Apr 5, 2022
18 min read
A Guide to Downtown Manhattan
There is nowhere in the world quite like New York – and Downtown Manhattan is one of our favorite parts of the city. Whether you have only seen the iconic buildings on the big screen, are a NYC ride-or-die, or have decided that the “buzz” of the streets is just anxiety cloaked in the smell of trash… no one can deny it is one of the most iconic places in the world. At Safara, we love New York, and some of us even call it home.
Because there is far too much to do, see and eat, we have split our NYC guides into areas, so that we don’t overwhelm you with subway rides. To kick it off, this is a guide to Downtown Manhattan. No matter how many iterations the various neighborhoods that make up Downtown Manhattan go through, there is always something new to get excited about.
For us, an ideal day in Downtown Manhattan might include a run along the river, a coffee catch up with a friend who’s in town for the week, some hotel lobby meetings, a slice of pizza, a browse of the boutiques, stopping by a new exhibition, checking out the latest restaurant opening, and bar hopping for a nightcap or three. Let’s go?
Where to stay in Downtown Manhattan
The PUBLIC hotel is an Ian Schrager project. Repping the tagline “luxury for all”, PUBLIC boasts gorgeous rooms for affordable prices. Located on Chrystie Street, you are perfectly positioned to enjoy the bars in Alphabet City or the Lower East Side, and still skip over to Nolita for breakfast. Definitely visit theirCantina and Pisco
bar, and if you happen to visit during the warmer months, head to the roof for great views and better dancing.
We would honestly pay to just walk into The Beekman. The building and lobby are half the reason to stay here. If you don’t end up getting a room, definitely come for a drink. The location might not be ideal if you are planning on meeting friends in SoHo on the regular, but if you have a few meetings in FiDi and don’t mind being a quick train ride away from most of our favorite haunts, stay here.
We come to The Greenwich because it feels a little bit like our rustic dream home – if we were able to decorate with beautiful leather furniture, beamed ceilings, and cozy fireplaces. And have Robert De Niro (part owner) as our partner. We also come to The Greenwich because the Japanese-designed spa is incredible (complete with an underground pool),
and for the general proximity toLocanda Verde
, an incredible Italian restaurant located on the ground floor. Definitely try the house-made ricotta.
The Bowery is a downtown staple, where you’re likely to come for a drink in their courtyard, an event, or decent Italian food atGemma
. It’s a real local haunt for New Yorkers. We know we aren’t breaking the mould by suggesting you stay here, but we are still going to, because climbing into bed with one of their iconic teddy bears is pretty hard to beat.
The Beekman // The Greenwich
With two locations in Manhattan, one in SoHo and one in NoMad, The Arlo is a great option when you don’t want to splurge on The Bowery, and want something a little more straightforward. The Arlo hosts events weekly that span from movie nights to wine tastings. If have a meeting planned, they have a few different spaces in both locations that you can book. One note, though: do not get the room service. It’s overly priced and really terrible. Go to the bodega on the corner for a $3 egg sandwich instead – a NYC tradition.
If location is what you’re after, it’s hard to beat The Marlton. This gorgeous space is located just north of Washington Square Park, and if you need to warm up, we challenge you to find a better fireplace with cosier couches than the ones in their lobby. It’s fun to work here, too – and they allow laptop squatters to stay, which is always a bonus for us. The rooms are small, but eclectic.Margaux
, their restaurant, has a covered patio that is the perfect setting for any weekend lunch. Great for meetings, too.
The Arlo // Margaux at The Marlton
Where to eat in Downtown Manhattan
hip spot in NoHo right now. We were tipped off by Safara Insider Negar Mohammadi, and you might already know it for the underground bar/lounge, Acme. But, the place to be is the newly revamped ground-floor bar and restaurant. Think classy supper club set-up: there’s a piano, swathes of velvet, and a luxurious menu by chef Nicole Gajadhar. Order the tuna tartare, or a classic club sandwich – and know that you can rely on the whole drinks list here, as the beverage director is Ashley Santoro, of the Standard hotels. Ours is a Daiquiri, as recommended by another Insider Georgia Zeavin, who swears this is the only place in NYC that can make a good one.
