To the five boroughs...
Ferment's guide to the places to eat, drink and see in the five boroughs
Wednesday 02 September 2020
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Pubs and bars
Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden
Even if you’re not in Queens, it’s worth heading to Bohemian Hall. One of NYC’s oldest and biggest beer gardens, it’s basically the size of a small park and has several bars pouring Czech and European lagers and ales. Oh, and there are stalls serving classic Central European beer hall food like bratwurst, schnitzel, pierogis and goulash. One of the best hang-out spots in the city.
This gorgeously elegant wine bar has an extensive selection of wines, and serves up delicious tapas to graze on while you catch up with your mates or get to know your date (FINO is one of Queen’s top date spots). Their cocktails come highly recommended too, and they have a spacious but busy outdoor area.
Forest Hills Station House
This ‘beer hall and whisky den’ is an absolute dream for those who want a refreshing beer or bourbon cocktail, plus a bite to eat - their food menu is extremely popular as well, especially their brunch. Most importantly though - 16 glorious taps of American craft beer, plus bottles, cans, and a selection of rarities/special brews.
Founded by music and beer obsessive Rich Buceta, SingleCut weaves the ideals of great beer and great tunes perfectly. Brewing the kind of beer you want to drink with your mates while listening to music and having a natter, this vibe translates to its taproom which has an industrial, laid-back feel - plus, the upstairs area hosts loud and excellent bands on a regular basis.
Finback prides itself on “brewing the best possible beers we can and drinking them in good company,” which is what makes it one of the most popular breweries in the city - its approach is straightforward and no-nonsense, focused on experimentation and quality. Plus, visit the big shiny taproom and you’ll be in for a treat - there are 12 taps pouring delightfully hoppy, sour and dark beers.
Lhasa Fast Food
Not your traditional ‘fast food’ - this Tibetan and Himalayan (tiny and easily missed) dining room serves up the most decadent and delicious momo dumplings this side of East Asia. One of Queens’ most badly kept secrets, it is highly revered including by Anthony Bourdain, the New York Times, and Time Out magazine.
Quite simply, the best tacos in Queens. No fuss, no frills, cheap and cheerful Californian-Mexican style tacos and street food.
There are literally dozens of pizza places throughout Queens, as would be expected in any NYC borough, but this spot comes highly recommended by The Internet for the pillowy-but-crispy dough, flavourful toppings, and epic cheese-pull. With over 50 years in the business, people come here for the old-school pizza parlour vibe and friendly staff.
What to do in Queens
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
This huge park was built for the 1939 World’s Fair, and offers hundreds of acres to explore. A visit here is one of the most fun ways to spend a day - it has it all, from the famous gigantic Unisphere steel globe to exhibits to playing fields to an accurately-scaled down model of New York City to *pause for breath* the Queens Zoo to a science centre to the US Open’s official court to Citi Field, home to the New York Mets. And more. Just go, trust me.
Socrates Sculpture Park
There’s so much awesome arts and culture to investigate around the borough of Queens, but this fascinating greenspace is one of the most intriguing. It was a landfill site until the late 80s, and now showcases large-scale sculpture exhibits and provides a dedicated space for artists to create artwork outdoors. It has a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline, and hosts regular events such as free yoga classes, live performances, outdoor cinema screenings, and educational workshops.
Pubs and bars
Top Hops Beer Shop
Does what it says on the tin. Head to this Lower Manhattan bar for beer tastings, growler fills, takeaway bottles and cans (they have over 700), or simply to relax for a while with a tasty beer while chatting to the knowledgeable bar staff or the fellow beer geeks who frequent Top Hops.
This is not your average craft beer bar - here in this tiny narrow bar you’ll find the best selection of rare, unusual and experimental brews. A laid-back vibe, well-informed staff, and good music will keep you coming back.
Blind Tiger Ale House
This unpretentious, stripped-back ale house has been around for 25 years now, so you know you’re going to be served the best beer around - there’s almost 30 taps, and they have cask beer which is a rarity in the US. You can order a plate of wings or a grilled cheese to line your stomach and soak up the booze, too.
Beautiful, expertly-mixed craft cocktails from an extensive menu, in a moody and dimly-lit space make this a great spot to chill with friends or woo your date. They also have a good selection of beer and wine, and there’s a pretty decent food menu if you’re peckish.
