NFT New York Midtown


Welcome to the heart of everything--clogged arteries and all. An utter tourist hell to some, Midtown may also be where you slave away in an antiseptic glass tower for more than half your waking day. But while many avoid the area altogether, Times Square and its side streets possess ample virtues. If you can tolerate the slow walkers, group photos, and incessant invitations to comedy shows, you'll be rewarded with some of New York's finest art and most impressive architecture, the brightest lights this side of Tokyo, world-famous hotels and cathedrals, a pair of iconic animal statues, and of course a little animal known as Broadway.

Topping our Midtown list is The Museum of Modern Art. Yes, it's pricey and gets packed on the weekend, but the art will blow your mind and the sculpture garden is divine. Bargain tip: it's free on Friday evenings. If you still enjoy the smell and feel of real-live books, the main branch of the See more.

>New York Public Library (guarded by the famous lion statues Patience and Fortitude) is spectacular. Inside, visit The Map Room and The Rose Main Reading Room, one of the most beautiful spaces in the world to get lost in a book. Right outside, you can bask on the lawn of beautiful Bryant Park, stare up at the sky, and transcend the chaos of the city. At least until a pigeon poops on you or a swarm of moviegoers tramples your mellow.

For a dose of glamour and history, stop in at the Algonquin Hotel, where famous writers, entertainers, and socialites used to cavort and carouse in the 1920s. To see how the ultra-rich used to (and still) live, pop into the gorgeous Plaza Hotel. If you have a small fortune lying around unused, we hear the Edwardian Suite is quite suitable. Gaze at the exquisite, 1908 façade of the Alwyn Court Apartments and decide if you would rather live behind those walls or just look at them like a fine sculpture. When it's movie time, catch it at the plush, gold-trimmed Ziegfeld Theatre, which boasts the biggest screen in the city.

Times Square is the dominion of tourists, but it's worth sneaking in late at night when they're back in their hotels, so you can check out the cool pedestrian plaza where the street used to be (though we kind of miss the comfy lawn chairs from the first summer they tried it). One of the area's greatest assets is, of course, the Broadway theatre scene. If you need cheap tickets to a play or musical, weave through the crowds to the TKTS booth. After braving the line, grab a seat on the actually-really-awesome bleachers that climb over the booth like a staircase. The real gems, though, can be found on the periphery of the square, including the striking New York Times Building, the exhibits at Discovery Times Square (brave the tourists--it's worth it!), and the rare tourist-free bar, Jimmy's Corner.

Midtown is home to oodles of thrilling architecture. Arguably, the most exciting is the Hearst Tower, a stunning masterpiece blending old and new, and the first "green" skyscraper in New York. Sprouting through the roof of the original 1928 building is an angular tower built with recycled steel, completed in 2006. Duck into the lobby to check out the one-of-a-kind water sculpture. Other architectural highlights include Carnegie Hall, St. Patrick's Cathedral, St. Thomas Church, Villard House, Rockefeller Center, One Bryant Park, and the American Radiator Building. And finally, don't miss the trippy Austrian Cultural Forum, which hosts a number of events open to the public.

For a change of pace, check out Little Brazil's small strip of restaurants, bars (some with live music), and shops. Or go north a block to the famous Diamond District, which appeared in the 1940s when Orthodox Jews transplanted here from war-torn Europe. Finally, stare up at The Debt Clock and ponder how this nation's permanent structural deficit will likely bankrupt your theoretical grandchildren. You may decide you need a drink after seeing how the debt-to-GDP ratio creeps inexorably ever upward; on second thought, make that a double.

Grab a cocktail at the elegant and laid-back Faces & Names, or belly up to the bar at Jimmy's Corner for a beer and a shot. Bowl some frames at, uh, Frames in Port Authority or the nearby Bowlmor Lanes. Other options: Iridium for jazz, King Cole for class, Caroline's or HA! for comedy, or escape it all on the patio of Bookmarks.

