Updated: Apr 29
I LOVE NEW YORK! Apart from places I lived I have spent more time in NYC than any other city by far. I began my professional career twenty years ago at Macy's Corporate, which is the parent company for two New Year City icons: Macy's and Bloomingdale’s. As a result, I spent the equivalent of two years at the company’s divisional headquarters in Manhattan. Yet shockingly I have never been to the top of the Empire State building or the Statue of Liberty! Doing the "touristy" stuff was never a high priority.
My colleagues and I stayed at posh hotels and dined at the finest restaurants! One time we saved our per diem to try the $100 hamburger that we saw featured on one of the morning shows. It left me very hungry. My New York based friends had me frequenting places like the Shark Bar, Soul Cafe, and Justin's. I took advantage of the tax friendly shopping.
The 34th Street Macy's held musical performances and I recall the chill of the store-top offices during the annual Flower Show. Bloomingdale's headquarters had me staring like a wide-eyed child with all of the fashionable and fun people. From the Macy's Merchandising Group's offices across from Madison Square Gardens I witnessed first hand the aftermath of 9/11. New York and the people will always have a special place in my heart. When a friend suggested I celebrate my January 2020 birthday in New York I had no objections.
Typically I do an annual pilgrimage to New York to get a theatre fix or food exploration. For this trip I would like to share my best of New York!!!
Where to Stay
This was my first time staying at the 4-star Refinery Hotel and it definitely will not be my last! This hotel checks all my boxes: Location, great service, and comfortable accommodations. The Refinery Hotel is a Small Luxury Hotels of the World member.
Centrally located in the Garment District near Bryant Park, the Refinery has views of the Empire State Building, yet the 38th Street address insulates it from the chaos of tourist heavy areas. My affinity of boutique hotels was derived from my desire to have some of the coziness of home, which I get since the hotel only has thirteen floors. Plus I really hate waiting in the lines to get an elevator like I always do at Times Square properties.
My first stop after checking-in was to the acclaimed Refinery Rooftop Bar & Restaurant for an early lunch. At the 13th floor bar I had a celebratory 13th Floor Margarita to celebrate my January 13th birthday. See it was meant to be!!! I also had the tasty meatball appetizer, the greens grilled cheese with fries, and another drink. I headed back up to the rooftop for a late lunch with a friend. She loved her entree and I had a mini frozen hot chocolate since her food looked lonely.
The room and bathroom were spacious even for New York standards. The hotel graciously gifted me with a bottle of their namesake red wine and the minibar was well stocked in case wine didn't do the trick. The luxury Le Labo Santal 33 bath products delighted me. This is a signature scent for two of my friends and one wanted me to raid the housekeeping cart. Though I was tempted, I did not!
Let it be known I am Goldilocks Jr. For me is difficult to find a hotel in which the temperature, bed comfort, and noise level are all ideal! At the Refinery it was 'just right' and I had a divine night's sleep! In fact, if I did not have concrete plans I would have snuggled in bed drinking wine and ordering food all day.
Lastly, I love that the building has its own fashionable story to tell. The Refinery Hotel is located in the old Colony Arcade Building, which is listed on The National Register of Historic Places. Over a century ago the building was home to the world’s best milliners and furriers. A ground floor lady’s tearoom and a separate men’s restaurant capitalized on the foot traffic from the renowned Lord & Taylor department store. Side Note: I worked at Macy's Corporate at the time they acquired the parent company for Lord & Taylor! History, Fashion, Food! I'm in my element!
The Refinery pays homage to the Colony Arcade's illustrious past with details such as repurposing Singer sewing machine into room desks and Edison telephones in the hallways. The coppery glow from the lighting and dark furnishings throughout provides an ambiance of intimate refinement. Next NYC trip I will take in the live jazz at Winnie’s lobby bar (former ladies tea room), eat at the Parker & Quinn restaurant (former men's restaurant), and revisit the Rooftop, between naps and Netflix.
Where to Eat
New York is the food capital of the world. No other city offers the quantity of options for every cuisine on the planet.
Some may say my favorite meal is Brunch. Probably because it is a once or twice a month treat so it feels special. Would I feel the same if I had brunch three days in a row? The answer is a resounding YES!
Tip: Don't be on a diet and have a group of two or more so you can order different dishes, then eat family style.
Clinton St. Baking Company is one of the most popular brunch destinations in New York and I had the satisfaction of brunching here during my last visit. I was thrilled that my friends eventually discovered it was well worth the hour plus wait. The hot buttered rum, blueberry pancakes, bacon, French toast, and eggs benedict are all worthy options.
