The Very Best of New York 2016

GO rounds up our fave hotspots to eat, play, shop (and support) in the city that never sleeps!

It’s been a rough year, but the Big Apple’s always got your back. If you’re looking to get out there and shake off the dust (or dirt) of 2016, no other city overflows with more opportunities to have fun and enjoy urban life in its local haunts. In GO’s annual roundup of NYC hotspots, we hone in on some of our favorite venues, community spaces, eateries and pastimes—from fresh options to old standbys—that make us proud to be New Yorkers. Ring in 2017 right by checking out our picks for the “best of the best” in our beloved hometown.

EAT

BEST ITALIAN PASTRIES
Pasticceria Rocco, 243 Bleecker St., roccos.nyc. The most delicious cannolis you will ever taste can be found here. Have them with chocolate chips or pistachios or both. There is waited table service, or you can just order pounds of cream puffs and Napoleans wrapped up to go in a bakery box.

BEST ASIAN
Taste Good Malaysian, 82-18 45th Ave., Elmhurst, NY. This place is a cash only hole in the wall but the food is outstanding. Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with Malaysian food; there are photos on the wall to assist you. Just point at what you want to eat and get to it. Order the Tahu Emas and everything else on the menu.

BEST CHEAP MIDDLE EASTERN
Oasis, 161 N 7th St, Brooklyn. This place serves up Middle Eastern realness until 3 a.m. which is not why it’s the best, but that fact does make it even better. While the falafel is the most bang for your buck, the shish kabab sandwich and the vegetarian plates are also to die for. The red cabbage slaw that they put on the sandwiches is basically the best as is the Baba ganoush which may be purchased separately. Oasis has a second location in Greenpoint that is just as good for a quick bite, but it closes at 10 p.m.

BEST TASTE OF EUROPE
Ukrainian National Home, 140 2nd Ave. You would not know this place was a restaurant because it’s tucked in the back of what seems to be a mini-mall. When you enter the restaurant, similarly you wouldn’t know that behind the restaurant is a ballroom where dance classes are held. All of this is beside the point—eat the pierogies and the stuffed cabbage plate and thank us later. Also enjoy the fresh baked bread that comes with your meal.

BEST LATE NIGHT PIZZA
Anna Maria Pizza, 179 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn. This is the spot for eating pizza late at night. It’s right by the train and open until 3 a.m. regularly, and until 5 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Nothing is more fun than watching the man who often works behind the counter late Friday and Saturday play jokes on the drunk patrons. Although toppings are a bit more expensive, they are loaded on and totally worth it. Bring cash—they don’t take cards.

BEST MANHATTAN COFFEE BAR
Joe Coffee, various locations, joenewyork.com. There are many Joes and hot baristas work at most of them. Devotees of this local chain have been known to line up outside and even barge in before they’ve opened to get their fix. Joe uses fair trade and traceable coffee so while each location has a different vibe, the taste of the coffee is consistent.

BEST BROOKLYN CAFE
Urban Vintage, 294 Grand Ave., Brooklyn, urbanvintageny.com. This cafe is located just around the corner from Pratt and often filled with students and locals luxuriating in the decently sized space complete with large windows. The menu at this cafe is nothing to scoff at either, with a full array of breakfast and lunch options as well as pastries and hot and cold drinks. The cafe also strangely sells cool one of a kind gifts, so it basically has everything. Wifi, seating, outlets, lighting, people watching—perfect.

BEST HIPSTER BREAKFAST
Harefield Road, 769 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, harefieldbrooklyn.com. Who doesn’t love a cheap prix fixe brunch? Harefield Road won us over with their bloody marys, mimosas and Irish coffees which come with a variety of brunch options including a burger, huevos rancheros, or Harefield eggs which are basically poached eggs on salmon toast. The $13 brunch comes with regular coffee and great people watching and is served from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

BEST SMALL PLATES
Dim Sum in Flushing Ocean Jewels, 13330 39th Ave, Flushing. Pointing at food carts could not be more enjoyable than it is at this white linen Dim Sum spot in Flushing. When you sit down, you will get a card and people pushing carts will come by to show you what they’re offering. Definitely get the shrimp dumplings, the shrimp rice roll, egg custard, the tofu skin wrap and anything else that looks good. Because these are small plates, it’s best to go with friends so you can try everything. Prices are reasonable, so you won’t blow your budget but it’s definitely fancy enough for a nice occasion like a birthday.

