Restaurants & bars
The best home-style macaroni-and-cheese without actually being at home:
Chat ‘n Chew
10 E. 16th St.
Hot, gooey macaroni-and-cheese with a crunchy top. What else could you want? For home-style everything — from burgers to meat loaf to the quintessential macaroni-and-cheese — Chat ‘n Chew is the place to go. The warm, inviting atmosphere with retro signs and colorful holiday lights that adorn the walls just ooze home. Have we mentioned their scrumptious banana-rama-licious cake? Yum is the only word for this place. –Adriana Erin Rivera
Best place to see a postman sing ‘Highway to Hell’:
Punk Rock Heavy Metal Karaoke night at Fontana’s
105 Eldridge St.
You haven’t experienced karaoke until you’ve been to this long-running punk-metal karaoke night, which features a live backing band that can play anything from AC/DC to ZZ Top at the drop of a studded hat. It’s as close to being a rock star as most of us will ever get. –Heidi Patalano
Best place to get a delicious burger at 3 a.m. and not feel like you’re slumming it:
249 Park Avenue South
Being starving in the early morning hours usually relegates eating-out choices to the Halal truck, greasy pizza or McDonald’s. Thankfully, L’Express’ upscale bistro, which features a variety of French delicacies in addition to some straight-up amazing beef and lamb burgers, is open 24 hours a day. –Heidi Patalano
Best low-key two-for-one happy hour:
168 Avenue B
This unassuming little hole-in-the-wall is usually only identifiable by the small chalkboard sign out front, which is part of its secret-hiding-spot appeal. Add to that, great music and a backyard for smokers. The drinks are inexpensive to begin with, and the happy hour two-for-one makes it that much easier for you to invite your unemployed friends out, guilt-free. –Heidi Patalano
Best place to feel like you’re in Brooklyn when you’re really in Murray Hill:
159 Lexington Ave.
Walk into this quaint cafe/bar/bakery and you’re instantly transported away from the high-rise buildings and congested city streets. Here, scruffy, hip staffers clad in vintage aprons serve yummy comfort foods like chicken pot pie, veggie burgers — it’s a great spot for vegetarians — and magic bars. Warning: If you go for brunch, prepare to wait. –Tina Chadha
Best new spot featuring hand-pulled organic noodles:
55 Bond St.
This recently opened restaurant serves delicious hand-pulled organic noodle dishes such as beef with tripe, smoked egg, sweet onion and purple potato — or duck breast with duck leg, gizzard, Szechuan pepper, carrot and orange preserve. The drink list washes it all down perfectly — it features artisanal beers from around the world, as well as large list of wines and sakes. –Dorothy Robinson
Best steakhouse with stab-your-husband-with-your-fork-if-he-tries-to-steal-a-bite potato sides:
56 Beaver St.
Delmonico’s is a dining institution (see: exquisitely old-school decor and attentive service). They named a freaking cut of steak after this place, after all. But the potatoes — hash, double fried, whipped — are what you’ll be trying to replicate in your own kitchen. –Amber Ray
Best hidden Caribbean food joint:
803 Washington Ave.,
This little, tucked-away spot in Prospect Heights is so good, so delicious and such a wonderful New York secret that we’re afraid of mentioning it, lest it gets overrun. The menu — which features Caribbean staples such as jerk chicken, curry chicken, curry shrimp and, yes, oxtail and curried goat — changes daily at the whim of the charming staff (most of whom cook your order in one of the tiniest kitchens in Brooklyn). The portions run big and spicy, so be prepared for leftovers — and a desire to keep coming back. –Dorothy Robinson
Best pizza place to load up on toppings for under $10:
Singas Famous Pizza
8125 Lefferts Blvd.,
The Kew Gardens branch of this famous Queens chain lets you personalize your own freshly made pie with as many toppings as your heart desires — pineapple, anchovies, jalapeno, barbecue chicken, smoked bacon, fresh veggies — go crazy, the options are endless. And as if your inner fat boy wasn’t already doing the running man, they now serve a variety of mouth-watering sliders as well. –Amber Ray
Best foodie neighborhood where non-millionaires still live:
BoCoCa – Boerum Hill/Carroll Gardens
This year, some of the most notable additions to New York’s food scene came from this stroller-friendly hood, which also just won the honor of being home to Brooklyn’s first Michelin two-star restaurant, Brooklyn Fare. –Heidi Patalano
Best $26 burger:
113 MacDougal St.
The blend of rib-eye, skirt steak and brisket results in a succulent eight-ounce patty. Topped with caramelized onions and placed in a Balthazar Bakery brioche sesame bun, your burger-experience (and burger-paying experience) will never be the same. –Marie-France Perel
Arts, lifestyle & entertainment
The quaintest theater space you’ll ever find in an office building:
Center Stage, NY
48 W. 21st St., 4th Floor
The off-off-Broadway theater and rehearsal space has been around for years. As LAByrinth Theater Company’s former stomping grounds, it has been a part of the development of numerous new plays that have grown into award-winning shows. Current resident theater companies Developing Artists Theater Company and The LabRats add to the eclectic energy in this beloved space. –Adriana Erin Rivera
Best mainstream movie theater that is never packed:
Regal Battery Park Stadium 11
102 North End Ave.
Want to get a taste of the sprawling suburbs? This relatively new theater boasts stadium seating, a ton of screens, all the overpriced candy and popcorn you could want — and guess what? No one else in New York knows about it. Next time you want to see a movie on opening weekend, try this theater first. –Heidi Patalano
Best neighborhood to catch a rock show:
This little out of the way area of Brooklyn is really picking up in the way of venues, like the recently opened Rock Shop and Littlefield. But really, it’s hard to beat the grand-dame of venues, the Bell House. It’s got ambiance, reading series, stand-up comedians (we especially like when the Rejection Collection ,when comedians and writers read stories about, well, rejection), a great stage, delicious drinks and killer sound. It’s worth risking taking the F train for — and that’s saying a lot. –Dorothy Robinson
Best neighborhood to meet a hottie … and find out he/she lives just down the street from you:
People without the benefit of pooled income for a one-bedroom have long been priced out of Williamsburg; and thus, the singletons have migrated upstream a bit to Greenpoint. With popular watering holes like Enid’s (560 Manhattan Ave., 718-349-3859) and Black Rabbit (91 Greenpoint Ave., Brooklyn, 718-349-1595), it’s the best place to sidle up to the bar, throw back a whiskey and see where the night takes you. –Heidi Patalano
Best place to take a nap during your lunch break:
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42 Street (N.Y. Public Library)
The best place to nap on your lunch break lies on 42 Street, just beyond Bryant Park. It’s sweeping windows and winding hallways are easy to get lost in, and entrance is always free. All you need to do is find a chair, an empty stair or a desk and rest your head. They even have professionals ‘shhhhhing’ all day long. The New York Public Library is one of the most relaxing places in midtown for a midday snooze; not to mention it’s chock-full of bedtime stories. –Emily Anne Epstein
Best artsy neighborhood no one pegs as artsy:
The diverse artist community of this Staten Island nabe (including museums Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art and Staten Island Museum, as well as galleries Tattfoo and Art at Bay) hosts an arts stroll every second Saturday of the month (www.secondsaturdaystatenisland.com). See? St. George really is more than the turn-around spot on your free cruise of New York harbor. –Amber Ray
Best overlooked neighborhood area to raise a family:
Although more up-and-coming (read: gentrifying) than the famed Park Slope, Prospect Heights offers the same things parents love — the extremely kid-friendly Brooklyn Library, First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum, quick access and proximity to Prospect Park and the Grand Army farmer’s market — but at much cheaper rent. The school options are still not on the Park Slope level, but PS 9 seems to be aiming high. –Dorothy Robinson