There's something for every taste in this area. Greasy burgers tucked inside a fancy hotel at Burger Joint, cheap but ah-mazing chicken parm at Luigi's, street food at the halal cart at 53rd & 6th. For high-end experiences, savor the French-American fare at The Modern, the seafood at Le Bernardin, David Chang's Ma Peche, or the vintage charms of 21 Club. Carnegie is the old standby deli, with its overstuffed sandwiches and autographed headshots on the wall.

Midtown is home to one of the great world shopping districts. Legendary retailers like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue are majestic retail palaces, while numerous boutiques and flagships for individual brands jostle for position. In Times Square, there are several touristy chains, as well as a Forever 21 that's open until 1 a.m. and comes in handy for late-night wardrobe emergencies. For unique finds, check out MoMA Design Store or Muji, and stock up on spirits at Park Avenue Liquor or Oak and Steel.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
An Englishwoman in New York

By Georgia Lawson
Having four weeks to explore New York, Londoner Georgia Lawson dives in head first on a mission to live like a local. Can this Englishwoman master the city in such a short time? Read on to find out.

Breaking into Non-Profit Arts

By Liz Pink
Young, talented, poor and striving. Artists are a mysterious lot. Will they make it, or will we wipe our hands of them, devilishly and unforgivingly. J/K. Liz Pink offers truckloads of making-it-in-the-big-city advice that only a very rich or successful artist could pass up. Join her.

Hearst Tower: A Defense of Green

By Tommy Rudnick
Go green. Live clean. Writer Tommy Rudnick : His noble-spirited environmentalism is evidenced by his mien.

Living on a Budget in NYC

By Diana Bocco
The living is easy when you have lots of money. And that's why we need Diana Bocco to tell us to shop at the Greenmarket and patronize the free-for-all furniture store of the street. After all, what is living if not suffering; drinking if not free sampling? Nothing. It is nothing if not that.

East Side Kids

By Jessica Feder-Birnbaum
Kids these days. So full of life. Sometimes you gotta put them in their place and sometimes you just gotta take them on the town. And what part? The East Side. From Kosher bakeries to high-falutin' libraries, the East Side has it all. Come. Join us on this kid-friendly journey.

It’s a Dog’s City

By Michele Langer
Dogs: They're more than lovable, overeager bundles of fur. Dogs can be social ice breakers and show-off accessories. Or can they? A dog is many things to many people, some of whom care for their pets with the love of a brother or mother. Dog runs, dog-friendly restaurants and hotels all aim to serve, comfort and further domesticate this sociable animal. It's enough to make them forget they were ever wolves.

Hookin’ Up on the InterWeb

By Andrew Spaulding
Short-circuit the masses. Go online.

Free NYC

By Krista Apple
When Krista Apple moved to NYC, a friend shoved her into a corner and hissed, "They charge you to breathe here." But Krista could not be deterred. She vowed to seek out the cheapest eats, drinks and arts this side of the Appalachians. Now, let her show you the way.

City Life

By Rob Tallia
What is city life? At its best, a seamless interaction of people, ideas, movement, culture, and solitude. Solitude, because behind every closed door is a family—perhaps of one, or two, or ten, occasionally a “manufactured” family of roommates—but even in the most disparate of circumstances, the occasional meal (be it take-out from the corner Chinese), shared television-watching experience (Oscars, Super Bowl, latest reality-TV finale), or communal party to celebrate a birthday, new job, quit job, return from abroad, whatever. And yet, solitude, since even one’s roommates and family members, being city dwellers, are at least occasionally on the move, away from home, traveling on business, visiting the ersatz family homestead in the ‘burbs, etc. leaving one to oneself.
Guide to Entertaining Tourists

By Jane Pirone
Someone's gotta do it.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Times Square

Times Square is dead. But you probably already knew that, unless you like shopping for huge quantities of Peanut M&M's and spending your whole paycheck at Bubba Gump Shrimp & Cheese Factory (or whatever it's called). But don't brush it off all the way. Besides Jimmy's Corner, which we can never say enough good things about, you can still feel that New York hustle and bustle in this part of town. There are also a few good signs. The giant new digital displays don't do much for me, but I've always had a soft spot for this NYPD neon beauty. Next time you're rushing through here if the relatives in town or you're going to see that once-a-year Broadway show, take a moment right here and catch your breath. Then keep moving before an Elmo asks you for money! 

