NYC Guide: Urban Exploration

If you know what’s good for you and/or have half a brain, you’ve been following our ‘Week In Review’ posts this summer. We’ve been sharing the hot spots that we’ve been hitting up, the coffee we’ve been sipping, and the noms we’ve been eeeeeating. We live to give restaurant recommendations and tell people what they should do (because we’re bo$$y) during their time in the city. After having studied abroad for five months, we have both come to appreciate when a city local shares with us where we should eat, visit, and what we should do. Having recommendations from a city dweller rather than a guide book is often the best way to explore a city, don’t you think? Locals know the hidden gems that most tourists neglect to visit.

As many of our friends and followers aren’t from NYC, we’ve compiled our own city guide for your next visit. Skip Times Square, the Empire State Building, and whatever else your handy-dandy-pocket-sized guide book tells you is a must. Sure, you’ve got to do those things on your first ever trip to NYC, yes. But with our curated guide, we hope that you’ll visit lesser-known, local, and awesome spots within the most lively city in the world.
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Cafe
Stumptown -Visit Stumptown in midtown or downtown for the best iced mocha in the state of New York. We kid you not.
Toby’s Estate – With the shop connected to an awesome bookstore and Club Monaco, a visit to Toby’s will leave you feeling caffeinated, enlightened, and more stylish.
Blue Bird – After you’ve sipped your latte from one of BB’s precious blue mugs, make the quick walk to Russ and Daughters for a bagel with schmear and lox.
La Columbe – Visit their shop at 400 Lafayette St for a bigger, busier atmosphere. If you’re more into the cozy, sometimes-claustrophobic scene, stop by their other location just down the street (270 Lafayette). Lactose-intolerants and sentitives be warned: their only non-dairy milk alternative is hemp milk. We’re usually soy/almond milk gals, but the hemp pleased us too.
Bowery Coffee – The barista was cute and wore a bucket hat, so we don’t really think you need much more reason to go.
Gasoline Alley – Located eerily close to La Colombe, Gasoline Alley is a tiny, hip spot for quality coffee. Go for a drank and to maybe spot our favorite Instagrammer, AGuyNamedPatrick. He’s always there when we’re not!
Happy Bones – Home of the best iced almond latte of Caroline’s life. Believe her. Also, their straws are stripped. Cute and fun! The shop has minimal seating, so be prepared to order a drink to go.
Two Hands – Newly opened in Little Italy, Two Hands is an airy, open shop owned by some ambitious Australians. Go, if only for the accent.
Blue Bottle – When you walk the Highline (which you will), stop by Blue Bottle’s pop-up shop for a cold drank to keep you energized. Order their cold brewed New Orleans, which is served with milk and slightly sweetened. Too good.
Third Rail Coffee – With shops by Washington Square Park and on the lower east side, TRC is a great spot for coffee and delish treats. Also, the woman who served me at their WSP location was really nice, so we feel obligated to give her a shout-out.
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Brunch
The Butcher’s Daughter – For healthy twists on the classic brunch dishes, the Butcher’s Daughter is a go-to. Recommended are the avocado Eggs Benedict (possibly our two favorite things in this world), and their kale salad (also with avocado because what in this world is not enhanced by it). Plus, everyone there was WAY too cool and either post-yoga or on their way to their art studio.
Lallisse – Located across the street from good ole Penelope’s (actually f*ck you Penelope WHY do you always have a 4 hour wait), this place is awesome! It’s a mediterranean local so they pride themselves on their spreads and breads. For brunch, you can chose 3 or 6 (or 9) of these spreads to go with a bread basket. They have sweet options, like Nutella or honey and butter, and savory choices, like hummus and tapenades. Try and give me a reason you wouldn’t go.
Oatmeals – Start your morning here for guess what? OATMEAL! Gabby’s personal favorite breakfast food, oatmeal is a great (and fiber-full!) way to start the day. At Oatmeals, you can order a sweet or savory bowl in baby bear, mama bear, or papa bear sizes (cute) or design your own bowl.
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Health Fix
Liquiteria – Our favorite juice/smoothie shop in the city, easily. Liquiteria’s shops are bright and clean, and their selection never disappoints. Our smoothies of choice are the ‘berry powerful’ and ‘mean green.’ Fresh, healthy, and filling, Liquiteria has given us all the reasons to love it.
Juice Press – Another juice/smoothie haven, JP has about a million amazing, healthy options for you to choose from. They also have salads, healthy versions of your fave treats (e.g. pumpkin pie), all sorts of dried nuts and fruits, and a million other things to tickle your healthy pickle.
Hu Kitchen – If you’ve eaten too much ice cream, too many cookies, or have overdone it on the pizza, stop at Hu for the healthiest meal you may ever have. Everything they serve is non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free (unless noted), made with no canola oil, and entirely clean. With items like primal kale salad, roasted squash salad, walnut fudge brownies, and wild meatloaf on the menu, everyone in your party is bound to find something delicious at Hu.
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Eats
Jack’s Wife Freda – Go for brunch, lunch, dinner, all the meals. Jack’s Wife isn’t only good for people-watching (bloggers love it); their food is pretty unreal and the vibe is lively and young. Order their zucchini chips if you’re a human being.
Rubirosa – Best pizza in SoHo. That we know of, at least. The ‘za is well worth the wait and we highly recommend getting the tie dye pizza; hello, vodka, tomato, pesto, and fresh mozzarella. Meet your maker.
The Smile – Slightly hidden underground, we felt like we were eating where the hobbits would eat if they were #real. The atmosphere was relaxed and earthy, which is perfect for a casual Sunday dinner. We recommend the Moroccan lamb meatballs. Everything about them is right.
Cafe Gitane – Two words: French-Moroccan. That’s their cuisine and they’re doing it 150% right. Order the avocado toast and brie and apple on focaccia for sure. The ambiance is Parisian-casual, which can be hard to find, well, anywhere other than Paris. It helped that we were seated next to a group of French people.
Agave – A great option for an upscale Mexican dining fix. Though we all love the $12 margarita pitchers at our neighborhood dingy place, Agave’s mango margaritas are worth the extra dinero. Their bottomless brunch is also (in)famous so check that out too.