Best way to get to the Jersey Shore without sitting in traffic on the Parkway:
Pier 11 (Wall Street),
East 35th Street,
Seastreak makes a weekend trip (or miserable commute) from New Jersey feel like a ride on a cruise ship. With big-screen TVs, a bar, and awesome views of the Statue of Liberty, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the city skyline, coming and going is a pleasure. The 40-minute ride from Lower Manhattan to the northern tip of the Jersey Shore’s Atlantic Highlands would be more than twice that by bus, train or car. Whether a daily commute or a summer beach day-trip, the boats leave the city from Pier 11 and E. 35th Street and stop near Sandy Hook. The only drawback is the cost ($40 round-trip with discounts for multiple ride packs). But did you hear the part about it having a bar? –Ron Varrial
Best (free) way to forget you live in New York:
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
1000 Washington Ave.,
If you ever want to escape the city without getting stuck in traffic, then make a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to explore its vast gardens, exhibitions and green landscapes. On Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, it’s free — making it the best and cheapest way to escape the fact you live in one of the biggest cities on the planet. –Dorothy Robinson
Best morbidly beautiful place to go for a walk:
771-777 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn
Just a 10-minute walk from the stroller-cramped sidewalks of Park Slope, the 478 acres of Green-Wood will give you plenty of respite from other city-dwellers — except for the dead ones, of course. The cemetery is the resting place of Leonard Bernstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat, in addition to being home to many gorgeous mausoleums, statues and enormous trees dating back to 1838. –Heidi Patalano
Shopping & services
Best place to walk in clueless about fashion and walk out with a guaranteed fashionista-approved look:
35 Howard St.
Everything in Opening Ceremony — from its in-house collaboration with brands such as Levi’s and Pendleton to the various hip, cutting-edge brands they carry — has the stamp of downtown cool. It’s guaranteed that whatever avant-garde number you pick will get props from the fashion set. –Tina Chadha
Best place to buy a suit where you’re treated like “Boardwalk Empire” royalty:
Michael Andrew Bespoke
2 Great Jones Alley
Michael Andrews Bespoke will craft a hand-tailored suit that fits perfectly. Enjoy a glass of top-shelf scotch while their chic-yet-casual staff guides you on what materials to pick, as well as the size of the lapels — all the way down to the buttonholes. Why even bother with Saks or Bloomingdales when you can get a handcrafted, impeccable suit for half the cost here? It’s a no-brainer. –Dorothy Robinson
Best place to score free samples of very expensive, high-end beauty products:
La Prairie counters
Visit www.shoplaprairie.com for locations.
La Prairie, the luxe Swiss beauty company known for their marvelous and (gulp!) super-expensive cult-favorites like the Caviar cream ($390) and Platinum-infused anti-aging creams ($650) are giving away free, deluxe-size samples that can last you five to seven days. Just stop by for a consultation at the La Prairie counter at Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom or Saks Fifth Avenue and leave with goodies. Now, if you hit up all five counters … –Tina Chadha
Best toy store to calm freaked out childless aunts and uncles:
60 W. 15th St.
Last year, I went to Kidding Around in an effort to find something for my 5- and 2-year-old nephews. Not knowing anything about kids — or, for that matter, what they like — within moments I was frantic. Luckily, the kind, knowledgeable sales staff took time to help me find an appropriate gift out of the store’s high-end and well-thought-out selection (no cheap plastic toys here). Added bonus? Free gift-wrapping. –Dorothy Robinson
Best no-frills place to buy cheap booze:
Warehouse Wines & Spirits
This no-frills liquor store/warehouse is likely to have the best deal you’ll find on your favorite tipple. Well-stocked, it’s a great place to pick up a nice bottle of Lagavulin to impress your boss or a case of three-buck-chuck to satisfy those friends of friends that you don’t really like, but who always turn up uninvited at your gatherings. –Benn Storey
Best discount home supply store that the nesting hoards don’t know about:
3621 13th Ave., Brooklyn
For those looking to outfit their new digs with essentials like pots and pans, shower curtains, a fresh layer of paint and all the cleaning supplies the heart desires, Bergament is the place to go. The place and the products may not be fancy, but the rock-bottom prices are unbeatable; and the location will keep you far as possible from the insanity of any Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond in the five boroughs. –Heidi Patalano
Best place to find affordable, cool, one-of-a-kind furniture you will never see in your friend’s apartment:
Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market
West 39th Street between 9th and 10th avenue
Who says New York doesn’t have good flea markets? Hit up the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market and haggle with over a 100 vendors for mid-century modern dressers, bohemian candelabras, antique rugs, a coat hook in the shape of a pistol and all sorts of tchotchkes and home accents to give your place personal flare. –Tina Chadha
Best mattress store to haggle and receive a steep discount:
Visit www.sleepys.com to find a location near you.
In the age of the notorious bed-bug infestation, most of us will have to replace our mattresses. And when that time comes, head to Sleepy’s. Not only is the chain — now in its 53rd year in business — permanently having some sort of sale, but they offer steep discounts for first-timers and guarantee to beat anyone’s price by 20 percent. The key is to bargain — and never settle for the ticked price. –Tina Chadha
Best place to buy seasonal fresh produce … and Christmas trees:
Union Square Farmer’s Market
Union Square West at 15th Street to 17th St. at Park South
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., year-round.
Closed: 12/25 and 1/1.
Early in the morning, four days per week, local producers journey into the city to sell their wares to the hoards of New Yorkers vying for the best picks of the season. As well as the obvious — and superb — fruit and vegetable stalls, depending on the season, you’ll also find local wineries, dairies with delicious cheeses, fresh-baked artisanal breads, hand-made pretzels, fresh-cut flowers, mushrooms and all the plants you can handle to fill your window box to the bursting point. Just be sure to get there early and beat the crowds. And yes, things being picked yesterday does make a difference. –Benn Storey
Best salon to get updates on the eco-friendly/sustainable/organic world while getting your hair did:
Grace Heaven Organic Salon
226 E. Third St.
In this tiny East Village salon — always decorated with fresh flowers — clients are met with a comforting hot cup of Rishi tea or organic sparkling juice. As stylist Jane Webb dry-cuts and updates their hair, conversation veers on all things natural, from the newest eco-friendly computers (yes, they exist!) to the best raw-food spots in town. –Tina Chadha
Best place to get your back fixed if you work on Wall Street:
Liberty Wellness & Chiro
30 Wall St., Suite 500
Is the rocky market taking its toll on your shoulders and back? Then slip into Liberty Wellness and Chiro, where a skilled massage therapist will spend 30 minutes getting rid of your knots and stress-induced aches and pains. The clinic also offers chiropractic care, physical therapy and acupuncture — and they take corporate plans. –Tina Chadha
Best gym to make you forget you’re at a gym:
For locations, visit www.equinox.com.
Yes, the monthly fees are shockingly high, but as the old motto goes: You get what you pay for. And with Equinox, it’s a lot. Their excellent and varied group classes, spotlessly clean locker rooms (stocked with Kiehl’s products, no less), friendly staff and intelligent trainers make — dare we say? — going to the gym a true treat instead of torture. –Dorothy Robinson
Best place for a pain-free bikini wax — and a good laugh:
Strip: Ministry of Waxing
56 Spring St.
We don’t know what kind of fairy dust they put in their in-house Chocolate Berry hard wax, but anyone squeamish about pain should head to Strip, where they can pretty much nap through the process. Still nervous? Their cheeky posters (an orangutan jumping into a lake with two bikini-clad cuties?) are good for a chuckle. And this Singaporean chain is staunch about hygiene — there’s no double-dipping, ever. –Tina Chadha