*Mini was probably 20 months old in the photo above, carrying her trusty Lulu (a Corolle mini!) everywhere with her at that age.
Lincoln Center recently announced that it will be transforming its iconic plaza into a green space this summer, and I found myself strangely aghast over the news. Even though I conceptually appreciate and support the fact that the project will “kickstart the arts sector” and “reactivate public space” after a year of dormancy (New York needs this!), and even though the installation is temporary, I found myself quailing at the prospect.
It was perhaps the first time I had contemplated the possibility that “my New York” — the New York that has been my home for the last few years — will disappear when I move this summer. I now have the mounting suspicion that when I return, Jackie O. will stand like a stranger, the streets will be dirtier than I remembered, our little wine bar around the corner–the one with tiny round tables that dot the sidewalk at the helm of a street lined with lovely brownstones–will have closed. I know this is the way of the world. Even while I am living here in Manhattan, the city has been changing under my feet from day to day. Restaurants close; new buildings are erected; contemporary statues are installed; scaffolding appears, then disappears, transforming entire blocks of the city overnight. The city is liquid. Beyond that, my father has continually impressed upon me the importance of forward-leaning momentum in life: “no looking back, Jen.” Still, in spite of the various threads of logic so readily gathered in counterpoint, I had to linger for a minute in my disappointment over the soon-to-be-transformed plaza in front of the Metropolitan Opera house, where, as I wrote recently, “my daughter learned to scoot…and enjoyed countless dripping ice cream cones while gazing distractedly into its dancing fountains.” I suppose the plans served as a facile metaphor: my memories of raising my two babies here will soon be submerged. I will no longer turn the corner and immediately — with no pause, and no strain — see my daughter wheeling down the broad paving stones of the plaza, two and fearless and as precious a pearl. I will no longer envision, with immediacy, the performative kick of one leg behind her in the air as she’d lean over the handlebar, toe pointed, a daredevil in a balletic pose. Now there will be grass — synthetic grass — covering the surface of that memory when we depart in a couple months, and then the 233 miles between our apartment in Manhattan and our future home in D.C. obscuring it further, and then the inevitable toll of time will continue to erode the vision such that one day, that toe point and the minutiae of the tiny human that formed it will shimmer and fade into the lovely but untrustworthy gossamer of the past.
This is life, this is life —
And far be it for me to turn luddite.
But my goodness, I think I will miss this city as I have known it.
In this vein, I wanted to share some (!) of my favorite restaurants in New York, as a snapshot of the city I have known. Several are sadly in various permutations of temporary or even permanent closure owing to COVID. This is a non-exhaustive list that skews towards the one-of-a-kind, exceptional, destination-worthy caliber of restaurants, as there are also many neighborhood-type restaurants we’ve loved for convenient weeknight dining (Motorino for thin-crust pizza, Mermaid Inn for happy hour, etc.) I know I am forgetting many…!
+I Sodi. The best pasta I’ve ever had in a cozy but elegant setting. Top top top top notch, and the service is impeccable. (Order the fried artichokes as an appetizer and the ravioli as an entree and immediately enter heaven.)
+Pastrami Queen. Our favorite deli on the planet. The prices are obscene, yes, but a lunch of their matzo ball soup and rye bread piled high with pastrami and spicy mustard will make you weep with joy.
+Bar Pisellino. The chicest and most convenient spot to wait for a table in West Village: aperitivi and bar snacks in a space perfectly designed to accommodate hungry diners seeking a temporary perch and a good cocktail.
+Corner Bistro. Sit at the bar, order a burger and martini, and enjoy the show. (Great people watching in this packed and iconic setting, and a great (!) burger to boot.)
+Super Taste. A no-frills hole-in-the-wall with the best dumplings and hand-pulled noodles I’ve ever eaten. Vanessa’s is a close runner-up — and one we frequent regularly because they just opened a location uptown and how can you beat that convenience?
+Prince Street Pizza. Literally the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. I dream of that pizza.
+Le Coucou. The most extravagant meal we’ve had in Manhattan in one of the most astoundingly romantic and attractive restaurants I’ve ever been in in my life. If you aren’t game for forcemeat and traditional, formal French cuisine like quenelle de brochet and escargots, you might want to skip this one. But oh my goodness is it delicious. Indulgent, over-the-top, beautiful.
+Banh NY. Mr. Magpie and I love — *love* — Vietnamese food. Pho has been a near-weekly occurrence in our lives for decades, and I first discovered the art of the banh mi sandwich out in Eden Center in Seven Corners, where you could score an amazing BBQ pork banh mi for all of $3.25. In Chicago, we’d make a 30-minute pilgrimage to Tank Noodle in the Uptown area every week or two — it was that good and that important to us. In short, we take Vietnamese cuisine seriously. I personally think the banhs at Two Wheels are slightly better than Banh’s but everything else — buns, cha gio, pho — are as good as it gets at Banh in NYC.
+Ippudo Ramen. We’ve probably tried all of the esteemed ramen shops in Manhattan, and this is our favorite. The silkiest, richest broth and the most toothsome noodles. My mouth is watering just thinking of it…
+Wild Air. We went wild over the sandwiches (there was this insane broccoli rabe and cheese melt on the menu when we went that I still dream of…everything about it was perfect from the housemade bread to the cheese) and then lost our damn minds over the donuts, which sell out in a nano-second daily. Worth a trip just for the donuts, but the sandwiches are also exquisite.
+Barney Greengrass. A destination for a reason: the best smoked fish in, probably, the world. Everything bagel with pastrami lox and all the trimmings, pls and thank you.
+Breads Bakery. Babka. Thank me later. Also, I think, one of the best chocolate chip cookies in the city. It’s thin, chewy, and buttery. Everyone loves Levain, but my vote is with Breads.
+Two Little Red Hens. Meep – I think this has permanently closed (!) – but the best cupcakes on the planet, and we’ve tried them all, from Baked & Wired in DC to Sprinkles to everything in between. A really light, fluffy cupcake with perfectly sweet-but-not-too-sweet frosting.
+Marea. A Michelin-starred restaurant presenting sophisticated seafood dishes in a quiet, elegant setting. A great place to take your parents. I also love the location, right on Columbus Circle.
+Orwashers. I love their black-and-white cookies, custom-filled-to-order donuts, and croissants, and I have been on-and-off addicted to one of their bagel sandwiches, The West Coast. It’s embarrassingly simple in ingredients but I cannot resist its appeal, usually once a week: everything bagel, cream cheese, avocado, arugula, and olive oil. I live close to one of their shops and am in here for weekday lunches, weekend bagels/pastries more often than I care to admit.