Neighbourhoods: mid-town elegance around Flatiron District
I’ve always loved the city, apart from the very first time I touched down here with expectations running here. But as New York grew on me, so did the charming mid-town neighbourhood of Flatiron with its semi-busy streets, the beautiful cafes and fancy restaurants and the abundant presence of locals.
Madison Square Park
The Flatiron building is surely what catches your eye as soon as you land in this part of the town. And don’t get me wrong it is indeed fascinating. But as you crawl around the inner parts of this cosy neighbourhood the Park is what really makes it all fit! A lush garden and dog plaza right in the middle of the busy streets where locals and visitors hang out alike for a quiet moment in the sun.
The strolls and moments around nature is a perfect retreat when weather permits. And when it doesn’t, there are plenty of options around. Every single time I visit, I still get the urge to go and roam around Eataly’s elegantly stacked fruit and produce in the massive indoors hall also carefully complemented with Italian food outlets. It’s fun and inspiring to see all of this food life coming together even if you’re not doing any shopping per se. On the other side of the park, eastbound this time, I hide away in the bold interiors of Edition hotel inside the reinvented landmark 1909 clock tower. Having a drink at the high ceiling lobby or a small nibble upstairs at the Clocktower cafe is always nice.
As I walk further south I discover all the gems Danny Meyer has gifted to this part of town. Heading up the Union Square Hospitality Group he is the one responsible for the beauty opulent at the Union Square Cafe, a classic restaurant establishment, and Daily Provisions, a funky breakfast place, alike. Most of the mornings, I’ll avoid using the subway right away and start walking south to satisfy my breakfast cravings at Danny’s newest addition. I queue and pay on the spot, waiting for a tasty, crunchy and buttery cruller (a ridiculously tasty deep fried pastry covered in cinnamon and sugar) to accompany my breakfast egg sandwich on the go!
Walking east from Park Ave, I hide away in the lush gardens of Gramercy Park gazing at the beautiful buildings of the square including some rare brownstones. This used to be a neighbourhood devastated by crime in the 1990s that has recently become a jewel and great example for city-making due to a grassroots movement, the Gramercy Park Block Association, that rekindled security and well-being in the neighbourhood.
As soon as I’m done with my delicious takeaway breakfast, I carry on further south and swing by Gotham Coffee Roasters for a tasty, rich-flavoured espresso. The black and white interiors may catch someone’s attention but don’t be fooled as the place carries a lot of history behind its impeccable service and great coffee. 30 years in the business of coffee, the team has worked directly with the owners of Starbucks, have led the import of La Marzocco espresso machines in San Francisco and have co-founded Spinelli coffee company in San Francisco and Singapore. Now, after a small stint of making wine in Napa, they’re back in the coffee business with a third wave roastery in Brooklyn and a retail outlet on W 19th street.
The nights belong to the northern part of this neighbourhood where hoteliers have made it a destination. The Ace Hotel launched its first New York outpost here back in 2009 in the former Hotel Breslin, a 1904 building in mid-town Manhattan. Featuring a Stumptown Coffeehouse an all-day lounge bar, Ace Hotel is perfect for unwinding whatever the day of the time.
One block south, there is also some more beat. When the weather is kind of cold and windy, I venture out to find the perfect retreat on such conditions, The Library Cafe at the Nomad Hotel. The space is a fully curated, two-level library which is connected by an original spiral staircase imported from the South of France, mostly available to guests of the hotel. However, if you do arrive early in the afternoon you may be able to get a spot and stay until the late hours turning coffee convos into drink stories.
Flatiron Plaza - nice vibe for a quick coffee right below the Flatiron building
Madison Square Park - moments away from the Flatiron building, this park is a classic for locals featuring some sculptures, a dog park and of, course, Shake Shack!
Gramercy Park - private gardens with an array of beautifully architectured buildings around. Nice stop to enjoy what you’ll end up getting on the go from Daily Provisions
Ace Hotel New York - artsy, alternative and loud, Ace hotel is what you’d expect from it. Nice rooms and a great hotel overall for those that love some action. Very big and kind of loud lobby bar, gets full after 6pm
Freehand New York - stylish, hip hotel with some great interiors and rooms
The Nomad Hotel - housed in a beaux arts building offering a posh and busy lounge bar. Also great to sit at the Library for a coffee or drink if you can make it there (try going early!) as this space is only intended for hotel guests in the evening
The New York Edition - the Marriott group’s mid-town New York outpost with some posh interiors perfect for an evening cocktail and small bites at the Lobby Bar
Union Square Cafe - Danny Meyer’s first and most popular dining space in New York. Serves American cuisine in an elegant setting. Make sure you reserve ahead of time if you’re going for dinner
Gramercy Tavern - also owned and managed by Danny Meyer’s group, this tavern offers a fixed-price-only dining room and a buzzing bar area for drinks
ABC Cocina - Jean-Georges Vongerichten's upscale farm-fresh eatery serves Latin American fusion in a glam space. Try the chipotle chicken tacos with grilled jalapeno salsa and the arroz con pollo with crackling skin and lemon zest - what a delight!
Ulivo - nice trattoria with a rustic feel to it, making it the perfect neighbourhood spot for a chilled night out and some hearty Italian food
Eataly NYC - the famous agora concept of all Italian food, right in the heart of NoMad. Also offering plenty of options for some quick Italian dishes set also within the space of the main grocery store
Shake Shack - our all-time favourite fast-food joint offering finger-licking burgers on Madison Square Park!
KazuNori The Original Hand Roll Bar - tasty big-sized sushi rolls, decently priced in a casual setting perfect for a quick bite
Gotham Coffee Roasters - cute small coffee place with honest espresso, great interiors and branding
Friend of a Farmer - farm-style cafe with an countryside ambience at this cosy place on Irving Place. Beware it gets very busy on weekends after 11am