Being your intrepid New York editor is job that involves a bit of a recency bias.
It’s a job that demands me to report on all things new, unknown and generally buzzworthy.
But tucked away in my back pocket are the corners of the city that I personally recommend.
The places I recommend when a friend blows up my phone to ask, “Where should I take this woman I want to impress?” or “Where should I get my shoes resoled?”
So today, I give you those things: 20 of my very own NYC faves, from where to cut a rug to where to blow your return.
Best music venue: Brooklyn Steel
Short of Led Zeppelin reuniting, you couldn’t drag my cold, dead body to Terminal 5. There’s just no reason when we’ve been blessed with Brooklyn Steel. The musical acts that roll through are always high caliber, the size is just right and the bouncers aren’t roided-out, power-hungry wanks.
Best place to blow your paycheck: Mantiques Modern
From hard-to-find Hermés travel bags to artful lucite cubes chock full of Ferraris, this gem is a museum of masterful finds. Worth the visit even if you don’t have wads of loot to burn, but be warned, the place is like a puppy: if you go see the puppy, you’re going home with the puppy.
Best shoe repair: Max Shoe Repair
Old-school, quick, solid and professional, these kicks wizards have brought my cherished pair of Tod’s boots back from the dead many times over.
Best cigar shop: Martinez Cigars
A nostalgic, hole-in-the-wall, Martinez has been hand-rolling premium stogies since 1974. It’s the low-key favorite of the likes of Jeff Bridges and well worth the jaunt. The selection is joyous, the expertise on-point and each well-crafted cigar has a fantastically consistent burn.
Best hidden secret that pains me to even tell you about: Sid Gold’s Request Room
I’ve long been banned from letting this one see the light of day, but here we are. Sid Gold’s is one part cool NYC cocktail bar and one part hidden, live piano karaoke room. It’s the favored InsideHook go-to for blowing off some steam and embarrassing yourself at the same time. Pro tip: go Monday and you’re likely to see some Broadway performer take up the mic on their day off.
Best place for meeting men/women: Loosie Rouge
Small enough to navigate, but with a grand ambience and killer live music nights to draw the beautiful people from near and far.
Best martini: Pegu Club
I’m the Sherlock-freaking-Holmes of NYC martinis. Top contenders include, of course, Keens, Angel’s Share and even Maison Premiere (because they let you have as many olives as you desire), but Pegu takes the trophy. While it’s easy enough to fancy up the cocktail, it takes skill, attention to detail and dare I say love to perfect a classic like so.
Best dinner spot to seal the deal: Casa Apicii
You can’t go wrong. The ambience is chill enough to not overwhelm, while the cuisine is superlative. The pasta: orgasmic. The cod: unparalleled. And if things are going well, you can retire to their under-the-radar lounge upstairs for a nightcap or two.
Best speaker-series venue: The Bell House
From raunchy comedy to live NPR broadcasts to The Moth, this isn’t 92Y. The Bell House forever delivers forward and noteworthy guest speakers and events that will impress, intrigue and offend the best of ‘em.
Best place to volunteer: 826NYC
Originally founded by the prolific Dave Eggers, 826NYC is on a mission to “encourage the exploration of endless possibility through the power of writing.” Tucked away behind a secret door in a superhero store, there are heaps of ways to get involved and help youth in need, from after-school programs to workshops to field trips and more. It’s very fun and very good karma.
Best little gem for dancing till you sweat through your shirt: El Cortez
Aside from the eclectic tiki-meets-Mexi environment and the on-point taco salads and Micheladas, upstairs is a dance-the-night-away haven. Talented, underground Djs and live music acts in a dark, no frills, let’s-effin-do-this space. Good for exercising demons any day.
Best place to have some "me time": King Spa
It’s easy to kill 4-10 hours here, no doubt. It’s open 24-hours and, yes, I’ve stayed the night. It’s a Korean Shangri-La where you can get a massage, get naked and have a soak, watch the basketball game, have a steam, a beer, a snooze and hit the repeat button.
Best weekend trip: The DeBruce
It’s not too far, but far enough. Quaint, but quality. There’s hiking, a pool and wildly inventive cuisine. The kind of place you park on Friday and don’t leave until Sunday evening.
Best underrated music venue: Ponyboy
Newcomer to the scene, but a damn fine welcome one. Ponyboy is pint-sized but potent in auditory phenomena.
Best place to people-watch: Café Select
There’s no place better to snag a strong coffee or bottle of wine and let the gritty, city street creatures roll by.
Best dinner for impressing your boss: St. Anselm
Undoubtedly, Harry’s and Ocean Prime will always be lined with anyone looking for a solid raise, but those suits are doing it wrong. St. Anselm has the choicest of premium cuts, charred to perfection, and it’s an if-you-know-you-know steakhouse your jefe is bound to remember.
Best Sandwiches: Regina’s Grocery
Hearty, special sammies in a cool-kid environment.
Best for hanging out with someone you don't really want to hang out with: Question Party
Can’t rave enough about these talented dudes. Question Party is a traveling trivia night for people who don’t take trivia too seriously. Not for the timid or pop-culture ignorant, but a great time and good laughs for eating up a night that would otherwise be laden with suffocating small talk.
Best event of the year: Into the Veil
Atlas Obscura’s annual affair at Greenwood Cemetery is not to be missed. It’s a theatrical, spooky, boozy, one-of-a-kind adventure you won’t find anywhere else.
Best dive bar: Duff’s
In this humble editor’s opinion, the best type of dive is one you can snag a beer and shot at all by your lonesome and no one will bother you. This is the spot. The metal is deafeningly loud. The bathroom, just don’t. But for drowning one’s sorrow, it’s church.
Main image from Loosie Rouge