Torch & Crown Brewing Company
Manhattan had been without a brewery for 25 years until Torch & Crown stepped onto the scene this year in the SoHo neighbourhood. Blighted by the pandemic, its launch has been delayed (although it has opened for takeaway), but plans are afoot to be one of New York’s coolest drinking establishments - its space spans three floors, with brewing equipment all around, an events space, and a restaurant. With a portfolio boasting the likes of juicy pale ales, refreshing Kolsch-style lagers, sours and hop-forward IPAs, Torch & Crown is well set up to conquer the brewing world once restrictions are lifted and it fully can open its doors to thirsty drinkers.
This relatively small omakasi (chef’s selection) sushi bar is a gem amid the countless overpriced and swanky sushi places you’d normally see in Manhattan. There are only 22 stools and it’s usually pretty difficult to reserve a spot, which I guess is an indication of how popular it is. ‘Tanoshi’ means fun, which is what an evening spent here will be.
An iconic eatery for a myriad of reasons, Gallaghers is the place to go for quality meats. Originally opened in the late 1920s, the restaurant is wonderfully decorated, the bar has been meticulously restored to reflect its original Prohibition-era speakeasy style, and its giant original glass meat locker can be seen from the street. Truly a historic spot, if you have cash to spare it’s worth going and splashing out.
It wouldn’t be a trip to the Big Apple without some pizza. There are dozens of restaurants claiming to serve up the best pie in Manhattan, but Joe’s pizza was established in 1975, and since then has been a staple in NY pizza culture (is that a thing?). It’s revered by locals, food critics, celebrities and tourists alike, for its old school cheese and tomato pies served whole or by the slice. Absolute bliss.
What to do in Manhattan
There’s a bunch of cool ghost tours available around Manhattan, ranging from Broadway or Greenwich Village walking tours to paranormal investigative tours to haunted mansion tours. Search online for all your options and you’re sure to find one you’ll be *dying* to take.
The High Line on the west side of Manhattan is truly one of my favourite places in the world. It’s a 1.45-mile-long ‘park’ created over an old rail line which sits 30 feet above ground level, and is just so dreamy. There’s galleries, gardens, performance spaces, food and drink vendors and benches to relax on, and best of all it offers great views over the city and of the street art on the buildings around the High Line.
Pubs and bars
Operating as the Kills Boro Brewing Company taproom, this beer bar has one of the best tap lists in the neighbourhood, featuring Kills Boro brews and other local and national breweries. Plus, they have a drool-worthy menu of proper South Carolina-style smoked meats and bites. When the sun’s out, catch some rays on their patio with a cold beer and some food.
Tina’s Whiskey Tavern
Tina’s Whiskey Tavern is THE place to go for a boilermaker - with almost 100 different bourbons, ryes, and Scotch and Irish whisky there’s plenty to choose from but the friendly bar staff will help. And there’s no lack of beer on draught, ranging from the classic lagers to local craft beers.
This trendy cocktail bar serves drinks and nibbles until 4AM. A small but perfectly chosen selection of craft beers and wines are available too, but the cocktails are said to be some of the best in New York City, ranging from strong boozy concoctions to refreshing sippers. Take your date, or go with your pals for a long catch-up and some delicious cocktails.
Flagship Brewing Company
Brewing up some excellent beers that are straightforward, easy-drinking and sessionable, Flagship has been making a name for itself across Staten Island since opening in 2014. Plus, their taproom is super cool - there are eight beers on tap, and the vibe is very laid back, with communal seating and good music.
Kills Boro Brewing Company
Kills Boro, the second of two breweries in operation in Staten Island at the time of writing, make some seriously delicious and unique beers. Hazy juicy pale ales, refreshing lagers, fruity sours and hoppy IPAs are brewed on state-of-the-art equipment on the same premises as Craft House (mentioned previously).
At this classic Italian eatery, a different grandma heads up the kitchen every night, to make delicious food ‘just like nonna used to make’. Nonnas from all over the world are featured, as well as Italian grandmas from all regions of the country. How frickin’ cute is that?
This Sri Lankan restaurant is worth visiting just for the decor - it’s outfitted with Buddha statues and temple-like decor, the soups and stews are served in clay pots, and the stone walls are gorgeously colourful. The team behind Lakruwana has been serving up mouthwatering traditional South Asian cuisine for 25 years, and according to locals, the best time to go is on a weekend when they have an all-you-can-eat buffet. So go hungry.
Taverna on the Bay
Only the freshest seafood is served up here, in Mediterranean and European style, and it comes highly recommended not just for its food but for its extensive wine list and amicable staff. Its a great place to go with a group of friends or family, as they also have options such as wood-fired pizzas, meat dishes and pastas, so there’s something for everybody.
