all the typical hallmarks of a good bar, the Cobra Club is a café and workspace during the day, and has hangover yoga on weekend mornings, complete with mimosas.
Freeman’s: Freeman’s feels like the coolest restaurant and bar on Diagon Alley. It’s actually hidden at the end of an alley, on the Lower East Side, and despite its popularity maintains a feeling of chilled-out exclusivity. It’s a dark and atmospheric tavern, serving slightly elevated American fare. It’s kind of like a really hip colonial pub but not in a gross way (colonial America was disgusting IMO). Definitely a good place to take guests visiting from out of town, and incredibly romantic. 🌹
Fun City Tattoos : Fun City is a classic East Village institution, and I’ve always wanted to get a tattoo there. It’s a remnant of the glory days of punk in the EV (on the most punk rock street in the world—Saint Marks Place), with an incredibly rich, and wild, history that in itself makes the shop worth visiting. Looking through the artists’ portfolios, they’re obviously all incredibly talented, and regardless of what type of tattoo you want, chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for. I’ve been quoted prices by Fun City before, and considering their reputation and history, they’re extremely reasonable. They’re open now, but since I’m being cautious, I’ll be making my appointment as soon as I get the vaccine. 💉
Mister Dips: This place just feels like summer. Fries, burgers, and various funky flavors of dipped soft-serve, as the name suggests. The Dirty-Dipped fries are especially great, smothered in queso and sprinkled with scallions. And the fact that it’s all served out of a retro trailer outside the William Vale Hotel brings the seventies-style street fair Americana vibe home.
Empellon Al Pastor: One of my favorite Mexican restaurants in the City, with a dive-y energy and amazing (truly, AMAZING) street tacos. The bar itself is awesome, and the food is light, fresh, and authentic—perfect for a summer night in the EV. Get your food to go and eat in Tompkins Square Park. I promise, it’ll remind you what it means to be in New York City.
Sophie’s Bar: My go-to dive bar in the East Village—and true dive bars are getting tragically rare. Most are actually what I’ve recently heard referred to as “dive-themed”… which is literally the most annoying, obnoxiously hipster phrase I’ve ever heard in my life. Sophie’s isn’t pretentious about their lack of pretension. They’re just good at what they do (serve cheap, generous drinks). Sophie’s is the setting to some of the funniest memories of my life. And to summarize why I love them so much—last December my friends and I accidentally went out on Santa Con night, and they were the only bar not filled with sloppy drunk college girls dressed as elves, due to a sign they had placed out front explicitly stating “NO COSTUMES ALLOWED”—thanks Sophie’s.
Again, some of these are currently open—you just may not get the full *experience* until the pandemic begins to die down, or at the very least until it gets warmer out. As of now, these twelve spots are what I’m missing most about New York. Stay safe.