It often feels like everyone in the world is against Israel, but one thing is for certain – they’re not against Israeli food. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the melting pot that is New York City. While it’s true that Middle Eastern grub like falafel and shawarma has been as commonplace as hot dogs and pretzels among street-food cart options for eons, thanks to chefs like Eyal Shani and Meir Adoni, Middle Eastern fare has gone highbrow. In fact, many of the trendiest Manhattan dining options now offer Israeli or Israeli-inspired experiences. And yes, these spots are so good even Israeli tourists will find them worthy additions to their vacation itineraries.
Of course, no trip to NYC can start and end with gefilte fish, so below you’ll find everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable trip from the latest hot spots and coolest new pop-up exhibits, to celebrity boutique fitness studios and the best beauty destinations.
How To Get Around
The best way to get around New York City is by subway; given the perennially clogged roads, buses are a time-suck and they rarely follow a reliable schedule. While you can pay-per-ride, if you plan on using public transportation twice a day or more and are staying for a week, you’d be better served buying an unlimited weekly pass. Unlike in Israel where people tend to be very casual, Manhattanites tend to get dressed up, especially when going to the trendier restaurants, bars, or even when shopping in some of the designer stores. When you find yourself in heels/a suit or if you’re simply averse to public transportation, Uber is the best option. That said, while Uber is by far the most reliable, you’ll likely find better prices from Via if you’re willing to do shared rides.
Where To Stay
From the understated like Mandarin Oriental or The Peninsula, to the Louis XIV-esque like The Plaza or St. Regis, if it’s luxury hotels you’re after, there’s no shortage in Manhattan. For boutique hotels, the standout options are The Mark, Ace, Crosby Street Hotel, and Gramercy Park Hotel. It’s not easy finding budget hotels in New York City, but tourists trying to save will have the best luck looking at hotels in less desirable areas (think near Penn Station, Time Square, or Port Authority). Among the frugal standouts are the Millennium Broadway Times Square and Moxy Time Square. Airbnb is always an option as well. Pod 51 is the Manhattan equivalent to a Poli House/Brown-type hotel.
Where To Eat
Dining in Manhattan 101: Just because you’ve seen a hot dog stand in a zillion movies doesn’t mean you should stop at one for your afternoon nosh. Like any other city, New York has a range of outstanding, so-so, and downright lousy places to eat, so picking wisely is key.
You can always count on the Meatpacking District to have some of the city’s hottest spots and while most Israelis beeline straight for TAO, there are newer and more worthy spots. Among the top picks are Catch Steak (leave room for the super-sized Instagramable desserts), which has been a magnet for celebrities, models, and high-powered entrepreneurs since its very recent opening. The fashion set loves French brasserie Pastis, which closed in 2014 and recently re-opened to much-fanfare – the complexion-flattering lighting also makes this a great date spot.
Also worth a reservation is Intersect by Lexus, which was opened this year by famed restauranteur Danny Meyer. Every few months a new chef is brought in to lead the kitchen and completely revamp the menu and dining experience to deliver, in essence, an entirely new restaurant. Currently they’re serving Buenos Aires-influenced Jewish cooking via Chef Tomás Kalika (we’re talking beet hummus and newfangled gefilte fish). The restaurant itself is located in a multi-story building – don’t forget to explore all the floors, as there are interactive exhibits as well as worth-the-trip, high-tech bathrooms. Lastly, RH Rooftop at Restoration Hardware, while not as new as the aforementioned restaurants, remains a perennial hot spot as popular by day as it is by night – meaning, unless you want to wait for hours, make a reservation.
Further downtown by the Seaport District, you’ll find a newly revamped area, Pier 17, with a ton of restaurant and shopping options. Among the standouts are The Fulton, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s first foray into the world of seafood, and Bar Wayo, the latest spot from the Momofuku restaurant empire (note: stay away if fried food isn’t your thing). Another worthy new area to explore is Hudson Yards. The massive westside area features a seven-story mall with 100 shops and 20 restaurants. Among the most noteworthy is Milos Wine Bar, an affordable offshoot of the longstanding Black Amex destination spot, Estiatorio Milos.
Those looking for a literal Israel transplant need look no further than HaSalon and Miznon. That’s right, Eyal Shani has brought his Tel Aviv favorites to Manhattan and they’re always packed, while Meir Adoni serves up standout bites at his diminutive restaurant, Nur. For those on more of a budget, beeline to Lamalo. For $25 (a steal by Manhattan standards) you get a The Old Man and The Sea-type feast – about a dozen salads with unlimited refills and baked-to-order Jerusalem laffa.
