Looking for new things to do in NYC
June 27, 2006 9:33 PM   Subscribe

NYCfilter: I'm heading up to the Big Apple this weekend as I got a free plane ticket for my birthday and was looking for a few different things to do since I've been there a few times before. I'm interested in finding out about three things: a unique dining experience, something to do on the 4th, and a great jazz club.

I have had the good fortune to visit NYC a couple of times so I've visited most of the major tourist sites and was looking for something different to do. I'll be there from Friday morning to Wednesday morning with a quick one night excursion to Niagra Falls. I'll be staying with my brother on East Village and would love to find a great jazz club around any of the major burroughs. I'm also looking for a good place to spend a birthday dinner, something unique, preferably italian food or a good steakhouse.

Also, any suggestions on finding tickets for the Subway Series? I know craigslist is a good option but is there anything else?
posted by Gaiwan to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how unique it is, but I've now had two wonderful dinners at Lupa and it's definitely something I crave on a regular basis (which sucks, since I'm in San Francsico!). What could count as unique is that they have a menu of several different sambucas (sambuche?), which I've never seen before, even in Italy.
posted by occhiblu at 9:39 PM on June 27, 2006

I liked Smalls, good little jazz club.
posted by sweetkid at 9:50 PM on June 27, 2006

For a good steakhouse, I'd recommend Peter Luger's (warning: Cash only) or Spark's. Smith and Wollensky is a good alternative as well. You're going to want to call asap regarding reservations at these places.

As for the Fourth, many people leave the City, but you can join the throngs that gather on the east side highway to watch the fireworks.
posted by Juggermatt at 10:13 PM on June 27, 2006

For non-fancy but really good Italian, check out Aunt Suzie on 5th Ave. between Garfield and Carroll in Brooklyn (Union St. station on the R).

Peter Luger is fantastic. I don't know if you'll be able to get in on short notice, though. The one time I went we had to make reservations months in advance.
posted by equalpants at 10:39 PM on June 27, 2006

The 55 Bar is one of my favorite places, and it's a 20 minute walk from the East Village (30 minutes, if your bro lives really way out there.) And if you don't like the music that's playing there that night, there are about 50 other venues in staggering distance.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:12 PM on June 27, 2006

I know this is totally lame, but I've uh, gotten some last minute reservations by calling in and doing the whole "I'm flying in from out of state to visit my long distance g/f who I haven't seen in 6 months and she really wants to eat at [insert desired restaurant's name]--is it possible for you to just find two seats for us?" routine. It works surprisingly well.
posted by Juggermatt at 11:27 PM on June 27, 2006

I second Smalls for sure.

Aunt Suzies? Meh, not worth a special trip out to Brooklyn if you're not already in the 'hood.

I'd recommend Otto (Mario Batalli's place) or 'inoteca on the LES
posted by lannanh at 1:03 AM on June 28, 2006

I second Smalls for jazz.
posted by sophist at 1:07 AM on June 28, 2006

For steak you should definitely go to Peter Luger. They have a trademark team of rude waiters, but just try to ignore that. For a meal deal that can't be beat, go for lunch and get the burger. It's less than $10, it's big, and you get to eat the delicious breadbasket for free. Order it super-rare for what's basically a perfectly seasoned steak tartare on a bun.

The other advantage of going for lunch (even on a weekend) is that you don't have to worry about reservations.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:31 AM on June 28, 2006

Ninja New York!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:40 AM on June 28, 2006

I'll chip in and say Peter Luger's too--although go for dinner! Order steak for two rare, and make sure to ask for tomatoes and onions and bacon as appetizers. Desert (with schlag, a.k.a. a huge bowl of fresh whipped cream) is incredible. It usually runs about $70 per person in my experience. For two, you will probably be able to fit in if you're willing to go very early or very late.

For Italian food I always go to Po, a small and reasonable restaurant on Cornelia St., which is beautiful inside and has great, inventive Italian food (i.e., it's not chicken parm). It's another reservations-needed kind of place. If you're willing to splurge, they have a great prix fixe menu for $45. There's also an excellent French bistro which is quite cheap and has an outdoor garden on Cleveland Place in Soho, just south of Spring St. and just east of Lafayette that I always go to.

Finally, interesting stuff: I'd say, hit the MoMA if you haven't, and visit the Cloisters museum at the top of Manhattan if you haven't--that is a great trip!
posted by josh at 4:47 AM on June 28, 2006

The Rubin Museum of Art
posted by ersatzkat at 5:17 AM on June 28, 2006

If you are looking for something really different check out the Sex Museum. Not for the feint of heart but there are some really interesting examinations of sex and society. When I went the whole second floor was the history and culture of sex in Japan...actual history so don't think the whole thing is porn place under a different name. It's a little on the pricey side for the duration of the experience but, honestly, one of the most unique museums I have ever been to.
posted by UMDirector at 5:33 AM on June 28, 2006

robocop is bleeding: Ninja New York!

