NFT New York Murray Hill / Gramercy

Murray Hill / Gramercy

The Murray Hill/Gramercy area of New York is one of New York's largest studies in contrast. On one hand, there are massive housing and hospital complexes that take up several city blocks; on the other hand, there are narrow alleys and small, gated parks of unparalleled beauty. Add it all together and we get (ho-hum) just another brilliant slice of New York.

Murray Hill's contrast, for instance, can be found by checking out lovely little Sniffen Court, one's of Manhattan's finest residential alleys, and then walking south to teeming Kips Bay Plaza, a set of two parallel housing towers designed by I.M. Pei. Or by watching kids play in St. Vartan's Park, then walking south on First Avenue to gaze at the humongous See more.

>NYU and Bellevue Medical Centers (by which time, the "hill" portion of Murray Hill has evaporated). For the hill itself, head to Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue in the upper 30s--from there, you can get a sense of why this area is so-named (our unofficial guess is that Park Avenue and 38th Street is about the highest point in these parts). Then walk the side streets in the East Thirties to see some really prime real estate, as well as consulates, hotels, and lots of other stuff you can't afford.

Moving south from Murray Hill, the neighborhood changes rather dramatically in the East 20s. You first encounter "Curry Hill" on Lexington Avenue in the upper 20s, a fantastic strip of Indian restaurants and groceries. Two large landmarks, one old and one new, punctuate the southern end of this strip--the looming brickwork of the 69th Armory, now home to many special events throughout the year, and then Baruch College's postmodern new main building just south of there (architects like to call this type of building a "vertical campus;" what that means is a 15-minute wait for an elevator between classes). Baruch is joined in this area by two other schools of note, the School of Visual Arts and NYU's Dental School, both on East 23rd Street.

The area changes again south of 23rd Street, becoming one of New York's loveliest residential neighborhoods, Gramercy Park. The park itself is gated, controlled and accessed by those who actually live around it. For the rest of us, we'll just need to be content with looking in at the park through its wrought-iron gates and staring at incredible period architecture facing the park. Our favorite three examples of this architecture are the Mayor James Harper Residence on the west side of the park, and the Players and National Arts Clubs on the southwestern side of the park. Then stroll down hidden Irving Place, a six-block long stretch of restaurants and nightlife options which dead-ends at 14th Street. Classic watering hole Pete's Tavern, where writer O. Henry drank, is a must-stop on this walk.

But the aforementioned contrast is still alive and kicking down here, because a few blocks to the east of warm, intimate Gramercy are the hulking Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village housing complexes, which together comprise over 11,000 residential units. Controversy has marked these two huge complexes for the past several years, as longtime owner Met Life spurned a (lower) offer from a tenant's group to buy the complex, instead selling to Tishman Speyer for $5.4 billion in 2006. It was the largest single sale of American property, which, now thanks to a deflated housing market, is now undoubtedly the largest property fiasco in American history (since Tishman had to turn over the property to its creditors to avoid bankruptcy). For us: no thanks, we'll stick with our Brooklyn walk-ups, and just visit.

Irish pubs abound in this neighborhood, and all of them (Failte, Molly's, Paddy Reilly's) have their devotees. We prefer dives like McSwiggan's, live music venues Irving Plaza or the Jazz Standard, and (of course!) classic watering hole Pete's Tavern.

Everyone has their Curry Hill favorite; ours is vegetarian dosa house Pongal. If you're into meat, upscale burger joint Rare or steakhouse BLT Prime both make the cut. Tom Colicchio's Riverpark spiffs up an underserved corner of Kips Bay. And good Thai (Jaiya) can be found, but the sleeper pick here is Turkish Kitchen, our favorite Turkish in all of New York.

The constantly changing Dover Street Market is a boffo orgy of high-end designers. Hit either Lamarca or Lamazou cheese shops to go along with pastries from La Delice. Indian shops Kalustyan's, Foods of India, and Om Saree Palace are always worth a look. Jam will have any envelope you could ever need and Nuthouse Hardware is New York's only 24-hour hardware store, with power tool rentals. Cool.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
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.
Five Beers in Five Boroughs + One Mugging

By Craig Nelson
Come on an epic journey across the five boroughs with NFT Managing Editor Craig Nelson and his drinking buddy Gabriel. From pure beer garden bliss to a late-night visit to the Bellevue ER, they experience the best and worst of New York City in a few short hours. The following is a true story...