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Booth Theatre
It's holiday time! What better way to count your blessings than to see the gut-wrenching, feel-bad play of the year, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Just as horrifying as the film starring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, this new Steppenwolf production is brilliantly acted--you'll feel every bit of the self-loathing that unfolds on stage. And when you're not reeling from the schadenfreude, you'll be laughing. For those who don't know, the play spans one evening with a history professor and his wife, whose vicious, alcohol-fueled mind games ensnare a younger couple who thought they were just coming over for a drink. It's three hours long, if you don't slink off in the middle to drown your sorrows upstairs at Sardi's.

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

I used to love going to MoMA for their free Friday nights, especially when I was new to the city. But that was six years ago, and now when someone says "MoMA" I cringe at the whole prospect: the mass of irritable people, the gift shop that feels like a children's insane asylum, the outrageous decibel level, and being shoved out of the way by some zealot who needs to experience this art RIGHT NOW. And the kicker is that MoMA isn't just like this on Friday nights, it's like this all the freakin' time. However, I've recently gotten into their films, which are a calming antidote to all this. Take a chance on a movie you probably won't see elsewhere, one that doesn't play out through the usual formulaic narrative and structure, and the director might even be there to shed some light on his or her artistic choices. I wish I could say the films were cheap, but at $12 they cost as much as any other movie in this city. A membership will get you in for free, and since you have to pay a staggering $25 just to get into the museum, $85 to be a member for a year isn't so bad.

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

The holidays are here and once again, we transplants are looking for ways to entertain out-of-town guests without fraying what's left of our nerves. Maybe it sounds like tourist hell, but I sincerely recommend taking visitors to the Top of the Rock. Yes, it costs $25 (check for discounts online) and you have to deal with midtown, but this view can inspire the most ornery visitor and the most jaded New Yorker alike. In one glance, this panorama reminds us what an impressive city we live in, home to practically every type of person, a city full of ambition, success, creativity, growth, hope, and all the other qualities that lured us into this money-sucking pit in the first place. So take your cousin from Anywhere, USA to the Top of the Rock -- it'll put the urban faith back into your soul and you won't have to explain to your cousin why you gladly pay 75% of your take-home pay in rent, because New York makes his city look like a smoldering trash heap. The view says it all.

Posted By:  Layne Mosler
Photo:  Layne Mosler

Petrossian Boutique
There are foods that soothe from the moment they make it into your mouth, and chocolate chip cookies are among them. Especially when they come from this high-end Parisian-Armenian food boutique, which happens to be two blocks from the Wellington Hotel taxi stand on 7th Avenue. Skip the $500 tins of caviar and the salmon from Scotland. If you're suffering from any type of Gotham-related trauma, this $3 puck of chocolate and pecans will cheer you up. It will also leave a buttery gloss on your lips and a toffee aftertaste on your tongue.

Posted By:  Layne Mosler
Photo:  Layne Mosler

Do not be put off by walkie-talkie sporting hostesses, lurid neon, or ear-splitting birthday serenades at Sofrito. Their seafood mofongo is worth the madness. In this classic Puerto Rican dish, pork fat and mashed plantains come together beneath a light tomato sauce, sauteed onions, bell peppers, and jumbo shrimp. It's as delicious as the salsa is deafening. Skip the paella here (the saffron rice is good, but the seafood feels like an afterthought) and leave room for mango panna cotta: lighter than flan, richer than mousse and resting on a pool of mango-flavored caramel, the dessert will lure you into the tropical fiesta.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Courtesy of MoMa

