BEST OF MANHATTAN 2016


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Photos



  • The Great Lawn in Central Park remains a favorite of city teenagers. Photo: Carley Lhasa via Flickr




  • Michael Moore and friends, walking on the Upper West Side




  • The Local uses local Hudson Valley ingredients at its downtown Rhinebeck location




  • Tailors often use one word to get their message – about their service—across. Photo: Lee Lilly via Flickr




  • John Rottman and Marin Lee is a recent TACT production, “She Stoops to Conquer.” Photo: Marielle Solan




  • The oven at Sirenetta




  • Central Park remains a playground – a series of playgrounds – for city kids. Photo: Joe Shlabotnik via Twitter




  • Walkable downtown Nyack is a possible destination for bike riders. Photo: Doug Kerr via Flickr




  • The Mirtillo Martini at L’Amico, an Italian-influenced restaurant noticed by foodies




  • The old-school interior of Isle of Capri, an old-fashioned Italian restaurant.




  • The burger at Good, a hot brunch spot




  • The scene at the bar at Good is welcoming




  • Grilled-hen-of-the-woods mushrooms on a plate at Freds Madison Avenue




  • The dining room at Freds Madison Avenue




  • Fairway Café draws a crowd—but it’s also a good place for solo dining.




  • The interior of one of the Drybar locations, where customers can pick the blowout style they want




  • The dining room at Dovetail.




  • Dovetail beef filet. The beef filet and braised cheek at Dovetail, complete with carrot, crème fraiche and scallion




  • A dog hangs out near a canine hot spot—the 105th Street Dog Run in Riverside Park




  • A dog hangs out near a canine hot spot—the 105th Street Dog Run in Riverside Park




  • Diana Rilov, a yoga teacher with classes at Equinox, Exhale and the JCC, explains to her students how there’s more than one way to meditate




  • The famous piers development is home to a members-only sports center. Photo: Erik Drost via Flickr




  • Café Luxembourg, where breakfast can be an elegant meal—and way to kick off your day




  • A Chelsea spot for healthy eating: Blossom. Photo: A. Etling Photography




  • The burger gets a modern twist at Bistro Le Steak




  • Le Steak is a familiar landmark on Third Avenue




  • Beyond Bespoke is a good spot for professionals to spruce up their look




  • Storyteller Andy Laties shales tales with children at Bank Street Bookstore




  • The Asbury Hotel has won kudos for Anda Andrei’s design.




  • Atsuko Ishikura of A1 Pet Grooming at work. She says such styling can help an animal’s mental and physical well-being.



A New Year's coming, and we have some ideas about where you should spend it.

We've come up with our Best of Manhattan, as we do every year.

The concept of “best” is, we realize, subjective — and fun to argue about. We're New Yorkers, after all, with strong opinions, and we're here partly to spark a dialogue on what's worthy. But we also hope to encourage moments where you dive into the city you call home.

So go ahead and have a conversation with a good friend in a restaurant you've never tried. Take your toddler to story time. Enjoy a play – or a playground. Get the dog groomed. Or put yourself on a bike or a train or in a car and head out of the city.

There's a whole host of experiences waiting outside your apartment door.


Food & Drink

Best New Restaurant

Pizzeria Sirenetta
568 Amsterdam Avenue
212.799.7401
pizzeriasirenetta.com
The big-city staple gets a contemporary upgrade on Amsterdam Avenue in 2016, with Neapolitan pizza you want to try. The owners are also the talents behind the Mermaid Inn, which moved into an expanded space next door. Now there's a delicious little food empire in this Upper West Side neighborhood. At Pizzeria Sirenetta, you can enjoy the lively bar scene or the more sedate dining area.

