The Jessica Stein/Indielondon guide to the Big Apple


Compiled by the stars of Jessica Stein and Jack Foley

SET in New York, Kissing Jessica Stein features some of the Big Apple’s finest locations, as well as some of those trendy little places most tourists could only hope to stumble upon if they got lost or took a gamble.
But given that the two stars/writers seem to know what they are talking about when it comes to the pitfalls of the dating game, we thought their advice on where to go in NY was worth taking.
So here, without further ado, is a guide to the Big Apple from the movie’s stars (a fuller version is available at the movie’s website), as well as Indielondon’s own tips for where to wine and dine….

Restaurants:
Ouest (84th and Broadway)
- A super-hip, can't-get-a-reservation new addition to the Upper West Side. The Upper West equivalent to Balthazar or Pastis. You might wait 45 minutes at 10pm on a Tuesday for a table these days. It's sexy and beautiful, boasts amazing food and wine, and many a celeb sighting. The bar is always just as packed as the restaurant.

Ollie's (84th and Broadway) - Next store to Ouest. Best Chinese in the neighbourhood.
Josie's (74th and Amsterdam) - A hip, trendy health conscious restaurant. It's one of those menus that's super-healthy, but not so healthy that you can't have meat or alcohol. Kinda the NY version of The Newsroom in LA.

Gennarro's (Amsterdam between 92 and 93) - Amazing traditional Italian 'joint', it used to be teeny tiny (about 12 tables) where people would wait on the sidewalk (no waiting area) for hours to eat here because they don’t take reservations. They recently expanded and the lines are just as long!!

Cafe Luxembourg (West 70th, between West End and Amsterdam) - Similar vibe to Ouest, but not quite as pricey and not quite as hard to get a table. French bistro, sexy place, great for drinks or dinner.

Isabella's (corner of 77th and Columbus) - An old standby on the Upper West which is a very popular, very trendy spot for drinks, dinner, and lunches/brunches on weekends. Oddly LA in its vibe, it’s also great for people-watching.
Zen Palate (Broadway between 76th and 77th) - A very healthy, very trendy vegetarian Asian restaurant - and just a beautiful-looking place. It's biggest drawback: no alcohol!

Brunch/Lunch/Coffee spots:
Columbus Bakery (Columbus Ave. betw. 82nd and 83rd)
- So New York-y and great. It has a million yummy gourmet foods - from soups, to salads, to quiches, to baked goods, to made-to-order crepes. You stand in line, point to what you want, then come back to get it when it's ready. Some people stay here all day and read a book, do work, read the paper, etc... It recently doubled in size and is still packed at all hours.

Sarabeth's (Amsterdam and 80th) - Perhaps the best brunch in the city. Crazy long lines every weekend to eat here. Famous for their homemade baked goods and jams.

Good Enough To Eat (Amsterdam between 83rd and 84th) - Not as fancy as Sarabeth's - it's more of a Vermont rustic vibe.
Cafe Lalo (83rd Street between Amsterdam and B'way) - A cafe and dessert spot that's open until the wee hours - it was featured in You've Got Mail (the beautifully lit, dark wood and floor-to-ceiling windows in the front, do you remember it?)) Great date spot, very romantic and sweet.

Edgar's Cafe (84th st., between Broadway and West End) - Named Edgar's because it's on ‘Edgar Allen Poe Street’, which is another name for 84th. This is also a cafe and dessert spot - I prefer it to Lalo's because it's not as cramped -- it's got high vaulted ceilings, marble tables, classical music always plays. This is a very Jessica spot - people might stay here for hours on end reading. (This was also the spot of my very first waitressing job in NYC!)

French Roast (85th and Broadway) - There's also one on 11th and 6th which is featured in our movie (in the first date/argument scene between Helen and Jess). What's great about this place is that it's a French bistro open 24 hours a day, so you can come and linger over coffee, or wine, or omelettes or Frenc Onion soup.

Other Food Spots:
Zabar's (80th and B'way)
- Best gourmet food store in the city.

H&H Bagels (80th and B'way) - Best bagels in the city. Open all night. You can go in and get a steaming hot, just-out-of-the-oven bagel of any variety. The smell from the street is insane.

Shopping, living, etc...
Shakespeare in the Park
- Every summer, the Public Theatre shows two Shakespeare (or other classical) pieces - tickets go on sale the day of, and you wait in line for hours to get your free tickets to the show that evening. The theatre is called the Delacorte; you enter the park at 81st and Central park west and it's always an amazing, romantic NY happening to watch theatre under the stars every summer. Another similar NY-ey experience is when the NY Philharmonic plays on the Great Lawn in Central Park. I've gone several times - and thousands and thousands of people have elaborate picnics on blankets and listen to beautiful music together. They do this twice a summer as well, and it always ends with fireworks.
Promenade Theatre (75th and Broadway) - Big Off-Broadway theatre.
Lincoln Center - Not quite upper West Side, but Lincoln Center (which houses the Metropolitan opera, the NY City Opera, Julliard, Avery Fisher Hall, the Vivian Beaumont Theatre and the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre) is on Amsterdam betw, 64th and 66th streets (certainly walkable). Amazing theatre, opera, ballet, concerts, etc.

