New York City is a world unto itself—and always has been. In each of the City’s 259 neighborhoods, you’ll find all the things you need to survive: grocers, dry cleaners, restaurants and hardware shops. But, you’ll also find something intangible: the people from around the world who have come together to call this city home. In this love letter to our hometown, we ask seven New Yorkers a question: What are the places that make your neighborhood unique and why do you call it home?
Stellene Volandes (@stellenevolandes) savvily balances both inhabiting the upper echelons of the Upper East Side and observing it as the editor-in-chief of Town and Country. During COVID-19, the author of Jewels That Made History has rediscovered the splendor of Central Park—the irrefutable gem of the neighborhood she calls home.
“The Grotto,” Central Park East | 79th Street Entrance
Central Park has been my salvation these last six months, but especially the meadow you get to from the 79th street entrance just before you enter the Ramble. We call it “The Grotto” and it’s been the site of many masked picnics with our small circle. If you take the bridle path around The Reservoir on the West Side and look up you can see the midtown skyline—proof to me all along that we would be alright.
Nectar Diner | 1090 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10028
Classic Upper East Side Madison Avenue Diners like Nectar are great because I can talk to all the waiters in Greek and order the Corfu and Mykonos salads and pretend I’m actually there. They make the city feel like a small Greek village. The Lalaounis store on East 64th has that same effect!
Sant Ambroeus | 1000 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021
They never stopped making those perfect prosciutto and Swiss cheese sandwiches and that heavenly marzipan princess cake which meant that even during the saddest days of this year I could send something to celebrate my niece’s graduation.
Publisher, producer, and photographer Felicia Megan Gordon (@hiharlem) calls Sugar Hill, Harlem home. Her upcoming show “Styling: Black Expression, Rebellion, and Joy Through Fashion” will be on view at the Nordstrom New York City Flagship Store from September 17 to October 29.
The Jungle (aka The Frederick Johnson Tennis Courts) | 148th Street Station, New York, NY 10039
In high school I played at the Harlem Junior Tennis League, which produced famous pros like James Blake and less famous ones like Said Day. As an adult, I transitioned The Jungle, where you’ll find a lot of the old-timers who belonged to the HJTL community. I could not be more proud to be part of the Harlem tennis tradition.
Chopped Parsley | 500 W 146th St, New York, NY 10031
I eat here often for the great 90s Black music selection, wonderful photos representing the gamut of Black culture and home-cooked, fresh Japanese food. The proprietress makes her customers feel like they’ve walked into a casual dinner party where famous arbiters of hip hop culture might pop in and chat if they’re lucky.
American Legion Post 398 | 248 W 132nd St, New York, NY 10027
I go here for jazz and drinks since my beloved St. Nick’s Pub closed. It’s super down to earth, cozy and authentic Harlem. On weekday nights, you might catch world-class musicians like Jason Marshall working out sets. They offer food sometimes, but I’d recommend going around the corner to Charles’ Pan Fried Chicken for the best soul food in Harlem.
Author and head chef of Red Rooster Marcus Samuelson (@marcuscooks) has made Harlem both the center of his culinary work and his home. In his forthcoming book, The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food (Voracious, October 2020), Samuelson continues to explore the recipes, people, and activists who shape food culture in America.
National Black Theatre | 2031 5th Ave, New York, NY 10035
The National Black Theatre in Harlem has been showcasing black playwrights and artists since the 1960s. Even in the face of COVID-19, the NBT has a full Fall programming schedule locked in that features original commissioned and digitally devised pieces.
Charles’ Pan Fried Chicken | 2461 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10027
Charles Gabriel is a Harlem legend. He’s been cooking up the best fried chicken in New York City for decades and has no plans to stop anytime soon.
Lolo’s Seafood Shack | 303 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026
Skai and Raymond, the owners of Lolo’s, have created one of the most fun and funky spots in Harlem. A meal from here will transport you straight to a beach in the Caribbean.
Anna Polonsky (@annapolons) has been the not-so-secret weapon behind some of your favorite restaurants. This week, Polonsky & Friends, her new project, launches #AskChefsAnything x Beirut an auction to raise funds for Beit el Baraka running September 10-13. A lover of things collaborative, she calls “Stuyshwyck” home (for those separatists out there, that would the area between Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick, Brooklyn).
Drip Coffee Makers | 12 Belvidere St, Brooklyn, NY 11206
Nigel Price, the owner, is not only the nicest guy on the planet but also one of the most passionate and knowledgeable baristas I have ever met (which is a lot to say in a coffee-heavy city like New York). He offers a fantastic monthly rotation of roasters and has a perfect mix of pastries from Brooklyn bakers like L’Imprimerie and Ovenly.
Las Mexicanitas | 915 Broadway Brooklyn, NY 11206
A family-run Mexican bodega on Broadway that has a wonderful selection of Mexican products. We stock up on tostadas, fresh tortillas, hoja santa, Queso Oaxaca and all sorts of chili sauces and herbs there. The offer prepared foods only on Sundays when they serve traditional Mexican Sunday barbacoa to go which is a treat.
