The Very Best of New York 2012

Where to eat, shop and play in the greatest city in the world


Best Plate Combinations
Traif 229 S 4th St, Brooklyn, Cute and quaint, this hidden gem in the trendiest of trendy neighborhoods offers a truly eclectic and sinfully delicious assortment of plates, drinks and desserts. Think strawberry and cinnamon glazed ribs and bacon donuts. And don’t worry, they serve veggie plates too.

Best Sandwich
Graham Ave Meats and Deli 445 Graham Ave, Brooklyn, 718-389-9777. Here’s one place to get a good quality sandwich that isn’t overpriced and too cool. Graham Ave, a full deli and sandwich shop, serves what we call the best sandwich in New York: The Godfather, a hoagie crammed with layers of red pepper relish, fried eggplant, Italian cold cuts, cheeses, lettuce, tomato and more.

Best Southern Food
Pies and Thighs 166 S 4th St, Brooklyn, pies Chicken and waffles is a match made in heaven, right? That is, if heaven is the kitchen of this cozy breakfast/lunch eatery. Pies n’ Thighs also has tasty donuts to nibble on with your early-morning juice spiked with beer (try the Hippy Banjo, it’s delicious!).

Best Coffee with an Extra Kick
La Colombe 270 Lafayette St and two other locations, Everyone in New York has their favorite coffee shop, and for us, it’s La Colombe. Their smooth, artisanal blends will keep you going all day and into the night with just one cup. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

Best Dumplings
Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle 144 E Broadway, 212-566-6933. There are a million dumpling spots in the city, but Lam Zhou stands above the crowd. Buy your dumplings fresh or bring a frozen batch home for those late night cravings ($8 for 50!). Too good, too true.

Best Healthy Japanese
Cocoron 61 Delancey St, Owner Yoshihito Kida wants people to “discover that being healthy isn’t an alternative to taste”—and we can guarantee he sticks by those words. Here, great Japanese food meets good habits.

Best Creative Pizza
Vinnie’s Pizzeria 148 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, and one other location, Vinnie’s offers unique and mouth-watering options by the slice or the pie—think of the “The Farmer’s Daughter,” featuring sauteed spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, herbed goat cheese and mozzarella. It’s where the slice is right.

Best Eco-Friendly Slice
Franny’s 295 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, frannys We love our planet and we love food—that’s one reason we love Franny’s, which buys local and organic ingredients and uses renewable energy. In our book, that’s putting their money where our mouths are.

Best Udon
Samurai Mama 205 Grand St, Brooklyn, As you sit down at the rustic wood tables, you’ll note that Samurai Mama’s devotion to all-natural udon soup—handmade the old-fashioned way—matches the décor. Open the menu and you’ll see a bounty of ancient recipes along with some new concoctions, from homemade tofu to wasabi margaritas.

Best Sexy Jewish Food
Kutshers Tribeca 186 Franklin St, kutshers Maybe you miss your family’s home-cooked meals, or perhaps you aren’t sure if you’ve ever eaten Jewish cuisine. Either way, Kutshers’ modern twist on staples like the Lamb Brisket (stuffed with cabbage, grilled garlic and asparagus) as well as a starter like the Chilled Borscht (with cucumber, white chard, fingerlings, sour cream and dill) will leave your belly and taste buds satisfied.

Best Greek to Go
Snack NYC 105 Thompson St, Avgolemono soup is easy enough to make at home (chicken broth, lemon, egg, orzo and some spices), but it’s even easier to order it from a place you know will make it right every time. Pair it with the Melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant dip served with pita).

Best Place to Spice Up Your Life
Xian Famous Foods 81 St. Marks Pl and other locations, Super-authentic hand pulled noodles and the insanely deliciously-spiced lamb burger. With its multitude of locations, why haven’t you started ordering yet? They’ll arrive before you finish reading this.

Best Place to Take your Date for Dates
Moto 394 Broadway, Brooklyn, Cute, dark and close to our hearts, Moto is the perfect starting point to begin your night with friends or a special someone. The menu is chock- full of rich Mediterranean bites like olives and walnuts in pomegranate molasses, braised Portuguese octopus, and a warm date cake with toffee sauce and fresh cream.

Best Big Bagel
Ess-A-Bagel 831 3rd Ave and one other location, Shiny and crisp on the outside, soft and steamy inside—Ess-a-Bagel’s eponymous pastries reign supreme. Try a massive pumpernickel bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese and you’ll have enough schmear on that bad boy to make a few bagels of your own at home.

