‘New York is a city of opportunities. People come here from all over the world to achieve their dreams and I love the diversity that creates: the sense of constant cultural exchange’
Yannick Lebrun is a modern dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (alvinailey.org). Originally from French Guiana, he moved to New York 15 years ago and lives in Washington Heights.
When not performing, you’ll often find me in the audience. A favourite venue is the New York City Center (nycitycenter.org), a historic building with a varied season: concert dance, as well as Broadway productions. The Joyce Theater (joyce.org) in Chelsea is another amazing venue – it’s a small stage, with performers and audience so close it gives a real sense of warmth. After, I’d eat at TAO Downtown (taodowntown.com), which serves Asian fusion food. I eat healthily but I don’t have a strict regimen; I like fried rice. Later I’d head to Le Bain (lebainnewyork.com) a rooftop club at the top of the Standard Hotel, for a vodka and ginger nightcap. It’s a super-cool place with fantastic views over the Hudson River. There’s a tiny pool, so people party until they end up in the water.
Around noon, I’d have brunch – a big thing in New York. The Wild Son (thewildsonnyc. com) is beautiful.It’s a cosy space with healthy juices and good pancakes. Afterwards, I’d walk around the Meatpacking District, admiring the architecture and stopping by some of the cute shops. I can always find unique sneakers at Sneakersnstuff (pictured right; sneakers nstuff.com) and the design is fantastic. It’s like an Apple Store, with huge glass doors, and shoes displayed on wood tables. I love a comfortable sneaker, for walking or rehearsing ballets.
When I want to relax, I head to Central Park’s Sheep Meadow (centralparknyc.org): a huge, calm, green space where I go to reconnect with nature. I like to take off my shoes and feel the grass beneath my feet. If the weather is cold I’d walk among Soho’s small streets instead. Vive la Crêpe (vivelacrepe.fr) is a great spot for a crêpe and a coffee; I enjoy finding French things in the city. Back home our culture is a mix of French and Creole, and my mum used to make crêpes. Nutella-banana is the best.
Diverse, with a great vibe and people, Harlem is where I feel most at home. People will come all the way from Brooklyn for a night at the Red Rooster (redroosterharlem.com). You’re drawn in from the street by the music, you can see people inside having a great time. Everybody’s chill, and the decor looks like a vintage bazaar – full of antique cameras and clocks, portraits of black icons and old books – so it doesn’t feel uptight. Their restaurant is great quality (try their chicken and waffle) and, underground, there’s an atmospheric place to dance. I love a good beat to dance to.
I’d start with eggs benedict at Community Food & Juice (communityrestaurant.com). Everything is so fresh, the staff are friendly and, at one of the shared tables, you feel part of a community. Later, I’d work out, or head for an appointment downtown. When preparing for a season I book a class at Gyrotonic on Broadway (gyrotonicon broadway.com ). This is a practice that allows you to build strength and reach maximum flexibility. Alternatively, I might have a session at Advanced Cryo NYC (advancedcryonyc.com). Cryotherapy is a tool for muscle recovery. You step into a tube and the temperature is brought down to -170˚C for three minutes. It’s intense, but afterwards I have less tension. For pure relaxation, I’d head for Aire Ancient Baths (pictured above; beaire.com) in Tribeca. It’s very dark, with flickering candles, and pools at different temperatures – I like the flotation one, with Dead Sea salt.
I’d end with a cocktail and a performance at the Blue Note Jazz Bar (bluenotejazz.com), where legendary musicians come to play. I like the atmosphere of this area around Washington Street Park. It’s on the edge of Greenwich Village but more laid-back, and full of tattoo shops. At Caribbean restaurant Negril Village (negrilnyc.com) there’s some crossover with French Guianese cuisine. I’d order shrimp roti or curried chicken, and a rum punch. I do love a rum punch, and it’s the perfect fuel for some fun in the club downstairs, listening to dancehall reggae and feeling a little bit closer to home.
‘Meeting to eat is what we do in New York. In a city where people of so many cultures live, you find the best of everything’
Emily Yuen is executive chef of modern Japanese restaurant Bessou (bessou.nyc). From Vancouver, she has lived everywhere from Singapore to Melbourne, and now calls Williamsburg, Brooklyn, home.