OSTUDIO | 366 Stockton St, 1C, Brooklyn NY 11206
This is the hybrid community space my husband Fernando Aciar opened over a year ago. There you will find my Polonsky & Friends office along with many incredible makers workshops, from Fer’s ceramics from fefostudio, to stunning patchworks from Sarah Nsikak’s La Reunion’s, Jessi Highet’s dyed goods, Lampu’s lights, the new non-alcoholic aperitif brand Ghia, and more.
Ian Ginsberg is president of the Greenwich Village landmark C.O. Bigelow (@cobigelow) pharmacy – and the third generation to work at this family-owned apothecary. Safe to say: he knows downtown, and has be there for his neighborhood’s residents through it all.
55 Bar | 55 Christopher St.
Blink and you’ll miss it. This hole-in-the-wall, Prohibition-era club has been serving up some of the city’s most exciting jazz and blues for over a hundred years. Covers range from $0-$10. Add a beer and a tip in the mug and it is still the best deal for great live music 7 days a week.
Washington Square Park
It might seem obvious, but this little gem of a park is one of the city’s great treasures. Round the corner from the bustle of 5th Avenue and life just unfolds there. Piano playing under the archway, drum circles, kids on the playground – it really is the heartbeat of the Village.
The Original Sandwich Shoppe | 58 Greenwich Ave.
Back when C.O. Bigelow still had a soda fountain, they would roast a whole turkey every day to carve for our sandwiches. The Original Sandwich Shoppe keeps up the tradition. You can order a fresh roasted dark-meat turkey sandwich there that’s just incredible. The homemade mayo puts it over the top.
Patrick Vaill (@patrickvaill) graced the Broadway stage as Jud Fry in “Oklahoma!,” in the game-changing production, bringing an entirely fresh take on the classic character and his bright talent to the NYC theater scene. With a current show, “Dash & Lily” in the works on Netflix, you can see Vaill on the small screen across the country, but he’ll still call NYC home.
The Corner Bookstore | 1313 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10128
New York is vast, and some days in a way that can feel insurmountable. This neighborhood institution is without question the perfect spot to open a book and feel that someone is speaking directly to you—seeing you. Books make us feel less alone (especially in this pandemic), and as far as I’m concerned there is no better place to find them in the whole world.
Butterfly Garden-North Meadow, Central Park | East Dr. &, 102nd St. Crossing, New York, NY 10029
At the beginning of March I thought I was going to the north end of Central Park day after day to get exercise. But as time went on, I realized it was because in the midst of all that green, all that air, all that quiet, and away from sirens and the tension of navigating the street, this was a place where my shoulders could drop. The park has been essential—ever since I was a kid, and never more so than in the past six months. It is the lungs of Manhattan.
Three Guys Diner | 960 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021
This is the first restaurant I went to when the world opened back up. I’ve gone there since I was little, raising hell in the large back booth with my sister and our friends. I love it there, and feel, like so many of us in my neighborhood, that it’s an extension of my own kitchen. I got the BLT on rye toast. As always, it was perfect.
Born and raised in Mexico, chef and author Fabián Von Hauske (@fabianvhv) has made a home for himself with his much-adored restaurants Contra, Wildair and his wine club, Peoples Wine. His cookbook, A Very Serious Cookbook: Contra Wildair (by Fabián and Jeremiah Stone with Alison Roman) is out now.
Massimo Salon | 179 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
I get my haircuts with Massimo. I met Massimo when he started coming to the restaurants. He is this Italian guy with crazy energy and a very specific style. If you spend enough time in the Lower East Side you’ve seen Massimo. He is amazing and has so many stories about his time in Japan and running Ricky’s in NYC. He also makes his own limoncello.
Regina’s Grocery | 27 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
My friend Roman runs this sandwich shop with his mom. He is the nicest most humble guy and one of the most hardworking people I know. The sandwiches are delicious. Honestly, I feel like that block and the space between Regina’s and Scarr’s Pizza is the space where the Lower East Side universe meets.
Nitecap | 151 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002
Nitecap is hands down my favorite bar in the city. I used to go to their first location when we opened the restaurants and Natasha David was always super kind to me. That place will always remind me of when I started feeling like I was part of the neighborhood. When we opened and were still full of energy, we used to go with the entire staff there and had so many amazing drinks. I can’t wait until they open again; I will be the first person in line.
Abbye Churchill is a multidisciplinary artist and author who works with textiles, plants, food, and community. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, Food + Wine and W, among others. She was the Editorial Director of Wilder magazine and her first book, A Wilder Life was featured in the New York Times Book Review’s “Best of Summer.” Her most recent title is The Gardens of Eden: New Residential Garden Concepts & Architecture for a Greener Planet. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.