BEST BROOKLYN SMORGASBORD
Berg’n, 899 Bergen St, Brooklyn, bergn.com. This place has everything you could ever want in one place. Coffee, wine, beer, food, music, plenty of seating and no one ever comes around trying to kick you out. On nice days they open the garage doors to an ample courtyard. The bathrooms are always clean, there is free wifi, and there are a good number of outlets. It’s a really solid place for doing just about anything, like what the Williamsburg mini-mall used to be.

BEST ROMANTIC DATE NIGHT
Sisters, 900 Fulton St., Brooklyn, sistersbklyn.com. If Pinterest was a bar, but in the best, most tasteful way. Low lighting, high ceilings, and great music create the ambiance, and there are always a good number of cute patrons talking to each other about what seem to be very interesting things. This place is so romantic that you might go here with two friends and end up in a throuple. The menu is not large enough to get lost in, the food is good, and everything is well prepared and perfect for fancy time. Plus the name is some obvious lesbian homage. There’s a dance floor in the back if that’s your preferred method of getting frisky.

BEST WAFFLES AND PANCAKES
Choice Market, 318 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, choicebrooklyn.com. This is a small spot without much seating, but it makes up for what it lacks by keeping prices low and food perfect. Choice is essentially a bakery but one that serves delicious breakfast and lunch food including blueberry pancakes and waffles with bananas, walnuts and pecans. You can, of course, get coffee, and if you snag a seat at the large open table, there are always papers to read and people to meet.

BEST PHO
Pho Bang, 157 Mott St. Really the best Pho is at Pho Bang in Elmhurst, Queens, but it’s currently closed for renovation, so its sister restaurant on Mott Street is taking the prize. Good Pho is hard to find, and the Bang broth is truly bangin’. Get Pho Tai regular, served with bean sprouts, top round, and on Mott Street, lime. The Queens location serves it with lemons (a personal preference) so when it re-opens check it out.

BEST CHEESECAKE
Juniors Cheesecake, 386 Flatbush Avenue, juniorscheesecake.com. This is what they’re known for. Cheesecake is in the name of the place. Need we say more? It’s delicious.

BEST BEER AND BURGER JOINT
Flatbush Farm Barn, 76 St. Marks Ave, Brooklyn, flatbushfarm.com. Another great spot to take a date, especially if you don’t mind shoving a giant delicious burger in your face while trying to talk. Flatbush Farm has two sides, a fancy dining side with white linens and a bar side for cheaper fare. The trick is you can order from the bar menu on either side of the restaurant, so if you long for a burger just ask for the bar menu. The beer selection is always good but not overwhelming and in the summer and fall, the outdoor area of this large restaurant and
bar makes it the best place for any large or small occasion.

SHOP

BEST BOOKSTORE
Bureau of General Services Queer Division at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, 208 West 13th Street. bgsqd.com. There is actually a bookstore inside the LGBT center, and it sometimes even hosts amazing events. When you discover this spot, you’ll be surprised you never knew such an awesome place existed. Buy some zines and check out the Keith Haring art in the building.

BEST USED BOOKSTORE
Strand Books, 828 Broadway, strandbooks.com. If you ask most New Yorkers what their go-to used bookstore is, this shop will likely tumble out of their mouths. With their famed “18 miles of books” wrapping around like a labyrinth inside and outside the store, and both new and used books, it’s the perfect place to find what you need or just spend a lazy Sunday.

