What New York City Isn’t:
Lingering over lunch for three hours with your best friend. Leaving work promptly at 5 PM to go for a couple beers with your coworkers. An intimate, sparsely decorated coffee shop filled with familiar faces.
New York is not leisurely. It is not intimate. It is not clean and cookie-cutter. It does not smell like fresh earth, and it is not always the friendliest.
But this is the thing about New York. She doesn’t give a subway rat’s ass what you think about her, because she’s too busy trying to make her dreams come true.
What New York City Is:
She is fast. She is direct. She is unafraid to offend, and she can be intimidating. Her veins are numbered streets, interlocking in a grid-like pattern, and her cells are the millions of young creatives, entrepreneurs, innovators, techies, and over-all go-getters. People don’t come to New York to sit in a cafe and read magazines. They come to New York to make shit happen. If there were such thing as time in fast-forward, New York is where you would find it.
Many people who come to New York find it stifling and don’t stick around for very long. However, the ambitious attitudes of those who stay has translated to a lot of really inspiring and innovating projects come to fruition. You’ve got the Brooklyn Grange building farms on top of rooftops, because, why not? Sustainability-minded fashion designers and slow-food, locally-sourcing restauranteurs are stealing the limelight at an impressive rate. New York may not be gentle and zen and all the other things that you may think encompass “conscious living,” but if you look behind her stone cold exterior, you will find that deep-down she’s just a whole lotta tough love.
I couldn’t fathom trying to cover all five boroughs in one city guide (it was hard enough to come up with a guide to Manhattan alone without feeling like I was writing an encyclopedia)… partially because of the sheer size of the entire city combined, and partially because each borough truly takes on its own persona. I like to think that the five boroughs of New York City are like siblings. They all have a shared history. with more or less the same blood and DNA flowing through their veins. But each has also grown to take on a personality of its own, with its own unique set of characteristics.
So before I get too ahead of myself, here is what I consider the top things to see, eat, drink, and do in the city that never sleeps. Let’s start with Manhattan.
Coffee and Tea
An Australian-style cafe known for both their coffee and their delicious brunch. For a healthy start to your day, order their version of avocado toast, a hearty sized portion topped with EVOO and fresh cherry tomatoes, or their warm quinoa-oat porridge.
This Scandinavian chain of coffee shops has several locations throughout Manhattan. Come here for quality espresso drinks, locally made chocolate truffles, and a variety of Swedish specialty food items. Their philosophy is guided by integrity, quality, and sustainability, which results in better products and a better experience for its customers.
Soho | 264 Elizabeth St
Attached to Toms Shoes’ NYC flagship store is a cafe serving up fair-trade coffee drinks and pastries.
Tribeca | 401 Greenwich St
Financial District |275 Greenwich St
Midtown | 530 5th Ave
I love the overall design and vibe of this coffee shop. A massive wooden table in a room downstairs of their Tribeca location makes for a great hide-away. They also make really delicious “energy bites,” which are the perfect pick-me-up.
Come here for the 100% organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee (and also for the vegan donuts).
Chalait is known for their matcha green tea lattes, which are some of the best in the city. Their matcha is sourced from Uji, in the Kyoto prefecture of Japan, which is heralded as producing the finest green tea in the world. Their food menu includes healthy, locally-sourced options in collaboration with Hudson Valley Harvest.
Where to Eat
Dimes: Lower East Side | 49 Canal St
Dimes Deli: Lower East | 143 Division St.
This small, artsy establishment has a menu of healthy items like chia pudding, acai bowls, a quinoa bowl, and “love toast.” Their first and original establishment on Canal Street is a lovely place to sit down and have a meal, while Dimes Deli is more focused on take-out.
Their most recent endeavor is Dimes Market, where you can pick up local organic produce, natural beauty products, and artsy home goods. See below in the Sustainable Shopping section for more on Dimes Market.
Greenwich Village | 18 Greenwich Ave
This beautiful Italian trattoria sources ingredients right from its very own rooftop garden. To further support Rosemary’s commitment to fresh, local, and sustainable products, Rosemary’s Farm was founded in 2015 in the Hudson River Valley. Rosemary’s and all other Casa Nela restaurants now serve fresh eggs and produce from Rosemary’s Farm.
Rosemary’s is a great spot for date night, with an interior that’s rustic yet refined.
Tribeca | 73 Warren St
Flatiron | 55 W 27th St
Midtown | 155 E 44th St
Mulberry & Vine is a nice place to stop for a healthy, delicious lunch in between shopping and sight-seeing. Food is served cafeteria-style, with many vegan and vegetarian options.