Jacob's Pickles is another brunch hot spot that is popular with both locals and tourists, hence the typical long waits, which we avoided due to the holiday and being the first through the door. The cocktails are delicious and the southern comfort food is decadent. The Fried Chicken & Pancakes, smothered biscuits, grits, plus a birthday dessert had me bursting at the seams. It was my only meal of the day.
Bluebird London is a new addition to my brunch list. Located in the Time Warner Center, same as Per Se, it was the perfect respite after spending over an hour in Sephora, which is located directly above. A Bellini craft, Cheddar bacon biscuits, and Pistachio almond swirl scone served as our brunch appetizers. The next course included French toast, buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with fries, poached eggs & smoked salmon, and fried flounder tacos. The last course was a shared sticky toffee dessert with ice cream.
As an Etiquette professional trained in London Afternoon Tea is my forte. The Baccarat Afternoon Tea is heralded as one of the best in the city and I have to agree. It is definitely housed in one of the most beautiful rooms in New York at one of the world's best hotels. The Grand Salon is adorned with Baccarat crystal chandeliers and elegant red roses. We snook a peek at the back bar and it was equally swanky. Despite the opulence of the room the ambiance was not stuffy or extremely formal.
In homage to the origins of Afternoon Tea I selected the "Prince of Wales" experience paired with a glass of Louis De Sacy, Grand Cru and Nan Mei Wild Buds white tea. Both were perfect! Next a tower of savory and sweet options was served. The food is the most delicious of any tea service I have had and I have had Afternoon Tea all around the world. The signature scones, with seasonal gelée, were absolutely mouthwatering. The assortment also included a mini lobster roll, foie gras, caviar, and almond cheesecake. Though I dined at noon on a Friday, I left fully satisfied and did not eat again until late in the evening. Definitely worth a revisit.
After seeing social media photos of the main dining room at Cathédrale Restaurant I felt the need to see it for myself. The restaurant is part of the trendy Moxy Hotel in Chelsea and a member of the Tao group of restaurants. The massive space is styled to offer dedicated areas for different dining and drinking experiences. A very late dinner of delicious lobster in a butter sauce with spinach and pasta with truffles hit the spot.
Drinks & Bites
When I first started traveling to NYC in 2000 I learned the subway route to work by renaming the N & R lines the Nicole Reed train after myself. When I heard there was a cocktail ramen bar named NR I had to give it a try. The unassuming door with minimal signage hides the bustling speakeasy and restaurant. The bar is the focal point with its blonde coiffed bartender and art inspired cocktails. Though the drinks were beautiful the standout for me was the delicious Kyoto Ramen and Melty Pork Bun.
Shamefully I have not spent much time in Brooklyn so you can imagine my excitement when a friend suggested we meet at the DUMBO House, which is a Soho House members club located at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. This location is smaller than others I have visited yet the action and atmosphere is just as lively. The space is gorgeous and live music entertained the stylish crowd. We enjoyed drinks, food, and good conversation.
What To Do
A defining feature of New York is Broadway! I have not seen a musical or play in New York that I did not enjoy. Since our original choice Porgy & Bess was sold out, someone in our group suggested The Tina Turner Musical. In 2018, I saw the musical in London were it started. When I learned the same lady would be staring as Tina Turner I was thrilled. Like before she blew the audience away! Hands down one of the best shows on Broadway.
Another shameful admission is the fact I have never been to a museum in NYC. After a heavy brunch, we decided to walk off some of the food at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Though I dreamed my first visit to The Met would be during the annual gala put on by Anna Wintour, a consolation prize was seeing the In Pursuit of Fashion: The Sandy Schreier Collection. Equally stunning is The Great Hall Commission by Native American artist Kent Monkman. Since tackling the Met in one visit is unrealistic we chose to honor MLK Day by admiring the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americans collections.
My final act in NYC in was luxuriating in the spa at the five-star Peninsula Hotel. This was a last minute decision resulting in the availability of a 30-minute treatment. The short deep tissue massage soothed and teased my tight muscles. The relaxation room with private beds, coconut water, and refreshments was just what the doctor ordered (by the way my friend who suggested the spa is a medical doctor). The finishing touch was a quick visit to the ladies lounge to marinate in the sauna and steam room before heading off to the airport.
As usually New York did not disappoint. This girls trip to The Big Apple is just what I needed to kick-start my year and celebrate another year of life.
What is your favorite place to go or thing to do in NYC?