Wednesday, July 26, 2017

NYC Travel Guide: Flatiron District

I'm excited to bring you another comprehensive guide to one of my favorite pockets of New York:  the Flatiron District!  Generally speaking, the Flatiron District is bound by Union Square and Greenwich Village to the south, Chelsea to the west, 25th Street and NoMad to the north,  and Gramercy Park to the east.  It has long been associated with some of the best dining in the city, great home decor stores, and a few iconic structures- like the Flatiron Building and the Met Life Building.  Read on for my must-see spots in the district.

I have been working at 31st and Fifth for about a year now, so my close proximity to the Flatiron area has given me ample opportunity to explore and notate my favorite spots for you guys.  Read on for my favorite places to eat!

Places to Eat:

{drinks at the bar inside the tavern}

{arctic char paired with the $26/glass wine I warn you about below!}

If you have to eat at one place in the Flatiron District, make sure it's Gramercy Tavern.  This is such a special place to me.  They have a tavern bar area and then a more formal dining room with a prix fixe menu.  If you're celebrating a special event, I suggest making a reservation for the dining room.  The price per meal is $125 for dinner, so a bit pricey, but worth the splurge for a special night out.  Every dish is delicious.  The set menu changes by the day, but I had a particularly delicious lobster salad for my appetizer last time, and the Arctic char fish for my main course.  It. was. amazing.  For more casual dinners I've sat at the bar in the tavern and had a lovely time as well!  The drink concoctions are delish- but be careful! One time I accidentally ordered 3 glasses of $26/glass wine.  That was a shock when the bill came! 

2.) Cosme

{Cosme's duck carnitas}

This locale constantly tops the list of best restaurants in the world (this year it was ranked 40th) and for good reason.  They serve the best spicy margarita I've ever tasted- the Scoville Sour: Chipotle or Guajillo or Arbol infused Siete Leguas, lemon juice, agave, and spiced cucumber.  The dishes are tapas sized portions and meant to be shared.  Don't miss the guacamole, the enmoladas, or the corn tempura soft-shell crab. I also love their chic, modern decor.

3.) ABC Cocina & ABC Kitchen

{ABC Cocina}

{ABC Cocina guacamole, salsa, and salad shared on New York Notes}

I can't write a guide of the Flatiron District without including Michelin star chef Jean-Georges's 2 restaurants housed inside ABC Carpet & Home, which I shared below.  Full disclosure:  I have yet to try ABC Kitchen!  I made a reservation when my parents were in town last month, but unfortunately we got caught up at the American Museum of Natural History and couldn't make it in time.  We ended up just ordering Seamless at my apartment that night, but I do wish we had made it because I've been dying to try this place.  All of my foodie friends swear it's not to be missed.  The menu focuses on local, sustainable, organic ingredients and a rooftop garden provides the herbs and microgreens used in the dishes.  While the ABC Kitchen decor is light and airy, ABC Cocina is romantic, dramatic, and moody.  I've visited the Cocina several times and never had a bad experience.  It's a perfect spot for after work drinks or a fun dinner out with a group of friends.  Similar to Cosme's style, ABC Cocina serves tapas style portions that are meant to be shared. I love the fish tacos, the mushroom tacos, empanadas and of course, the guacamole.  I can never resist guac.  The space is dark and lively, and it's easy to forget just how many margaritas you've consumed...

4.) Eataly

Eataly is an Italian marketplace just across the street from the Flatiron building.  It was created by Mario Butelli in order to celebrate all that authentic Italian food and culture has to offer.  The market houses 6 restaurants, a gelato bar, an espresso bar, a focaccia bread bar, and an Italian cooking school.  It's always a zoo of people and can feel a bit overwhelming, but my suggestion is to peruse the marketplace and then pick a restaurant to sit down at and eat a meal.  My favorite restaurant is the La Pizza & La Pasta spot at the back of the first floor.  The wood-grilled pizzas and rich red wines are perfect for a cold New York night.

What I think you shouldn't miss: The freshly baked lemon focaccia bread, the caprese at the La Pizza & La Pasta restaurant (pictured above), and a drink at Sabbia on the Roof!