Soho | 19 Kenmare St
West Village | 581 Hudson St
Although this place is no “secret gem,” it is still one of my favorite restaurants in NYC. They make an incredible avocado toast, as well as juices, smoothies, hot drinks, and a variety of fantastic plant-based meals. Live greenery makes up most of the decor and water is served out of glass jars with fresh mint leaves.
Union Square | 35 E 18th St
ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina are some of New York City’s favorite farm-to-table restaurants. Both menus are highly plant-centric, food is plated artfully, and the ambiance is exquisite. As the name suggests, ABC Cocina has a Latin-inspired menu, but both restaurants focus on local, seasonal, organic foods. Make sure you book a reservation in advance.
abcV is the latest restaurant concept of ABC Kitchen by the renowned French-American chef Jean George Vongerichten, and it is 100% plant-based. Its menu of creative, innovative, plant-based fare has garnered the attention of celebrities and the culinary world, and the food even has carnivores second-guessing their ways. Reservations are highly encouraged.
Union Square | 841 Broadway, 2nd Floor
This casual vegan, organic cafe is attached to Jivamukti Yoga, and serves food that makes the perfect post-yoga nourishment. On the menu you’ll find salads, wrap, and rice bowls, plus refreshments including coffee, tea, juices, and smoothies.
Gramery | 229 E 14th
Midtown | 134 W 37th St
Midtown | 62 W 56th St
Beyond Sushi is a vegan sushi restaurant chain that makes both delicious and innovative sushi rolls, wraps, and salads. You won’t miss the raw salmon or tuna when you’re biting into one of these perfectly flavored rolls. For something heartier, you can also order a warm bowl of noodle soup, or one of their sushi wraps (which is basically a sushi burrito).
Nolita | 224 Lafayette St
Greenwich Village | 50 Carmine St
This popular brunch spot offers a Mediterranean-influenced menu, several vegan options, and has a family-focused feel. The restaurant was started by husband-wife duo Dean and Maya, immigrants from Israel and South Africa respectively. The name Jack’s Wife Freda is an homage to Dean’s grandparents Jack and Freda, who embodied family values, hospitality, and fresh home-cooked meals.
Union Square | 78 5th Ave
This cafeteria-style lunch spot caters to paleo, vegan, and generally healthy eaters. Their philosophy states “The goal isn’t to just get by. The goal is to live actively, age gracefully, and flourish.” The owners of Hu Kitchen encourage a holistic approach to wellness that involves quality nutrition, active living, sufficient sleep, and mental health. After ordering your food, you can head upstairs to enjoy your food at one of their rustic wooden tables, then possibly stay to work, read, or catch up with a friend.
East Village | 165 Avenue A
Recover from a night out with an authentic New York bagel and your choice of toppings. They have several different flavors of tofu cream cheese and dozens of other toppings. Don’t be dissuaded by the line that goes out the door (it goes by quick) and keep in mind this place is cash only.
A NYC salad chain that sources locally, uses compostable serve-ware, and has a menu that changes seasonally. Their salads are truly the most delicious I’ve found in the city, and they’re also very reasonably priced.
Soho | 45 Spring St
A counter-serve restaurant serving up the most amazing gluten-free falafel and other vegetarian Israeli fare.
A retro-themed ice creamery with vegan options. Their vegan ice cream is made with a mix of house-made cashew cream, organic coconut milk, organic cane sugar, pure cocoa butter, and organic carob bean.
Union Square | 888 Broadway
ABC Carpet & Home is what I like to consider the Barney’s of conscious consumerism. Take your time perusing the different departments dedicated to fashion apparel, jewelry, cosmetics, home goods, furniture, books, and more.
Soho | 281 Lafayette St
Affordable basics made with non-toxic dyes, an emphasis on sustainable fabrics, and eco-friendly production practices.
West Village | 238 W 10th St
CAP Beauty is my go-to shop for luxury non-toxic beauty products and superfoods. Their philosophy “Beauty is Wellness, Wellness is Beauty” is guided by their belief in the power of plants to create beauty from the inside-out. They have an eco-friendly spa on-site, offering treatments using Tata Harper’s line of natural beauty products. They also frequently host workshops and presentations from guest speakers in the wellness industry.
Chelsea | 75 9th Ave
A trip to the Big Apple wouldn’t be complete without an hour or two spent shopping and eating your way through the famous Chelsea Market. Shop handmade goods from Artists & Fleas and taste ethnic dishes from one of the many specialty food outposts.