A chic Italian in the West Village, Saint Theo’s was one of our favorite 2021 openings. Since, we’ve eaten there countless times – the gloriously diverse menu is like a grand tour of Italy, from cuttlefish in ink to cherry tomato spaghettini. Owner, Kyle Hotchkiss Carone (the man behind another Greenwich Village hot spot, American Bar), and head chef, Ashley Rath (previously cooking up a storm at Santina), planned the menu around the prompt: “What does a beach club in Italy serve at lunch?” Add an eclectic interior – with vintage Pirelli calendars, Murano glass fixtures and terrazzo bar – and, there you have it, pure sunny Mediterranean vibes.
A great place for a casual Mexican breakfast, lunch or dinner – favorite order? Guacamole and tostadas, bass ceviche and whatever tacos they have on the special (at a minimum). Ideally with a spicy margarita – this place takes its mezcal et al very seriously. Basically, it’s the more relaxed counterpart to chef Enrique Olvera’s upscale Cosme, and an equally delicious, Manhattan spin on modern Mexico.
Saint Theo’s // ATLA
An absolute NYC classic, Pastis closed in 2014, but has now returned to the Meatpacking District and we’re here for it. The traditional French brasserie style is just as good as it always was, beautifully curated by restauranteurs Keith McNally and Stephen Starr. Indulge your inner Francophile and get the steak tartare and escargots, brought bang up to date with a glass (or bottle) of pét-nat.
Is Indochine still good? A resounding yes. With almost 40 years of experience serving locals and visitors to NYC alike, you can’t go wrong here. The fashion bloggers love it, the old-time New Yorkers love it – and the French-Vietnamese fusion food still really works. Although, to be honest, we’re totally here for the people watching.
Classical French fare (oysters, crêpe complète, niçoise salad, quiche du jour; or just a morning coffee and flakiest breakfast croissant – the whole gang’s there), plus a gorgeous high-ceilinged setting inside Soho’s Roman and Williams Guild, and a female chef who is, quite frankly, setting the agenda when it comes to great food in New York right now
Chef Marie-Aude Rose, if you’re reading, consider us big fans. The best part? You canbuy the tableware
. Lovers of hosting and tablescaping, this is not a drill.
Choosing a favorite Italian restaurant in Downtown Manhattan is nearly impossible. But, this is one that we like very, very much. Il Buco is a classic NoHo establishment and you can order anything on the menu, and count on incredibly good food. The wine list is approachable, but can also impress, and the decor is classically rustic. For a special occasion, they have a back room that you can rent out.
This isn’t the place to come for a romantic dinner for two – you’ll most likely sit at a shared table, and you should over order. Food is small plates style, and the wine list is obscure and incredible. There will be a wait… but, know that it’s worth it.
Pastis // La Mercerie
Frenchette was named one of the best restaurants to open in 2018. People have called it the newBalthazar
– but, we are sensitive about that, because we don’t believe there can be a new Balthazar. That said, it is very good and serves exceptional food. The price tag will be hefty, but you aren’t getting cheated out of quality or experience.
Charlie Bird is the first project from the owner ofPasquale Jones
(which you should also go to), and still remains a favorite of ours. You’ll find this Italian spot at the intersection of SoHo and the West Village, and you can count on incredible pastas and great tunes. This is also the team behindParcelle Wine
, so you can guarantee the selection is top notch.
If you’re in SoHo and need a quick lunch, a hangover cure, an after drinks pick-me-up, or just want amazing New York pizza by the slice, come here. It isn’t the only place we come for pizza, not even close, but it is on our rotation, and we think it’s some of the best.
If you’re in need of an all-day cafe with healthy food, good coffee, and potentially a glass of wine for when the sun starts to descend, head to West~bourne. The space is adorable, and almost everything on the menu is worth an order.
This is great Chinese food. Bring cash, and your own bottle (BYOB), and get ready to roll out of here. This is a no frills establishment, with plastic cups and pictures notating menu items hanging on the walls, but that just makes us love it all the more.
One of our favorite East Village restaurants, David Chang’s Ssäm Bar is in a league of it’s own. Even though the Momofuku craze isn’t at the top of everyone’s radar anymore, the food is still unbelievable. We love coming here with a bigger group and ordering family style.
We love this West Village staple, brought to you by the team behindJeffrey’s Grocery
(and more). We usually come here for brunch, but the bartender that works after the 8pm rush is amazing and in all reality, we could come to this adorable little restaurant any time of day.
