Q&A: Ballet Dancers Share Favorite New York Experiences
We asked five New York City Ballet dancers to reveal their hometown favorites, from where they eat after a performance to where they go to indulge.
Tyler Angle, Principal Dancer
Favorite Restaurants: The bar at Gramercy Tavern. To relax, I like to sit in the garden at Frankies in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood. Vinegar Hill House, also in Brooklyn, is wonderful, really exceptional. If I have a night off and I’m feeling extravagant, I’ll go with friends to the bar at Jean Georges.
Culture Fix: I’m an opera fanatic. Most times, I’ll be back up at Lincoln Center to the Metropolitan Opera. Benjamin Britten’s music is a favorite of mine, and Shostakovich’s The Nose is spectacular. I have a subscription to the Met with my brother, Jared, who is also a principal in the company.
Indulgences or Guilty Pleasures: If I want to give myself a present at the end of the season, I’ll spend the afternoon at the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental, which is amazing.
Places to Dance: I don’t like to go club dancing, but on Sunday nights the hotel 60 Thompson has a live Cuban band—great for salsa dancing. You can go humiliate yourself or you can have a lot of fun. I do both. Everyone dances, no one’s self-conscious, and you never know what is going to happen.
Favorite Neighborhoods: Brooklyn Heights, but I enjoy exploring other Brooklyn neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens, Vinegar Hill, and Fort Greene. And having coffee in the early morning on the Brooklyn promenade: it is quiet except for the joggers, dog walkers, and people doing the crossword puzzle.
Adrian Danchig-Waring, Principal Dancer
For a Quick Lunch: Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center for the open-faced tuna tartine. Their oatmeal raisin cookies are one of the few things I crave all the time.
Favorite Restaurant: The menu at Roman’s in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood changes daily, depending on what sort of produce and meat is available, but on Saturday they bake and sell their own bread—some of the best I’ve had in New York.
Culture Fix: I think one of the most exciting spaces is the Baryshnikov Arts Center. The programming is dynamic, and I trust them as arbiters of what’s happening now. The BAC has really good dance performances and exquisite chamber music concerts. I find myself going to the Joyce Theater a lot as well. We joke that the Joyce is where dancers go to see dance.
Favorite Neighborhood: Red Hook. If I had a different job I would set myself up there in a heartbeat. It’s built on a human scale and has a remarkable sense of light and air because it’s at the western edge of Long Island, looking out onto the bay.
Rebecca Krohn, Principal Dancer
Favorite Restaurants: After a show I like to go to the Smith, right across the street from Lincoln Center, for the salmon dish that changes seasonally, and a breaded, pan-fried trout. And they also serve great cocktails. Downtown: I love Sobaya. They make their own noodles in-house. It’s intimate and quiet.
Watering Hole: Izakaya Ten is my ultimate favorite. It’s a Japanese place with great sake.
Indulgences or Guilty Pleasures: Donuts. And for me, there’s nothing better than a bag of fresh apple cider donuts covered in powdered sugar from the Tucker Square Greenmarket on West 66th Street.
Culture Fix: Recently, my husband and I spent an afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I wanted to see a John Singer Sargent painting. Before we knew it, we had spent hours in the galleries, because there’s so much to see.
Favorite Neighborhood: Chinatown. I like to wander streets and look at the exotic dried fish and produce. It’s amazing how just being there transports you to a different place. Winnie’s is a great karaoke bar; it’s a fun mix of neighborhood locals, college kids, New Yorkers, and visitors. It’s $1 per song and a complete dive. For apartment envy, I like to walk around the West Village, ogling the townhouses.
Best Dance Classes: Steps on Broadway is where I go when we’re not in season. It’s open to the public, so a nonprofessional can go and take a class next to people at the top of their field.
On a Free Afternoon: I love to spend time in Riverside Park and Central Park with my dog. Both are nice pockets of calm in the middle of the chaos that is New York.
Sara Mearns, Principal Dancer
Culture Fix: I try to hit all the major theaters as often as possible: Avery Fisher Hall for the Philharmonic; Carnegie Hall for classical and pop music concerts; New York City Center for its Encore productions of Broadway shows, and the dance programs at the Joyce Theater, which are thrilling.
