Talk to any New Yorker who hasn’t moved there in the last year and they’ll tell you the High Line has transformed Chelsea from a scarcely visited no man’s land of art galleries and vacant buildings to a burgeoning mecca for tourists and locals alike.
Construction cranes have taken over the skyline and condos, boutique hotels and restaurants now dot the map like any other neighborhood in Manhattan. So before gentrification further transforms this gritty and fabulously gay neighborhood into something brimming with (more) Starbucks and big box hotels, come check out what’s new…and what’s left in one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York.
Perhaps the anchor of The High Line is the food market and purveyor of hipster goods that is Chelsea Market. With stairs down for the High Line at 16th street, definitely stop in this urban market that is nothing like a mall. Whether you are looking for popsicles or pork butt, donuts or fine dining, you can find it here. Sure it’s touristy, but the locals make sure it feels nothing like your home town.
Likely riding on the success of nearby Chelsea Market, near the far south end of the High Line sits the new addition of Gansevoort Market. Its focus is interesting foodie favorites like crepes and tacos as well as artisan ingredients like meats, vegetables and flowers for your up-coming dinner party.
West Side Highway:
If you stay in Chelsea, you might have visions of going for an early morning jog on the High Line before it gets busy. Too bad it is never not busy. Instead, head west and you’ll run into a fabulously-maintained bike and running path that goes for miles.
If it’s one of those days in early summer where a long lunch could turn into happy hour, get yo’ self to the Frying Pan just off the West Side Highway near Chelsea Piers. The food isn’t the reason you come, but it’s it’s as close as you can get to being on the water and the prices won’t break the bank.
Even in the dead of winter, step inside the unexpected atmosphere of Santina directly underneath the High Line stairs at Gansevoort and you will instantly feel like you are in the Amalfi Coast in Italy. The Squash Carpaccio appetizer was to die for (perhaps the best vegetable dish I’ve ever eaten!) and the Calabrian Tuna Cecina, and Tortellini Sorentina were also hits.
The Red Cat:
One of the longest-standing restaurants that has been in Chelsea for over 15 years is the quaint and usually crowded, Red Cat. With both delicious and approachable cuisine, this place shows us that the difference between good and great is within the details. And there’s no question why this place is still great.
When I used to go to New York every month for work, I think I went to Cookshop six trips in a row since it was one of the only trendy eateries on 10th avenue in 2013. Every time the food was solid and as expected: craft cocktails, beet salads and plenty to choose from whether you were a veg or meat eater. If you need a place to accommodate a client dinner or just a place that will please pretty much everybody, stop in Cookshop.
McKittrick Hotel: Sleep No More
I really don’t know how to describe this experience (performance art, mind fuck, play?), but if you are the adventurous type, go check out Sleep No More at the fictional McKittrick Hotel. When you enter the bar prior to the performance, they will do their best to separate your party, which I recommend. There is no talking throughout the experience, so unless you are extremely skittish, just go with it. You will then meander through a building where performances come and go. It’s eerie, it’s provocative and it’s completely different every time. Tickets aren’t cheap and don’t try to figure it out, just be happy there are people in the world making this type of art in our world.
One of the best things about Manhattan is that you can walk pretty much everywhere including the Theater District, which is about a 30-minute walk from Chelsea. If you have a night with no plans, don’t bother standing in line for hours for tickets, download the TodayTix app and get deep discounts on theater tickets for that day. The process is seamless and a friendly Today Tix rep in a red jacket will meet you outside your theater with your tickets in hand. I just saw The Humans which is both a hilarious and heart-breaking story that is running until July 24, 2016. Go see it.
One of my favorite hotels near the high line is The Americano, a boutique hotel that is now indirectly associated with Starwood’s SPG Loyalty program. The rooms are tiny and uber modern (Julie and I barely had room to walk with both of our luggage in the room), but you can’t beat the location, the hip vibe or in the summer, or the rooftop bar. On the roof there’s a pool about as big as most Midwestern bathtubs where scantily-clad people go to look pretty. But they also have a great bar and snack menu as well as killer views of the neighborhood.
The High Line Hotel:
Once a mid-1800’s era seminary, The High Line Hotel is a gothic, brick presence on 10th Avenue near 20th street. Featuring 60 guest rooms that are all uniquely decorated with vintage finds and affects, every nook of this place makes me smile. Plus it’s fido-friendly, they offer complimentary Shinola bikes, and they serve up Intelligentsia pour overs via a full-service bar in the lobby or a 1963 Citroen truck parked in the courtyard out front. It’s no wonder this place has won its share of awards.