BEST WARDROBE BASICS (mainstream)
Forever 21, various locations, forever21.com. If you want T-shirts that aren’t boring (see: also, have an interesting cut or weird little details), look no further than this fast-fashion staple. Plus, it’s likely your wardrobe basic finds are like $5, which makes justifying having to buy another white tank top when you thought you had six somewhere justifiable.

BEST SNEAKERS
West NYC, 147 W 72nd St, westnyc.com. From basic yet cute sneakers to the latest Rhianna Creeper—here you’ll find limited edition shoes and clothing, and even their own line of clothing basics that’s are as androgynous as they are stylish.

BEST DESIGNER SHOES
Christian Louboutin, 967 Madison Ave., us.christ ianlouboutin.com/us_en.  There’s a reason these red-bottom classics show up everywhere on the red carpet, and that’s because they’re the best. This store carries men’s shoes, women’s shoes, leather goods, and even beauty supplies.

BEST UPSCALE DEPARTMENT STORE
Barneys New York 660 Madison Ave, barneys.com. Whatever upscale fashions you’re looking for, Barneys has them, all tucked away inside a beautiful New York staple store. When the company originally opened in 1923, it was mostly stocked with suits, and a sign with a slogan that read, “No Bunk, No Junk, No Imitations.” Fortunately for us, they’ve since expanded beyond just suits, but still have some of the best $$$ clothes you could ever hope for.

BEST HOME DÉCOR ON A BUDGET
A&G Merch, 111 N 6th St, Brooklyn, aandgmerch.com. Whether you’re in need of a cozy-looking ottoman fit for a lumberjack or little tasteful knickknacks ranging from vintage-inspired to kitschy and cute, this Williamsburg staple has you covered.

BEST BIKE SHOP
718 Cyclery, 254 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, 718c.com. This shop offers repairs, rents mountain bikes, fat bikes, cargo bikes, and touring bikes. And they even offer free lecture-style classes on bike maintenance (including women’s only classes), ranging from beginner to advanced, workshops on how to build a bike, and more.

BEST TATTOOS AND PIERCINGS
New York Adorned, 47 2nd Ave., nyadorned.com. This shop was opened by Lori Leven before tattooing was even legal, and now it’s known for featuring the talents of several incredible artists. The shop is fairly reasonable with rates with a minimum of $100 and an hourly rate of $200. If you’re in the mood for a new hole as well, J. Colby Smith’s popular piercing shop is in the same building. Boom.

BEST FLEA MARKET
Bushwick Flea, 52 Wyckoff Ave., Brooklyn. Most people go to Brooklyn Flea or Williamsburg Flea, which are both great, but Bushwick’s is a gem. It’s small, usually not crazy crowded, and the prices are similar to a small-town flea market, which make it a haven for thrifty shoppers.
 
BEST ECLECTIC BOUTIQUE
Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store, 372 5th Ave, Brooklyn, superherosupplies.com. This place is what it sounds like, but it’s also so much more. From superhero costume gear to weird gifts and toys, to buckets full of superpowers (yep, you heard right), this is such a fun way to spend a day.

BEST DRESS SHIRTS
Brooks Brothers 346 Madison Avenue, brooksbrothers.com. Tom Haverford knew what he was talking about when he raved about his love for this menswear (and lesbian wear) staple. For an expertly cut dress shirt for all of us, Brooks Brothers knows what they’re doing.

BEST UNIQUE GIFTS
Inside Astoria, 28-07 Ditmars Blvd, Queens, insideastoria.biz. Andrew Purdom’s home goods store is filled with beautiful and not crazy expensive glassware, as well as shelves, accent tables, and other furniture items around $100-$200. You can also find scented candles, handmade jewelry, and a variety of books, making this your spot for cute, weird gifts that won’t cost a fortune.
 
BEST FEMME ACCESSORIES
Catbird, 219 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, catbirdnyc.com. I love spending hours looking in here since it’s basically where Stevie Nicks would go to retire with other chic witches who love campfire-scented candles, beautiful hand creams, and delicate jewelry.

