Gramercy and Flatiron guide: The best of the neighborhood

Find the best restaurants, events, bars, shops, attractions and things to do in Gramercy and Flatiron in Manhattan.

Flatiron Building

Taking its name from the distinctive wedge-shaped Flatiron Building, the Flatiron District extends from 14th to 30th Streets, between Sixth and Park Avenues. Initially, it was predominantly commercial, home to numerous toy manufacturers and photography studios. In the 19th century, the neighborhood went by the moniker of Ladies’ Mile, thanks to the ritzy department stores that lined Broadway and Sixth Avenue. These retail palaces attracted the “carriage trade,” wealthy women who bought the latest imported fashions and household goods. By 1914, most of the department stores had moved north, leaving their proud cast-iron buildings behind. By the turn of the millennium, many Internet start-ups had moved to the area, earning it the nickname “Silicon Alley.”

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of things to do in Manhattan

The Gramercy neighborhood surrounds Gramercy Park—the tranquil, gated square at the bottom of Lexington Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets. A key to the secluded green space, which was developed in the 1830s to resemble a London square, is one of the most sought-after treasures in all the five boroughs. For the most part, only residents of the beautiful surrounding townhouses and apartment buildings have access to the park. But members of two private clubs—the Players Club and the National Arts Club—and guests of the exclusive Gramercy Park Hotel can also gain entry.

To find out more about things to do, see, eat and drink in Manhattan, and discover other neighborhoods in the area, visit our Manhattan borough guide.

Map of Gramercy and Flatiron and travel information

The combined Gramercy and Flatiron neighborhoods lie east of Chelsea, running north from E 14th St to E 30th St between Fifth Ave and the East River (minus the chunk from 23rd St to 30th St between Lexington Ave and the river, known as Kips Bay). However, as with many NYC neighborhoods, the borders are disputed and evolving—NoMad is slowly catching on as the new name for the blocks north of Madison Square Park.

The area is served by the nexus of subway lines (L, N, Q, R, 4, 5, 6) that converge at 14th St–Union Sq station, offering a direct link to lower Manhattan, the Upper East Side, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx; there are further stops for the N, R and 6 at 23rd St and 28th St.

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Restaurants in Gramercy and Flatiron

ABC Kitchen

Critics' pick

While plenty of New York restaurants have lately made the environment a priority—sourcing their ingredients locally and crafting dining rooms from salvaged materials—none have done so with quite as much visual and gastronomic panache as chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s new ABC Kitchen. The chef’s “hippie” restaurant, as he’s taken to calling it—a joint venture with his home furnishings landlord—is a stunner, as artfully merchandised as the shop that surrounds it. Everything, including the antique armoires, reclaimed-wood tables, porcelain plates and chandeliers entwined with flowering vines is gathered from area artisans. Though the restaurant’s sustainable ethos is outlined on the back of the menu like an Al Gore polemic, the cooking, based on the most gorgeous ingredients from up and down the East Coast, delivers one message above all: Food that’s good for the planet needn’t be any less opulent, flavorful or stunning to look at. It’s haute green cuisine. One can only imagine Vongerichten and his chef de cuisine, Dan Kluger, gleefully conjuring dishes from his seasonal bounty, some of it laid out like a Greenmarket still life on a massive table at the edge of the dining room. Perhaps there were beautiful veal scraps to play with from a small farm upstate, and so miniature meatballs were fashioned with sour cream, lemon zest, pecorino and herbs; delicate orbs tossed with house-made bow-tie pasta as fragile as silk handkerchiefs, crispy kasha and copious crme frache—kasha varn

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Gramercy & Flatiron

Eleven Madison Park

Critics' pick

The best restaurants in the world—their own worst critics—are forever reinventing themselves, upping the ante year after year. On the international battlefield of glorified gastronomic destinations, Eleven Madison Park has racked up enough glittery accolades—from Michelin, the James Beard Foundation and World’s 50 Best Restaurants—to rival a five-star general’s bedazzled chest. It was already at that fine-dining pinnacle in 2010, when it tossed the traditional à la carte menu in favor of an abstract grid of ingredients meant to provoke conversations between diners and servers. Then three months ago, it scrapped that tack, too. Chef Daniel Humm and impresario partner Will Guidara—who bought the place from their old boss, legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer—are masters of reinvention, taking big gambles with bold shake-ups, instead of making gradual tweaks. And once again, they’ve ditched a winning formula, this time for a 16-course Gotham-themed meal—marked by stagecraft and tricks—that departs from the city’s upper echelons of old-world dominated fine dining. It’s a roll of the dice, with a $195-a-head asking price, but it pays off. With the new menu, a whimsical feast of nostalgic tastes and the absolute finest regional ingredients, the restaurant is as locavore-minded as Noma in Denmark—celebrating its particular urban locale—as theatrical in its own way as Britain’s wildly inventive Fat Duck. You won’t find a more purely entertaining New York dining experience outside dinne