Best Indian Street Food
Thelewala 112 MacDougal St, Ever had a Kati, Nizami, Chapli or Malai roll? If not, you should get them at the best place possible—Thelewala. Your meal wouldn’t be complete without a lovely side of Bhel Pori (yummy puffed rice, potatoes, chickpeas, red onion and two chutneys). Did we mention how cheap it is? Tons of flavor, lots of tastes: make Thelewala your new Indian place.

Best Hummus
The Hummus Shop 101 Ludlow St, thehummus The name says everything: It’s all hummus all the time. Try the plain hummus topped with ful (fava beans and mint-walnut sauce) or shakshuka (savory tomato sauce and poached egg). Don’t forget the side of grape leaves or babaganoush!

Best Crack…Pies
Momofuku Milk Bar 251 E 13th St and four other locations, Boozy shakes, sugar-stuffed crack pies and more sweetness for your sweet tooth. Keep a few “compost cookies”—containing every sweet and salty nibble you crave—nearby when it’s that time of the month.

Best Wraps
Wolfnights 99 Rivington St, With one look at the inventive menu of sandwiches, you’ll feel like a wolf that sees its prey. Sink your teeth into gourmet wraps like the Once Bitten: portobello mushroom wrapped in fig and pomegranate seed dough with goat cheese, roasted beet, sweet potato chips and dill and garlic sauce.

Best Vegan Late-Night Nosh
Foodswings 295 Grand St, Brooklyn, Open late, always great and animal-free! When your friends hit up the taco vendors after leaving the bar, swing by this shop for veggie sliders, seitan sloppy Joes or meat-free disco fries.

Best Guacamole
Rosa Mexicano 9 E 18th St and two other locations, Gotta love a Mexican restaurant that pounds your guacamole in a traditional molcajete, right at your table. Rosa Mexicano has a reputation for spectacular Mexican grub to go along with their famously flavorful guac.

Best Crepe
Pates Et Traditions 52 Havemeyer St, Brooklyn, Warm and cozy like a Parisian corner bakery, this café’s abundant savory crepes are filled with European cheeses, potatoes and herbs. For brunch, sample the sweet crepes with combinations featuring banana, caramel or chocolate. Oui oui, Madame!

Best Takeout Burrito
La Burrito 287 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, laburrito There are times when you just crave a big, hefty, meaty (or veggie) burrito—and La Burrito is the joint to call. They deliver quickly and have the best-priced fresh and homemade chips n’ guacamole you’ve ever had.

Best Recovery Meal
Northern Spy Food Co. 511 E 12th St, northern A friendly staff, a laid-back and comfortable atmosphere, and a short wait for brunch sounds to us like a great place to recover from Saturday night. The kale salad is recommended, though everything here is farm fresh.

Best Bang for Your Buck
The Islands 803 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, 718-398-3575. Fill ’er up! The Islands serves piles of rib-sticking rotis, jerk chicken, steamed fish and other Jamaican specialties at super-low prices.

Best Fish n’ Chips
Do or Dine 1108 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, 718-684-2290. When they say fish n’ chips, they really mean it. No fillets at this newly Michelin-starred Bed-Stuy hotspot: you know the whole snapper is real with those little eyes looking back atcha. Save some room for the foie gras doughnuts.

Best Affordable Italian
Rosemary’s 18 Greenwich Ave, rosemarys The mood is set when the weather is right and you’re seated in the rooftop garden having a lovely glass of wine and munching on focaccia before you move to a main course of, oh, lets say chitarra alla carbonara (guanciale, scallions, pecorino romano and egg).

Best Place Worth The Wait
Osteria Morini 218 Lafayette St, osteria Though you definitely want to make a reservation to eat here, it will be worth it. The pasta is absolutely heavenly, while the Porchetta, Branzino and Cappelletti (no, these aren’t families from the old neighborhood) are some of the best eats outside of Italy.

Best Panini
Bite 335 Lafayette St, Super quick, convenient and delicious, Bite’s Mediterranean paninis are a filling option for a working lunch. We can’t get enough of the fresh mozzarella sandwiches complete with roasted pepper tapenade and the sweet and savory “exotic tuna.”

Best Grilled Cheese and Whiskey
Noorman’s Kil 609 Grand St Brooklyn, More than 280 kinds of whiskey and the fine selection of craft beers pair perfectly with seven different specialty grilled cheese sandwiches, the ideal food for soaking up liquor. Don’t miss the spicy pickles.

