A Local’s Guide To The Best Secret Spots In NYC
If you’re visiting NYC, it’s easy to spend your entire trip in lower/central Manhattan eating famous Ray’s pizza and snapping shots at 30 Rock. That’s great, but NYC is a city of five boroughs so why limit yourself to just one? Here’s where to find the best less-visited parts of the Big Apple.
Where to eat
Just across the East River from Manhattan, Queens is the most diverse place on Earth. For a traveller, it’s like an overwhelming smorgasbord of diverse global cuisines; start with Arepas Café in Astoria for fluffy, stuffed Venezuelan sandwiches made with golden fried maize dough. If you’re more into a combination of middle eastern food and Japanese sculpture, pair the freshest falafel from King of Falafel & Shawarma with a walk down to the Noguchi Museum by the river.
Further out in Flushing, you’ll find a Chinatown to rival Manhattan’s. For the best experience, order peppery Sichuan takeout from Spicy & Tasty, and head to Flushing Meadows Corona Park before chowing down. While you’re there, you could also catch a baseball game at Citi Field across the railway, if you don’t mind paying $10 for a pretzel.
There’s a large Caribbean population down in Brooklyn, and migrants from Trinidad and Tobago have brought over their delicious roti, which is similar to an Indian flatbread roti, but layered with ground split peas. If you’re heading home after a late night out (more on that below), there’s no better end-of-the-night meal than Trinidadian roti from Nio’s Roti Shop in Flatbush. Order one wrapped around an enormous portion of chicken, goat, or veggies – and don’t forget the tamarind and pepper sauces, guaranteeing a full belly and a tingling tongue.
Where to drink
While you’re in Brooklyn, don’t miss live music and powerful cocktails at St. Mazie Bar & Supper Club in Williamsburg. Settle in at the bar with a staggering Old Fashioned and chat up jazz musicians between sets (or, y’know, just appreciate their music). If craft beers and ping pong are more your speed, Doris in Bedford-Stuyvesant has you covered.
Cocktail bars are a dime a dozen in Brooklyn and Queens, but if you want the real American deal, you’ve got to go a little bit seedier. Remember dive bars? New York sure does. Unpretentious, unclean, and under no illusions, Irish Whiskey Bar in Queens is a glorious throwback. Depending on the night, it’ll be packed out with a rowdy crowd for a UFC match, or taken over by heel-stamping Irish bands. Beer flows freely and if the bartenders like you, they’ll pour you a shot of paint-stripping Irish whiskey.
Where to rave
Manhattan has some glitzy nightclubs but Brooklyn is something else. No matter your jam, you’ll find it; sweaty Soul Nights at Friends & Lovers, industrial techno until dawn at Bossa Nova Civic Club (located under a rattling subway overpass in Bushwick), shimmering disco at Brooklyn Bazaar in Greenpoint, and more live music than you can shake a stick at. Throughout Brooklyn, you’ll find White Label Mate, yerba mate soda inspired by Berlin’s iconic Club Mate, but made in New York. Bars and clubs serve it mixed with tequila and it lets you party all night without the sugar crash (and terrible taste) of voddy redbulls.
For the caffeinated club-goers out there, make sure to check out Langston Night Club in Crown Heights, a gay club that starts to pop around 3am, with dancehall and hip-hop DJs. New York’s commitment to #kickon culture ensures that you can keep the party going through Sunday afternoon with the legendary Sundays On the Roof at Output, where big name DJs spin mellow, sunny beats for you to bliss out to.
After a gluttonous weekend, you may find yourself in need of a restorative afternoon with a book in the park. Brooklyn’s Prospect Park was designed by the guy who designed Central Park, after he realised all the mistakes he made the first time. It’s more heavily wooded, and there are long stretches of grass where you can lie down in the sun without being seeing a single building or hearing a car – absolute bliss on a quiet Sunday.
Fort Tryon park, way up on the Northernmost tip of Manhattan, is another park not to be missed – it overlooks the Hudson River, and hides a remarkable museum called The Cloisters. Built from French monasteries that were moved brick by brick just before World War II, the museum houses medieval art both beautiful and unsettling. One of New York City’s best-kept secrets.
(Lead image: St. Mazie Bar & Supper Club)