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15 East

Critics' pick

New York is the city of self-invention. This is no more apparent than in today’s restaurant scene. March became Nish, Onera transformed into Kefi, and now two downtown gems, the old Tocqueville and Sumile, are the raw-fish hideaways 15 East and Sumile Sushi, respectively. The talented Josh DeChellis, who in 2003 started the innovative Japanese-French hybrid Sumile, helms the latter; Tocqueville co-owner Marco Moreira has returned to his aquatic roots—he was trained as a sushi chef—in that restaurant’s former space, where he’s assisted by Jewel Bako veteran Masato Shimizu. Architect Richard Bloch (Masa) muted the colors and created a distinct sushi bar and dining room at 15 East, turning what felt like a country inn into a solemn temple of Japanese cuisine. Meals here are also deadly serious: The service is slow and martially precise—water glasses were filled and edamame shells discarded with eerie regularity. The multi-page sake list is decent, and the sushi is very expensive: ten pieces of nigiri for $55; à la carte still more punitive. Fortunately, it’s worth the steep prices. The fish was consistently luscious: The scallop was as smooth as chocolate mousse, and almost as sweet. If arctic char always tasted as buttery as it does at 15 East, it would no longer be the ugly duckling of the salmon family. I also tried several grades of tuna—for the aficionados, there’s a $75 sampler with six different cuts—including an otoro on par with the city’s best. I was less impressed

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Shake Shack

Critics' pick

Danny Meyer’s wildly popular Madison Square Park concession stand is mobbed with hour-long lines during the summer; in chilly weather, heat lamps provide all the warmth you need. Sirloin and brisket are ground daily for excellent patties, and franks are served Chicago-style on poppy seed buns with a “salad” of toppings and a dash of celery salt. Frozen-custard shakes hit the spot, and there’s beer and wine to boot. It’s worth waiting in line for, if you ask us, but if you’re in a rush, the Upper West Side’s wait rarely exceeds 20 minutes. While the first Shack caters mostly to a working clientele, No. 2 is designed with families in mind: There’s a playroom and stroller parking.

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Attractions in Gramercy and Flatiron

Flatiron Building

RECOMMENDED: 50 best New York attractions This 21-story Beaux Arts edifice once dominated midtown. Although it’s now dwarfed by other structures, when it debuted in 1902, the triangle-shaped monolith represented the threat and the thrill of modernity: Naysayers claimed it would never withstand the high winds plaguing 23rd Street, while revered photographer Alfred Stieglitz—who captured it in an iconic shot in 1903—wrote that it was “a picture of a new America still in the making.” Today, it’s possibly the least tourist-friendly New York landmark. The space above the ground-floor shops, occupied by publishing house Macmillan, is inaccessible to the public, but during office hours you can admire black-and-white photos and read a few panels on the history of the tower in its lobby. If you want to see the “point” offices (just over six feet wide at their narrowest), we suggest getting to work on the Great American Novel.

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Madison Square Park

Critics' pick

This public space was a highly desirable address when it opened in 1847, and is now a verdant oasis. It hosts a series of summer concerts, including the incredibly popular Mad. Sq. Kids series, which features some of the hottest bands in kids' music. The destination is also home to Shake Shack, a summer favorite (as evidenced by the shockingly long lines) for burgers, fries and, of course, shakes.

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Gramercy & Flatiron Free

Museum of Sex (MoSex)

RECOMMENDED: Museum of Sex (MoSex) Situated in the former Tenderloin district, which bumped-and-grinded with dance halls and brothels in the 1800s, MoSex explores the subject within a cultural context—but that doesn’t mean some content won’t shock the more buttoned-up visitor. On the ground floor, “Action!,” which screens around 220 clips from more than 150 years of sex on film, includes explicit scenes from such (literally) seminal porn flicks as Deep Throat. Upstairs, highlights of the permanent collection range from the tastefully erotic to the outlandish. Cop a feel of one of the silicone Real Doll torsos. An 1890s anti-onanism device could be confused with the S&M gear, which includes a nine-foot steel-framed love pen donated by a local dominatrix. Also of note are the Depression-era Tijuana Bibles—raunchy comic strips showing well-known characters like Donald Duck as you’ve never seen them before—and sex machines created by keen DIYers, such as the “Monkey Rocker,” constructed from a dildo and excercise equipment (it inspired the device in the Coen brothers’ Burn After Reading). The spacious gift shop is stocked with books and arty sex toys, and aphrodisiac elixers are served in a new café.

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Union Square

Critics' pick

RECOMMENDED: 50 best New York attractions This park is named after neither the Union of the Civil War nor the labor rallies that once took place here, but simply for the union of Broadway and Bowery Lane (now Fourth Avenue). Even so, it does have its radical roots: From the 1920s until the early ’60s, it was a favorite spot for tub-thumping political oratory. Following 9/11, the park became a focal point for the city’s outpouring of grief. These days you'll find the lively Greenmarket in warmer months, holiday shops in the winter and a summer concert series for kids.