One of my favourite places in my neighbourhood of Williamsburg is Aurora (aurorabk.com) a casual Italian restaurant that’s really seasonal. Every year they do a very simple and fresh fava bean, mint, lemon and ricotta salad, and they always have great bread. After, I’d head to Fresh Kills (freshkillsbar.com) but I don’t drink alcohol, so I’d order one of their mocktails; I still want to feel included when I'm out with my friends. I like their Old Tom Gin, made with ginger, lime juice, mint and soda water and served with candied ginger on a stick. It’s fresh and citrusy, not too sweet.
I’d go out for breakfast or brunch at Reunion (reunionyc.com), a Mediterranean place around the corner from my house where I know the owners. I like to support local businesses, and they do a really great shakshuka, a Middle Eastern baked eggs dish, served with challah (pictured right). It’s a comforting place, with lots of little knick-knacks on display – radios, a bike hanging from the wall – and cookbooks about Tel Aviv food. After, I’d wander over to McCarren Park Greenmarket (grownyc. org/greenmarket) in Greenpoint to look at all the produce; everything from radishes to fresh cheese, and eggs from an Amish farmer, and pick up some bits for lunch at home.
I’ll be in need of a good cappuccino, which I’ll get, along with a brownie, from Blue Bottle (bluebottlecoffee.com). They use quality beans and the baristas are really consistent. Then I’d stroll over to Domino Park (pictured top; dominopark.com), a modern New York park built on an old sugar factory. I find a bench and look over Williamsburg Bridge.
For dinner I’d head into Manhattan. I’m Asian, so I eat a lot of Asian food, and a place I really like right now is Le Sia (nyclesia. com) a Cajun-Chinese seafood restaurant: kind of an unusual combination. I always get the jambalaya fried rice and one of their seafood boils: they put everything in a pot and cook to combine the flavours of the crawfish with things like potato and lotus root in a spicy broth. It’s kind of a loud, crowded, in-and-out sort of place, but the food is so good, it cancels all that out. Afterwards I’d head around the corner to Meet Fresh (meetfresh.us) for some shaved ice. Different Asian cultures have their own versions (in Japan it’s called kakigori) but this one is Taiwanese, so they’ll add bubble tea pearls, mochi (glutinous rice balls) or root vegetables like sweet potatoes or taro.
I’d have breakfast at home, probably English muffins (which my husband and I acquired a taste for while living in London) topped with butter, jam, bacon and a fried egg; an Americanised British breakfast that’s sweet, salty and so good. Then I’d head to Chelsea Market (chelseamarket.com), which is full of grocery and other stores and different places to eat; my favourite is Los Tacos No.1 (lostacos1.com). I’d get one of their hibiscus sodas and an El Pastor pork taco with pineapple, adding radishes and salsa verde before eating standing at the counter. Mexican food isn’t that good in Canada, but when I moved here I started eating a lot more of it because it’s much more authentic. Afterwards I’d head to Seed + Mill (seedandmill.com) which specialises in halva and tahini. I’d get a soft-serve tahini ice-cream topped with halva crumbles.
If I’m not at home, hosting friends, I’d eat at Hanon (facebook.com/hanonbrooklyn), which specialises in udon. They hand-make their noodles, which always taste really fresh and chewy: the texture you’re looking for in udon. Their signature noodle is made from barley shoots and bamboo, so it’s dark green and tastes a little bit more earthy. On a Sunday I want to be somewhere I know, somewhere comforting and easy, to ease myself gently into the week.
‘New York is a place with a beat – and it moves. If you take a metro somewhere and then start walking and exploring, you’ll get so much more out of the city. Peer in the windows, see where people are going and make your own wonderful discoveries’
Lynnette Marrero is a freelance beverage director and consultant for clients including the Peruvian-inspired Llama Restaurant group – which includes Llama Inn, Llama San and Llamita. Born and raised in Brooklyn, she’s been a mixologist for 15 years and now lives in the Lower East Side.