Spice Market – If you’re with your parent$ or celebrating, definitely go to Spice Market. Upon walking in, we thought we were in Southeast Asia. The huge restaurant is designed beautifully and the food certainly disappoint. If you’re not looking to drop a few $$$s on a meal, just visit for the ginger margarita. Seriously. Order a pitcher per person.
Indochine – Another with-your-parent$ meal, Indochine is making the best/only French-Vietnamese food in the city. Can you tell that we like French-Asian fusion? Plus, this is where Caroline’s parents had their first date! AW!
Amelie Wine Bar – Go for the wine. Go for the French waiters. Go for the pistachio-crusted goat cheese ball. Go for the flatbread and the frisée salad with warm bacon and shallots. Mostly go for the chocolate lava cake. Just go.
Mimi Cheng’s – Go for quality dumplings served by a sister-team. They’re fit and love bootcamp and yoga, so we love them. The shop is bright and peppy and the dumplings are fresh, healthy, and delicious.
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Sweets
Lula’s Sweet Apothecary – Vegan ice cream. We know, you’re skeptical. Just listen to us and try it; definitely order the peanut butter variety. If you’re disappointed (which you won’t be), you can walk 3 minutes up to Big Gay Ice Cream for the most solid soft-serve on this side of the Mason Dixon.
Emack and Bolio’s – The cones. THE CONES. Let us explain: they dip the top half of their cones in goods like oreos, rice crispie treats, and m&ms. Also, their ice cream is #insane. Done and done. PS. they started in Boston so to Gabby’s beantown biddies: see you there!
Sundaes and Cones – We’re just going to be honest here and tell you that we ate so much ice cream here that by the time we got home, we both thought we were going to keel over and die (ugh, lactose). But it was entirely worth the tummy aches. And the shop is too cute! But big servings, so watch out.
Momofuku Milk Bar – You’ve only not heard of Momo if you’re living in a cave, a fish, or don’t have Instagram. Order the birthday cake truffles, cereal milk soft-serve with crunchies, and crack pie. Leave the shop, take a seat wherever you find one (even if that means on the ground), and get ready for the best sugar experience of your life. The bday cake truffles changed us, for real.
Levain Bakery – The best cookies we’ve ever had. Everyone else agrees. Get one of each of their 4 varieties and enjoy some of each. Don’t ask for caloric information because a) they won’t give it to you and b) you’ll ruin it for yourself. Gabby’s personal favorite is the chocolate peanut butter cookie because it combines her two favorite things in the world.
People’s Pops – Perfect on a sweltering summer day, PPs is freezing fresh seasonal fruit and locally grown ingredients to make amazing, almost-healthy popsicles to cool you off on any day. With flavors like blackberry/sour cherry and honey, these pops are not to be messed with.
Doughnut Plant – This is NYC, so you’d better eat a damn doughnut or two. Doughnut Plant is one of the originators of the doughnut (donut?) craze and they’re producing an amazing selection of sweet fried delights. Go and do not feel bad afterwards. A doughnut is made with flour which is a carb and we need carbs for energy so as far as I’m concerned, you’re eating an apple.
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Food Festivals, Events, and Miscellaneous Fun
Smorgasburg – Hard to do this festival justice in two sentences (it changed our lives). Basically, it’s a food festival with a variety of different vendors that happens in two different locals in Brooklyn, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. The food they serve up is amazing, so go with an empty stomach, and maybe stay long enough to justify two meals.
Eataly – NYC’s Italian heaven, visit Eataly for pasta, pizza, cheese, Nutella, basically all things even the slightest bit Italian. Pick up ingredients for a dinner or dine there are one of Eataly’s many restaurants. You will not be disappointed and neither will your tummy.
Chelsea Market – A go-to for all things culinary, Chelsea Market is lined with restaurants serving up lobster rolls, bahn mi sandwiches, decadent brownies, and savory pies, among other things. Also, fresh mini doughnuts. Go for lunch so that you and your companions will all find something that you like.
Union Square Greenmarket – Farmstands are one of the things we miss about living in the countryside (aka suburbZ). On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, however, the country is brought to the city, in the form of locally grown ears of corn and cartons of blueberries, freshly made pies and scones, artisan cheeses and meats, and just about everything else. Bonus, if you’re visiting during the colder months, check out the Union Square Holiday market. It puts you in the happiest holiday mood you can imagine.
Bryant Park Summer Events – Caroline’s office is right in Bryant Park, so often when she’s leaving work she looks out over the free yoga that is offered from 5-6 pm on the lawn. Bryant Park is a great Midtown place to check out during the summer months. Free yoga and movie screenings, plus more, are regular occurrences. Plus, the New York Public Library is right there and that is always cool.
Central Park SummerStage – Free concerts offered in Central Park….no we’re not lying. Caroline saw Phoenix and Passion Pit here a few years ago and it was the bomb.com.
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Shopping
Hester Street Fair – In many ways, this street fair is like a mini Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea combined, offering the best of both worlds. A lot of the Smorg vendors sell their stuff here and there is a wide selection of second-hand clothing booths and Etsy-like jewelry makers. Anything that combines fancy tacos and vintage rings is a A+ in our book.
Brooklyn Flea – The Brooklyn Flea market is like a vintage/second-hand version of Smorgsaburg and offers almost everything under the sun. Vintage clothing, handmade goods, jewelry, bikes, records, furniture, knick knacks and more. Like Smorg, the location is different depending on Saturday and Sunday, so check before you thrift!
Beacon’s Closet – Awesome store for all things vintage. Great Levi’s cutoffs and old band shirts. Prices aren’t ridiculous either. This is preferred because we’re sorry, but who is going to spend $80 on a pair of cut-off mom jeans that you could make yourself?
Piperlime – We think we can all agree that piperlime.com is fairly average (sorry, no offense). Maybe it’s the Gap and Old Navy bringing it down (again, apologize), but their site never grabbed our attention as a must-shop spot. The store, to be fair, is the COMPLETE opposite. It’s beautifully arranged and makes the merchandise offered look irresistible. A great stop in Soho while you’re spending away all your money anyway.
Venus by Maria Tash – If you’re like us, you love adding #bling to your ears via little hoops and studs. This place provides not only the cute, delicate aforementioned ear candy (is that a thing?), but also pierces your ears with their jewelry selection in a clean, professional, and friendly environment! Exciting !!!!