{Brunch at EMP Summer House pictured here, the Hamptons-based Eleven Madison Park spin off}

Eleven Madison Park was voted the "Best Restaurant in the World" this year and is a three star michelin rated eatery, so clearly I can't leave this spot off my Flatiron guide!  Executive chef David Humm serves guests an eight to ten course seasonal tasting menu for around $295 per meal. This summer, the restaurant in the city is closed for a gut renovation and a sister restaurant with a more casual vibe was opened in it's place in the Hamptons - EMP Summer House.  I had brunch here a few weeks ago with some friends when we were in East Hampton, and it. was. delicious.  We had the corn, black truffle and Parmesan flatbread, summer squash, ceviche fluke, tuna tartare with tomato and lovage, snow peas, and lobster tempura- all of which are pictured above. 

Things to Do:

1.) See the Flatiron Building 

I love standing outside the Flatiron Building and just admiring how cool the building itself is with only three sides. Originally named the Fuller Building, the structure was completed in 1902 and was one of the tallest skyscrapers of the time reaching 20 stories high.  The building became known as the "Flatiron Building" because of it's resemblance to a cast-iron clothes iron.  The structure sits between Broadway, 5th Avenue and 22nd Street, and when standing in the adjacent park to take a photo, you can turn around and see the majestic Empire State Building right behind you.  It's a special spot to visit and an iconic landmark of Manhattan.

{image via Bright Bazaar}

2.) Stroll through Madison Square Park

{Madison Square Park viewed from above}

Right next to the Flatiron Building is a small urban haven called Madison Square Park.  My old office was located just down the street from this park, and I'd often eat my lunch on a bench there or make a phone call or two.  It's very relaxing for a stroll in the middle of a busy day.

3.) Play Ping Pong at SPIN NY

Susan Sarandon has more passions than just acting, apparently, because she opened Spin NY in Flatiron in 2009.  Spin NY is a 12,000 square foot ping-pong club with a full-service bar, food, and live music on the weekends.  They have 17 separate ping pong tables, and every time I've been here for fun I realize how many serious ping pong players there are out there.  It's such a fun experience, but be sure and book a table ahead of time.

4.) Grab a drink at Rose Bar 

The Rose Bar is one of my favorite places in the city to grab a drink.  Located inside the Gramercy Park Hotel,  the bar is beautiful with works by Damien Hurst and Andy Warhol hanging along the walls.  

Where to Shop:

Even before I lived in New York, this was one store I had to visit every single time I came in to visit the city.  5 floors of unique home decor, bedding, furniture, vintage and handmade finds, and a whole separate building dedicated to lust-worthy rugs make this store one-of-a-kind.  It's full of items you just aren't going to see anywhere else.  Sure, there are some recognizable brands- like John Robshaw Textiles and Tom Dixon lighting- but the items hidden throughout the store in between the bigger names make this stop feel like a real life treasure hunt.   We constantly source from ABC in the design world, and when I'm starting to feel like I've seeing the same things over and over again at other stores, I turn here for a fresh perspective. While most of the items cost a pretty penny, it's worth taking time out of your day to experience ABC.  I suggest ending your shopping trip with a jalepeno basil margarita at ABC Cocina!

2.) Reverie

A true "gem" of a store (sorry... I had to), Reverie features stunning vintage and antique jewelry.  I love popping in here and seeing their latest finds.  You can also shop their collection here, on Etsy.

Outlette is another hidden jewelry spot native to New York.  They have an ever revolving display of unique, creative costume jewelry with on-trend pieces.

4.) 5th Avenue Shops

You might already have these stores in your hometowns, but if not- be sure to stop in at Club Monaco, Sweaty Betty, and Free People all on 5th Avenue.  In fact, almost all the usual fashion stops you might expect in a larger city can be found on 5th in Flatiron.  Safavieh is another interesting home decor store in the area.

Craving more travel inspiration?  Check out my Upper East Side travel guide, my Tulum travel guide, or my Miami travel guide.  

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