New York City is a nice place to live, but a rather difficult place to visit. Its Tourist Land facilities are so numerous that, between them and a few Greatest Hit sites, you might as well be at the New York, New York resort in Las Vegas. Here are some suggestions. (Apologies to the outer boroughs; everything here is in Manhattan.)
St. Paul’s Chapel, on Broadway & Fulton St. George Washington worshipped here, Alexander Hamilton spoke here, exhausted firemen and rescue workers slept on the pews after 9/11. Our triumphs and our trials in one church.
Meet some interesting people at the Frick Collection (5th Ave. & 70th St.). Boucher cuties, Fragonard lovers, a Holbein saint, a Vermeer girl, the luscious forearms of the Comtesse d’Haussonville, the very cool Baron de Montesquieu. One of the highest densities of wonderful art in any museum.
The Strand, Broadway and 12th St. More books than you have ever seen in your life. I first went there when I was an NR summer intern, and bought a translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses which I still have. Maybe one day I’ll finish it.
The Central Park Zoo is small, but centrally located and charming. Don’t miss the penguins.
Shopping. Century 21 (22 Cortlandt St.) for bargains galore (no dressing rooms). For men: Paul Smith (5th Ave. & 16th St). For women: A Uno (Spring & Sullivan Sts.). For trisexuals (will try anything): Untitled (26 W. 8th St.)
Window shopping. Soho is filling up with cosmetics stores, but is still worth a look. So is Madison Ave. above 60th St.
Drinking. Pete’s Tavern (Irving Place & 18th St.) and McSorley’s Old Ale House (E. 7th St., off Cooper Square) contend for which is the oldest bar in New York. They are atmospheric, but usually wall-to-wall with bellowing kids. The Campbell Apartments (Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Ave. side) serves weird retro drinks.
Coffee. Café Roma, on Mulberry and Grand St. Pressed-tin ceiling, hexagonal lozenges on the floor, pendulum clock, painting of the Campagna. The only reason to go to Little Italy (see below).
Delicatessens. Katz’s (Houston St.) still displays its sign, “Send a Salami To Your Boy in the Army.” The Second Avenue Deli (2nd Ave. and 10th St.) is equally good.
Dining. The Coffee Shop, 16th St. and Union Square West. My cafeteria. Brazilian accented; pretty waitresses; filled with kids. Post-9/11, the Dominican night maître d’ and I salute each other by saying, “Death to our enemies.”
The Four Seasons (90 E. 52nd St.–not the hotel!) is the epitome of mid-last-century chic. Classic American food, excellent service, great wine list. Machers have no doubt booked it solid already. Your only hope: request the Pool Room, less prestigious than the Grill Room, but more striking.
The Oyster Bar, Grand Central Terminal. Seafood. September is a month with an “r” in it, so you can have raw oysters and clams.
Danal, 90 E. 10th St. Quirky bistro dining in the East Village. The owner is delightful, but left-wing, so take off your elephant paraphernalia.
National Review Historical Dining. Nicola Paone’s (207 E. 34th). Mr. Paone is making desserts in Heaven, but Franco is still at his post.
History. Any ten delegates (a minyan, in fact) who come, with their credentials, to the New-York Historical Society (77th St. & Central Park West), can get a free preview of “Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America,” the biggest show ever mounted on the first SecTreas. The Historian Curator is yours truly.
Avoid: Chinatown. Sinking into tourist dreck.
Little Italy. With exception noted above, already sunk into tourist dreck. Umberto’s Clam House, where Crazy Joe Gallo was whacked, has moved, so there isn’t even historical interest any more. (Crazy Joe wanted to recruit blacks into the Mafia–a notion so offensive that the mob was willing to make an exception to its ban on Little Italy violence.)
All places of business should be called ahead of time to make sure they are open. Many New Yorkers have taken off–some rightly fearing hassle, some wrongly fearing Republicans, others simply going to the Hamptons.
If you feel you’ve gone through your stay in a rush, visit in books: the opening chapter of Moby Dick; “Song of Myself”; The Age of Innocence; The Locusts Have No King; The Bonfire of the Vanities. New York will always be there.