Hometown Edition: A Summer Sunday Around Manhattan's Upper West Side
We're so excited to share an update to our Hometown Edition series where we'll be using some of our best assets, our friends of course, to bring you guides from locals in the best cities. First up, welcome Alexandra Schwartz (or Ali for short), one of Morgan's best friends since their early days at Trinity College. If you're looking for a great book recommendation or new jams, Ali is your girl. She also has a way with words that truly draws you into her world. A former entertainment editor at Glamour, Ali recently left New York to pursue a California dream. Before she left, we asked her to give us some insight into her favorite New York weekend spots....and here we are! Follow along as Ali shares with us the perfect Sunday in her favorite neighborhood in New York City, the Upper West Side.
For those of you that share Morgan and Amanda’s wanderlust mentality (I do!), reading through Two Blue Passports’ travel itineraries is a mouth watering taste into all of the destinations you’ve always dreamed of visiting but haven’t yet taken the plunge. The Sahara desert of Morocco? Valle de Viñales in Cuba? Yes, please! But for me specifically, there’s one destination—namely my favorite city in the entire world—not listed on this colorful map: New York City.
With all the neighborhoods and boroughs of New York City, I would feel like I was cheating you by trying to cover everything in one post—there’s just too much goodness. Down the road, I’ll introduce my favorite donut shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and sample the best crab legs in Red Hook, Brooklyn, but I’ll start with one of my favorite neighborhoods in Manhattan, and the place I’ve called home for the past couple of years: The Upper West Side.
A little background on the Upper West Side
The Upper West Side is the neighborhood in Manhattan that spans from 59th St to 125th St, west of Central Park. It is home to Lincoln Center, Columbia University, some of the city’s most beautiful brownstones, and celebrated food markets like Zabar’s. It has a “more intellectual” “less stuffy” reputation than the Upper East, and is known for high ceiling and tall window apartments, a great outdoor atmosphere, and an abundance of young dog-walking families. Let’s do this.
To note: all of these stops are local, too local even to take the subway—within a couple miles at most—but Uber and cabs are easy ways to get around if your feet need a break.
FIRST STOP: BARNEY GREENGRASS, “THE STURGEON KING”
Location: 541 Amsterdam Ave @ 86th St
Barney Greengrass is one of those legendary establishments that when you step inside, you feel like you’re a part of New York’s history (so when they claim “We’ve been a New York Tradition Since 1908,” they’re serious). It’s been featured in shows like Sex and the City and Seinfeld, and has that warm, convivial ambiance that makes you never want to leave. The oh-so-New-York servers give off that vibe that they were born there, and the service is immediate. Its fans range from Lena Dunham (she shows her support here) to Leonardo DiCaprio. But none of these reasons are why I love it.
I love it because it’s SO. DAMN. DELICIOUS. Are you into lox on a bagel? Best you’ll ever have. White fish salad? To die for. Chicken liver? Beyond. Matzoh ball soup? Roast beef sandwiches? Egg salad? The best rye toast? I could go on, but I assume by now you get the picture. I love this place so much, I celebrated my 27th birthday there (true story, photo evidence above). It’s hearty, it’s filling, it’s home.
TBP Insider Tip: Cash only—you’ll probably need about $30 per person. ALSO: they have the best latkes (potato pancakes) I’ve ever had, but they’re not on the menu so you’ll need to just know to order them. You’re welcome.
ALTERNATE: If bagels and schmear isn’t necessarily your thing (you’re crazy), opt for Good Enough To Eat on Columbus. You won't be disappointed when you see the thickness of that cut of bacon.
2. WALK OFF THOSE CARBS AT THE 79TH STREET GREENMARKET
Location: Columbus Ave Between 77th & 81st St
Who doesn’t love a good farm fresh street market? On this gorgeous tree-lined strip of Columbus Ave, you’ll find vendors with everything from fresh duck to hot apple cider. The aromas are wonderful, and the friendly market goers always have a good recipe to share.