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
There are great artists, and then there are great artists like William Kentridge. To see a Kentridge exhibit is to witness something truly rare: an artist who is an unquestioned genius in not one but several mediums. Can he paint? Yup. Can he sculpt? Yup. Can he make movies? Yup. Sketch? Yup. Make 3-D live-action back-screen projection moving theater pieces? Yup. (You'll need to see this in person to understand exactly what that is). Oh, and can he do set design for, say, the Metropolitan Opera? Yup. It's the year of Kentridge here in NYC, with this exhibit timed perfectly with his set design for Shostakovitch's "The Nose" at the Met, as well as other events such as lectures, live performances, and fans such as myself making hushed obeisances to the master. Is all this artsy-fartsy hype worth it? Yes, it is. He's totally amazing. He WILL blow your mind.

Posted By:  J. Slab
Photo:  J. Slab

New York Marriott Marquis
The phrase "WhiskyFest" seems somehow redundant: like ExtraFunHappyTime, or CrispyFriedGutbuster. And yet, as far as large-scale pouring events go, they simply don't get much more festive. Take the specs of Malt Advocate's 2009 extravaganza. It is billed as "America’s Largest Whiskey Celebration" for a reason: over 250 whiskeys alone (most Scotch, and not counting the smattering of beer, congnac, brandy, gin, and vodka); 7 speakers (including Master Distillers and Ambassadors from the likes of The Classic Malts and Ardbeg); experts representing the Isles of Jura and Arran, and a handful of distilleries; a charity table with rarities including a 1976 Benriach and two Highland Parks from the 60s; an evening-long buffet (carved beef and pastas); and special VIP pours, such as Ardbeg Supernova, 30 Year Old Highland Park, Johnnie Walker Blue, 25 Year Old Glenlivet, and a Cask Strength Macallan. Not least of which, admission includes a crystal nosing glass and year's subscription to the Advocate, which means that when the inevitable blackout strikes (pours are unlimited, after all), you will still have something to remind you of the good times. The only catch? It sells out early, so set your calendars and dream ahead to next year.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Beacon Restaurant & Bar
Mom and Dad coming in to town? Are they staying in Midtown and are willing to blow some bucks on a "nice" restaurant? We have the answer: Beacon. Waldy Malouf's wood-fired goodness will put a smile on their faces, except when the bill comes (but like a good offspring, if you've prepared them first, this shouldn't matter). From wood-fired artichokes to wood-fired oysters, it's all good. The $29 "nose to tail" lamb was a treat--easily one of the best chops I've ever eaten, along with lamb ribs, lamb meatballs, and lamb kidneys wrapped in bacon. Get a table near the kitchen and enjoy. Just make sure you're not the one paying.

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Columbus Circle
"No no no, honey, we'll come to New York!" That is the sound of family visiting for the holidays, which are coming up soon, whether you like it or not. This means that any number of your clan members will show up without maps or a clue, and they will need specific directions to entertain themselves while you live your life, i.e. go to work and do things you don’t want them to know about. An old standby of mine is to send them to Columbus Circle. Here they can do all this without leaving the immediate area, mostly inside the Time Warner Center: go shopping; use the restroom; eat something relatively inexpensive (Whole Foods or Borders); eat something very expensive (Per Se and many others); check out Jazz at Lincoln Center (either a performance or their gift shop and multimedia Hall of Fame); explore Central Park on foot, bike, or carriage; or visit the sleek new Museum of Art and Design on the south end of Columbus Circle, whose gift shop nearly rivals that of MoMA. They can also walk straight down Broadway until they hit Times Square, which means you won't have to go with them later. Next stop: something you actually want to do.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
Hey midtowners: on your lunch break next week, take a few minutes to stop by Michael Rosenfeld's gallery on 57th Street. The current show is "Abstract Expressionism: Further Evidence (Part Two: Sculpture)," through October 31. Three pieces totally blew me away: Lee Bontecou's "Untitled [MR13]," Claire Falkenstein's "Sun #10," and Theodore Roszak's "Exploding Star." Also with pieces by Louise Nevelson, Louise Bourgeois, and Ruth Asawa. Say hi to the security guard on the ground floor; why not?