Night Off: I like the wine bar Casellula. It’s very small, has a great wine list and delicious cheeses. I like to go for drinks at the Empire Hotel lobby bar, which is low key and has wonderful music. And it’s right across the street from Lincoln Center.
Favorite Neighborhood: I love the area around where I work at Lincoln Center and Columbus Circle. I’ve grown up in this area. I’ve been coming here since I was 12 years old, and it feels like home. I find it inspiring to be here.
For a Sweet Treat: Magnolia Bakery on Columbus Avenue for the banana pudding!
Georgina Pazcoguin, Soloist
Favorite Restaurants: The lunch at Jean Georges’s Nougatine is a great value. For a special occasion, Gotham Bar & Grill—I love the butternut squash soup. For an after-the-show dinner, I’m a Momofuku Ssäm maniac. My favorite dish is the spicy pork sausage and rice cakes. And if you have a huge group, I suggest going for the steak.
Watering Holes: Depends on the night. For a dive, Old Town Bar, close to Union Square. Momofuku, of course, also has great cocktails.
Shopping: The Nanette Lepore shop on Broome Street; I love her design style and clothes.
Indulgences or Guilty Pleasures: My acupuncturist Bianca Baldini works at Sacred Space New York; that’s my healing and my indulgence.
Culture Fix: I go to MoMA often and enjoy going to P.S. 1 in the summer. I like to spend a whole afternoon, unplanned, at the museum. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a beautiful place to wander as is the Brooklyn Museum. And you can’t beat Carnegie Hall.
Favorite Places: I think one of the most beautiful places to visit is the Cloisters, its gardens, as well as the Fort Tryon Park. And I am fond of Riverside Park around 96th Street.
Places to Dance: The Westway, a former strip bar, with different theme nights and raised platforms—what dancer doesn’t like to dance on a platform? It is on Clarkson Street in the West Village. For classes, the Broadway Dance Center is visitor-friendly.
Bouchon Bakery, New York
Owned by chef Thomas Keller, this particular location of the Bouchon Bakery is situated on the third floor of the Time Warner Center across the street from New York’s Central Park. Using traditional French baking techniques, the bakery fills its display case each morning with everything from bread to handcrafted chocolate candies. Pastry options include tarts, flaky muffins, chocolate and coffee éclairs, chocolate bouchons, and seasonally flavored macarons. Especially popular is Chef Keller's famous TKO, a reinterpretation of an oreo cookie.
Avery Fisher Hall
Located at the northern end of the Lincoln Center Plaza in Manhattan, the Avery Fisher Hall is a performance venue hosting various musical events throughout the year. The gold-colored auditorium features a “shoebox” design with seating for around 2,700 people. The facility has been home to the New York Philharmonic, the country’s oldest symphony orchestra, since 1962, and was originally called the Philharmonic Hall. In addition to the Philharmonic, the venue also hosts events like the Mostly Mozart Festival. Guided tours are available.
Situated between Lincoln Center and Central Park, this hotel has 422 units, all of which have floor-to-ceiling windows to let in the best views. Although somewhat small, guest rooms are comfortable with with rich earth tones, brass accents, and subtle animal prints. Chef Ed Brown’s seafood shack, Ed’s Chowder House feeds guests everything from lobster rolls to tuna steak frites and an array of oysters. During the summer, the rooftop deck and plunge pool on the 12th floor offers private cabana rentals with daybeds and flat screen TVs.
Now in its 128th season, the Metropolitan Opera is located inside New York’s Lincoln Center, where it hosts more than 200 opera performances a season. Founded in 1883, the Met has presented a number of U.S. premieres and 31 world premieres, including Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy and Tan Dun’s The First Emperor. Under the direction of James Levine, the Met showcases the best talent from around the world in pieces such as La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Macbeth, and Aida. Backstage tours are available during the Met's season.
Commissioned by Andrew Carnegie and designed by New York City architect William Burnet Tuthill, this famed venue opened in 1891. The Italian Renaissance concert hall features three venues: the Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, Zankel Hall, and Weill Recital Hall. The interior famously consists of a white and gold palette set against a distinctly Florentine Renaissance design. Unlike most structures of its size in New York, Carnegie Hall is constructed entirely from masonry, with no steel supports. Each season the facility presents roughly 250 performances ranging from orchestras to soloists to artists-in-residence. Docent-led tours of the venue are available, and the Rose Museum presents a history of facility through concert programs, photographs, musical manuscripts, and video.
