NFT New York East Midtown

East Midtown

No matter how angry, late, or tired we are from dealing with the overwhelming crowds in this part of town, one glance up at Grand Central Terminal with the Chrysler Building looming in the background never fails to give us a burst of energy and a shot of civic pride. Welcome to East Midtown, which has a major personality disorder--in a good way. It's got the tranquility of elegant Sutton Place and Tudor City, the rowdy nightlife along Second Avenue, the commuter bustle of Grand Central, the international crowd around the UN, and legendary architecture bursting from every corner of this neighborhood.

The hub of this neighborhood--and arguably the city--is Grand Central Terminal. One of the busiest train stations in the world, this gorgeous building also houses many hidden surprises under its vaunted ceiling. Start in the main concourse where you'll see a magnificent clock above the information booth. This spot is what New Yorkers mean when they say, "Meet me at the clock." Some of these meet ups turn into dates at the deluxe and hard-to-find cocktail lounge See more.

>Campbell Apartment. Others wisely opt for a trip into the world of old-school New York dining at the highly recommended Oyster Bar. Ask to sit in the Saloon for a real treat. Shopping options abound here with lots of cool shops (books, MTA souvenirs, etc.) and the best food shopping in Midtown at Grand Central Market.

You may have heard of a little organization called the United Nations. It's housed in an iconic glass building perched on the edge of the East River. We highly recommend the public tour where you get to see the General Assembly, an amazing art collection, and international diplomats scurrying about. Currently the UN headquarters is undergoing a massive $3 billion renovation. The project is estimated to be completed around the same time the UN finally ends world poverty. We can still dream, right?

Architecture nerds rave and worship at Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building, argue over the value of Phillip Johnson's Lipstick Building, and contemplate the public art underneath The Lever House. One of the city's most unique places of worship is the Central Synagogue with vivid Moorish details. Stroll by at night for an otherworldly experience. St. Bart's on Park Avenue is gorgeous in a more traditional way, while the Chrysler Building, Chanin Building, and General Electric Building (570 Lexington) are worshiped for their Art Deco brilliance.

If you want a break from all the tall buildings, check out the Seven Year Itch subway grate where Marilyn Monroe's dress blows up for all the world to see. Head way east to walk down Sutton Place to see where lots of exclusive New Yorkers take up residence. Or stroll around Tudor City and marvel at the handsome Neo-Gothic apartments that diplomats and divas call home. It's a nice way to unwind and enjoy this unique urban enclave without having to drop $2.7 gazillion on a condo.

Not many budget drinking options around here (except Blarney Stone), so go highbrow at The Brasserie inside The Seagram Building, Campbell Apartment inside Grand Central, World Bar inside the Trump Tower, or Sir Harry's inside the Waldorf. If you like to drink with the suits after work, PJ Clarke's is your spot.

The Oyster Bar should be on any New Yorker's list of must eats. Aquavit's Scandinavian Sunday buffet brunch is as amazing as it is expensive. Sakagura is a great option for Japanese and sake, while Sushi Yasada has the best raw fish in the city. For a classic NYC burger, PJ Clarke's is a good bet.

The Food Emporium under bridge is actually kind of cool and the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store has fun gift ideas. Sherry Lehmann has a ridiculous selection of fancy booze you can't afford. And there's a Home Depot in a basement on 59th Street? That's just plain weird.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
5 Ways to Taste the Silk Road

By Layne Mosler
Though New York cabbies hail from all over the world, many of them were born along what was once the Silk Road. Guided by taxi drivers from Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, Layne Mosler explores five restaurants where chefs still cook under the influence of spice swaps on the ancient trade route.
Hearst Tower: A Defense of Green

By Tommy Rudnick
Go green. Live clean. Writer Tommy Rudnick : His noble-spirited environmentalism is evidenced by his mien.

