New York is known as the city that never sleeps, but the action sure does cool down once winter hits. With many residents and tourists on vacation, those working taking things a bit less seriously and the warm weather making it easier to get around town, late summer is the best time to explore New York and all its countless independent entertainment options.
As a self-proclaimed purveyour of finding the most fab things to do in NYC, here’s a compiled a guide to some of New York’s top niche bars, performance ensembles, boutiques, restaurants and fairs to check out. Independent, relatively small and full of local character, these guys are a far cry from the big business entertainment of the M&M’s World concept store in Times Square or The Lion King show on Broadway (although fun to visit nonetheless).
Places to Eat:
Heralded by the New York Post as the city’s best Greek restaurant, Periyali (35 W. 20th St., Flatiron District) has redefined traditional Greek fine dining. Inspired by the cuisine of the Greek Islands, current Executive Chef Charles Bowman’s top dishes are Lavraki Plaki (baked striped bass filet), Ortiki (grilled quail with mushrooms and spinach) and Mousakas (a ground lamb and eggplant casserole).
With its extremely modest scale and no-nonsense Lower East Side authenticity, the menu at Home Espresso Bar (250 Broome St., Lower East Side) includes highlights like a ham-avocado-cheddar sandwich, kale salad, raw tuna-arugula-olive baguette and a medley of fennel and citrus. For summer, check out the cold-brewed iced coffee and juices squeezed to order. And yes, its Old World-style coffee is spectacular.
Locavore-friendly Russian soul food spot Karloff (254 Ct. St., Cobble Hill), a project of Artur and Olga Shishko, is beloved by Brooklyn diners for its kielbasa-potato croquettes, beef dumplings, vegan potato pancakes and cold borscht. Their ice cream, delivered from Jane’s two hours out of the city over in Kingston, is likewise celebrated, with an unpredictable rotation of offbeat flavors like date-rosewater and prune-brandy. Karloff’s wine menu is extensive.
Danish-Israeli master baker Uri Scheft’s artisinal Breads Bakery (18 E. 16th St., Union Square) has a rabid following, thanks to high-quality traditional sunflower spelt, fig-walnut loaf, rugelach and what is considered by many to be New York’s best chocolate babka. There’s a cafe on the premises, and Scheft also teaches baking classes periodically.
Check out the convergence of classical ballet training and contemporary movement expression with the Continuum Contemporary/Ballet company, performing at various venues around town. You can catch a glimpse of their beautiful act here.
Wholesome, old-school slapstick troupe New York Goofs has been called “Hilarious” by the Times. The red-nosed crew appears regularly at area hospitals, shopping malls and small theaters. Every August, they host a clown school at TriBeca’s noncommercial Flea Theater.
Following its early summer run of a Love’s Labour’s Lost musical reboot, Shakespeare in the Park (Delacourte Theater, 81 Central Park W., Upper West Side) is currently gearing up for three early September performances of The Tempest. The free shows include contributions by over 200 members of community ensembles hailing from all five boroughs.
Shopping, Art and Luxury:
Brooklyn’s Campus Mercante (419 Ave. P., Midwood) is an urban gear retail dream. Founded and operated by a collective of artists and designers, the shop is currently celebrating its one-year birthday. Head here for streetwear, custom skating gear, accessories and clothing that’s funky and gritty.
What’s more pampering than a treatment at a luxury spa? A spa treatment house call, of course. Harper Monroe (11 Penn. Plz., Midtown West) is a service that comes to you, offering pedicures, facials, massages and waxings. Add-ons include tea and wine service during your treatment, and they’ll even do experiences for couples and groups.
Known for its restrained bourgeois character, the Upper West Side is a surprising context for an edgy gallery space like 25 CPW (25 Central Park W., Upper West Side). Rapid fire exhibitions showcase the photographs, paintings and other visual works of lesser known talent that deserves a soapbox.
Places to Drink:
Brooklyn haunt The Gutter (200 N.14th St., Williamsburg) brings the holy trinity of working class-style nightlife – beer pitchers, bowling and live guitar rock – under one roof. Happy hour specials, t-shirt design contests, vintage motorcycle shows and trivia nights round out the hipster fun.
The cozy French-Morroccan bistro known as Bar Six (502 Ave. of the Americas, Greenwich Village) has plenty of celebrated food items on its brunch, lunch and dinner menus (chicken tagine, eggplant risotto), but the cocktails are what really make Bar Six shine. Highlights include the chili-basil margarita and the ginger-watermelon martini.
The Hester Street Fair (Hester St. & Essex St., Lower East Side), with its curated vintage home wares, boutique designs and specialty foods, convenes from noon to 10:00 PM every Saturday through late October. Its artisanal gastronomy spinoff series, Hester Nights, welcomes recreational eating and drinking at the Eventi Hotel Plaza (851 6th Ave., Korea Town) from 5:00 to 10:00 PM every Thursday through late September.
The non-profit Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, dedicated to furthering the neighborhoods’ small businesses, presents an upcoming late August instance of its sundown Chelsea Bazaar, with an open bar and unlimited tastings from the likes of Red Hook’s Sixpoint Brewery and East Williamsburg’s The Bagel Store. In early September, the Chamber kicks off New York Fashion Week with Tesla Style Night, a showcase of “sustainable style.”
The free coworking space, Wix Lounge (235 W. 23d St., Chelsea) comes back from Rosh Hashanah hiatus with a vengeance, with a fair trade fashion show, guidance lectures for non-profit management, and a reception for abstract canvas collage artist Tomo Mori this September.