Every year in December we make an updated list of our favorite small shops, restaurants and bars that make their neighborhood a better place to live. These special places make it into The 500 Hidden Secrets of New York. They have charm, special energy, and best of all, they are the very destinations that help the city feel like home. No matter the neighborhood you live in, the places you choose to frequent make your experience very personal. Within the city there are whole universes that have their own style. This year, make sure to shop and support your local boutiques, eat at a neighborhood restaurant and toast to the new year with a New Yorker. Without your support the neighborhood loses its unique appeal. The big corporations won’t miss you, but small business owners will notice and appreciate you.
Food Markets to Help You Throw a Fabulous Holiday Get Together
• Opened in 1970 by Julian Baczynsky, East Village Meat Market is one of the city’s favorite butcher shops with an enduring history. Located in Little Ukraine, shopping here is like going back in time. For party dishes, we recommend you ask for an old-fashioned kielbasa, smoked ham, imported pickles, spicy mustard, handmade jelly-filled donuts, refrigerated pierogies and candy from the old country.
Baczynsky Meat Market, 139 2nd Ave (betw St Marks and 9th St), East Village
• Elizabeth Street might be known as the best smelling block due to its perfume shops, but there is an even better reason to visit. In the middle of the block sits one of the last remaining New York butchers, Albanese Meat & Poultry. Opened in 1923 the neighborhood mainstay is family-owned and just turned 100. The Italian-American business almost shut down a few years ago until it was saved by the great-granddaughter of the original owners. Jennifer Prezioso was taught about the business by her grandfather, Moe Albanese. Come here to admire the vintage facade (you might recognize it from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), and order up sausages or a rib-eye.
Albanese Meat & Poultry, 238 Elizabeth St (betw E Houston & Prince St), Little Italy
• No New York party spread is complete without rainbow cookies, cannoli pastries and cheesecake. You can get all three at Veniero’s. This beloved downtown bakery is a well-known classic, and it was Frank Sinatra’s favorite pastry shop. Opened in 1894 by Antonio Veniero, Veniero’s started out as a social club and handmade confectionery shop. The Italian bakery is an experience you won’t want to miss. We recommend trying their fruit tarts and New York Cheesecake.
Veniero’s , 342 E 11th St (betw 1st and 2nd Ave), East Village
• Stopping at Zabar’s is a Sunday morning ritual for many Upper West Siders. This “temple of fish” first opened in 1934 and three generations later it is still going strong. Get seduced by all kinds of smoked fish, caviar, dried fruit, and other specialty foods. Perfect for creating a holiday cheese board and creating a real New York memory.
Zabar’s, 2245 Broadway (at 80th St), Upper West Side
Local Bars and Pubs to Help You Mingle with New Yorkers
• For almost 100 years, the Holiday Cocktail Lounge attracted notable New York personalities, like Madonna and Sinatra. The recent modern-with-kitsch makeover has made this bar even better. Retaining its vintage feel, the Holiday Cocktail Lounge is committed to serving a community that honors its gritty personality, and enjoys truly excellent cocktails. We love that on any night of the week you can meet a born and bred New Yorker at the bar.
Holiday Cocktail Lounge, 75 St Marks Place (betw 2nd and 3rd Ave), East Village
• Known as the only Broadway Show Tunes “Sing-along” Piano Bar in America, Marie’s Crisis Café is a beloved place for anyone who loves to belt it out. Walking in you will see patrons surrounded around a piano, drinking from plastic cups and celebrating life through a song. Get to know your show tunes, because this experience is one-of-a-kind. It’s just a wonderfully joyful spot that dates back to the early 1900s.
Marie’s Crisis Café , 59 Grove St (betw 7th Ave and Bleecker St) , West Village
• KGB Bar is a unique place that gives writers and artists a place to showcase their work. The three story venue was founded by a Ukrainian immigrant and consists of a theater, bar, and open mic performance space on the top floor. They host regular readings, and even publish their own literary journal. With three floors of creativity at your disposal, come here to mingle with like minded individuals and to write something.