Fitness
Cyc – The newest member of the studio cycling club, Cyc is a club-like gym where you can get your fit on. Classes are fun, loud, and lively, making for a great workout. It’s less expen$ive than SoulCycle or FlyWheel and Cyc offers a lower student rate, so what reason do you really have not to go?
Outdoor Runs – If you’re low on dough but still want to sweat, why not run outside? Caroline and I love running down the east river, where a path leads you down the body of water. You’ll be flanked by other NYC runners, many of whom go shirtless. We’re down. We also recommend a Central Park run, which is so beautiful that it might make you cry. Thousands of runners weave through the park each day, leaving us feeling so invigorated! Paths go through the entire park, so you could easily take care of a long run within the confines of the park fences.
Concrete Fitness in Brooklyn – A spot that I wanted to visit but never got a chance to, Concrete is run by two sets of twin brothers. It doesn’t get much better than that, people. It’s worth the subway ride out to Brooklyn to take their Twinsanity class, which is taught by one set of twins and can have you burning upwards of 1,000 calories.
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And so ends our NYC ‘Week In Review’ series. Maybe next summer we’ll be serving up city guides from our new homes! We hope that you’ll refer to our list of suggestions the next time that you’re in the Big Apple. We only want the best for you, and this list is definitely it.

PS. Life in NYC according to New York comedians. It’s all uncomfortably true.

-G and C

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