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The best places in NYC according to 25 famous New Yorkers

Written by
Time Out New York editors

New York City is the best, and it’s full of the best places for whatever your heart desires, from pizza places to mattress stores. And though New Yorkers are very opinionated, we’re also open to suggestions on our hunt for the greatest bars, restaurants, shops, cafes and cultural venues in the city. So we thought it might help to get a little inspiration from some of our favorite stars. Have a look—you never know, you may have the same favorite spots as Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alicia Keys. (Or...maybe they’ll inspire you to go check out someplace new...and maybe you'll run into them there!)

Lin-Manuel Miranda on The Drama Bookshop
“I love it because it has every play that you can get in print. I've known the staff forever; we basically wrote most of In the Heights in the basement of the Drama Book Shop. And it’s like the best little theater hub. If you want to get started in New York theater, go to the Drama Book Shop and just, like, hang out, and you'll be there before you know it.”

Phoebe Robinson on The Smith in the East Village
“Brunch, dinner, it doesn’t matter. That has been my go-to restaurant for group lady hangs, catching up with former co-workers, meeting with friends to powwow after a break up, which included a waiter being so incredibly wonderful to me while I was crying over a bowl of gnocchi. That aside, the food is always good and yummy and just what you need. And the vibe is always just chill and positive. Love, love, love this place.”

Sutton Foster on Union Square
“My favorite place to shop is off of Union Square, Fifth Avenue around 18th Street. I like to go to City Bakery. If I have an hour or two, I will take the subway and go eat lunch there. There’s also really great art and paper stores around there. There’s AI Freidmans, I can kill time in there. And then there’s Anthro and Free People. I love that area.”

Alicia Keys on Times Square
“You know one of my earliest memories is actually walking to Times Square when I was growing up. It was a very different place [from what it is now]. It was dark, dismal, I used to always describe it as almost the place where everyone who was not accepted anywhere else would come. It was full of pimps, prostitutes, drugs and yet it was also [the home of] Broadway. A place full of all this possibility and light: dreams, broken dreams, dreams yet to be fulfilled. That's what I remember. I also remember standing in line with my mother at the TKTS stand for half-price tickets for Broadway shows. We'd stand on that line for god only knows how long and we'd go see these plays. It's some of the greatest memories that I had as a girl in these magic theatre places. There's so much about New York I love.”

Bridget Everett on Joe’s Pub
“Joe’s Pub inside the Public Theater is my absolute favorite place in NYC. I would come just for the fries which are the best I’ve had, but Joe’s is so much more. Joe's is an intimate performance space that features a dynamic range of up and comers to legendary established artists. It’s the go-to spot for cabaret and performance art and an international touchdown for greats like Adele and Janelle Monae. I love, love, love this place. And that’s not just because I got my start here and they look after my dog when I’m on the road. It’s special and lovely and a home away from home. You never know who you’ll see on stage and in the audience. The best.”

Credit: David Williams

Sarah Jessica Parker on the Jefferson Market Library
“It smells like a library. It’s an old building—the floors creak, there's tons of light. It was a former women's prison, so it's got a really interesting history in the West Village. They have an exquisite children’s room, a huge amount of space, it’s never too crowded.... I always say to my son, “Oh, just really fast on the way home, I have to run by the library,” and he's like, “Ugh.” And then we go in and he's like, “God, that guy did not seem like a librarian.” Isn’t that interesting? I love the Jefferson Library.”

Justin Vivian Bond on Ciao for Now
"Ciao for Now on East 12th Street was opened in the 90s by Amy and Kevin Micelli. A group of us local artists would meet there every morning to nurse our hangovers, eat carbs, and talk trash. Since then we've watched Kevin and Amy give birth to three kids and expand to a bigger location down the street. The food remains delicious and our East Village tribe still has a home. It's good to know your neighbors."

RZA on Vegetarian Heaven
“I’m a vegan, and there was a restaurant called Vegetarian Heaven on 58th and Columbus Circle. There was Zen Palate, which was nasty. But those were the two places where you could eat. Now we got vegan spots on corners. My favorite place right now is called Red Bamboo. If you've got a lady friend that wants to have a vegan meal, you take her down there.”

St. Vincent on Tokio 7
“I live in the East Village, so I’ll pop in every once in a while. And I only occasionally make terrible mistakes. I have like a 60% batting average there.”

Trevor Noah on the West Side Highway
“The Hudson River Parkway is beautiful—riding a bike along the water with the beautiful parks they’ve built, watching the boats go by at sunset and watching New York change is one of my favorite things.”

Credit: Jake Chessum

Danny Burstein on Westerly Natural Market
“My favorite local business is the Westerly Pharmacy on the NW corner of 54th and 8th Ave. Need that secret health food or holistic remedy that you can’t find anywhere else? Westerly’s got it. They’ve got fresh produce, vegan foods, gluten-free and so many other gems to keep you healthy. It’s every theater actor’s secret resource. When I started Fiddler, I ran into School of Rock’s Alex Brightman. We stood in the aisle giving each other tips for energy and vocal stamina—and everything we needed was available at Westerly.”

Sasheer Zamata on Sweet Chick
“I love, love, love Sweet Chick. I used to live close to the one on Bedford Avenue so I used to go there a lot. I still go a lot because my friend Matteo Lane and I always go there, order the Sweet Chick Bucket, mac and cheese and the Tiger, Tiger Woods Y'all, and then we discuss and solve all the world's problems by the time we finish eating. I love the vibe in that restaurant. The music is always great, the decorations are cool—I love any place with Edison bulbs and distressed wood—and the lighting is low enough that people can't see me ravenously devour my food when it gets placed in front of me.”