What to do in Staten Island
Staten Island Ferry
Yes, the ferry ride there and/or back is one of the best things about the island. It offers some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and the New York Harbour, and best of all it’s free, unlike the official tourist ferry. Plus, you can get a glass of wine or beer to sip on while you enjoy the sights, either inside or on the outer deck, during the 25 minute ride.
Booze History Museum
From the outside it looks like it’s just some dude’s house (because it is), but once you’re inside it’s a booze-lover’s dream. Founder Lev Mezhburd has amassed hundreds of alcohol-related artefacts over more than 20 years, which are fascinating to behold. You’re encouraged to take shots of vodka to ‘disinfect’ in the basement bar before you explore, so maybe best to not go with your sober friends. Oh, and visits are by appointment only, through Lev’s Facebook page. A completely unique museum and experience.
Pubs and bars
This cosy beer bar and shop focuses on local breweries, but if it’s weird and wonderful or a rare and exciting one-off from further afield, you can likely find it here. 10 rotating taps, a huge selection of bottles and cans, and a chilled-out vibe, plus regular tasting events and a late closing time make Beer Street one of the top hang-out spots in Williamsburg.
The Owl Farm
Not as sinister as it sounds. This hipster-friendly bar is a firm favourite for Brooklyn residents, since it serves up some of the best cider (which is a rare find in the States) and craft beer on 28 rotating taps, as well as distilled beer - yes, you read that right. The Owl Farm commissions its own range of spirits distilled from beers, ranging from the likes of a smoky distilled Schlenkerla to a soft and citrusy distilled Hitachino White Ale. The decor is all exposed brick and dark wood tables, which gives it a super cosy feel, and there are a few pinball tables in the back.
One of the most unique and beautiful bars you’ll ever go to is hidden amid warehouses in the Brooklyn Navy Yard industrial estate. There’s a fully-viable urban vineyard on the rooftop, supplemented by its vineyard upstate, which is where a lot of their wine comes from - of course, there’s also a selection of beer and cocktails. They host regular wine and cheese pairings, tasting sessions, pizza & movie nights, and all kinds of fun things, and the seating on the rooftop is all picnic tables and hammocks and swing seats. It’s an absolute dream. It’s reservation-only though, so book ahead.
Kings County Brewers Collective
KCBC was established in 2016 by three experienced brewer friends, with an aim to bring beer back to Brooklyn again - it’s the first brick-and-mortar brewery to operate in the neighbourhood in over 40 years. It’s one of the most well-revered breweries in the city of New York, with a selection of award-winning brews under its belt, and an exciting mix of things like classics such as pilsners and double IPAs to strawberry-lime lagers, fruity sours, and hop-forward beers. It’s taproom is a popular drinking spot locally as well, since it’s quite swanky and there’s often special one-off brews pouring that you won’t find elsewhere.
Other Half Brewing Co
I’ve never had an Other Half beer that hasn’t been absolutely stunning. This brewery focuses on making the best beer possible, and oftentimes that includes collaborating with local, national and international breweries - you might have seen some of its many collabs, like the All Together worldwide collab series that raised funds and awareness for the hospitality industry during the Covid-19 lockdown. Its heart is in New York though, where it’s widely recognised as one of the best breweries around. It runs a successful taproom on-site, as well as one in the dreamy Finger Lakes area upstate. Interestingly, as well, colourful designs have been part of the Other Half brand since the brewery opened in 2014, and was instrumental in helping build recognition when beer marketing wasn’t quite ‘a thing’ yet.
Comforting and authentic Turkish fare in relaxed surroundings, funky music, and a pared-down drinks menu which complements the food. It’s no wonder this is one of the (if not *the*) highest-rated restaurants in Brooklyn. Come for the borek, stay for the atmosphere.
One of Williamsburg’s best-kept secrets, Ammazzacaffè serves up proper Italian pasta and small plates from an unassuming storefront - but there’s also a gorgeous dining room and patio in the back for an intimate romantic meal, which many people don’t realise. The Michelin Guide gave it a rave review, so it’s worth seeking out next time you’re in Brooklyn.
Where do I even start with this one? With a menu featuring Asian classics like pad thai and banh mi, but also drool-worthy dishes such as maple miso tofu with aubergine, or brunch option honey chili fried chicken with spicy grits and a fried egg, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The drinks menu is exciting as well - anyone fancy a ‘liquid pad thai’ cocktail, or a Bangkok Mule? Opened by Top Chef finalist and food truck entrepreneur Lisa Fernandes in November 2019, Sweet Chilli has been getting consistently rave reviews, so just go goddamnit.