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

 I've walked by here a million times but never even took a minute to look in. Finally, when a buddy was visiting from LA, I hatched a plan to go for breakfast before I deposited him on the E train to JFK. The second we entered, I knew it was going to be a memorable experience. There were a couple of CEO/Hollywood types that occupied the front booth that seemed to know everyone. Picture some millionaire with long hair and spandex. Ok, now get that picture out of your head. Fast. The waiters we're incredibly short tempered and couldn't care less (ah, New York). And the space is a complete retro throwback to a different era. Yes, they have grill hood stenciled with their logo. The food? Well, if you thought it was impossible to mess up eggs and toast, you've never been to Primeburger. But who cares when you have guys in paper hats, the longest counter I've seen in New York, and diner atmosphere galore. In today's New York it's nice to know some good old fashioned, non-trendy joints are alive and well.

Posted By:  Sara Bogush
Photo:  Sara Bogush

Minamoto Kitchoan
They're almost too pretty to eat...almost. Hard-to-find this side of the Pacific, wagashi are traditional Japanese pastries that have played a role in tea ceremonies for centuries. They're usually shaped from sweet rice paste, bean paste, or jellied fruits into exquisite cakes, flowers, and animals. At this Midtown bakery, wagashi are displayed inside dramatically-lit glass cases, as if their sole purpose were to be admired. But make no mistake, they are quite snackable, and at $2-$3 per piece, they're within reason when your sweet tooth begs for something different. Lest you worry about what you're biting into, calorie, ingredient, and freshness information is meticulously displayed, and the counter people are unfailingly friendly, despite an occasional language barrier.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

FAO Schwarz
I remember going to FAO Schwartz back in the early part of the decade; right around their bankruptcy problems, and thinking that it was so overrated. Well, glad to see that getting more focused (they canned their mall stores in the bankruptcy) actually helps sometimes--since now FAO Schwartz is pretty much back to its former glory as a great, great toy store. And not just because it can keep my four-year-old occupied for hours; there is plenty of cool stuff for toy-minded adult nerds, like the 7-foot high Lego Darth Vader, an excellent Lionel train set-up, a working SCX Slot-racing track, and a make-your-own Matchbox car machine (or maybe it's Hot Wheels; doesn't matter, they're owned by the same company). Oh, yeah--and your kid can dance on the piano, too!

Posted By:  Ilona Virostek
Photo:  Ilona Virostek

Mid-Manhattan Library
Libraries: they still exist! You stopped visiting when you discovered the internet, but the library has gone on without you, acquiring lots of new books (including current bestsellers) and keeping fabulous with new media, special events, and user-friendly upgrades. Of course, it's still free, and will even trust people like you with up to 30 books, CDs, and DVDs at a time. By the way, Wikiholics: the library still has way more information than the internet, on almost all topics except for breaking news, your "friends network," shopping, and porn. So if you only remember libraries in the context of tedious research projects, you owe it to yourself to go check out something fun. Perhaps a nonfiction bestseller, a trashy romance novel, or just something with a lot of swear words. Go to the NYPL website to check the location and availability of a book you want, or to reserve or renew a title. Yes, it's all very contemporary now. But I'm pleased to report that the library still has that comforting old-book smell.