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Gramercy & Flatiron Free

Bars in Gramercy and Flatiron

La Birreria

Critics' pick

This massive rooftop beer garden, located 14 stories above the Italian megastore Eataly, offers a direct line to one of the world’s most exciting new beer regions: an unprecedented stash of beers from the Boot, as well as innovative house-made ales reflecting trends on both sides of the Atlantic. Hops-heads will geek out over the three proprietary cask-conditioned ales brewed on the premises—the collaborative effort of craft-brew pioneers Sam Calagione (founder of Delaware's Dogfish Head), Teo Musso (Piedmont's Birra Baladin) and Leonardo Di Vincenzo (Rome's Birra del Borgo). But you don't have to be a beer nerd to appreciate the views of the Flatiron and Empire State Buildings while sipping on the unpasteurized, unfiltered suds. Fight your way through the scrum, snag a seat at the Carrara marble bar or one of the communal salvaged-wood tables and line your stomach with accomplished rustic eats (fat probusto sausages, gorgeous salumi) before letting loose on the brews.

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Pete’s Tavern

Critics' pick

According to history buffs, in 1904, O. Henry wrote “The Gift of the Magi” in what was then a quiet Gramercy pub. Today it’s three deep at the bar, and O. Henry would have a hard time parking it anywhere. Though Pete’s—a Civil War–era survivor—draws its share of tourists, you’ll also rub shoulders with neighborhood types who slide into the wooden booths to snack on affordable Italian eats with standard suds (16 beers on tap include a hoppy house ale) bubbling in frosty mugs.

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Taproom No. 307

Critics' pick

On first glance, this pub appears to be another noisy Murray Hill watering hole, with TVs tuned to the game and a boisterous, singles-heavy after-work scene. But look beyond the loosened ties and apelike courting rituals, and you’ll find there’s more going on than you think: a glimmering lineup of 40 craft-beer taps and two casks behind the long oak bar; couples perched in elevated booths, sharing arugula-topped brick-oven pizzas and crocks of chicken-liver mousse; and groups in the back enjoying innovative suds tastings with beer sommelier Hayley Jensen. The well-curated brews make Taproom a serious draw for beer nerds, while the other upgrades—including better-than-usual sports-bar grub—boost its crowd-pleasing appeal.

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Old Town Bar & Grill

Critics' pick

Amid the swank food sanctums sprouting around Park Avenue South, this classic tavern remains a shrine to unchanging values. Most old-time Old-Towners go for the much-praised burger, which we found in need of a little salt. For lightweights, there’s a smattering of salads and other sandwiches. Some things, however, do change. Bloomberg’s antismoking legislation has made the once befogged booths and long mahogany bar strangely haze-free.

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Shops in Gramercy and Flatiron

Dave’s New York

Critics' pick

Rugged guys looking for no-fuss, classic-Americana threads should beeline to this megastore, a bare-bones establishment that’s been family-owned since 1963. Many of Dave’s prices are cheaper than comparable stores; you can load up on Levi’s denim jackets ($60), relaxed-fit Carhartt carpenter pants ($38) and chambray work shirts ($32), or classic dungarees from Lee and Wrangler ($28–$32) without making a serious dent in your bank account.

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ABC Carpet & Home sale

Critics' pick

Deck out your crib in style, thanks 
to this annual winter blowout sale. Most home goods are marked up 
to 70 percent off, so items like multicolored flat-weave wool rugs ($499, instead of $999) and glass Italia pink calice side tables ($649, originally $12,588) are now finally in your budget range.

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ABC Carpet & Home, Gramercy & Flatiron Until Monday January 26 2015

Fishs Eddy

Critics' pick

Walking into this Flatiron spot feels as if you’ve just stumbled upon the best stall at the flea market. Worn-wood shelves support stack upon stack of assorted rainbow-colored dishes ($1–$17), mismatched vintage china ($5–$23), toile teapots ($15–$39) and other kitschy kitchenwares. The amazingly cheap price tags make it worth battling the often-pressing crowds to stock up on assorted flatware ($1–$6 each) and glassware, including oversize stemless martini glasses ($6), elegant champagne flutes ($8) and Italian-style painted wineglasses ($5). If you’re in need of a serious discount, plunder the sale section in the back for never-before-used castoffs from restaurant and hotel suppliers. But there are plenty of affordable, freshly minted kitchen goods too. Local-specific buys include platters printed with the Brooklyn skyline ($17–$25) and Floor Plan dinnerware (from $8 for a five-square-inch “studio” to $33 for a 12-by-16-inch “penthouse”).

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Limelight Marketplace

Critics' pick

The Episcopal Church–turned-’90s-superclub is now a minimall. The three-story haven boasts more than 40 shops, including Old Hollywood, Brocade Home and the first-ever Hunter store. Refuel after shopping with thin-crust pies at an outpost of famous Brooklyn pizzeria, Grimaldi's.

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