To unwind after work, I’d make a reservation at Banzarbar (banzarbar.com), a secret bar upstairs at Freemans Restaurant that has a beautifully curated menu focused on food and drink pairings and lower-proof cocktails. Eryn Reece uses champagnes and verjus – a byproduct of winemaking – to create some unique flavours. It does this crazy octopus dish called ‘the kraken’ and a drink made with mastika, a Greek ingredient rarely used in cocktails. The interior has an expedition feel, with objects like a rattan chair and a spear creating a look of colonial collectivism. Plush stools sit at the round bar, which I think is more social: you can see the choreography of the bar and feel part of what’s happening.
I’m going to do what everyone wants to do on a Saturday morning: get brunch. I’d head to Russ & Daughters Café (russanddaughters. com) for a classic smoked fish bagel. It’s an elegant spot, with simple white walls and a long shelf full of fermenting items like peppers and beets. A really good pickle is an icon of New York: it’s part of the immigrant culture of preservation. Sitting on one of the old-school wooden parlour stools at the bar is a very local experience. In the bartenders’ haven, you’ll avoid a lot of the fray but get to talk to people. Afterwards I'll hop on the F train and take two stops into Brooklyn for a margarita at Leyenda (leyendabk.com), which cherry-picks from all the Latin countries and does super-delicious chilaquiles (corn tortillas baked with salsa verde and Chihuahua cheese).
The Whitney (whitney.org) is one of the city’s best museum experiences, and walking there from the West Village over cobblestone streets is charming, a taste of old New York. I’d head first to the top floor bar, which has views over the Hudson River, and get an Aperol spritz. It’s the perfect museum cocktail: light, fresh and colourful. I’d sit outside, looking over the sculptures, before exploring its collection of American Art. I especially like the Warhols, and there’s always something interesting going on.
The best part of New York is walking around, hitting a destination and then stopping for another cocktail. Next I’d head over to Katana Kitten (katanakitten.com), a Japanese-American bar with a really good beer list and highball menu. My favourite is the shiso gin and tonic which, like many of its drinks, is bright and colourful. The bartenders are very playful and the look of the place is ‘Japan’ in that there’s a bit of pop culture brought in, but a fun West Village quirkiness too. I’d get a snack to tide me over; the crudités are so good, cut just right.
New York has little pockets where great things cluster, and Doyers Street is one such. Chinese Tuxedo (chinesetuxedo.com) is in a former opera house and everything, from the food to the hospitality to the design, is wonderful. It’s a great place for sharing small dishes, and every one is spot-on, especially the mushroom dumplings. It’s usually pretty packed so I’d sit at the bar to watch the mixologists work. I love the Terracotta Warrior cocktail – it’s made with raicilla, which is distilled from agave, but has more earthiness than tequila.
Later I’d walk a few blocks west to The Django (thedjangonyc.com), an elegant, tucked-away room where you can get a classic cocktail like a martini and hear some awesome jazz. The other night I walked in on a twelve-piece band doing their thing and it was like I’d stumbled on Wynton Marsalis in his prime – but it was their open mic night.
My guilty-pleasure-dive-bar is Mother’s Ruin (mothersruinnyc.com), which does a killer all day brunch and a really good falafel burger, and bloody marys. There’s always a young artist playing and its cocktails are given funny names – their slushie machine is called Kathleen Turner. It’s as fun at three in the afternoon as it is at three in the morning.
Starting to wind down, I’d hit a few of my favourite bars in the Lower East Side, maybe Fat Radish (thefatradish.com) for a cocktail or Bacaro (bacaronyc.com) for a glass of wine. I like to walk the smaller sidestreets, where you’ll find more local people and discover special things. I’ll end up at Il Posto Accanto (pictured below; ilpostoaccantonyc. com) for a light dinner. Its meatballs are incredible – you can smell them cooking from morning – as is their Italian wine list. The staff hasn’t changed in 15 years, easily; it’s run by a tattooed Roman woman called Beatrice and her husband Julio, a Dominican New Yorker. You get this vibe of a place and people who’ve been in the city forever.
‘I enjoy the creativity that you can breathe in the streets of New York City. It’s an explosion of colour and energy that I can’t see anywhere else in the world ’
Cecilia Alemani is director and chief curator of High Line Art, a public art programme (thehighline.org). Italian, she swapped Milan for New York 15 years ago, and has always lived downtown – in the Lower East Side or the East Village.