West-Bourne // Charlie Bird
Where to drink in Downtown Manhattan
Above a Five Guys on a corner in the West Village is a small bar called The Garret. It was the first establishment in a series of “Garrets”, opened by Gavin Moseley’s Den Hospitality. We love all the locations, but the West Village one holds a special place in our hearts – it’s hidden away and if things get a little wild, we can get french fries downstairs.
We loved the Wayland when it opened years ago. We would crowd in here to see friends play guitar for an audience of 15, while sipping extremely good cocktails. Now, the Wayland has expanded into the space next-door and is an Alphabet City staple. We love that, because we love the Wayland. It also serves (very good) food.
This tiny bar is a great place to meet a new date. On the corner of 7th, you will walk down a few steps into a little room with dim lighting. It’s romantic, and surprisingly, you will usually find a seat. We don’t recommend going on a Friday or a Saturday (too packed), but when in NYC, why would you wait until the weekend?
This speakeasy is located in the Lower East Side. We call it a speakeasy because, well, it was actually a real speakeasy. It’s one of two bars in NYC that was operating during Prohibition and is still working today. There is no sign on the door to walk in, and when you order a cocktail, expect it to come in a teacup.
Between TriBeCa and the West Village this experimental cocktail bar sits on an otherwise lonely corner, and the door takes you downstairs to a basement lounge. Come early to get a seat, and let the bartenders do their thing. Also good for date nights.
We love Clandestino. There isn’t anything exceptional about the drinks, the space, or anything else really – but that is why we love it. It’s a solid bar and perfect for pretty much anything.
Are the $15 NYC cocktails making you itch for a dive bar with a pool table and cheap shots? We got you. Well, Sophie’s has got you.
The Back Room // Lovers of Today
Where to get coffee in Downtown Manhattan
An old favorite of ours, Maman’s is a great spot for a coffee catch up or solo lunch, with the best pastries and quiches around. For the full South of France-meets-North America experience, order ‘The Katy’ quiche, plus a lavender hot chocolate and the lemon poppy seed cookie for dessert. It’s right around corner from the11 Howard
hotel, so if you’re staying there, don’t think twice.
Near the Bowery, this design-forward coffee shop has really good selection of Nicaraguan coffee, roasted in house, with beans available to takeaway. And if coffee’s not your thing, the teas are good, too (though we draw the line at a turmeric latte – that Instagram-trend ship has sailed).
THE ELK is somewhere we can work, eat, drink coffee, and then eat again. This cute West Village space has healthy eats that will keep you going all day long.
If you don’t need a chair, table, or an outlet, head to the Coffee Peddler on Lafayette and Houston. This is a coffee cart (a very NYC “thing”!) unlike any you’ve seen before. The coffee is delicious, and we can guarantee that you’ll end up snapping a few pics of their set up. They also do Australian toasts and have a few baked goods for snacks.
This is one of our favorite downtown bookstores that also happens to be a coffee shop (of course, because we are in New York). Feel free to buy a book and come here to sip on a latte and read, or stop by for a soup and a salad while shopping in Nolita. Fun/weird fact: we used to see Moby in here all the time.
Hugh Jackman owns this TriBeCa shop. It’s not somewhere you can come with your laptop and it doesn’t really have seating – but, did we mention that Hugh Jackman is the owner? It also helps that the coffee is excellent, and you can rest easy knowing your money is getting put to good use by supporting the Laughing Man Foundation.
The Elk // Maman NYC
Where to get a hit of culture
The new Whitney isn’t so new, but it’s equally as exciting. They have rotating exhibits, but the house collection and the architecture are reason enough to go. If you get hungry, head downstairs to Untitled and absolutely order their cookie for dessert. Then follow up with a walk along the High Line.
Usually featuring premiers of independent or foreign films, IFC is one of our favorite theaters in New York. You can catch cult classics, or programming with LGBTQ+ curators. Occasionally, you’ll find directors or actors speaking before their films and doing Q&As, too.
Go toBlue Note
, or theVillage Vanguard
to catch a live jazz show. Order a glass of red and make sure to book in advance for the bigger acts.
We understand that this should technically be in our “Where to eat” section, but we truly believe that pastrami this good is a cultural experience. Go here late, when the lines are shorter, and you have built up an appetite for a gigantic meat sandwich. Get the pickle.
