When I left NYC for the West Coast seven years ago, I promised myself one thing: I will return every year. I envisioned a glorious annual overdose on Manhattan magic, a year’s fill of Broadway, museums, dining, art and culture, all condensed in one long weekend.
And it only took seven years to make it happen….
The wait was worth it. Here is our itinerary:
Lunch at Jean-Georges + Gallery Hopping in Chelsea + Hamilton on Broadway
Late Breakfast at Café Sabarsky + Upper East Side Museum Row + Dinner at a West Village Bistro
Lunch at 2nd Ave Deli + LES and The Museum at Eldridge Street + Last Night Hurrah at Feinstein’s/54 Below, a Broadway Supper Club
Friday, Day 1
After an easy flight the day before on Virgin America’s amazing SFO -> JFK flight (with wifi and sparkling wine), we sleep in on Friday, shifting into a peaceful pace. We have no shame about the fact that our day starts with lunch, an incredible leisurely lunch at Jean-Georges. We want to launch the weekend with a strong start: thoughtful French dishes, discrete symphonic service, and a pristine relaxing ambiance. We instantly fall into vacation mode. Jean-Georges is in spring celebration itself, with a menu that includes beautiful flower-showered white asparagus flown in from Provence and spring veal with fresh wild mushrooms.
All of the courses are excellent, with large portions artistically arranged. While Justin still dreams of his crispy confit of suckling pig (a year-round popular item for which they roast a suckling pig in their basement kitchen every day!), I am blown away by their $12 chocolate dessert plate for one person that could have fed a table of four, with a circle of confections and treats, from a homemade chocolate peanut butter cup to a mini molten chocolate cake to a light fruity mousse. While we are sometimes skeptical of high-priced French restaurants, their $58 2-course lunch is a steal. Given it comes with an amuse bouche, a well-priced (extra) dessert option, and an end-of-meal petit four trays, our lunch feels more like a 5-course experience.
An Extra Tidbit: We were seated in a dark wood-paneled booth that sits two people, side-by-side, facing out to the room & the expansive windows. While all of their seating is excellent, ask for this location for an even more intimate experience.
Well-fed and in truly euphoric spirits, we glide into an Uber to go to Chelsea in the midst of the art gallery district. Dropped off at 25th & 10th, we grab coffee and spend several hours happily walking in and out of galleries containing curated collections that rival Uptown museum offerings. Between the Taryn Simon exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery, that merges flower arranging, pop art, and the effects of globalism in one exploration, to the Driscoll Babcock Galleries’ Lost Generation: Paintings show of American art post-WWI, we could have checked “art immersion” off our list right then and there.
An Extra Tidbit: If the weather is right, take a peek at the High Line public park while gallery-hopping. Near the galleries in Chelsea are two of their entrances, on 23rd and 26th, that allow you to quickly “walk on, walk off” one of the most fascinating urban living projects in recent history. (For elevator access, use the 23rd and 30th Street entrance points.)
We meet an old friend in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel (famous for hosting literary circles in the early 20th century, including the group that founded The New Yorker) for Old Fashioneds, before walking over to the Richard Rodgers Theater to see the incredible Hamilton. I am not sure what I could add that has not been covered by the array of quality critics who talk of how revolutionary (pun intended) this show is. Let’s just say Justin and I are both now reading the book that inspired Lin’s masterpiece on stage and the new starlet, Phillipa Soo, who plays Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (a profoundly amazing woman of history who deserves her own 800-page novel), has a fresh captivating voice that I have not heard since Sutton Foster did Thoroughly Modern Millie: listen here to her singing one of my favorite songs from the show.
An Extra Tidbit: If you are eager to swing by NYC’s Broadway this spring, people are also buzzing about She Loves Me, with Jane Krakowski, that just opened in honor of the Roundabout Theater Company’s 50th year. I also, as an indie movie film buff, am eager to see how the lovely Sara Bareilles recently transformed the winsome movie, Waitress (with Keri Russell), to an onstage musical.
Saturday, Day 2
We take an Uber to the Neue Galerie on 86th & 5th Ave., to have a late breakfast (or early lunch) at the Café Sabarsky, the remarkably authentic Viennese cafe within the museum. I have been coming to this cafe for over ten years. Sitting in their wood-ensconced and mirrored dining room, having an einspänner (espresso with whipped cream) and homemade apfelstrudel, while flipping through their copies of the NYTimes or Financial Times, is a comforting ritual for me. Everything on their menu is excellent, from their goulash to their spätzle.