Soho | 9 Prince St,
Shop non-toxic beauty products from brands you know and love, like Tata Harper, RMS, and Fig & Yarrow.
Lower East Side | 143 Division St
Dimes Market is the latest concept of Dimes Restaurants, a market selling organic produce, natural beauty products, bulk food items, and other art-inspired goods for the home.
Nolita | 28 Prince St
This ethical fashion brand has been pushing for “radical transparency” since its inception, and its mission is to make ethical fashion both convenient and affordable. Headquartered in San Francisco, Everlane started off exclusively online but has now opened locations in both San Francisco and New York City. They are best known for their high-quality basics; clothing that is timeless, high-quality, and can be worn day-to-night.
Soho | 269 Elizabeth St
This beautifully-designed boutique sells a collection of vintage and contemporary jewelry as well as other handcrafted goods. Love Adorned is “a shift away from throwaway culture that values utility, aesthetics, and craftsmanship.”
Soho | 78 Orchard St
A 100% vegan fashion retailer specializing in cruelty-free footwear, handbags, and accessories. Be sure to stop in their vegan deli/ grocery store next store for a hearty sandwich and some locally-made, nut-based cheese.
Soho | 23 Howard St
Lower East Side | 156 Ludlow St
Reformation is the brand that made sustainable fashion sexy, and now you can try on their beautiful fashion in person at one of their Manhattan store locations.
Union Square | 828 Broadway
A beautiful book store selling used, new, and rare books and regularly hosting events and book signings.
Bowery | 21 E 1st St
The Alchemist’s Kitchen is a team of herbalists aiming to connect you to the incredible power of plants. They sell a variety of botanical tinctures and beauty products, and regularly host tastings and workshops. This company is passionate about introducing holistic health, environmental sustainability, and conscious living to the local community.
Sweat (or Flow) it Out
Manhattan makes it easy to stay fit and active. On top of walking miles upon miles just to get around, the city has an insane amount of gyms and fitness studios at your disposal- cycling, yoga, pilates, barre, bootcamp, you name it. But that doesn’t mean you need to shell out $20+ to get in a good sweat session. There are also tons of opportunities to simply get out and go out for a run (Central Park and the path along the Hudson River are two of the most popular running spots) or hit up a free class.
This donation-based yoga studio is a favorite among young Manhattanites who can’t afford a $200 per month membership at an elite studio. Each of their four locations offers a slightly different style of yoga, although all are Vinyasa-based. Just arrive 10-15 minutes early, grab yourself a spot, and pay what you can afford on the way out.
Take a Free Class at Lululemon
free yoga every Sunday at 9:30 AM
rotating fitness class every Saturday at 9 AM
free yoga every Sunday at 10 AM
75th & Broadway
free yoga every Sunday at 9 AM
Run Club every Wednesday at 7 PM
Find a Free Fitness Class on ShapeUp NYC
You can find a free fitness class nearly every day throughout the summer in one of NYC’s parks. Click here for the full schedule.
Modo Yoga is known for both their challenging hot yoga classes and their commitment to environmental sustainability. Their studios are equipped with cork studio floors, salvaged materials, and composting . They support and collaborate with the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and have even founded their own charity called Junglekeepers, which is dedicated to protecting the Madre de Dios region of Peru.
Things to See & Do
A $20 donation is suggested for a foraging tour, which typically starts between 11:30 AM and 1 PM on Saturdays and Sundays in various locations throughout the city. You can check out the schedule here and call at least a day in advance to book your spot.
Hour of Happiness at the Alchemist’s Kitchen
Head over to the Alchemist’s Kitchen’s flagship store in Bowery on Fridays from 5-8 PM for botanical elixirs and herbal cocktails.
Walk Through Central Park
While you may be tempted to stay in the bottom portions of the park, I really encourage you to explore further north. The further up you go, the less crowded it gets, and the less you feel like you’re in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
Whitney Museum of American Art
Browse the abstract art exhibitions at The Whitney, then grab a bite to eat at their cafe.
Walk the High Line
When the weather is nice, walk the roughly one-and-a-half mile elevated pathway that runs from the Lower West Side up to the Meatpacking district.
Have a Picnic in Washington Square Park
Grab a falafel to-go from Taim or a salad from Sweetgreen, head over to Washington Square Park, and people-watch.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Head downtown to the memorial at the base of what was once the World Trade Center to pay your respects, and leave feeling refreshingly humbled. This site has a way of putting things into perspective, of bringing you back (no pun intended) to ground zero. It’s free to visit the memorial, and general admission to the museum is $24, although on Tuesdays it’s free from 5 PM to close.