Museum of Natural History (81st and Central Park West) - This museum has amazing exhibits all the time. And the new Rose Space Center (I know there is a more official name for this) is truly spectacular.
Riverside Park - I am a die-hard reservoir-runner (in Central park), but Riverside Park is one of the great gems of the Upper West Side. It feels much more like a neighbourhood spot, a well-kept secret, if you will. There are playgrounds and neighbourhood flower gardens and dog runs - and, most importantly, there's the beautiful promenade by the river that has just recently been expanded so that you can now run or blade all the way down to Battery park!

B'Nai Jeshurun (my synagogue!) (Located at 88th between B'way and West End) - The synagogue has become something of a legend in the city, because of its super-inclusive/hipster/progressive vibe. It was revitalized by my great uncle, Rabbi Marshall Meyer, when he came back to the Upper West Side (after being in Buenos Aires for 25 years) and, soon after he took over as rabbi, the temple started getting 1,500 people for Friday night services (the reason they hold services in the church is because they have so many members, they have to have two concurrent Shabbat services). Most single Jews feel that Friday night services at B'Nai Jeshurun is the best place to find a mate!!!

Tompkins Square Park Dog Run (Avenue B at 9th Street) - The best dogs in the city. I used to live across the street, and when I was feeling down I would go over, dogless, and hope some dachsund or pug would take pity on me, sit on my lap and nuzzle my face. Even when that didn't happen it was pretty good just to watch them run around, ignoring me.

Love Saves The Day Vintage Clothing (2nd Avenue and 7th Street) - Still one of the best. When I was 15 and scored an invite to the senior prom I found a dress here - a crazy pistachio-green monstrosity. Also a good place for old Charlie's Angels and Star Wars memorabilia, if you're into that kind of thing.

La Petite Abeille Belgian Bistro (West 18th Street and Sixth Avenue) - I can't say I'm a world expert on chocolate, but I can attest to the dark stuff here leaving me with a pleasant all-around glow, not unlike a good post-coital buzz. The hot chocolate is a perfect afternoon pick-me-up, and if you need a snack try the yummy fennel soup with the fresh-baked bread. The brie sandwich doesn't suck either.

Angel's Share Bar (3rd Avenue at 9th Street/Stuyvestant Square) - I've always loved scotch, and the Tokyo bartenders at this joint do an extra-snazzy pour-and-presentation, serving you up all the fancy brands in a tall crystal shot glass with large, oblong ice cubes. This place wasn't always as crowded as it is now, but if you go on the off hours, it's a great place to feel smoky and glamorous. My friend, DD, and I come in here when we're waiting for a table at the Korean BBQ next door.

Katz's Deli (Houston and Ludlow) - There aren't many places left that actually time warp you back to another era quite as effectively as this old pastrami deli. You take a ticket upon entering, and then order from counter guys who look like they're straight out of central casting. The food's all salty and greasy and good and they have plenty of Dr. Brown's Black Cherry Soda to wash it down with. Then when you're done you bring your ticket up to the cashier to pay. It's arcane and crazy, but I guess normal to the old Lower East Side guys who've been hanging out there, kibbitzing over coffee for decades.

The Film Forum (Houston at Seventh Avenue South) - Forever and ever the best rep house in the world. As a side note they also have the best popcorn. I like to eat mine dry (but lightly salted) with pieces of the home-made chocolate chip cookies crumbled up into it. Their curators are genius. The program notes alone are worth the price of membership.

Eidolon (233 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn) - We're talking really downtown. Get ye to the hip new stretch of the Slope in Brooklyn where four fabulous girl designers set up shop for themselves with cool clothes, jewelry and accessories. Check out my girl Yukie's handbags (http://www.yukinyc.com), made of yummy soft felts, ultrasuedes and upholstery fabrics.

Cafe Orlin (St Mark's Place at Second Avenue) - An old standby. I like to come here for mint tea and cake at the end of an evening. They also have a nice pesto if you're hungry.

East West Books (Fifth Avenue at 14th Street) - A great place to open your mind. Upstairs they have free open meditation once a week.

Philip William Posters (60 Grand Street) - I love to go in here and gaze longingly at the antique advertising posters from France and Italy. I don't know who can actually afford them, but I think when I become rich and famous I'll buy one.
Palacinka (28 Grand Street) - This place is incredible. I think it's called a ‘Russian Creperie’. Only in New York, right? The egg crepe is amazing, but when I'm hungry I usually need two. It bugs me when restaurants serve those tiny portions. Maybe someone should tell them they need a 'Hungry Man' size.