New York City Center
Originally built in 1923 as a meeting hall for the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, this neo-Moorish facility, perhaps best known for its terra cotta tile rooftop, exterior tile work, and three Moller pipe organs, now houses the New York City Center. Today distinguished companies like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club and The Pearl Theatre Company make their home here. The Center also hosts its own programs, including the Tony-honored Encores! musical theater series and annual Fall for Dance Festival, which features everything from hip hop to ballet.
It didn't reinvent New York's downtown hotel scene the way the Soho Grand and the Mercer did—it came later, in 2001—but this hyperdesigned, esoteric 97-room enclave has still managed to up the exclusivity ante in an already exclusive neighborhood. Free-spending creative-industry types—most of them young, good-looking, and dressed to the tens—hang out on the birch-screened benches by the entryway, and in the second-floor Thom Bar (where it's often standing-room-only on the pony-skin rugs). The brown- and slate-toned rooms have platform beds, velvet throw pillows, and suede headboards that stretch up to the ceiling. Frette linens and Dean & DeLuca-stocked mini-bars are also part of the package. Some of the white mosaic-tile bathrooms feel a bit cramped, but (somewhat bizarrely) the elevators have more headroom than a SoHo studio.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
One of the world's great museums, this Gothic Revival labyrinth tries to be all things to all art lovers—and with its expansion over the past two decades it often succeeds. The museum's breadth makes it dauntingly huge; grab a map and decide to focus on one wing at a time.
Momofuku Ssäm Bar
This smartly decorated Japanese restaurant and bar with an Irish-pub feel benefits from its location in the heart of Chelsea’s gallery scene. Inside the dark wood interior, Izakaya Ten’s seafood-heavy menu includes deep-fried octopus with green tea salt, baked squid Legs, and braised pork belly in sweet soy broth cooked in yakitori- (grilled) or mushimono- (steamed) styles. At the usually crowded bar, happy hour can run until 3:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday night thanks to frequent discounts on distilled shochu, Tokyo microbrews, and 40 types of saké.
Brooklyn Museum of Art
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Gotham Bar & Grill
A Greenwich Village institution since 1984, the James Beard Award-winning Gotham Bar & Grill is an ever-evolving landmark, consistently introducing new seasonal dishes and updating the 20,000-bottle wine cellar. The high-ceilinged space is designed with oversize windows, white fabric chandeliers, and rotating artwork selected by the restaurant’s own curator. Created by executive chef Alfred Portale, long considered a pioneer of contemporary American cuisine, the menu may include such popular dishes as seafood salad with avocado lemon vinaigrette and grilled rack of lamb with Swiss chard, potato purée, and lamb reduction. Gotham also has a relatively affordable lunchtime prix fixe menu.
From the location to the decor to the food, Jean-Georges in the Upper West Side is all about sophistication. Internationally-known chef and owner Jean-Georges Vongerichten's French cuisine is well-regarded for its complexity and vibrancy; this, in part, is due to his layering of flavors and his use of herbal vinaigrettes and fruit essences in place of meat stocks. The beef tenderloin, for example, is covered with foie gras and topped with rhubard foam, while the pistachio-crusted red snapper is served on thick mushroom creme. This unique interpretation of French cuisine is served on white-clothed tables surrounded by large windows that overlook Columbus Circle and Central Park.
Mandarin Oriental, New York
Vinegar Hill House
Located on the ground floor of a brick row building, the interior of this popular spot is styled as an easygoing bistro, with simple wood floors and seating, soft lighting, a copper bar, and plant-filled wall nooks. Dishes like beet risotto and wild boar shank served with grits, as well as sides like brussels sprouts with grainy mustard and hazelnuts, exemplify the dressed-up, earthy approach of the kitchen. The wine list includes American and small-production wineries, many of them accessibly priced. Diners are seated on a walk-in basis, with reservations available on select nights for parties of four or more.