Having friends in town is a great excuse to explore the city treasures you spend the rest of the year ignoring. Where to eat while you're taking in the sights? We've got advice.
Q: My cousin is really into Zach Braff, whereas I am naturally afraid of Zach Braff. We've compromised by getting seats for Bullets Over Broadway with obstructed views. Where can we go in the neighborhood for the one thing we both like—duck larb?
A: Good question (and one we get a lot). Our advice for enjoying the Theater District? Get out of the Theater District. Head south to Larb Ubol, a cheerfully no-frills Thai place on 9th Avenue and 37th, for all kinds of larb ($8 to $11), som tum with barbecue pork ($11) and whole red snapper with sweet chile and tamarind sauce ($20). After the show, seek out Sake Bar Hagi, a subterranean izakaya on W. 49th street, for yakitori skewers ($1.50 to $2.50 per skewer) and late-night beers. It's open 'til 3 a.m. and feels simultaneously like a real city secret and a million miles from Times Square.
Q: My aunt likes aircraft carriers. My uncle likes roasted garlic mazemen. Help!
A: That's not really a question, but that's alright. There's really no question about where to eat while visiting Midtown's far-western shores. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is an inspiring, floating, Concorde-and-Space-Shuttle-carrying excuse for visiting Gotham West Market. The eight-shop high-fallutin' food court (as they're called back where your aunt and uncle come from) is a destination in its own right, with excellent tapas at Seamus Mullen's El Colmado as well as smoked whitefish donburi ($8 to $14) and an array of ramen (and surprisingly reasonable lines) at Ivan Orkin's Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop.
Q: Art makes me hungry. Where can I get a meal near Museum Mile?
A: It's true: A museum is only as good as its snack bar. Happily, the Neue Galerie has Kurt Gutenbrunner's Viennese wood-paneled Café Sabarsky; the Metropolitan Museum of Art has its grassy Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar, and the Whitney has Danny Meyer's Untitled. Or curate your own high-low combo tour with a stop at Shake Shack's UES outpost followed by an early evening cocktail (and endless nuts and potato chips) at The Carlyle's posh Bemelmans Bar.
Q: I forgot to bring a picnic to the High Line. Where can I get refreshed without straying too far from the tracks?
A: First stop: small snacks and Riesling at Terroir at The Porch, Marco Canora and Paul Grieco's seasonal outpost of their excellent wine bar mini-empire at the elevated intersection of 10th Avenue and 15th Street. For well-done New American eats and a homey farm-to-table vibe, descend to street level at Cookshop.
Q: Where can we grab a bite near Ground Zero?
A: Look, we understand, you want to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum. But in the name of all that is decent, please don't treat this site like any other photo-op. Pay your respects, then skip the tacky gift shop and wander around the real and enduring city. Celebrate the resilience of the neighborhood by stopping at Jimmy Bradley's The Harrison, one of the first restaurants to open after the attacks. Or enjoy the unvanquished beauty that is New York's harbor with a drink and some Naked Cowboys ($3.50 each) and Mermaid Coves ($3.50 each) at Grand Banks, an oyster bar on a boat—and floating proof that this old island still has some new tricks up its proverbial sleeve.
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