Juniper Café (185 Duane Street, off Greenwich) - What Bubby's used to be - in Tribeca, my favorite New York neighbourhood. Small, cosy, with a rustic-yet-sophisticated menu. It feels very off-the-beaten path, but it's only a hop skip and a jump from Hudson Street.

Surprise! Surprise! (Third Avenue at 12th Street) - I love shelves, and this place has the Swedish tubular stuff that's cheap, lightweight and easy to put together. Plus thousands of other gadgets and household chotchkes that I'm a complete sucker for. A good place to come when you need some retail therapy - you can spend $20 and leave smiling with a bag full of stuff.

Fragments (53 Stone Street) - Stone Street is off William, not too far from where my mom lives in Lower Manhattan. It's one of the oldest streets in New York, with cobblestones and gas lamps, and it really feels like going back in time. It's recently been refurbished with new boutiques and swank restaurants. Anyone interested in helping out the bruised lower part of the Big Apple should take the 2/3 to Wall, go have lunch at the Stone Street Tavern and then pop into this eclectic jewellery store across the street.

Astor Place Books (Third Avenue at 9th Street) - A great place to kill time, or to look like you have a reason for being.

Joe's Pizza (Sixth Avenue off Carmine) - Absolutely, positively the best slice in the city.

INDIELONDON'S VERDICT...
Restaurants
Virgil’s Home Cooking (152 West 44th Street)
- Located just off Time Square, Virgil’s is ideal for anyone seeking that southern cooked taste of the Deep South. A terrific selection of real barbecue favourites, from ribs to burgers, in a really relaxed setting (with friendly service), this is a must for anyone who doesn’t mind getting their fingers dirty. And, as mentioned, the heart of New York is just around the corner.

Landmark Tavern (626 11th Avenue at 46th Street) - A former Irish waterfront saloon (some 130 years ago), this NY treasure, boasts a traditional, family-feel and has the distinction of being featured regularly on Spin City. Very stylish, reasonably priced, the restaurant also lays claim to serving the best fish and chips in the Big Apple. It is quite a walk from the main tourist areas but it has the feel of a place where the genuine NY ‘locals’ like to hang out and dine and is well worth discovering on a quieter evening. The warm soda bread with raisins is a real must for getting the taste-buds warmed-up.

Greenwich Brewing Company (418 6th Avenue at 9th Street, Greenwich Village) - Great food, great atmosphere, great little joint which was packed to the rafters when we popped by. Greenwich, itself, is a really cool place to hang out in, particularly at night; feeling a little more chilled and relaxed than the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Mouth-watering treats include the swordfish and the steak, while the cheesecake desserts simply melt in the mouth. They also have 50 or so bottled beers from England, Germany, Belgium, etc.

City Crab and Seafood Company (235 Park Avenue South) - New York's Fulton Fish Market is this restaurant’s central receiving point from, which hundreds of specialty fisherman, shell fish packers and oyster harvesters ship directly of a daily basis. The resulting meals are well worth diving into for seafood lovers. For one indielondon correspondent, this restaurant provided the meal of the trip (a particularly delicious surf ‘n’ turf combo), while the San Francisco speciality ciopino with fettucine was another gastronomic delight. Another popular joint with New Yorkers, this also boasts excellent service. To find out more, visit http://www.kerrymenu.com/City-Crab-and-Seafood-Co..htm

Bars
Gaslight Lounge (400 West 14th Street)
- An IL favourite, this is one hell of a cool bar to hang out in. Features live music from resident DJs; much of which is very Brit/indie-influenced. To find out more, click http://www.vipguestlist.com/gaslight_lounge.htm

Failte (531 Second Avenue, pictured above, right) - The ideal place to hang out in, have a laugh with friends in an intimate, fun-loving Irish-American setting. Play pool with the manager, indulge in a pint of Guinness or (in our case) get lured onto the bar for a spot of dancing!! A great place for a hell of a craic, this also boasts a terrific jukebox (also noted by New Yorkers at http://www.digitalcity.com/newyork/bars/venue.adp?vid=80545&type=userreviews). User tip: Failte, pronounced "FALL-cha," means welcome in Gaelic.

Irish bars such as Mustang Sally’s, Flannery’s and O’Reilly’s are always worth the effort, for sheer atmosphere, ambience and fun. For the NY Irish pub guide, click on the link http://www.webcom.com/inotes/pubs.html

Down-time (away from the party scene)

Strawberry Fields (Central Park) - There’s plenty to see and do in this green oasis in the centre of the city, but for Beatles/Lennon fans, there is only one location to head for. As peaceful and serene as the setting suggests, it is well worth getting along to in order to pay any final respects or to visit the spot where one of modern music’s greats was killed. Just a few minutes’ stroll from the equally relaxing ice-skating rink.

The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Island)
- An obvious choice, but an essential requirement for any trip to the Big Apple. Likewise, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre et al...

RELATED LINKS: Click here for the Kissing Jessica Stein review...