On East 10th St, this is a “spa”, of sorts. It isn’t the luxurious experience you might get at, sayAIRE Ancient Baths
orGreat Jones Spa
(go there if you want to truly pamper yourself, and book ahead), but it is as authentic a Turkish-Russian bath house as you can get in NYC. It’s a real melting pot of authentic culture – there will be drinking, men in hats and several different languages spoken.
There are a few good reasons to head to Chinatown: great dumplings, Chinese bodywork, or getting your aura photographed atMagic Jewelry
. The options of what to do in this classic neighborhood are endless.
Where to explore
Enter the High Line on Gansevoort Street, and walk the entire way up to 34th. You will definitely see some entertainment along the way, and you should stop to get aLa Newyorkina
for a popsicle. Also feel free to pop down around 18th street to see some of the famous Chelsea art galleries. They often have free public openings (including free wine!), usually on Thursdays.
It’s always fun walking through the big farmers market that happens Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays in Union Square. Tons of local vendors from around the city and upstate come in to sell their goods – which range from produce to breads to cheese to wine and cider.
La Newyorkina // Union Square Greenmarket
Lower East Side Galleries
When it comes to New York galleries, people usually jump to Chelsea. We understand that, because we adoreDavid Zwirner
, but we also think that the LES gallery scene deserves a mention. While you’re gallery hopping, head toBodega
, and explore the other small art spaces that have made this a destination along the way.
Specializing in vintage and niche films, this spot is part theater, part bar, and part restaurant. All the food is modeled after Hollywood studio cafeterias, and you can usually score tickets to cool events, too.
Where to shop
We’re calling it, this is the coolest furniture store in the world, and a trip to NYC is not complete without visiting. There will not be enough room in your case to carry any of the homewares home, so be prepared to arrange shipping! It’s in Long Island City and run by Alan Eckstein.
This independent brand’s flagship store sits on the Lower East Side, while their second store is in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Both shops are incredible for grown-up streetwear – years before Heron Preston’s game-changing collab with NYC workers, these guys made it cool. Their in-store label Stanton Street Sports is a nod to their Downtown roots, and they still have an ongoing partnership with New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The co-owners are New York natives, Micah Belamarich, Andrew Shear and Julian Goldstein – and if you’re not in the market for a graphic tee, then pick up a pair of NYC socks.
We were delighted when we found out that Aurora James now has a super-cool flagship in Greenpoint. It’s a minimalist space, where each piece tells a story – from the plants to the vintage furniture. And, of course, the Brother Vellies signature leather footwear and artisanal accessories that celebrate cultural history, timeless design and the people that made them. Continuing on the theme of socks, her Cloud Socks are the actual dream.
This Lower East Side store is one of our favorites. It carries boutique brands like CMEO Collective and adorable accessories. Unfortunately for men, it’s just for women, for now.
This is a men’s store on Bond Street that works with cool designers, plus has their own in-house brand. We love their sweatshirts and graphic tees for that casual NY streetwear look.
With a location in Nolita and the West Village, we are regular Otte browsers. They carry a range of brands – large and small – that we can always find a place for in our closets. Their in-house brand is perfect for that simple silk dress we all need as we run around the city.
When you picture the New York “cool girl”, she is wearing MNZ. From the perfect mule to a great high-waisted skirt, you can find it here. You will most likely do some damage on your credit card, so forgive yourself in advance.
Another place for beautiful homewares, Coming Soon is a mix of colorful interior pieces and vintage furniture – we love it all. It’s great for gifts, too.
Where to dance
Ok, sure, this is a workout rather than a club. But, the vibe is similarly high, especially if you can book in with founder, Taryn Toomey. Combining strength-training, cardio, and mindfulness, plus fab music – from EDM to Stevie Nicks and Nirvana – it’s a mixed bag of awesomeness that will leave you full of endorphins.
This place has been around for ages, and while it isn’t a swanky club experience, that’s exactly what we love about it. Located in a small basement, it’s not quite a dive bar, but it could pass if it tried. There’s a different DJ every night, and whoever it is, you’ll usually get a 90s R&B fix.
Apotheke has live music or DJs on most nights, there’s a global flavor that we love, and we have even been here for a salsa night or two… It has a speakeasy vibe, but most importantly, you still have enough room to dance.
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