Ever been? That place got the single worst review the NY Times ever gave.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:55 AM on June 28, 2006

For the baseball there's ebay or stubhub or just turning up at the stadium and buying from scalpers . . . . if you do Craigslist, arrange to go meet the seller somwhere and exchange cash for tickets, do not send paypal or a cheque.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:04 AM on June 28, 2006

Furthering Jamesonandwater's suggestion for tickets, stubhub is great. They guarantee the ticket's authenticity and meet you somewhere reasonable. Prices vary.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:25 AM on June 28, 2006

I can't believe no one's said this already, but there's only one jazz club to visit if you're only going to visit one, and that's the Village Vanguard. For decades they've had the best jazz musicians in the world on a regular basis, the prices are reasonable compared with the top-rank competition, and it's an incredible place to hear music: a funky basement room with superb acoustics, where the musicians are just a few yards away. (Go early and get a table near the front, but even if you get stuck at the bar in the back, you're still amazingly close.) All due respect to Smalls and other fine venues, but you'd be nuts to go anywhere but the Vanguard; it's the most famous, and perhaps the best, jazz club in the world.

And it's in the West Village (just a skip and a holler from the Sheridan Square subway stop ["The space and the streets at this local stop, Sheridan Square, are too much like reality itself to play ignoble tricks"]), so there are plenty of fine restaurants around where you can have dinner first. (No food at the club. Oh, and it's cash only—glad I remembered to warn you of that!)
posted by languagehat at 6:30 AM on June 28, 2006

We stumbled upon Blue Ribbon last year and it's on our must-eat-at-restaurant list. I'm not Mr. Weird Food or anything, but the roasted bone marrow is absolutely outstanding. Great atmosphere, friendly waiters and some of the best and freshest oysters in town.
posted by Atom12 at 6:52 AM on June 28, 2006

Second the Village Vanguard.
posted by mattbucher at 7:34 AM on June 28, 2006

Coney Island. The beaches, Astroland, Nathan's, and yes - baseball! If you're not wedded to the subway series, the Mets have a minor league affiliate in Coney Island, and it's great. It's an exceptionally well-designed stadium, with appropriate nods to the neighborhoods, garish lighting and all.
posted by sachinag at 8:33 AM on June 28, 2006

When you say "quick one night excursion to Niagara Falls", I really hope you don't mean by car. That's an eight hour trip, at minimum.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:54 AM on June 28, 2006

Oooh, I second Coney Island. It is so much fun.

And unless you absolutely abhor crowds, standing or sitting on the East Side Highway watching the fireworks with loads of other people is something that needs to be done if you're there on the 4th. :) No other feeling like it.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:53 AM on June 28, 2006

The Village Vanguard and Smalls are both excellent choices for jazz clubs. My suggestion would be to go to an early set at the Vanguard, go grab a bite to eat, and then head to Smalls for low-cover, stay-all-night late sets until the wee hours.

The Paul Motian Band is playing the Vanguard through July 2; they're closed Monday July 3, and from July 4 forward it's the Steve Wilson Quintet. Both of these are great acts.
posted by enrevanche at 11:27 AM on June 28, 2006

I neglected to mention in my previous comment that Smalls is right around the corner from the Vanguard... three minutes' walk, literally.
posted by enrevanche at 11:30 AM on June 28, 2006

In my modest opinion, the Vanguard is overhyped, overcrowded - I mean elbow to elbow - overpriced, and the acoustics are excellent - if you are running mics into a soundboard. Also, the drinks are watery.

If you're interested in experiencing jazz, pick up the digitally remastered recording performed at the Vanguard, but if you're interested in experiencing *live* jazz, go somewhere else.

(Full disclaimer: I've seen dozens of shows at the VV, so I can hate on it with confidence; on the other hand, how bad can it be? It certainly seems to attract the top talent, most of whom can be chatted up at the pizza place next door right after the set.)
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:29 PM on June 28, 2006

Wow. I've known a lot of jazz fans, and I've never heard anyone say anything remotely like that about the Vanguard. (Yes, it's crowded; how could it not be with great bands, a worldwide reputation, and a small room? But most people accept that as part of the deal when they see live music, and if you sit at a table, it's just like being in a crowded restaurant—not "elbow to elbow." I never found the drinks watery, but then I usually order beer.) Obviously I respect your right to your opinion, but if you hate it that much, why do you keep going?
posted by languagehat at 5:39 PM on June 28, 2006

I've heard good things about the Blue Note, jazz-wise, but I'm no jazz fan myself.

As for restaurants: you could see if Babbo (West 4th & Waverly) has anything open, but it's unlikely. I've also heard interesting things about BLT Steak (mix-and-match sides, baskets of cheese popovers).
posted by anjamu at 7:12 PM on June 28, 2006

if you hate it that much, why do you keep going?

Because of who plays there, I guess.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:15 PM on June 30, 2006

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