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:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

As Guided By Voices would say, "as we go up, we go down." Lots of new buildings going up all over Manhattan, you might have noticed. What you might not have noticed (especially if you don't have a car), is that gas stations on the island are disappearing at a rapid rate--there is now NO gas station south of Houston Street in Manhattan, as both the Pike Street and the Canal Street Mobils have closed in the past 9 months (we especially like the little convenience store on the Canal Street Mobil; very un-New York-y). One gas station that has actually been resurrected, however, is the Gulf Station on East 23rd Street underneath the FDR Drive. It's actually quite scenic, with a lovely view of the East River, and--possibly most importantly--a place to actually hit the bathroom in. While the bathroom won't win any awards, it's still far, far, better than the bathroom, at, say, CBGB (oh, that's gone too, we forgot). But if you find yourself driving/jogging/biking on the East Side, it's the perfect pit stop. Now we just need the Slurpee machine...

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Jam Paper & Envelope
Need a stiff secure envelope to mail that archival print you just completed to your friend in California? How about a modern translucent envelope to mail all your Ikea bills to your guilt-ridden stepfather in? Or a matte black envelope to enclose your last will and testament in before one last pre-chemo baconswissburger at Back Forty? Or a shiny silver padded envelope to store your hard drive in before a drive cross-country in your 1974 monkey-shit brown Ford LTD? Or a box of muted off-white envelopes to enclose your official "the wedding is off" letter to all the people you had just recently mailed your customized Kate's Paperie wedding invitations to? Yep. Jam Paper and Envelope's got 'em. They're not so hot on the paper, but holy fucking shit do they have great envelopes. And really, what more do you want out of a retail store than that?

Posted By:  Molly Riordan
Photo:  Molly Riordan

Lyric Diner & Coffee Shop
Despite the "American comfort food" foodie-buzz, the fact is there is but one true American comfort food: grilled cheese--American on white--from a diner. The crispy, melty, cheese-esque concoction is an institution perhaps borne from the diners that dot the city, housing the tired, poor, and huddled masses with free refills on coffee and cheap eats. With menus, waitstaff, and patrons all distinctly American in their paradoxical averageness and eclecticism, one can guess from the outside what one will find within: nothing great, nothing bad beyond a little attitude and splotchy silverware. Thus it should not surprise you that I denote Lyric as simply "ok." Because, like my two orange cheese squares between two slices of toasted Wonder, I did not expect it to blow my mind. I expected it to make me feel at home. And it did, as might any diner in New York for any other New Yorker. With 24-hours of service and a rotating dessert case, Lyric is a slightly-pricey but solid bet for the SVA crowd. But this is not just about Lyric: it's a call to reconsider the diner as a study in muted multiculturalsim and a symbol of our national identity: cheap, efficient, always open, slightly greasy, where all are welcome.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Irving Mill
I took a picture of the salt-and-pepper pork ribs, as you can see, because they were so friggin' good. I then put my camera away, thinking that the ribs would be the highlight of the meal. Two bites of perfectly decent but unexciting hangar steak later, I pushed my camera deeper into my bag. Then the burger came. Fucking utterly brilliant. I actually stirred myself to ask the waiter what was actually IN this perfect patty. Answer: belly flap, beef cheeks, and pork fat back. All ground up and looking, on the plate, like any other very good NYC burger. When inserted into the mouth, however, it becomes one of the best burgers you'll eat anywhere. I WILL send you a check for $15 if you don't agree. It'll bounce, of course, because we're almost completely insolvent here at NFT, but you can frame it, I time, I'm not putting the camera away.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

While Lannam is far from perfect (main complaint: some dishes just a bit too sweet), as a lunch destination in generally God-forsaken Murray Hill, it's brilliant. They're friendly, quick, and do some very good things, including shrimp wrapped in sugar cane, spring rolls, salt-and-pepper soft-shell crabs, scallion pancakes, and--perhaps its crowning achievement--the "medium rare beef" salad, served cold. Highly unusual and simply damned good. You can and should skip the rather boring chicken dishes and the sugary cold sesame noodles--but why eat chicken and pasta when you can have beef and deep-fried soft-shell crabs instead?

Posted By:  Molly Riordan
Photo:  Molly Riordan

Pure Food and Wine
NFT reviewed it a few years ago, but in the trying times of 2009 Pure Food and Wine deserves a second opinion. After a certain unnamed HBO comedy series made it sexy, 'going raw' was exotic, intriguing, and incredibly chic. But like an It-Girl past her prime, Pure's polish was instead a rouge imitating health and prosperity in startling recession. The meal started fantastically with house-marinated olives with hints of orange and fennel. But our $19 cheese plate was a pithy selection of three raw "cheeses," made not from raw milk as I'd naively thought, but from nuts. Though I knew my beet ravioli would be neither pasta nor cooked, I did not figure that 12 paper-thin slices of pickled beet would be the most substantial proportion of my entree. The other entrees at the table looked great, tasted okay, and it seemed salt was the kitchen's only flavoring. The one exception was a plate-lickingly rich mole sauce, but how could you go wrong with chocolate--sorry, I mean raw cacao? Looking around the restaurant, I doubted most fellow patrons were 'raw,' and most had come for the experience, like the 50-year-old 'blond' in the leopard-cuffed sweater. I've no doubt  raw foodism will continue to convert the health- and environment-conscious. But exorbitantly priced bits of nut-based nothing? It may be raw, but it sure ain't sexy.