BEST T-SHIRTS AND OTHER BASICS
Uniqlo, Various locations throughout NYC, uniqlo.com. Inexpensive but without looking cheap, Uniqlo has the best selection of fun graphic T-shirts, streamlined button-downs, sweaters, dresses and comfy but not unsexy underwear for any gender presentation, any given day..

BEST CONSIGNMENT SHOP
Fox & Fawn, 570 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, shopfoxandfawn.com. This shop specializes in high-end designer, vintage, and contemporary streetwear, and offers the highest percentage in the city for their sellers, with 35% cash or 55% trade. Plus, you can drop by anytime without an appointment. Win-win.

BEST OFF-THE-RACK, ONE-STOP SHOP FOR BUTCH ATTIRE
Topman, 478 Broadway, us.topman.com. Like its more femme-y counterpart, Topshop, Topman is known for fashion-forward styles that are a step above fast-fashion quality and prices, but also just below Brooks Brothers price tags.

BEST LUXURY LINGERIE
Agent Provocateur 133 Mercer St, agentprovocateur.com. Your favorite high femme already knows about this place and so do you most likely, because it’s bomb. With unique designs and a classy yet self-aware vibe to it, this is the best lingerie brand all around.

BEST COSMETICS
Sephora, 1500 Broadway, sephora.com. If any New Yorker needs anything they can’t find at their local Duane Reade, they know they’ll find it here. For an added bonus, there’s the ability to try most anything on, free samples at the register, and a dope return policy that allows you to bring it back if you are not satisfied, it’s the best.

BEST FRAGRANCES
Le Labo, 22 E 65th St, lelabofragrances.com. If you’ve been smelling some chic lady on the train who smells a little like something smoky and also leather-y, it’s probably the now-famous Le Labo Santal 33. The scent, along with many others, is brought to you by these bespoke fragrance mixers. If you’re looking to give off a hint of unique, you’ve found it.

PLAY

BEST TOURIST ATTRACTION
East River Ferry, eastriverferry.com. You can get on these boats at many locations, but may we suggest Long Island City? There is a lovely park area to wait in as well as concessions to purchase. You can ride the New York Waterway boat into Manhattan or Brooklyn or just take it until you reach the end of the line, having yourself a nice little urban cruise. Fares range and day passes can also be purchased.

BEST ARCADE
Barcade, 388 Union Ave, Brooklyn, barcadebrooklyn.com. This NYC staple features a well-stocked bar, but more importantly, tons and tons of arcade games you could play for hours for a cheap and crazy fun night out of acting like you’re 12 again.

BEST INDIE MOVIE HOUSE
Angelika Film Center and Café, 18 W. Houston St., angelikafilmcenter.com. One of so few indie movie houses, Angelika’s it’s a classic. We love is old meets new decor and pretty damn convenient location, and large size for an indie movie house screens (not to mention hard to find titles).

BEST GYM
Equinox, various locations, equinox.com. Any-one who’s anyone is rolling large with Equinox these days. These fancy and frankly gorgeous gyms offer classes, personal training, and a spa, to name just a few. Plus, you’re likely to rub elbows with anyone from celebs to models, just in case you want to hook up with that rumored to be gay celeb you’re crushing on.

BEST BINGO NIGHT
We Love Bingo, Le Poisson Rouge, 58 Bleecker St., facebook.com/welovebingo. Drag King bingo is basically the only kind of bingo you want to participate in. Host Murray Hill keeps things 100 percent comedy and will definitely hit on your straight friends if you bring them. The buy-in is inexpensive and the prizes are decent, but the real reward is the experience.

BEST PING-PONG BAR
SPiN New York, 48 E. 23rd St., newyork.wearespin.com. This popular bar opened in late 2009, features a chic lounge, memberships, private parties, and a kitchen with locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. It’s everything, plus ping-pong.