Pat Kiernan on Peter Pan
“Peter Pan is not to be confused with those fancy new donut shops that try to figure out how to make a donut cost $5. This is old school. Fresh. Good ingredients. And cheap. Peter Pan is in the heart of Greenpoint and is staffed mostly by the Polish people who live nearby. If you appreciate a great donut you'll find one here.”

Jon Levy on Jacob’s Pickles
“Jacob’s Pickles is a haven of Southern comfort food on the Upper West Side. In a neighborhood known for its organic, gluten-free hypoallergenic seaweed, this place reminds us what it is to indulge and love every minute of it. From their artisanal twist on classic cocktails (like their BLT, a Bloody Mary with a piece of bacon, lettuce and beautifully balanced egg), to my personal favorite, the Sausage Gravy Smothered Chicken, Jacob’s Pickles is the perfect brunch place to nurse your wounds from the night before, or get the night started with a drink or two.”

Denée Benton on the West Village
“I’m very basic. I love the West Village so much. It’s my dream to have my brownstone there and go to some cute shop, walk around, buy some fancy cheese, cobblestone rugs. One day I wanna live in New York how they do it in the movies. Just for a few months.”

Josh Groban on CitiBike
“I love biking. The Citibike thing has been one of the greatest things to happen to the city. Growing up in LA, it was hard to go out without driving. So for me, to have the bike path on the West Side Highway, that’s one of my favorite things to do. I have a cup holder on my bike for iced coffee, I’ll take my bike to the West Side Highway, I’ll go up to the Intrepid, hang out, do emails. And there’s a dog park there. So you get to look out at the aircraft carrier and behind you is the dog park, where the dogs are going bananas. Every part of your child-soul recharge is happening in that spot. Then I’ll hop back on the bike and go downtown. That’s better than therapy for me.”

Dascha Polanco on Coney Island
“You’re in Brooklyn, but you have the beach, an amusement park, music, food, baseball and different cultures. It’s a destination in my own home, Brooklyn, and I have amazing memories there.”

Vanessa Bayer on all the places!
“Who doesn’t love Westville? I just yesterday for the first time got broth from Springbone, which is a place that has broth, you know. I think I’m going to get into that whole thing. There’s this tiny place near me called Ready to Eat that I love. For shopping, I love the story Tibi that’s not too far from me. I love Sandro, and I love Anthropologie because I’m a girl. I have a lot of their furniture. There’s a brunch place I go to a lot but I don’t want to tell you what it is, because I don’t want anyone to know about it. I order from The Little Beet a lot while I’m at work.”

Ciprianna Quann on 28 Scott Vintage
“Looking to score true vintage pieces like leather Chanel bags while still feeling like you are buying vintage and not a new wardrobe at Barneys, then look no more. Every piece in this unbelievable shop is 10 dollars...yes 10 bucks. Not only is the price too good to be true but the selection is to die for, you might just feel a bit guilty (just a bit) for such a bargain. You can also find an amazing vinyl collection an interior home items.”

Credit: Raydene Salinas

TK Wonder on Ample Hills Creamery
“I jumped what I thought was a closed gate to get inside this ice cream shop that was about to close to buy my favorite ice cream. I ripped my jeans and cut my leg in the process only to discover the gate was open a few feet away. This should give you a hint of just how much I'm obsessed with their all-natural ice cream made in house. I'm not saying I could be bribed but if someone were to do so then they might want to look into the oatmeal lace cookie the pint.”

Eliot Glazer on Long Island Bar and Empire Cakes
“Long Island Bar in Cobble Hill has amazing cocktails and is the perfect suggestion to impress a first date. I also love Empire Cake in Chelsea. I'm not sure how their highbrow versions of snack cakes like Twinkies and Devil Dogs never became as popular as Cronuts because they are unbelievable.”

Leslie Odom Jr. on The Public Theater
“The Public Theater might be my favorite place in the city—it’s where Hamilton started. It’s such a creative space, and it’s kind of jam-packed with creativity. In every corner of that building there’s art, and intellect, and energy. They have I think five or six different theater spaces in the building. They also do stuff in the park. There’s the library, you know, which is a great place to have a drink and read by yourself or hang out with friends. The Public Theater is my favorite.”

Mike Birbiglia on Arturo's
“It’s one of the most true New York institutions. It’s cozy and the people are brassy, but not in a bad way. The pizza is phenomenal, the salads are solid. You can just taste the history in that place. I’ve never had a bad time at Arturo’s, and the piano player is always really good. There’s silly paintings the wall and there’s a photo of Jon Favreau. If a restaurant doesn’t have a picture of Jon Favreau, I walk out immediately.”

Brian Rosenworcel on Tianjin Dumpling House
“When I really want to impress someone I take them to Tianjin Dumpling House in Flushing. It's in a place called the “Golden Mall” which is really just a fluorescent basement food court with puddles on the floor. You'd be surprised how many New Yorkers actually desire this kind of eating environment. The puddles make it legit. The dumplings here are cheap but deep. There are complex flavors going on. There is lemongrass mixed in with my lamb. I literally talk about each bite I take, which annoys my company to no end. You wouldn't want to go to Tianjin Dumpling House with me but you should go with someone else.”

Ana Gasteyer on The Gutter
“I do like bowling and there’s a small bowling alley in Brooklyn. Not Brooklyn Bowl, but this one is really great. It’s kind of dive–the one where the ebola doctor went. The doctor who went bowling and then they found out he had ebola. That’s the bar. It’s a really fun bowling alley and bar. It’s really down home and great. And great for a social time.”


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