Best Aphrodisiacs
Maison Premiere 296 Bedford Ave Brooklyn, You’ll feel like an ex-pat just over the river in Brooklyn. Maison Premiere tempts foodies with $1 oysters during happy hour, authentic absinthe fountains and the ambience of a 19th century Parisian bistro.


Best Killer Ink
Flyrite Tattoo 492 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, Lead by renowned artist Steve Huie, Flyrite has an awesome crew of extremely talented artists who will give you what you want and make your first, second or even twentieth tattoo a great experience that you won’t regret. Well, at least that goes for the craftsmanship—choosing to get your ex’s name on your neck is all you!

Best Etsy-Style Goods In a Brick-and-Mortar Store
Artists and Fleas Market 70 N 7th St, Brooklyn, Support local artists and find jewelry, clothing, artworks and more that is guaranteed to be something your friends don’t have. Take a stroll around the booths and pick up business cards (most vendors sell their wares on Etsy too).

Best Toy Shop
Babeland 94 Rivington St and three more NYC locations, The beloved Toys R’ Us for adults promises to jumpstart your boudoir antics with helpful books (check out Moregasm: Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex), a limitless variety of erotic toys, all the necessary bedroom accoutrements and even classes for singles and couples. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!

Best Place to Re-Live Childhood
Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. 372 5th Ave, Brooklyn, Whether you need a mind reader, some kryptonite or invisibility suit to complete your look, Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co is the singular shop for do-gooders to get their crime-fighting gear.

Best Rare Reads
Strand Bookstore 828 Broadway, strandbooks .com. Browse the Strand’s rare book section and locate highly sought-after first editions and antique tomes, such as Albert Einstein’s The World As I See It or an anthology of mid-century pulp fiction.

Best Unisex Clothes
Alter 407 Graham Ave, Brooklyn and two other locations, Featuring men’s, women’s and unisex stores under one roof, Alter stocks unisex Cheap Monday skinny jeans and “gendered” collections with a utilitarian/urban aesthetic. Stand out when you go out.

Best Place Where Sharp Objects Are Put To Good Use
Graceland 677 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, 718-384-7677. This Williamsburg salon has a kickass crew to spruce up your ‘do—and give you a new tattoo. You’re bound to leave feeling and looking like a rock star; all you need now are the groupies!

Best Rubdown
Dharma Healing Arts Studio 231 Warren St, Brooklyn, Drift into another realm with Dharma’s out-of-this-world massages. The talented masseuses create a perfectly zen zone that is bound to get you in the right state of mind.

Best Soaps and Suds
Kiehl’s Since 1851 109 Third Ave, There’s a reason this luxury skincare and beauty purveyor has been around since 1851. We’re addicted to the classic Crème De Corps moisturizer in limited edition artist-labeled bottles (this year designed by Kenny Scharf), the sale of which benefits children’s charities around the world.

Best Boots, Y’all
Space Cowboy Boots 234 Mulberry St, space No, we aren’t talking about a Clint Eastwood film or the Steve Miller Band. This store takes cowboy boots seriously: the inventory of hand-crafted footwear, Western hats, belt buckles and other leather gear is the real deal.

Best Kitchen Kitsch
Fishs Eddy 889 Broadway, Plates and mugs need not be boring or fit a theme. Relive childhood with Alice in Wonderland tea cups, mix n’ match hotel tableware or get funky with some polka dot plates.

Best Dog Spa
Unleashed Spa & Self Service Dog Wash 218 Avenue B, Is your little love in need of some pampering? Drop your favorite furry friend at Unleashed for a shampoo, blowdry, manicure and aromatherapy facial (seriously). Owners can even bathe their precious pooches themselves at the self-service dog wash for a low fee.

Best Eye Candy
Opera Gallery 115 Spring St, Fan of Roy Lichtenstein or Sheppard Fairey-esque pieces? The NYC outpost of this international gallery collective specializes in super-cool contemporary and pop art. Pop in to pick up a few names to drop at cocktail parties.

Best Vinyl
Tropicalia in Furs 304 E 5th St, 212-982-3251. Painted in a psychedelic red hue, this quirky shop stocks the best in offbeat beats. It should be your first stop in the quest for the ultimate retro, strange, cultish vinyl collection.

