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.
Restaurants in Gramercy and Flatiron
New York is a rough town for newbies—whether it’s bright-eyed hopefuls yearning for a Swiftian utopia that doesn’t exist or an out-of-town chef who’s proven his culinary clout in the global arena, only to be chewed up and spat out by Gotham’s surly dining public. This city has devoured the best of them: Spain’s Dani García, Toronto’s Susur Lee and, most glaringly, France’s Alain Ducasse. Enter Enrique Olvera, the megawatt Mexico City talent behind Pujol, regularly ranked one of the 20 best restaurants in the world. His stateside debut Cosme, a bare-concrete Flatiron dining room, wasn’t met with the disregard that crippled his carpet-bagging comrades. Instead, the opposite: a bellow of buzz that hit before doors were even hinged, let alone opened. That’s because this is the Mexican restaurant New York has been missing. Olvera’s elegant, high-gear small plates—pristine, pricey and as market-fresh as anything coming out of Thomas Keller’s kitchen—more than fills that gap in New York dining. It steamrolls right over it. Tacos make a solitary appearance on the menu, in an atypically generous portion of duck carnitas ($49), cooked to the sinful midpoint of unctuous fat and seared flesh. But Olvera’s single-corn tortillas pop up frequently, from a complimentary starter of crackly blue-corn tortillas with chile-kicked pumpkin-seed butter to dense, crispy tostadas ($17) dabbed with bone-marrow salsa and creamy tongues of uni. Those soft corn rounds accompany the cobia al pastor (
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 din
Venue says: “We offer a neighborhood destination for seasonal, New American fare from chef Paras Shah. His menu reflects a passion for local ingredients.”
This Flatiron gem offers seasonal, New American fare from executive chef David Fisher, who's put in time in such Michelin-starred restaurants as Jean-Georges, Aquavit and Aldea. From an open kitchen overlooking the 70-seat dining room—a moody, brick-walled stretch divided into a front bar area fitted with leather booths and metal trellis archways, and a back dining room warmed with a stone fireplace—Fisher deploys starters like tomato-braised octopus with cannellini beans ($18), and delicata squash agnolotti with lemony shrimp and firey chiles ($14). Robust mains include a juicy hanger steak accompanied by earthy rutabagas ($28), and a slow cooked leg of duck glazed accented with sweet plums ($29).
Venue says: “Best imported "wagyu" beef at this Japanese BBQ restaurant, Yakiniku Futago!”
As our waiter lifts a thin cross-section of Kalbi ribeye from a mist of dry ice, he announces his intent to lay the marbled meat on the in-table grill by shouting, “Hami-kal yakimasu! Sei-no?,” to which the waiters and patrons cheer, “Yoisho!” This is standard practice at the New York flagship of this theatrical Tokyo-born chain, founded in 2010 by twin brothers and restaurateurs Sunbong and Sunchol Lee (yakiniku refers to the lesser-known, Korean-influenced Japanese barbecue, while futago translates to “twins”). Located in the food-dense Flatiron District, the restaurant occupies a long, spare room lined with exposed brick, wood paneling and a tilework portrait of the twins. It’s clear the brothers aspire for a modern, rather than traditional atmosphere throughout: bathrooms are fitted with high-tech Washlet toilets, the soundtrack mixes hip-hop with Korean pop and regulars receive name plates on the wall (one is cheekily marked “P Diddy”), along with gratis desserts and a pair of custom engraved golden tongs. Despite the restaurant’s casual ambience, you’ll have to call in advance to reserve their hamideru kalbi ($45; well-worth in the investment), as there are only ten orders per night of this half-pound imported Japanese black Wagyu, cut into four distinct segments and served with lettuce leaves, red bean paste and fresh wasabi. For appetizers, you won’t find any better than the sinfully tender filet or rare steak with toasted garlic ($15), followed closely by a sear
Attractions in Gramercy and Flatiron
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bars in Flatiron
There is no bar to belly up to at this louche lounge. Drinks are prepared in a beautiful but half-hidden back room surrounded by gleaming examples of every tool and gizmo a barkeep could wish for. From this gorgeous tableau comes an austere cocktail list, which includes classics like the Manhattan and Negroni, and variations thereof. The 10 Gallon Hat (mescal, ancho chile, lime and pineapple) smacks of a margarita with something fiery to celebrate. And the Pinoeer Spirit, a twist on the Old Fashioned (rye, apple brandy, orgeat), is so strong it could serve itself. Who needs a barstool anyway?
For the white-collared wayfarers wandering the streets north of Madison Square Park, NoMad is a depressingly apt name. Sure, the neighborhood has seen a much-welcome rise in upstanding restaurants, but finding an any-day gastropub that doesn’t reek of postgrad brewskies is harder to come by. Who better to fill the void than Daniel Humm, Will Guidara and Leo Robitschek, the James Beard Award–winning trio behind neighborhood stunners Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad, who expanded the latter to include this elegant saloon inside the NoMad hotel, teeming with lofty pub grub, digs worthy of 007… oh, and $198 cocktails.
Red leather booths, mahogany tables and globe-shaped lamps amp up the vintage vibe at this Art Deco space. Co-owner Julie Reiner’s notable mixology skills have made the bar a destination, and her Beijing Pitch (jasmine-infused vodka and white peach puree) is not to be missed. The 30-foot bar, built in 1927, stays packed well into the wee hours.
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.
Shops in Gramercy and Flatiron
This massive food and drink complex, from Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich, sprawls across 42,500 square feet in the Flatiron District. A spin-off of an operation by the same name just outside of Turin, Italy, the store’s retail maze and six full-service restaurants include a rotisserie with the city’s best flame-roasted chickens, an awe-inspiring display of hard-to-find produce (plus an in-house “vegetable butcher”) and the meatcentric white-tablecloth joint Il Manzo, which serves a gorgeous tartare of Montana-raised Piedmontese-breed beef. Taking in the full bounty can be a challenge; to filter out the noise, check out TONY’s handy cheat sheet.
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”).
The long-running New York institution’s flagship store, Academy Records and CDs—next door to the tiny niche where it originated back in ’77—boasts the city’s best selection of used classical CDs and LPs, plus an impressive array of rock and jazz discs. (The store is connected in name to NYC's other two Academy Record locations, though those spots focus mainly on vinyl). Approachable help and knowledgeable buyers add to the overall experience. Plan to spend time—and money—at both locations.