Posted By:  Krikor Daglian
Photo:  Krikor Daglian

David's Bagels
One of the hard things about living anywhere in NY for almost ten years is that, inevitably, pretty much all the local stores see their leases come due, and in a neighborhood like the East Village, that means more than a few will be forced to close in the face of the changes taking place. Sadly, it looks like David's Bagels is one of the newest casualties. It seems that the landlord has a stake in the Hot and Crusty that just opened next door, and so David's Bagels did not get to renew their lease. This is sad. For a city known for bagels, a great bagel is really hard to find here (there are probably only ten places in all of Manhattan that actually make good ones). David's are the best in the neighborhood, and maybe in the city. Sure, the place was a bit dark and not the model of spotlessness (I tried not to look at the ceiling tiles), but the line out the door every weekend showed that this was a thriving business, and one that deserved to stay. The building owner had a right to not renew their lease, and I'm not advocating we force any owner to keep any business in their building, even one as superb as David's Bagels. Change is one of NY's great strengths, but that doesn't mean we'll always like it.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Only 203 (I think) days left until St. Patty's Day. But you don't need to fall for that marketing crap/hype when getting a strong dose of Irish food and drink is just a short subway ride away. Molly's Pub in Murray Hill is all Irish all the time. They don’t mess around just one day a year. From the sawdust on the floor to the wood burning fireplace, I dare you to find a cozier bar in this (godforsaken) part of Manhattan. The bartenders are the real deal: friendly, funny, and straight from the motherland. And if you're lucky they'll have some Irish sports up on the telly to complete the experience. Chow down on a monster burger or some massive fish and chips. The prices are a little much, but the Irish patrons paying in Euros won't mind. Thankfully the portions are huge, so split a burger, get a couple of pints of Guinness, and you'll still have something left over for that "Kiss Me I'm Irish" t-shirt you've been dying to get. Or better yet... one more Guinness.

Posted By:  Andy Heidel
Photo:  Andy Heidel

The Watering Hole
On my neverending mission to discover more bars that won't charge you 7 bucks for a beer, I discovered a local watering hole around Union Square/Gramercy called The Watering Hole. Formerly Tracy J's (or Tracy T's? I could never read the script. Anyways it was owned by former NAAC basketball player Bruce Heyman) this joint serves up a mean nacho platter with seared steak. Yum. If you're lucky, you'll catch the owner, James, at the end of the bar deep in his cups. The man's got some great yarns to spin and he'll buy you a drink if he likes your company. Also, free hot wings and French fries during Happy Hour, which starts at 5pm. If you catch it, you can enjoy having the bar almost all to yourself.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Turkish Kitchen
I really am not qualified to say whether Turkish Kitchen is one of the best Turkish restaurants in NYC. Why? Because I'm just too afraid to go anywhere else. It's always the same horrible choice each night--do I try something new, or do I go to a place where I know the food is excellent? Thus the dilemma. And for Turkish food, I always choose the latter, in this case Turkish Kitchen, because in the end, I'm not the adventurous, globe-trotting hipster that Jon Lovitz portrays in the made-for-TV movie about me. As for the food itself: fabulous pita (far beyond anything you'd get from your local Middle Eastern joint in the banlieue), great taramosalata, perfectly grilled whole fish, and, of course, killer lamb everything. Also not to be missed: anything stuffed into phyllo scrolls. And with an almost all-red decor, very attentive service, and a central location with great lunch prices, why are you still reading this?

Posted By:  Jennifer Keeney Sendrow
Photo:  Courtesy Roomorama

First of all, Belgium is a boring place to visit. The major sights are a fountain featuring a little boy taking a leak, a town where ladies make lace and a museum of comic books. Come on! Second, “gastro pubs” are a pretty silly business. Who honestly wants to wait for an hour in a mob of yupsters for the privilege of paying $15 a burger? Why, then, do I love the Belgian gastro pub Resto? Their food is really tasty, that’s why. The joint has got 50 beers and all the moules, frites and pork products a girl could want. Sausages, pig’s ears, and pig’s heads, oh my! That burger’s pretty damn good, too, and to top it all off, there’s a chocolate menu. Vive la Belgique! Next up: Luxembourg tapas.