KGB Bar, 85 E 4th St (betw 2nd Ave and Bowery), East Village
• The Back Room is one of only two remaining speakeasies in Manhattan whose clientele included mobsters from the 1920s. To get in, walk through the gate, down the stairs and through a covered alley. In true speakeasy fashion, cocktails are served in tea cups, and the decor will transport you to a different era. While this place gets a lot of social media buzz, locals in-the-know still come here for the atmosphere, or when they want to impress an out-of-towner.
The Back Room, 102 Norfolk St (betw Delancey and Rivington St), Lower East Side
Shops for Eccentric or One-of-a-Kind Gift Ideas
• A mere three minute walk from the Empire State Building is the oldest and most respected magic shop in the city, Tannen’s Magic Shop. This secret den of magic is fun to find. Shopping here includes an exhibit of Houdini relics and the occasional magic show. The staff is passionate about their craft so feel free to ask them all your magical questions.
Tannen’s Magic Shop , 45 W 34th St (betw 5th/6th Ave), Midtown
• When in Union Square make sure to visit Fishs Eddy’s for all your funky kitchen needs. This quirky shop ensures that even your New York souvenirs stand out. Their Statue of Liberty Mugs look anything but basic. The eclectic collection includes dishes, flatware, tea towels, storage containers and vintage-inspired home decor.
Fishs Eddy, 889 Broadway (betw 19th and 20th St), Flatiron
• 9th Street Vintage is a special gem tucked away on 9th street. They are stocked with 1920s dresses, Levis, 1970s knits, and delicate lingerie. The interesting window display beckons you to come in and take in the nostalgia. Serious vintage collectors and newbies alike come here to admire and owner’s keen eye for one-of-a-kind treasures. When seeking special gifts, ninth street is the perfect place to be. While there, make sure to check out Cloak & Dagger, Rosemary Home, The March Hare for kids toys, and more.
9th Street Vintage, 346 E 9th Street (betw 1st and 2nd Ave), East Village
• Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks is a foodie and chef heaven for rare and out-of-print cookbooks. This quirky shop is packed with cookbooks from all over the world. If an out-of-print cookbook or retro-style cookware is someone’s idea of the perfect gift, In addition to books, this is the place to find old magazines, small antiques and retro style cookware.
Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, 28 E 2nd St (betw Bowery and 2nd Ave), East Village
Iconic New York Restaurants With Interesting Histories
• Veselka is a family-owned Ukrainian restaurant that truly serves its community with food, donations for war efforts, and a kind word for all its patrons. They serve familiar Eastern European soul food like pierogies, borscht and American classics, like pancakes and burgers. This restaurant often has a line out the door. It is beloved by the neighborhood and tourists alike.
Veselka, 144 2nd Ave (S East corner 9th St), East Village
• Once the hub of 1980s nightlife, The Odeon continues to be a popular hangout for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The space is donned in typical bistro-style with paneled walls, hooks for coats, and high ceilings. For a real fun New York experience sit at the bar and order their famous Country Frisée Salad with a Cosmopolitan. It is said that the Cosmo cocktail was created here.
The Odeon, 145 W Broadway (N East corner Thomas St), Tribeca
• Caffe Reggio is a historic cafe and restaurant in Greenwich Village. This is where the cappuccino drink was first introduced to America. In 1927 Caffe Reggio founder Domenico Parisi saved up for an espresso machine and brought it to New York. In fact, you can see the original espresso machine on display at the cafe. Besides coffee and tea, you can indulge in paninias, soups and delicious pastries.
Caffee Reggio, 119 MacDougal St (betw W 3rd / Bleecker St), West Village
• December is when everyone ends up clamoring for a reservation at Rolf’s, but if you prefer an easier way to celebrate Christmas the New York way, visit Pete’s Tavern. They are just as decked out as Rolf’s, without all the crowds and drama. Pete’s is one of New York’s oldest bars and restaurants. O. Henry allegedly wrote his tale “Gift of the Magi” in one of their booths. While here check out the 40-foot rosewood bar, tin ceiling and tile floors from 1864.
Pete’s Tavern, 129 E 18th St (N East corner Irving Pl), Gramercy