Your friend’s coming to town tomorrow, and you completely forgot. Do you really have to take them out? Yes. Problem is, your friend wants to see the sights - and you have no interest in the Brooklyn Bridge or the Statue of Liberty. If these things were meant to be seen up close, they wouldn’t be so big. (Plus, you’re tired.)
Still, you have to show your friend a good time. So what’s the compromise? Try one of these spots. They’re cool enough to satisfy an out-of-towner and mellow enough to keep you sane.
Your friend wants to check out St. Mark’s. You’d rather they punch you in the face. That’s when you mention The Wayland. It’s practically on St. Mark’s (Alphabet City, so close enough). Tell your friend to enjoy a kale margarita while you go to town on a pulled chicken sandwich.
Nowadays, the Lower East Side is full of great restaurants. And that’s good news for fans of Freeman’s. Lately the crowd has thinned at this two-story joint in an alley off Rivington. The food won’t blow your mind, but it’s solid, and there’s taxidermy. Done deal. Bring your friend, and tell them it’s the hottest rez in town. Will they believe you? Who knows? Why are you even lying to your friend in the first place?
Your friend wants pizza, and, although Joe’s is good by any standard, you’d rather not eat standing up. Enter Rubirosa. Share a reasonably priced, above-average pie with your friend in the dark, bustling dining room. If there’s a wait, get things rolling at Botanica Bar up the street. (There are couches in the back.)
Skip the Empire State Building. Visit The Old Town Bar. It’s older, and they have good burgers. If your vacationing friend wants to see a genuine piece of New York history, show them the urinals. They were built in 1910. Imagine what those urinals have seen. Now probably stop imagining.
Even when it’s packed, this Chinatown bar feels civil. The crowd skews fashion-y, but wear whatever you want. Let your friend people watch ’til their eyes fall out, while you kick it by some shrubbery with a Tsingtao. Keep dinner on theme, and get dumplings at Lam Zhou after.
Your friend wants to visit Times Square. You told them it’s the equivalent of a human-scale roach trap with really good lighting - but they didn’t come all the way across the country to not buy a giant box of Nerds. So you go. And afterwards you get a cocktail at the nearby Rum House. Because without this little wood-paneled bar, Times Square might objectively be the worst.
What if a visiting friend wants to go to clubbing on a Friday night? Is it okay to take them to the spacious, lively lobby bar at the Ace Hotel and tell them it’s a club? Yes. One-hundred percent. If everyone has fun, what’s the harm? Is that a couch you can nap on? Why, yes, it is.
Picture the Bowery Hotel if no one knew about the Bowery Hotel. That’s The Marlton. It gets busy, but not nearly as busy as it should be. The bar’s just as nice as the one at the Bowery, but the scene is less... sceney. Plus, there’s a fireplace. Go there for a low-key night in Lower Manhattan or stop by whenever you need to dramatically burn a letter in a fireplace.
Think 1940’s seaside cafe designed by Wes Anderson. That’s Navy. Now imagine how you’ll feel having mussel toast and rose at one of their little round tables. True, Charlie Bird’s just down the street - but Navy’s more relaxed. Bring your tourist friend. Wear a pajama top. High five your server. Tip twenty percent.
It’s Friday night, and a friend just called to say they’re in town. What’s the game plan? Joseph Leonard. Why? They don’t take reservations, and they serve good food in a cozy space. Put your name on the waiting list, then walk to Marie’s Crisis and stuff a few dollars in a fishbowl for the opportunity to sing your favorite show tune.
When you need a cool, casual French bistro, Cafe Gitane is there for you. We like the one Mott where you can sit outside and watch tourists point at things that don’t matter. Do this for a bit, then show your friend something of real significance: the O.G. avocado toast.
Smith & Mills opened in 2007. In New-York-restaurant years, that makes it forty-five. It’s still a cool place to hang, but it isn’t as crowded as it used to be. Grab a drink in the little space that used to be a carriage house, then walk your friend to the Hudson and point to the Statue of Liberty. Tell them the ferry is broken, and return to Smith & Mills.
This upper-Greenpoint bar stays mostly tourist-free. You’ll still get a bunch of Brooklyn residents, but we’ll take the crowd at Achilles Heel over the mob at Kinfolk any day. Bring your friend and convince them they’re in Williamsburg. When they realize you lied (about this and perhaps countless other things), order some food. A few bites later, all will be forgiven.
Most people go to Emmy Squared for the pizza - but the pro move is going to the burger bar in the basement. It doesn’t get as crowded, and the vibe is completely different (think Midwestern dive). Take an out-of-towner and tell them it’s one of the best burgers in Brooklyn. That’ll be truth, and you’ll feel strange for telling it.
We love The High Line - but so do tourists. If your friend wants to check it out, go to the northernmost entrance then point out the McKittrick Hotel. Tell them it’s the place that does Sleep No More, and that there’s a bar on top called Gallow Green. Then ask (and the phrasing’s important) if they’d rather join the sweaty human centipede that is the High Line or get a drink on a shady rooftop.