Posted By:  Jennifer Keeney Sendrow
Photo:  Courtesy Roomorama

Kenara Paan Shop
Not to be confused with pawn shops, paan shops sell little betel leaf packets, triangular in shape, filled with either aromatics and sweets (masala paan) or aromatics and chewing tobacco (regular paan). Paan should also contain small chunks of betel nuts, a mild stimulant similar in appearance and texture to whole nutmeg, but the local authorities frown upon this ingredient. No matter, the stuff still sells, as the long marks of red spit marking the sidewalks wherever a shop is found. Make like a cabbie and give paan a try. The proper method of consumption is to place the packet in one's cheek and chew away at it slowly. While masala paan can be eaten in its entirety, the tobacco-stuffed variety requires vigorous spitting. A nickel buys a good paan in Delhi, but here you can expect to drop a couple of bucks. Unless you become a regular, of course.

Posted By:  Jennifer Keeney Sendrow
Photo:  Courtesy Roomorama

Hey, wino, get over to Vino. As the name would suggest, they specialize in Italian wines, carrying bottles from every wine producing region in the country and a few choice spirits to boot. If you can't tell a Chianti from a Cannonau, rest assured that the friendly staff knows all about every last item on the shelves. They have tastings and classes on a regular basis as well, should you wish to enhance your own expertise. Now that summer is in full throttle and everyone else starts cracking open the rose, defy expectation with one of their choice Lambruscos. Red + bubbly = festive as all get out, but not something your grandma drinks. (Unless your grandma is Italian, of course.)

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Bellevue Hospital Center
It’s a classic New York landmark. It’s got a prime First Avenue location. It’s open 24/7, 365 days a year. And hopefully you’ll never find yourself there. I wasn’t so lucky one night thanks to a bunch of chicken shit punks. They pounced on me and left me with a major head wound and some broken ribs. Yep, right here in the self-proclaimed Safest Big City in America. When I went back to get some stitches out a few weeks later, I had the pleasure of experiencing the ER waiting room with a bunch of other unfortunate New Yorkers. But not everyone required medical attention. Some people were just hanging out. At one point two women came in, pulled out some hot wings, and started munching away. They literally licked their fingers clean, got up, and headed off for god knows where. Maybe Mt. Sinai for some steak frites and then to St. Vincent’s for a cannoli?

Posted By:  Dave Crish
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Coruscating o'er screeds of haberdashless cocks, financiers pompous, Cosmo Editors chortling to pork du mondaine and prating echoes. Paved fro the shoddy sods of Union Square to Grand Central's void, a faux strip of touring Bostonian pintlappers, pinpricks as people per a plastic polished puerility, oui, any Thurs upon Park Avenue South. Indeed, as our epistolarian sees, the storied alley's social tenor a ten to try for any whom revere the obtuse, well-pressed, and exorbitant—sans edification. With the sole exception of 'L'Express' (passable French bistro at 20th), the remainder of the strip, but, terra per supercilious steakhouse, fictile barlong's, and walks where the best confab you'll have is with the nymphs leaping 'tween the high-rise spire's pictured here. If curious do see Elsewhere for here, absolutely explained. In, what, a hundred words!

Posted By:  Emily Pecora
Photo:  ben baumes

Paddy Reilly's Music Bar
Weekends end early these late autumn days, and sleeping in on a Sunday can create the impression, upon five o’clock dusk, that the day barely existed at all. The best antidote to this horrendous feeling is to get out of the house; especially somewhere quiet, warm, and casual. One such option are the regular Sunday afternoon gatherings of Irish session musicians at Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar, which claims to be the only establishment in America offering only Guinness on tap. The music starts around four, with a revolving cast of fiddlers and flutists and banjo strummers who jump in and out without the roll of the tune ever breaking. Be warned that the bar cat will make a nest of any cast-off, unhung coats, and also that she is fickle—she will love you for a moment but never for a full afternoon. Bring a deck of cards, a Moleskine notebook, or a long-lost friend, and sip at your Guinness, and let the darkening day settle as a comfort before going home to a bowl of soup and Inside the Actor's Studio.

Posted By:  Cathleen Cueto
Photo:  none

The last thing you want to do on a hot day is eat something steaming. So why not go raw for a change? This new Gramercy California-import is the city’s first introduction to the raw vegan food craze where everything is prepared to preserve its natural enzymes, vitamins, and minerals with nothing cooked above 118 degrees. Sound tempting? Probably not. But with fresh and innovative options like the Zucchini and Golden Tomato Lasagna with Basil-Pistachio Pesto followed by the Chocolate Hazelnut Terrine drenched in a pecan caramel sauce, you might be ready to go raw after all.

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