Walk Like You Mean It

By Sarah Enelow
"Ugh, if we don’t get there soon, I’m gonna die." Judging by the number of times you hear this on the street, you'd think many people feel that New York is not a "walking city." However, Sarah Enelow explains how New York's very unruly nature is what lends itself to walking, wandering, and discovering your role in this monolith.
East Side Kids

By Jessica Feder-Birnbaum
Kids these days. So full of life. Sometimes you gotta put them in their place and sometimes you just gotta take them on the town. And what part? The East Side. From Kosher bakeries to high-falutin' libraries, the East Side has it all. Come. Join us on this kid-friendly journey.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Grand Central Terminal
Whenever I'm meeting someone in Midtown, I never pass up the chance to say, "Meet me at the clock in Grand Central." If you know what that means, then you've been living in New York for awhile. There's something special about waiting to meet one single person surrounded by thousands upon thousands of darting commuters and photo-happy tourists. Amid the swirl you can check your i-Phone for an email you don't really need to read, or take a few moments to just stare up at the beautiful ceiling and enjoy the rushing city for a few small moments before coming back to reality. And if you don't have a plan when you meet your friend, you can always duck into the fabulous Grand Central Oyster Bar saloon for a martini and a dozen bivalves.

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Grand Central Terminal
Poetry in Motion: it's more than a Beastie Boys lyric, and it's back! Did you miss it? The program began in 1992 with an excerpt from Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," and after a four-year hiatus starting in 2008, these poems are beautifying our subway cars again. Many of them are really poignant, some of them very "New York," and the artwork more enchanting than, say, ads for Dr. Zizmor's tattoo removal. And the best part? As I took this photo, a mother and daughter turned to read the poem together and smiled, and I was so caught up I missed my stop. I know this next part will disappoint many hard-working poets, and if I were a poet this would have been my next question, but sadly they don't accept submissions. The Poetry Society of America (the country's oldest poetry organization) and New York's Arts for Transit select two new poems each quarter, and there's more to come. Check the back of your metrocard too, sometimes poems will be printed there, and look out for Poetry in Motion in other cities across the country.

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Psychic Serena
Never having chosen a psychic before, I did my research, which consisted of visiting some extra-tacky websites, reading consumer reviews, watching youtube videos about chakras, and perusing what "information" I could find. However, since there are no actual facts to be learned from researching this subject, I just chose a psychic who lived in a nice neighborhood, claimed to have 30 years of experience, and was having a sale, a 30-minute tarot reading for $25 ("valued" at $90). How bad could it be? I showed up at her East 53rd Street apartment, which was not actually decorated like a gypsy boudoir, and took a seat on her couch while she dealt some cards. 2012 had been going well, so I figured she would sense my positive energy and tell me everything was looking up. Instead, I learned that my book will never get published (thanks!), last year’s ex-boyfriend will come back to haunt me (fantastic!), and 2013 will be a real circus of misery. There were a few positive moments, she said I have a guardian angel, but I disagreed with most of her intuition (Am I sure I wasn't close with my grandmother? My energy is very confused right now). Of course, I can get the cosmic direction I need by scheduling another session, but to her credit, she didn't give me the hard sell. It was a decent experience, and after all, what would New York be without psychics? The country's most jaded city ought to have a fortuneteller on every other block, and every once in a while we ought to try it.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Hide-Chan Ramen
I'm a big fan of Time Out New York. They compile one billion cool happenings for the week in one single mag. Very impressive. And every year they publish a stellar list of best dishes to eat in the city. It saves the reader a lot of time and trouble--no need to look at the menu when you get to the restaurant. So when I was in the mood for Ramen the other day (by no coincidence after a visit to the "Samurai in New York" exhibit at MCNY and the "Japanese Fashion Now" exhibit at FIT), I remembered reading about the intriguing version at Hide-Chan. The Hakata Kuro is a pork based broth with tons of fragrant black garlic and char siu pork smells wafting from the bowl. From the first to last sip, this was one of the best soups I've ever slurped. The broth literally tasted of succulent grilled pig--like a miracle of molecular gastronomy. Round it off with strips of kikurage mushrooms, a handful of fresh scallions, and the requisite seaweed, and you have a perfect ramen. Thanks Time Out.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

