Summers empty out our fair city on the weekends, and why wouldn’t that be the case? Dozens of picturesque beaches and towns are a short train ride away. But there’s an advantage to staying in the Big Apple on Saturdays, Sundays, and even, yes, summer Fridays: It’s easier to get coveted reservations that’ll be impossible again once school’s back in session. Take one weekend this year and explore New York like a tourist (well, sort of — you don’t have to go to Times Square or anything) — and eat like a champ while you’re at it.
Kick off your staycation with a relaxing game of golf at the Flushing Meadows Pitch & Putt (Flushing Meadows-Corona Park), where the food is processed but the pitchers — and rounds provided by on-course carts — are dirt cheap. After you finish the round, you’re just a 7 train stop away from Flushing’s culinary riches. You could also follow up your game (or pre-game your round) with a Mets game, where you can chow down on Shake Shack, Pat LaFrieda burgers, and Nathan’s hot dogs while guzzling craft beer or wine.
Perhaps a spa is more your speed. In that case, head out to Spa Castle (131-10 Eleventh Avenue, Flushing, 718-939-6300), where you can get rubbed and scrubbed before soaking in the pools — one of which allows you to order non-alcoholic drinks. Undo the detoxification by heading out to one of Flushing’s best restaurants after your treatment. We love the mall food courts, the wontons at White Bear, the hot pot at Little Pepper, and the dim sum at Nan Xiang, but on a warm, lazy day, we’d opt for beers and spicy noodles on the back patio at Biang! (41-10 Main Street, Flushing). Don’t miss the lotus root salad, either — it’s crisp, cold, and refreshing, though zapped with the heat of chili.
This city is mostly located on islands, so there’s really no reason for you not to get on a boat. Get a great view of the Statue of Liberty for free by hopping aboard the Staten Island Ferry. Before you leave, head to the Dead Rabbit, right across the street from the terminal, for an aperitif, and then pick up a beer in the terminal for the crossing. Once on the other side, it’s about a 15 minute walk to San Rasa (17-19 Corson Avenue, Staten Island, 718-420-0027), one of the island’s best Sri Lankan restaurants and one of the few places in the city where you’ll find black curry, or a 25 minute walk to Lakruwana (668 Bay Street, Staten Island, 347-857-6619), another excellent Sri Lankan place that offers a $11.95 buffet on the weekends.
Alternatively, hop aboard one of the boats owned by Manhattan By Sail; the proprietor works hard to keep the cruises about being on the water and taking in the view, so you won’t have a tour guide droning on about the history of the harbor and skyline. You’ll get a nice, long trip around the tip of the island, though, and many of the rides feature food or drinks (there’s a stocked bar on board, too). We’d book the craft beer, lobster and beer, whiskey tasting, or Champagne brunch sails. Reserve via the company’s website.
Avoid the tourists in Manhattan’s Little Italy and head to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, where you’ll find a slew of Italian bakeries, shops, seafood-mongers, and restaurants. We toured the Avenue with Italy’s pasta king a few months back; be sure to check out the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, where you can eat freshly pulled mozzarella and sip beer at the Bronx Beer Hall, and have a canoli from Madonia. Then pack up cheeses and meats for a picnic somewhere — Central Park is just a few train stops away.
Unless you live up that way, you probably don’t get to the Cloisters as often as you should, so that makes a great stop for a staycation, especially if you ride your bike up the Hudson River Greenway (you can always stop to refuel at Gotham West Market, by the way, too). Stroll through the gardens and check out the collection, and then grab a bite. If you want to sit on the water, La Marina is nearby. If you want to, you know, eat something really delicious in Washington Heights, head to the Rusty Mackerel (209 Pinehurst Avenue), where chef James “Mac” Moran is turning out a board of wild New American food, including berbered chicken livers, soft shell crab with Jersey corn, and steak frites with yucca fries.
You could also head out to one of NYC’s boardwalks. Check out our list of great things to eat near Coney Island and the Rockaways.
And don’t forget to make the reservation you’ve been trying to land! Treat yourself. It’s summer.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 3, 2014