Best Comic Store
Jim Hanley’s Universe 4 W 33rd St, jhuniverse. JHU gets points for employing more than one woman, in one GO reader’s opinion. We also love the LGBT-friendly attitude, lack of pretension and ultra-knowledgeable staff ready to suggest reads from its stellar selection.


Best Bounce to the Ounce
Crazy Legs Skate Club 110 Kosciuszko St, Brooklyn, Does ice skating leave you cold? Check out the old-school eight-wheeled action at this Clinton Hill roller rink. Skate the night away and shake your groove thang to the live DJ—and pick up some serious moves from the pros.

Best Belly Laugh
UCBeast 153 E 3rd St, NYC’s funniest improv, sketch and stand-up comedy shows at a recession-friendly price. Sign up for an improv class if the mood strikes. They even have happy hour!

Best Silver Screen
The IFC Center-Waverly Cinema 323 6th Ave, Whether you adore indie films or simply don’t want to sit among tweens at the latest Twilight showing, get thee to the IFC. The Village mainstay features emerging directors, buzz-worthy features and documentaries along with curated film series.

Best Blast from the Past
Lower East Side Tenement Museum 108 Orchard St, This December marks the opening of the museum’s first new permanent exhibition since 2008. “Shop Life” features the first interactive technology at the museum, providing a hands-on way of exploring life between 1863 and 1988 in the Lower East Side, and a faithfully recreated 19th century saloon to illustrate the different businesses once located at 97 Orchard St.

Best Bar-Slash-Art-Studio
Painting Lounge 438 Union Ave, Brooklyn, Pick your poison and get those creative juices flowin’ at these BYOB painting classes (all supplies provided). No experience necessary, and the friendly staff will guide you on your way to becoming the next Picasso or O’Keeffe.

Best Way to Awaken Your Senses
Appetite For Seduction 2 E 1st St, appetitefor Add some spice to your love life with seductive cooking classes geared towards couples—they promise to get more than your taste buds excited. Learn new recipes, cooking techniques and some romantic history for a fun and sensual date night.

Best MTA Ad Campaign
Meet Miss Subways: New York’s Beauty Queens 1941-76 New York Transit Museum, Boerum Pl and Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, Photographer Fiona Gardner and journalist Amy Zimmer were able to locate former contestants in the Miss Subways beauty pageants, the MTA’s mid-century ad campaign. This exhibit juxtaposes the original pageant cards with current portraits of the winsome models. It ain’t Atlantic City—it’s Atlantic Avenue!

Best Flea
Brooklyn Flea at Skylight One Hanson 1 Hanson Pl, Brooklyn, Wondering where Brooklyn Flea will be once the weather gets chilly? No, it won’t be migrating down south, but rather inside to the former Williamsburg Savings Bank. Over a hundred scrumptious food vendors and DIY-ers will take it indoors on Saturdays and Sundays.

Best Bowl
Brooklyn Bowl 61 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, You can nosh and drink, see live music, and hit a few pins—who could resist? It’s not just a bowling alley; Brooklyn Bowl consistently brings in top bands, DJ dance parties and more.

Best Indoor Sport
Laura Witwer Aerial Silk Classes 51 N 1st St, Brooklyn, Look, up in the air! It’s not a bird, plane or Superman. It could be you, in a class taught by aerial artist Laura Witwer.  Courses include aerial silks, aerial hammock, static trapeze, lyra, contortion and much more.

Best Reason to Rethink Museums
Museum of Sex 233 Fifth Ave, Museums can have a bad rep as the dusty, boring hangouts of old white guys. But not MoSex. After a visit to the Sex Lives of Animals exhibit, you’ll never think about chimps the same way again.

Best Timely Exhibition
Activist New York Museum of the City of New York, 1120 Fifth Ave, Occupy Wall Street is but the latest movement in New York’s long history of social activism. See OWS’ predecessors at MCNY’s ongoing exhibit.

Best Imaginary Numbers
Museum of Math 11 E 26th St, Math: not just for nerds anymore. If you can’t tell your integers from your Venn diagrams, visit NYC’s newest museum for a refresher course on the mysteries of mathematics.

Best View from the Pool
Equinox Printing House 421 Hudson St, State of the art equipment, tons of classes with specialized trainers, clean modern facilities, and extremely good-looking fellow gym-goers are just a few of the benefits of Equinox’s Printing House location. The view of the Hudson River from its pool deck is the icing on the (low-carb) cake.