Around 6pm I’ll head to Angel’s Share (8 Stuyvesant St), a speakeasy in the East Village, hidden behind the nondescript dining room of a Korean restaurant – for a cocktail before it gets too crowded. New York bars tend to be loud, but this is somewhere you can have a conversation; a place with a magical atmosphere. One drink, Smoke gets in your eyes, is made with Japanese whisky and comes with a burning piece of charcoal under the glass. I enjoy the ritual.
My job is also my passion: I do art all weekend. One of my favourite places is Governors Island (pictured below; govisland.com), which you can reach by ferry. In the 1800s it was used as a military base, but in the last ten years it’s been turned into a public park. It’s a surreal place, where you can experience an old, mysterious side to the city. There are remnants of a fort, military barracks, an abandoned pool, and breathtaking views of Manhattan skyline, just as you see it in the movies. You forget you’re in a city because, there, you’re not. No tall buildings, no cars; you can rent a bike or a tricycle, or set out on foot. I always seek out the commission by the British artist Rachel Whiteread. She explores the idea of negative spaces that objects leave behind, and has cast the inside of a wooden cabin in cement, conjuring the romantic idea of 19th century poets who wrote in such places. It’s installed in this beautiful elevated spot, from which you can also see the Statue of Liberty.
I’ll have lunch at Flora (florabarnyc.com), an amazing restaurant inside the Met Breuer, a Brutalist building designed by Marcel Breuer. Set within a basement courtyard, there’s beautiful light and extraordinary food. I particularly like the appetiser made with raw shrimp, uni (sea urchin) and seaweed; a weird thing that’s very yummy. Next, I’d head to Soho. Built in the 1800s, this was an industrial neighbourhood, but in the 1940s the warehouses and factories started to be abandoned and in the ’60s, artists moved in to get a cheap loft space. Now there are some incredible permanent installations of American Minimalism that, if you didn’t know they were there, you would never stumble on, like Earth Room and The Broken Kilometer (diaart.org). The movement began in New York in the ’60s and ’70s and its ‘father’ is Donald Judd, who made objects that don’t seem to be sculptures spectacular by their placement. The Judd Foundation (pictured bottom left; juddfoundation.org) preserves his living and working spaces as he left them.
I’d meet a friend for dinner at Bohemian, another hidden place, in the same building as the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s old studio in NoHo. You usually need to be invited or recommended to get a table, but if you email them (see playearth.jp), you might just get in! The exterior is ‘downtown’ in feel (graffiti and posters),the food is inexpensive Japanese –they’re good with meat.
Dim sum then galleries is a New York Sunday ritual – because they’re next to each other, it makes sense. Jing Fong (jingfongny.com) is the biggest restaurant I’ve ever been to, and eating there feels like being in a photograph by Andreas Gursky, who takes pictures of surreal places that are vast in scale. Even with seating for 800, it’s so good and so cheap there’s still a line sometimes. When it’s your turn they call you, dramatically, with a mic and seat you at a shared round table. It’s a cliché of what a Chinese restaurant looks like (red walls and hanging golden dragons) but very authentic. Ladies go around with carts piled with steaming bamboo baskets.
The Lower East Side galleries aren’t on the ground floor, so you need to know where they are and ring the bell. They take you inside places you wouldn’t normally be able to go; in Chelsea the gallery spaces are all the same, but here they’re more like apartments, some unrefurbished. Inside, you keep bumping into the same people, doing the rounds. My favourite commercial galleries are 47 Canal (47canal.us), JTT (jttnyc.com) and Participant (participantinc.org), a non-profit space that shows more underground art. You can see work by people who might be in MoMa in five years’ time, but you get to see them here for free before they’re ingested by the institutions.
In the evening, I’d head back to the East Village for dinner at Lucien (luciennyc.com), a restaurant that’s very much an artists’ hangout. The walls are covered with pictures of notable people that have been there, and you can get a good, inexpensive steak frites or something else very French. It’s fun, unpretentious, and you never know who you might see.
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