BEST NATURE WALK
Prospect Park, Brooklyn, prospectpark.org. If you’ve never been on a date here, I’m inclined to ask if you’re even queer, because that’s how chock full of lesbians this park is. Whether they live there or they’re migrating there because there’s a gathering of other queer women there, if you’re queer, you’re here.

BEST CHEAP TOURIST ATTRACTION
Roosevelt Island Tram, E 59th St. & 2nd Ave. Have you ever wanted to see what the city looks like from above but are too cash poor to charter a helicopter? This aerial tram ride is just what the doctor ordered and is sure to impress anyone, even the most nonplussed urbanite. The tram leaves from either Manhattan or Roosevelt Island and you can take it high above the East River for the price of a subway ride—you will have to pay one fare each way. The views are truly breathtaking. Get out and explore the island, too—you won’t regret it.

BEST PERFORMING ARTS SPACE
Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand St, abronsartscenter.org. It would behoove you to check out events held at Abrons. They are often queer-focused, and the venue has many different spaces in which to see avant-garde per-formance, dance and more. They have a glorious theater space that seems frozen in time, complete with velvet seats, and recently hosted an art show featuring drawings from incarcerated LGBTs.

BEST HIPSTER BOWLING ALLEY
Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn, brooklynbowl.com. Brooklyn Bowl has become just as known for the hipster bowling as they have for their live music shows that range from local bands to bigger acts like when Maya Rudolph’s Prince cover band, Princess, rolled on through. Come for the bowling, stay for the music.
BEST HIDDEN GEM
The Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park, metmuseum.org/cloisters. These four acres that overlook the Hudson River in Manhattan are the wing of the museum that houses over 2,000 artworks and architectural elements from the medieval West. Plus, it is very very green and lush, which is something every New Yorker needs ASAP.

BEST LGBT RESOURCE
Callen-Lorde, 356 W 18th St., callen-lorde.org. Queers with a cold take comfort; Callen-Lorde cares about your health. This most amazing clinic serves the LGBT community exclusively, so you don’t need to feel at all weird about coming out to your doctors. They accept all sorts of insurance and while it may take a while to get an appointment, the comfort of being seen by a doctor who isn’t ever going to judge you is priceless. They offer gynecology, dentistry, mental health counseling, std testing, transgender health services and more.

BEST CINEPHILE HAUNT
Museum of the Moving Image, 3601 35th Ave, Queens, movingimage.us. This awesome museum features interactive games, make your own short film stations, voiceover booths, and even a whole floor of iconic movie costumes and make-up from old (and newer) films. Plus, don’t miss the replica of an old movie theater you can get lost in (happily).

BEST PEOPLE WATCHING
The High Line, 820 Washington St., thehighline.org. If you’re lucky enough to nab a bench, you won’t find a better spot for a great view of the city, and an even better view of awkward first dates, cute group outings, and just generally strange locals.

BEST ICE SKATING RINK
The Rink at Rockefeller Center, 600 5th Ave., therinkatrockcenter.com. If you’ve ever seen a rom-com, you know why this is here. Just go.

BEST PLACE TO VOLUNTEER
Lesbian Herstory Archives, 484 14th St., Brooklyn, lesbianherstoryarchives.org. Whether you’re going because you want to volunteer, or because you want to volunteer and also meet someone super cute with which to bond over rare 1960s lesbian herstory, this is the place. No judgment.

BEST URBAN OASIS
Queens County Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy, Queens. An amazing working farm located within our beautiful five boroughs. It’s a great place to have a wedding, too, if that’s something you’re into. You can buy fresh eggs and other farm-fresh goods and frolic in the fields as if you were a country mouse.

BEST DOG PARK
Tompkins Square Dog Run, 500 E. 9th St., tompkinssquaredogrun.com. Bitches love this place. But seriously, they do. It’s a great place for people watching, and while many local four-legged residents use this place, you are also bound to see some new and unfamiliar faces of both the dog and human variety. They even have an annual Halloween celebration, and they’re open until midnight.