Best Place to Bring the Kiddies
Imagination Playground John St and Front St, Designed by architect David Rockwell, this interactive park gives kids the chance to create their own play-spaces with sand, water and objects ranging from giant foam blocks to fabric and wagons.

Best Art Park
Socrates Sculpture Park 32-01 Vernon Blvd at Broadway, Long Island City, socratessculpture Take a little trip to Queens and visit this awesome outdoor exhibition space replete with large scale multi-media installations and sculptures. For a romantic date, view the art against the Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Best Ice Rink
Wollman Rink near Columbus Circle in Central Park, Sure, it’s owned by The Donald and his surname is prominently displayed on every flat surface. But Wollman Rink still boasts the best scenery of any NYC rink and a magical atmosphere one must experience at least once in a lifetime.

Best Homage
Strawberry Fields/Imagine Mosaic Central Park West and West 72nd St, At this iconic spot, you might hear a thoughtful homage by a colorful local who may be the world’s biggest John Lennon enthusiast, or witness a wedding of French tourists.

Best Guided Tour with Snacks
Scott’s Pizza Tours Whether you prefer Chicago style or wood-fired Neapolitan, deep dish or thin crust, Scott’s encyclopedic knowledge of New York’s best pies and pizzerias will tickle your taste buds and your sense of history. Choose from the NYC Pizza Bus, Greenwich Village Pizza Walk, Specialty Pizza Safari and more.

Best Window Shopping
Fifth Avenue Department Store Holiday Windows Fifth Avenue between 34th and 57th Sts. So what if you can’t afford many of goods on display? New York’s venerable department stores—Saks, Bergdorf, Bendel—give ordinary consumers a taste of the season with their inventive holiday window tableaux. Nothing wrong with cheap thrills.

Best Free Lunch
Lunch Hour NYC New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwartzman Building, Fifth Ave at 42nd St, Recounting New Yorkers’ previously mundane midday meal, the NYPL proffers an authentic automat, displays explaining 150 years of street food-turned-quotidian cuisine, and interesting facts cleverly etched on cafeteria lunch trays (and it’s free!).

Best Home Away from Home
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center 208 W 13th St, Classes in skills ranging from public speaking to creative writing; support groups for spiritual, physical and mental wellness; mixers, dances and speed-dating; even an LGBT library—is there anything the LGBT Community Center doesn’t provide for us? Show some appreciation this season.

Best Underappreciated Garden
Wave Hill W 249th St and Independence Ave, Bronx, This spectacular botanic garden and nature center in Riverdale keeps a low profile, but its incredible views of the Palisades across the Hudson and beautiful grounds could rival more familiar city parks. This winter, Wave Hill offers meditation classes, horticultural lectures and crafting classes while the deciduous plants hibernate.

Best Visitor Center
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center 150 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, Unveiled earlier this year, the BBG’s visitor center encourages love for the earth—and practices what it preaches. The ultra-green design by Weiss/Manfredi features a living roof, bird-friendly glass walls, geo-thermal heating and cooling, rainwater capturing plantings and more.

Best School for Budding Producers
Brooklyn Center for Media Education at BRIC Arts Media Bklyn 242 3rd St, Brooklyn, One of the borough’s best-kept secrets, this community resource offers ultra-low-cost classes in pro TV and video production on state-of-the-art equipment. Upon graduating from certain courses, you can borrow BRIC’s cameras, lights and more to create and broadcast your own show on the BCAT TV Network. Roll it!

Best Underground Club
Secret Science Club If lectures about biology or physics sound dull, just add booze, a bar setting—and a list of quirky speakers from the city’s research museums and universities. This popular, free monthly series recently featured an invertebrate zoologist specializing in leeches, an atmospheric scientist on Sandy’s effects and an evolutionary biologist about the wildlife of Central Park. Thematic cocktails and DJ tunes round out the class.

Best Dog Park
DeWitt Clinton Dog Park W 52nd St and 11th Ave, A spacious play area for the big guys, a smaller run for the toy types, and a kiddie-pool area for pets to cool off during warm weather. Users give it extra props for big shady trees, friendly pet owners and well-behaved pups.Best Last-Minute Holiday Shopping
Union Square Holiday Market Union Sq Park, Red-striped booths are packed with handmade, affordable gifts that your family won’t find back in Kansas. Browse with free samples of cider or hot cocoa, and pick up yum-yums for your foodie friends at the city’s flagship greenmarket next door.

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