When you get to a certain age, you will need to find a restaurant in Midtown other than Burger Joint. So far I've only found a few places that (a) have seriously good food; (b) you can get into; and (c) don't have a completely execrable clientele. Answer: Amma, a small but posh upscale Indian in East Midtown that doesn't disappoint. Even better--we got in for Restaurant Week (going through July 25, it's two weeks long now), so we had a fabulous five-course prix fixe, where we ordered 10 different dishes and pretty much liked them all. The first courses were a selection of different fried patties, including a beet root cutlet patty and a lamb patty; the cold tomato soup was thin but tasty; chicken cooked perfectly, and a lovely Alu Paneer Tikki Chat (pictured). Want to go back (on someone else's dime, of course), for the regular menu as well. Another (rare) ace-in-the-hole for midtown. Thank god.

Posted By:  Layne Mosler
Photo:  Layne Mosler

Barros Luco
The $5 baked beef empanada here is a thing of beauty: big chunks of meat, loads of smoked red pepper, black olives, raisins, and hard-boiled egg. Though it's thick, the dough is flavorful, dutifully supporting the business of the filling. Sandwiches--especially the signature Barros Luco with steak or marinated chicken and melted cheese--are equally popular and served on Chilean bread that's baked fresh daily. Sit upstairs in the evenings and on weekends and use free Wi-Fi while you chow down. If you're feeling decadent, pop into Gulluoglu Baklava & Cafe next door and pick up some of the city's best baklava for dessert.

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

United Nations
Taking a tour of the United Nations is a fine metaphor for dealing with American bureaucracy. In my case, you go through security only to find out that the UN tour desk can't take debit cards today, and since the UN's ATM doesn't work, you go outside to withdraw cash, then go through security again twice, having to pour out your water that magically made it through the first time. But surely the $16 tour (which can only be taken during business hours on weekdays) is worth it, right? If you've never heard of the UN and don't read the news, then you should probably pay these tour guides to explain its basic functions. Otherwise, the most informative part of the tour occurs inside the General Assembly, where the "action" happens, an ideal place to grill your guide on minutiae and statistics. My tour guide was quite knowledgeable, but all guides are severely limited by time (tours are 45 minutes) and the complexity of the organization and its 192 member states. Since there is only one official UN headquarters, I suggest taking a tour once in your life, but I doubt there's much to be gained from an encore performance.

Posted By:  Ilona Virostek
Photo:  Ilona Virostek

Grand Central Terminal
Seeing as how this is the best city ever, it should come as no surprise that outdoorsy New Yorkers can hop a quick, inexpensive train from the quintessential American train station to the quintessential American hiking path. On weekends, the Metro-North will take you from Grand Central to the Appalachian Trail in under two hours, for just $13. When you get off the train, you'll find yourself standing directly on the fabled footpath, free to trek as far as you see fit: across bogs, through forests, past lakes and along the edges of farms. You'll likely encounter fellow travelers, some of whom will readily boast through scruffy beards that they've walked here from Massachusetts. You won't get that far if you want to make the last train back to Manhattan, but pack some evening attire in your backpack, and meet friends afterwards at the swanky Campbell Apartment in Grand Central to brag about where you've been. They don't need to know you only hiked for 45 minutes and stopped twice to munch on takeout you brought from the city.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Jeffrey Wine & Liquors
Finding a good wine shop is harder than it looks in Manhattan. Luckily, I had the NFT iPhone app with me the other day when I needed to find some booze in East Midtown (yeah, not my usual hangout, but the mom-in-law is in town). After checking out some random places I saw on the street that we're ridiculously overpriced, I pulled out the iPhone and searched the Shopping category.  One liquor store stood out from the crowd with the blurb, "Jeffrey will treat you right. No Midtown attitude." You know it's a good sign when there's a friendly guy hanging out playing Michael Jackson (RIP). Then I start looking at the prices--at least 25% cheaper than the surrounding places. Finally, I chat with Jeffrey who has been running the store for 33 years. He shares some stories about the old days when ladies with white gloves from Beekman Place would come in to shop. Those old timers from the neighborhood may be long gone, but thankfully Jeffrey is still going strong.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Okay, so Craig just reviewed Aquavit in March, but he did the brunch, so I'll do lunch, and we'll let Trump do the dinner radar (he's a big NFT fan, really). And lest you think we're all making bank here at NFT, I was taken there by some supercool folks at an ad agency; we're reciprocating with street cart Chinatown food today. But seriously, the restaurant itself is a little "greatest hits" of Scandinavian furniture design, the service is what a real restaurant reviewer would call "impeccable," and the breads, amuses, appetizers and main courses are all "flawless." I would go for the power lunch version of the "smorgasbord" (pictured), which is 9 little goody bits of herring and salmon arranged perfectly on a plate. I'd also recommend that someone else pays. Food ALWAYS tastes better that way.