TBP Insider Tip: Make sure you stop at the store Book Culture along the way—one of my favorite indie bookstores located at Columbus and 82nd. Perfect for your next novel, a great gift, or just to peruse. There are also tons of other cute shops along the way.
Location: 79th and Columbus
Since you already have your wallets out after going to the Greenmarket, make sure you stop at its brother: GreenFlea, one of my favorite Manhattan Flea Markets. The proceeds of the market benefit four New York Public Schools—and purchases from the market benefit your closet, living room, and gift-giving reputation. They have vintage jackets, handmade rugs, furniture, and tons of adorable bespoke items. Example: me, above, holding a vintage Trinity College (Morgan and my alma matter) flag. The vendors are friendly and the finds are priceless.
4. 79TH ST BOAT BASIN
Location: The farthest west you can go on 79th St, at the river
At this point, you’re probably ready for a beer. Lucky for you, there’s a boat basin slash beer hall only a few blocks away that will make you suddenly feel like you’re at a marina in Long Island. 79th St boat basin, while admittedly a bit fratty at times (you might want to drop your grandmother off at the hotel for a nap during this stop), is a great afternoon hang out for watching sports, playing cards (it would behoove you to bring a deck), and having a delicious outdoor lunch. On sunny days, you can expect a wait, but the place is spacious enough where you’ll be able to grab a beer and find a perch until your table is ready.
5. AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
Location: 79th St and Central Park West
Because a tour of the Upper West Side wouldn’t be complete without it. One of the largest museums in the world and home to the stunning Hayden Planetarium, it’s the perfect opportunity to go hang with the dinosaurs and say hi to your predecessors.
6. STROLL THROUGH CENTRAL PARK
If you haven’t noticed, you’re now right across the street from the famed Central Park. So, grab a gatorade at one of the vending carts right outside the museum, and head into the park at the 79th Street entrance for a late afternoon stroll—or to find a bench to park, people watch, and relax for a bit. If you do feel like wandering and your legs are up for it, Shakespeare Garden, Belvedere Castle, and Delacorte Theater are all very close by.
Editor's Addition: Pop into Levain Bakery (167 West 74th St) for the BEST cookies to bring some snacks into the park.
7. MERMAID INN FOR DINNER
Location: 570 Amsterdam Ave
Honestly, any restaurant you end up in around the Upper West Side will be a winner. There’s Kefi (505 Columbus) if you feel like greek food, Spring Natural Kitchen (474 Columbus) if you’re looking to eat natural, Momoya (427 Amsterdam) if you’re in the mood for sushi, Motorino (510 Columbus) if you want some classic New York City pizza—but I’m going to recommend you go to Mermaid Inn, a charming seafood spot with the perfect evening ambiance. Their raw bar is the perfect starter, and their entrees are fresh, delicious, and not over the top. My favorite part is the small post-dinner surprise. You’ll see!
8. SEE A SHOW AT BEACON THEATER
Location: 2124 Broadway between 74th and 75th St
Disclaimer: there aren’t always shows on Sunday nights at Beacon Theater, but if you happen to be strolling the Upper West any other night, or if you’re lucky enough to catch one—definitely do. This is one of the most beautiful, art deco style theaters you’ll ever visit—the “older sister” of Radio City Music Hall, built in 1929 by Chicago architect Walter Ahlschlager. The Rolling Stones, Jerry Garcia, Michael Jackson, James Taylor, and so many more have all performed on this legendary stage (most recently I saw Yusuf/Cat Stevens, a fantastic show, and have also seen the likes of Alabama Shakes, Leon Bridges, and Alt-J on that stage). It’s a memorable treat.
If you can’t swing Beacon, definitely check out what Lincoln Center (10 Lincoln Center Plaza) just down the street has to offer!
And last but not least..
9. GO GRAB A NIGHT CAP AT MAISON PICKLE!
Location: 2315 Broadway
You won’t regret it.
Hope you enjoyed your Upper West Side Day!
Your Summer Sunday
Don't forget, you can SAVE this map to your favorites when you're signed into Google Maps, so you can have all of Ali's spots at your fingers tips. Detailed instructions can be found here!