What to do in Brooklyn
There’s the classic touristy things like crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge, heading to Coney Island, visiting the Botanical Gardens, or exploring Prospect Park, but honestly, the most fun thing to do in Brooklyn is just to pick a neighbourhood and walk around. There’s so many hidden gems and independent art galleries and small parks and quirky shops and cool cemeteries and lovely coffee/lunch stops across Brooklyn that you could easily spend a whole day in, for example, the Bushwick area and not have seen everything there is to see.
Pubs and bars
Bronx Beer Hall
For a huge selection of local and national beers - on tap and in bottles and cans - head here. It’s a cosy, fun and friendly spot with a lively atmosphere, and because it’s in the Arthur Avenue Italian market, you can get a bite to eat from the local food vendors while you enjoy your pint. Excellent brews and casual eats, is there anything better?
This saloon-style bar is famed for its great selection of American craft beers and its classic comfort food such as burgers, wings, tacos and massive sandwiches. Folks come here for the drinks, the food, and to watch sports, so it’s always a mixed crowd, and is popular at any time of day or year - Sunday brunch, Friday night cocktails, mid-week post-work beers, or game day.
This friendly neighbourhood beer and cocktail bar is one of the borough’s best-loved bars thanks to its chill atmosphere, chic decor, and general loveliness. It’s the ideal spot to catch up with friends - they have board games and plenty of seats.
Upholding fierce values around community-building, innovation, creativity and togetherness, Bronx Brewery of course also makes the best beer it can. Its taproom welcomes seasoned and novice craft beer drinkers alike, but also strengthens its community bonds with a regular events programme and its work with local organisations. Its beer ranges from the classics such as pilsners, IPAs and pale ales, to mouthwatering specials like ‘THE 6 GOSE TO CYPRESS’, a summer gose with mango, lime peel and chili-lime salt, and Que Fuego, an India Pale Lager with pineapple and Carolina Reaper chillies. Swoon!
Gun Hill Brewing Company
Gun Hill Brewing prides itself on bringing brewing back to the Bronx. Founded by long-time friends and beer aficionados Kieran Farrell and Dave Lopez, Gun Hill recognises and celebrates New York State’s rich brewing history by making beers that showcase the best local ingredients, and expert brewing techniques. At the taproom, you can find classic brews like an American IPA, session ale and milk stout, but also weird and wonderful concoctions such as sour fruit smoothie IPAs and Belgian Quad with concord grape and fig juice - there’s something for everyone.
188 Bakery Cuchifritos
This tiny spot with a counter and a small handful of seats has been serving up some of the most delicious Puerto Rican and Dominican fried finger food (chuchifritos) for almost 40 years. Best of all, Anthony Bourdain was a fan - it featured in his Bronx episode of Parts Unknown!
For the best Albanian and Greek food, head here. Comforting homemade stews, grilled meat and veggie dishes, byrek and all kinds of Balkan delights are on the menu at family-run, friendly establishment Sofra.
Fish N’ Ting
Fish N’ Ting is a cosy Jamaican-style restaurant that is a bit out of the way, but is worth trekking to - they serve authentic Caribbean grilled fish, jerk chicken, curry goat, and spicy AF rasta pasta, plus there’s a lounge bar and a patio area for relaxing on with a rum punch.
What to do in the Bronx
Arts and culture
The Bronx is one of New York’s most interesting and culturally significant boroughs, so an ‘artsy’ tour is recommended - if you’re visiting, check if the Bronx Trolley Night is happening (it’s a free guided arts and cultural tour in a trolley-car, with wine and snacks!). The fantastic Bronx Museum of the Arts is home to innovative contemporary exhibitions and education programmes, with works by culturally diverse and under-represented artists. You can also visit Edgar Allan Poe’s spooky final home, which is a dream for any literature nerd/goth. Is it haunted? You’ll have to see for yourself! The street art is incredible too - especially at The Bronx Graffiti Art Gallery (the courtyard walls of an Italian food import business), and at Hunts Point and south Bronx, mainly around Whitlock Avenue.
Experience ‘the real Little Italy’
From the late 19th Century, many Italian immigrants flocked to the Belmont area of the Bronx, leading to Arthur Avenue being dubbed the Bronx’s Little Italy (as opposed to the Little Italy in Lower Manhattan). A walk along Arthur Avenue is a real treat - go with an empty stomach, because it’s rife with amazing shops like Calandra Cheese, Calabria Pork Store, and Mt. Carmel Wines & Spirits. The best sandwiches are said to be from Mike’s Deli (which was featured on the Food Network), the best cannoli is found at Madonia Brothers Bakery, and there’s more pizza and pasta than you can even imagine. Stock up, and head to Ciccarone Park to eat all your goodies.
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