An Extra Tidbit: You cannot make reservations so expect to stand in line and wait. To miss the crowds, plan to go there early at 9:00 am when they first open, or later in the afternoon after 1:30 pm.
Over Riesling and bratwurst, we debate over the museum schedule for the afternoon. Neue Galerie has a petite collection of worthwhile favorites to visit, like the ‘Woman in Gold’. The Met, around the corner, has an airy sculpture court, a wonderful rooftop, and a fascinating new exhibit this spring on Vigée Le Brun, one of the few female portrait painters of the 18th century. The Guggenheim, with its unique spiral architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, is always worth a visit. Instead, we opt for Cooper Hewitt, an incredible design + technology museum housed in Andrew Carnegie’s former mansion, with its vision and focus originally inspired by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
After hours inside, we are soon museumed-out. With a rest at the hotel to buoy us up, we head downtown to meet friends in a cozy little bistro in the West Village, Dominique Bistro (no relation). Sitting at a table by the windows, we end up ordering several bottles of Saint-Émilion, balancing the wine with my kind of happy food: coq au vin, steak frites, and duck confit. The restaurant has only been open for a year or so and appears to cater mostly to locals: a casually refined atmosphere, with only a few tables in the prime upstairs position near the windows. However, Dominique Bistro embodies what NYC West Village French bistros do well: comfort and classics. We head back to the hotel, relaxed and sleepy.
Sunday, Day 3
We take full advantage of our last vacation day and sleep in again. With coffee in hand, we bask in the sunshine walking down to the 33rd Street outpost of the 2nd Ave Deli, one of the original delis of NYC and one of the very few that still keeps kosher. We push past the counter take-out folks to get to the booths in the back and, after only a short wait, are happily ordering Dr. Brown’s cherry sodas and pastrami sandwiches on rye.
In the blink of an eye, huge bowls of half-sours, sour pickles, and non-creamy tangy coleslaw are thrown down, family-style. We dig in for about 30 seconds until our sandwiches quickly arrive. Heaven. The pastrami is still warm and so thinly sliced and layered pile-high.
As we regretfully say no to dessert and get ready to leave, I take a minute to lament the decline of the delis in America today and the difficulty in finding decent corned beef, Jewish Penicillin (matzo ball soup), knishes, and kugel wherever you go. To magnify my lament, they drop, on the house, shots of fresh chocolate soda (homemade chocolate syrup with seltzer water) as we say good-bye. (We are so thankful that Wise Sons Deli saw the gap in San Francisco and, with their dedication, we do not entirely have to say good-bye to Sunday bagels and challah french toast when in San Francisco!)
Stuffed, we walk through the streets of the Lower East Side (LES). We pass Katz’s Delicatessen with a line of about 75 people wrapped around the corner and congratulate ourselves on bypassing that tourist craze (however yummy it may be) with our choice of 2nd Ave Deli. We walk south, buying crazy good pickled mango slices and spicy half-sours at the last pickle outpost left in what once was a thriving Eastern European immigrant neighborhood. Right under the Manhattan Bridge, surrounded by signs bursting with Chinese characters, we arrive at our destination, The Museum at Eldridge Street: a hidden gem of a museum dedicated to the story of Eastern European Jews who began their immigrant story in the LES in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Situated in their first formal synagogue, incredibly restored, we listen to our tour guide tell us about the scrappy way they assembled a stunning place of respite in a crowded dusty neighborhood.
Sad that the sun is setting on our last day in NYC, we head to midtown to Feinstein’s/54 Below, a Broadway Supper Club in the former basement of Studio 54. What a farewell to Manhattan: amazingly renovated by Broadway stage designers three years ago to be a 1930s-esque supper club, and run by Broadway producers who bring in the best talent from Broadway stages for intimate showcases, Feinstein’s/54 Below is like being in a Broadway star’s private living room (but somehow better). We dine excellently during a Sondheim Unplugged showcase, while an array of talent (some from the original casts of his shows!) silence the room with their renditions of our favorite ballads from Sunday in the Park with George, Company, and Into the Woods, among others.
An Extra Tidbit: Their back row of elevated circular leather booths and their front row of tables are premium seating at advanced prices – make sure you ask for them. Also, arrive early, as soon as their doors open, so you can order your cocktails and food, and soak in the ambiance, before your show starts.
After a spectacular weekend like this, we won’t wait another seven years to return to NYC!
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for more Countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes, cruises and city breaks to Quebec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe, places like Paris France, Nice France, Provence and the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera), Tuscany and Florence in Italy, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal and so much more!