New York's Top Concierges Share Their City Secrets
Savvy travelers know that the quickest way to uncover New York's secrets is to solicit tips from the hardened locals who walk its streets each day. But this strategy has its limitations: even the most connected out-of-towner is unlikely to know New Yorkers in each of the city's varied neighborhoods. The wisest course of action? Supplement advice from your friends with tips from the professionals—those people whose livelihoods depend on their ability to cherry-pick the historic treasures and just-opened venues that will most impress visitors.
Every NYC fan and resident has a favorite attraction, but only a few understand how to single out spots that are both crowd-pleasing and authentic, hidden-away but not too obscure. That's why we decided to enlist concierges from 14 of New York's most characterful hotels to share their current highlights and all-time favorites. These experts, who hail from properties that all feel distinctively "New York," whether it's the glamorous Mark on the Upper East Side, the stately Peninsula in Midtown, or the boho-chic Bowery on the Lower East Side, are constantly sifting through information about the city's hotspots and comparing the latest openings with longstanding gems. Who better to provide us with the best of the best?
From hidden parks to unknown art galleries to secluded speakeasies, the concierges’ suggestions aren’t the sort that can be found in any guidebook. Compiled, these secrets are by no means definitive (after all, one of the most endearing things about New York is that it can be viewed from near-infinite angles). But this collection of tips forms an alternative guide to America's largest and most fascinating city—experience them all on your next trip to New York or hone in on one part of town and see what else you can find in the vicinity. Every suggestion is within walking distance of that concierge's hotel.
Bowne and Co. Stationers
"Bowne and Co. Stationers is one of my top 10 NYC shops," says Kyle Gray, host at Andaz Wall Street. "Though the South Street Seaport store has only been open since 1975, the company was founded in 1775. The shop is full of one-of-a-kind products, like sculptures made from salvaged New York street signs. It also houses one of the country's oldest still-functioning letterpresses. I always have a hard time walking out without buying something."
"Behind a nondescript green facade you’ll find one of the best cocktail bars in the city at Ward III," says Smyth concierge Amanda Achmad. "Don't ask for a menu, but rather describe your favorite flavor profiles (such as sweet, sour, or spicy) to the bartender, and he or she will create a drink just for you. After a few cocktails, be sure to check out the small bites menu. I personally love the soft pretzel and deviled eggs."
"Greenacre Park on East 51st Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues is secluded and well-maintained," says Michael Romei, chef concierge (that’s hospitality-speak for "head concierge") of the Waldorf Astoria. "In addition to beautiful gardens and sculpture, there is a 25-foot waterfall that creates a serene atmosphere. The park is privately owned and was financed by Abby Rockefeller Mauze, the sixth child of the late John D. Rockefeller. For an authentic park picnic, stop first at Ess a Bagel on Third Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets to pick up some of the best bagels in the city."
"We have a wealth of hidden gems in SoHo," says Chris McCormack, chef concierge at the Crosby Street Hotel. "I'd start the evening at Estela, a fabulous Spanish tapas restaurant in an old apartment space that has a very cozy and welcoming atmosphere. For late-night drinks and superb cocktails, I'd then head to the Ship. It's a chic basement bar with high ceilings and a cool staircase entry. Table seating means it doesn't get overcrowded or overly noisy."
Jason Jacques Gallery
"The Jason Jacques Gallery is hidden inside an elegant townhouse and tastefully resembles something that could be found in a Tim Burton film," says the Mark's chef concierge, Isabelle Hogan. "It boasts an impressive collection of European pottery, along with other interesting sculptures, paintings, and fine jewels. Afterward, visit neighborhood speakeasy the Auction House to sip inventive cocktails made by talented mixologists."
21 Club's Hidden Wine Cellar
"Rarely do people get a glimpse or a tour of 21 Club's hidden wine cellar," says Fredrick Bigler, chef concierge at the Peninsula New York. "It’s located behind a 5,000-pound solid-rock door that is unlocked with a meat skewer that needs to be inserted at just the right angle. The space is used for very exclusive private dinners. I also love the secret garden on the 9th floor at Carnegie Hall, which can be rented with the Weill Terrace Room. Not many people know that it's there."
Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop
"Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop is a casual stalwart that's been open since 1929," says New York Edition concierge Lesley Mulholland. "It excels at all-day breakfast, hearty deli sandwiches, and egg creams. Drop in for a little bit of NYC history, hidden in plain sight next to the iconic Flatiron building. Then wander over to HeyDay, a sweet little express spa that offers 30-minute facials in addition to other specialty skin services."
Overthrow Boxing Club
"When guests ask for a cool workout, I suggest a new, no-frills boxing gym, Overthrow, at 9 Bleecker Street," says Tilo Springs, front office manager at the Bowery Hotel. "The building was once home to the Yippies, a social activist collective of the 1960s, and the current gym takes its name from the magazine that the group published on site. You truly can experience a once-in-a-lifetime workout that includes history, heritage, and a chance to practice your left hook."
Berlin Wall in Midtown East
"A piece of the Berlin Wall is discreetly displayed in a courtyard in Midtown East," says Juan Espinal, concierge at the Chatwal, a Luxury Collection Hotel. "German artists Thierry Noir and Kiddy City graffitied five original concrete slabs from the wall and displayed them here. Without prominent signage, most people assume that this historic remnant is just another street mural. You can find it in the courtyard of the Jefferies office building on 53rd Street between 5th and Madison Avenues."
"One of my favorite spots for cocktails is Dear Irving on Irving Place," says Aisha Thomas, chef concierge at the Gramercy Park Hotel. "It has an intimate elegance while being accessible and relaxed. There’s no sign, but go up a flight of stairs at 55 Irving and you'll find it. The space consists of four different period rooms from the eras of JFK, The Great Gatsby, Abraham Lincoln, and Marie Antoinette. Specialty craft cocktails are served along with light bites by cocktail waitresses in vintage dresses."
Rockefeller Center's Rooftop Gardens
"Rockefeller Center has more to offer than 30 Rock, the skating rink, and the Lego store," says the Baccarat Hotel's chef concierge, Francisco Andeliz. "It also houses a series of secret roof gardens that are beautifully maintained and surprisingly tranquil. They're usually closed to the public but the center holds occasional open days."
New-York Historical Society
"The New-York Historical Society possesses one of the finest historical collections of our city and country," says the Mandarin Oriental's chef concierge, Kenneth Abisror. "The artwork is lovely and the New York perspective provides great insight for any visitor to our fair city. A fringe benefit is the ability to visit one of my favorite restaurants, Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto. Located at the corner of Amsterdam and 73rd Street, this tiny spot produces wonderful small plates of Italian deliciousness, including fresh salumeria and pastas, as well as heartier fare."
"During summer, a stylish scene unfolds at Grand Banks, an oyster and wine bar on the deck of a 1942 Nova Scotia schooner at TriBeCa's Pier 25," says Conrad New York's director of inspiration, Nilou Motamed. "Locals buzz about the killer lobster roll with housemade pickles. If you can swing it, arrive at sunset and soak up the pink-crimson magic hour with a dozen local oysters and a glass of South African sparkling rosé."
"We advise guests to venture to the north end of the park," say 1 Hotel Central Park's concierges, Briana Davis and Nicole Longchamp. "First stop is the Shakespeare Garden, a four-acre site on the west side between 79th and 80th Streets devoted to the writer and filled with the plants and flowers mentioned in his works. Further up, on the west side from 102nd to 106th Streets, is the Loch, which has a natural water source that flows as a stream, and in several areas looks like waterfalls. On the east side at 105th Street and 5th Avenue, through the Vanderbilt Gate, guests will find the park's only formal garden, the Conservatory Garden. A designated quiet zone, the garden offers Italian-, French-, and British-style spaces that are perfect for reflecting."