Posted By:  Harris Solomon
Photo:  Harris Solomon

Cafe Zaiya
If you have ever been subjected to working 9-5 in midtown Manhattan, you understand the horror of finding lunch. Not that it's difficult--from most office buildings you can throw your stapler and hit one of the ubiquitous over-priced chains such as Cafe Metro, Pax, or Europa Cafe. However, if you care at all about quality, or can't stomach paying $7.95 for a Panini made two days ago, things are a bit tougher. Luckily, there is Cafe Zaiya. Think cheap Japanese food court. They have Onigiri (triangles with various fillings surrounded by sushi rice and wrapped in Seaweed), tons of boxed lunches, and delicious cheap sandwiches. As ingenious as it is delicious, Cafe Zaiya has a huge case of house-made sweets, as well as a Beard Papa Cream Puff Counter. Here, ten dollars can easily buy you a boxed lunch, a rice triangle and dessert. While this place is a super find, it's not exactly a secret. Expect crowds, disorientation, and mayhem if you dare enter during lunch. But hey, isn't delicious, cheap and flavorful always worth fighting for? Elbow that analyst out of your way and grab the last fried chicken sandwich. It's worth inflicting pain on somebody. Really.

Posted By:  Sara Bogush
Photo:  Sara Bogush

Jimmy's Corner
If working in Times Square is the disease, Jimmy's Corner is the cure. This narrow, 40-year-old dive just keeps on keepin' on, stealthily ministering to a cross-section of locals through the neighborhood's gradual touristification. Owner Jimmy Glenn was a professional trainer, as evidenced by the boxing memorabilia all over the walls, and tabletops featuring photos of patrons preserved in amberish laquer add to the overall air of nostalgia. Beers are domestic and cheap ($4 pints of Bud Light, Heineken, or Sam Adams), and food is non-existent, but at Jimmy's you feast on atmosphere. The soul of this bar is the jukebox, which cranks out one Stax gem after another, and the friendly service, which provides an oasis from the theater-going hordes outside. If you're lucky, you might catch Jimmy himself working behind the bar.

Posted By:  Sarah Moroz
Photo:  Sarah Moroz

New York Public Library
Times are hard, yo. Saving, or only making "reasonable" purchases, is no strength of anyone's. But, if you look back to other troubled times (i.e. the motherlode of economic recessions in the '20s), you'll find that style did not have to be compromised. Stop staring longingly at shop windows and go get some cultcha--without forfeiting a visual intake of style. Check out the Art Deco-focused exhibit at the New York Public Library Art Deco Design: Rhythm and Verve (through January 11). It's free and features the prettiest Art Deco pochoir patterns (a.k.a stenciled images for textile design).

Posted By:  Harrison Peck
Photo:  Harrison Peck

Museum of Arts & Design
Step aside, MoMA and Whitney, your days of boasting New York's coolest contemporary art are over. The brand-new Museum of Art and Design contains so many awe-inducing works that by the end of your visit your jaw will hurt from constant dropping. While the permanent collection is indeed worth a visit, the temporary exhibit, in which artists turn everyday objects into gasp-inducing creations, will undoubtedly make you forget that you just paid $15 to get in. When you enter the exhibit, you see an average-looking bookshelf. Upon walking around the other side, however, you see that the pages of every book have been sanded to create a towering Buddha head that will require several minutes of gawking to fully grasp. Another highlight is a series of hanging spools that at first looks like nothing but a colossal waste of string. However, when you peer through the glass ball propped up in front of the spools, the glass shrinks and inverts the image into a near-perfect replica of the Mona Lisa. Get to the museum long before closing to allow ample time to fully absorb all the astonishing works. And be sure to go before "Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary" closes on February 15th.

Posted By:  Krikor Daglian
Photo:  Krikor Daglian

Hallo Berlin Cart
NFT's affection for the Hallo Berlin restaurant on Tenth Ave is long-standing, but a special mention is in order for the place where it all got started--their cart on Fifth Avenue and 54th Street (11:30 am-3:30 pm, cash only). Despite the plaudits of some of my gourmand friends, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from German food (despite being half-German). And yet I must confess my first bites of their "Double Soul Mix" were an amazing experience. It was really, really good. As in, for that moment, I felt it could have been the best thing I ever tasted. Grilled bratwurst, sauerkraut, cabbage, onion and sauce all mingled and blew my mind. Maybe it was the cold weather, the low expectations, or possibly some secret Teutonic spice that creates hallucinogenic conditions in the eater, but there's way more wurst in my life now than I ever expected.

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