For those who can’t shake the itch for a TAO spot, you’ll get the same wow factor with a lot more buzz by checking out Cathédrale, the latest opening from TAO Group. Located in the new Moxy East Village, it’s French-Mediterranean and features a drop-the-mic centerpiece – a 19-foot wire-mesh sculpture hung from triple-height ceilings. The service and food are as spot-on as the decor and ambiance.
Further, no trip to Manhattan would be complete without a stop in Brooklyn. While there are plenty of worthy spots, the ones you won’t want to miss are the newly opened Ainslie Italian Wine Bar and Beer Garden and Cecconi’s. The former is a huge, well-designed space (complete with a beer garden) that offers up some of the best budget grub in New York. The latter, located water-side, is part of the members-only Soho House empire, but non-members are able to dine at the restaurant; prices, given the location and ambiance, are also mild (get the pizza at both spots!).
Where To Workout
Israel might have their own Orangetheory and F45 locations, but they still don’t have most of the biggest and best workout franchises. Take advantage of being in Manhattan and partake in some of the world’s top group fitness classes. Among the most popular are Israeli trainer Niv Zinder’s classes at Barry’s Bootcamp and Noah Neiman’s classes at Rumble (Hebrew speakers: ask Neiman about his Hebrew tattoos to fastrack yourself to teacher’s pet status). The former combines strength training with running, while the latter combines strength training with boxing. For a slower burn, SLT is a megaformer class beloved by the likes of Gigi Hadid and Natalie Portman, while Megan Roup – who teaches throughout the city – is the go-to for a big chunk of the Victoria’s Secret models.
Where To Snack
For healthy bites and quick snacks by day, beeline for Butcher’s Daughters, PS Kitchen, and Bluestone Lane. For the city’s best matcha, you’ll want to go to any of the ChaCha Matcha locations, and for the best cookie, it’s Levain Bakery all the way. When it’s rugelach and babka you’re craving, Breads Bakery is Manhattan’s version of Lehamim, and for a first look at the rainbow explosion “it” cake that has been sweeping Instagram, you’ll want to pencil in a trip to Flour Shop.
Lastly, Milk Bar is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth. Their classics, like cereal ice cream, birthday cake truffles and crack pie are unforgettably delicious. For aspiring bakers, it’s also worth considering signing up for one of their baking classes – it’s not only fun and informative, but you get to take truffles and an entire cake when you leave!
If your New York City plans happen to be during the winter months, do yourself a favor and the day you land, head to HeyDay, which offers some of the best and most affordable facials. If you live in Israel, your skin will not be used to the moisture-zapping air. For your hair needs, the best options, depending on your locations, are Frédéric Fekkai, Roberto Bezjon, and Warren-Tricomi (if you’re in need of fresh highlights or color, Warren-Tricomi is also amazing). For those who want the beauty pampering to come to them, Glamsquad offers in-home, on-demand beauty services including hair, makeup, and nails.
Where To Shop
While the newly renovated, open-24/7 Apple store on Fifth Avenue is a staple for tourists, if you’re looking to avoid lines, you’d be better served stopping by any one of Apple’s other Manhattan locations. For affordable fashion, Uniqlo has some of the best wardrobe staple options, while Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys are the best for designer wares. For the best selection of small boutiques, head to Soho or the Upper East Side on Madison or Fifth Avenue. Sneakerheads and streetwear enthusiasts can beeline for Kith, while those looking for experiential shopping experiences should checkout Showfield’s (think: a slide to get from one floor to the next). While at Showfield’s, make a point to stop by their café, Coffee ‘n Clothes, where your latte comes with a designer logo of your choosing embedded in the foam art.
What To See
New York City is Mecca for cultural experiences. There are more museums and galleries than you could ever hope to squeeze into one trip and it’s worth mentioning that almost all of the major museums offer one night a week (or month) when admission is free. Among the standouts are The Guggenheim, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Jewish Museum, all of which are conveniently located uptown in walking distance from one another.
Downtown, it’s worth checking out the new Whitney Museum, which is in arm’s length of the High Line, a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park that makes for one of the city’s most beautiful strolls. The museum is located in the