Posted By:  Sara Bogush
Photo:  Sara Bogush

Dessert Truck
Food trucks feed our most impulsive cravings, and Dessert Truck is the ultimate pusherman. Parked on a chain-food infested corner of Third Avenue and Saint Marks, the truck sells irresistible highbrow desserts packed in travel-ready tinfoil cups for $5 a pop. Most popular is the chocolate bread pudding--a kind of fudge brownie take on the classic recipe--topped with vanilla or lightly-flavored bacon anglaise. Creme brulee is caramelized to order, and slow-baked apples with puff pastry tastes like pie in a cup, improved only by a scoop of vanilla ice cream. During daytime hours, Dessert Truck rolls uptown to Lexington and 55th street, peddling to all the jonesing dayjobbers. Check their website for frequent menu updates and occasional closings due to inclement weather.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Grand Central Oyster Bar
Going to the Oyster Bar is simply one of the top experiences in New York. As much as is vanishing in our fair city, so much remains--and the Oyster Bar is near the top of the list. Simply deciding where to sit is the first of many tough choices--the dining room? The front bar? The actual “oyster bar”? The low-slung white counters? The Saloon? (Answer: either the white counters or the Saloon, which many people don’t even know exists, it’s that well-hidden in the back corner). And once you’re actually sitting there, what do you get? The menu can be overwhelming; it’s simply best to eat as many oysters from among the many selections as you can, then get an order of whatever your favorite fish/shellfish is. If the prospect of eating a dozen raw oysters makes your stomach turn, then please, don’t go to the Oyster Bar and take up space—leave us be and go sample this fine eatery’s fabulous wood-grill selections. The rest of us to will decide between west coast vs. east coast, creamy vs. briny, and sweet vs. salty. Ah, the joys of life.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

What's that you say? There's a deep recession going on? I guess I didn't notice because I was too busy stuffing my face with herring, salmon, and meatballs from the outstanding $48 smorgasbord every Sunday afternoon at Aquavit. They call it "brunch" but that's just wrong. This isn't just some overpriced French toast and a couple of weak mimosas. This is an all out celebration of Swedish food with 8 kinds of herring (apple curry, vodka lime, sour cream dill) 4 kinds of salmon (with gorgeous sauces like lemon mayoand espresso mustard), 5 kinds of cold cuts and cheese (salami, ham, roast beef), 6 kinds of salads (egg and dill, baby shrimp, potato, caper, and onion), 4 kinds of hot entrees (meatballs with ligonberry, roast elk, grilled lamb), and so many tasty desserts I finally lost count. If you break it down by the bite (over thirty different tastes in one sitting!), it's actually a fabulous deal. A beer or bloody mary is included, but you might as well splurge for a couple of shots of house made coriander and dill aquavit to wash down that boat load of herring. As the Swedes say, "Jette bra!"

Posted By:  Rebecca Katherine Hirsch
Photo:  Rebecca Katherine Hirsch

Waldorf Astoria
I say, Simon, a wretched shame our olde institution's been run amok by dirty urchins larking through the hotel floors, frolicking past the golden chandeliers! These riffraff storm our fabled gates, bypass the wood-and-mirrored elevators and make right for the medicinal-smelling servant stairwell! What if they discover our dilapidated hiding nooks, the tears in carpet, the things that time forgot? How mindlessly they disregard our storied history--our strange double hyphen masquerading as an equals sign, our mayonnaise-based salad, the fact that we came into existence as the result of a family feud. What's up with that, Simon? How I long for the past! When did we fall so low? When we let the American Psychoanalytic Association hold their meetings in the Empire Room or when the Bronx High School of Science was given free reign o'er the premises for the duration of their promenade? To think! Our private luxury, ripped to shreds by rough-mannered plebeians! Upon my word! My wistful heart aches.

Posted By:  Alex Steed
Photo:  Alex Steed

Cipriani Dolci
This is where I go when I have more than four and a half dollars in quarters in my pocket and more than five minutes to spare in Grand Central (OK, that's only been the case once, but I wanted to celebrate the occasion by blowing said cash). The food beats the old, brown-lettuce salads that are available elsewhere in the terminal, though of course you'll be paying out of your ass for it. There is a decent view of, of all things, the Michael Jordan Steak House (OKed by the best basketball player in history), so you can stare across the way, look down at your nicely cooked salmon, and be pissed about not having gotten a prime rib. Further, I found the following review by a diner on a restaurant blog: Being in Grand Central can be nice and it can be weird. Some homeless guys looking like they want to steal your dinner can be strange. If all else fails, it's always entertaining to soak in the grandeur of one of the greatest public spaces in the world. And watch the bourgeois grow uncomfortable, eating among the intimidating stares of hungry class warriors.

Posted By:  Dave Cook

Norwegian Seamen's Church
Glug, gløgg, gloog: Non-Norwegians like me never can quite pronounce the name of this mulled, sometimes alcoholic wintertime drink. That didn't stop me from knocking back a couple of hot ones at the three-day Christmas fair, which lands at the Norwegian Seamen's Church in mid-November. Why so early? Maybe it's a Scandinavian thing. After navigating through the crafts-and-rummage main level—one corner was lined with Scandinavian packaged foods and a lesser number of baked items—I found myself in a trim basement cafeteria, contemplating open-faced sandwiches bedecked with shrimp, salmon, herring, pork, cheese, and some cryptic Norse "hamburger." For dessert: waffles and jam. Did you miss it? No matter, on Wednesdays, from September till May, the church serves up a $17 all-you-can-eat lunchtime buffet. Just sail on in!

Posted By:  Michele Langer
Photo:  Michele Langer

If Victoria Beckham, aka “Posh Spice,” were in New York and wanted to watch David play in a match for England, Opia would be her kind of place. Typically this is an upscale restaurant and lounge overlooking 57th Street, where one could recline in one of their plush seats and feel rather posh themselves while enjoying a drink or dinner. Come June, however, Opia is breaking out of the mold and rolling out the red carpet with a launch party on Saturday, June 3rd. Taking place prior to the actual start of the World Cup, they will celebrate the spirit of the games with a cosmopolitan and decadent fete that will take up nearly the entire space. A veritable circus of performers will be on hand to add some spice, from dancers to drummers to DJ’s mixing up music aimed to appeal to Opia’s motley crew. The revelry will all take place against the backdrop of three large screens placed conveniently throughout the space, playing World Cup highlights and goals from past series. And once the games kick off, the celebration continues as the restaurant opens early especially to host live viewing of the matches, while offering a special prix fixe version of their Mediterranean menu. With service like this, it would be enough to make even Ms. Beckham crack a smile.

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