Chumley's
86 Bedford Street
212.675.2081
Don't expect to see a sign at 86 Bedford Street — even though it's a sign of the times that Chumley's is back. Indeed, if everybody who's talked and written about Chumley's over the years actually ate there, the place would be jammed every minute. Chumley's closed in 2007. But now the name returns in even more elegant fashion. Expect leather banquettes and a modern take on the menu from the new owner, Alessandro Borgognone, famous for the success of his Sushi Nakazawa nearby. The new incarnation is one where you need reservations.

Mighty Quinn's Barbecue
1492 Second Avenue
646.484.5691
mightyquinnsbbq.com
Last February, they came from downtown — and thankfully they brought the barbecue with them. Mighty Quinn's drew attention and diners from the moment it opened, and it's no wonder with traditional barbecue favorites served in a clean, attractive space. The pomme frites, regular and “dirty,” don't hurt either. And there's delivery, so you can get that tender brisket at your door.

Best Restaurant

Dovetail
103 West 77th Street
212.362.3800
dovetailnyc.com
Discerning diners with upscale taste tend to worship at the altar of Dovetail. Executive chef and proprietor John Fraser continues to preside over a creation that satisfies in a variety of ways. He has nightlight vegan and vegetarian menus, and a three- or four-course prix fixe offer well worth exploring. At the bar, a nice destination in itself, there's an a la carte menu too. Dive in at Dovetail, which remains at the top of its game.

L'Amico
212.201.4065
849 Sixth Avenue
lamico.nyc
The Eventi Hotel isn't just home to tourists visiting Chelsea. It's also, since last year, home to Laurent Tourondel's delicious take on pizza, pasta and much more. Expect elegance, and a mix. The chef is French-born, and the menu is a new American twist on traditional Italian fare. A lot of planning clearly went into this place — and foodies are noticing, crowding into a smallish space to try pasta and pies.

Bistro Le Steak
1309 Third Avenue
212.517.3800
bistrolesteak.com
The filet, the yummy au poivre sauce and the steamed spinach…ah, the glory is in the delicious details at Bistro Le Steak, a classy and consistent staple of Yorkville dining. Some praise the pork chop, others focus their passion on the potatoes. The point is that Bistro Le Steak has an old-fashioned warmth that seems to meet modern needs. Neighbors know the value of takeout too.

Best Salad Place

Sweetgreen
311 Amsterdam Avenue
212.496.4081
sweetgreen.com
Sweetgreen is taking over the world, what with the increasing appearances of the salad chain. There's a new one up on Broadway near Columbia University, but some of our neighbors fell for Sweetgreen's earlier incarnation on Amsterdam Avenue. You know the gig: you make the choices and they make the salad. Now the salad success here includes something called “warm bowls,” like the Pesto Portebello+ Shroomani, which takes us all well beyond the takeout salad and grains of old.

Westville
246 West 18th Street
212.924.2223
Westville's been fashionable for a while, and the salads are a valid explanation as to why. Especially since there are so many options and varieties at play. The kale salad here isn't healthy punishment, and it's not alone. You can choose the Cobb, the Greek, the Caesar and the salmon salads, with plenty of sides also on the scene. Westville gets crowded sometimes — and there's a reason.

Freds Madison Avenue
660 Madison Avenue
212.833.2200
barneys.com/restaurants/freds
Sure, you can go to Chop't on Madison Avenue, and often you will. But you could also treat yourself at Freds Madison Avenue, comfortably ensconced in Barneys. The salads are standouts. Here ordering a salad isn't a concession or a deprivation; it's a celebration. Options abound: the kale and vegetable salad and what sounds like a standby, the summer salad, wherein the corn really does remind you of summer.

Best Place To Eat Solo

Fairway Café
2121 Broadway
212.595.1888
fairwaymarket.com
You can buy the burger at Fairway, or you can let them cook it at the Fairway Café. This upstairs gem feels far removed from the maddening crowds of the famous market. It's a notable Upper West Side spot to share with a friend. But you really don't need to, since this you can also do a solo breakfast or lunch solo. Indulge with a beer or a milkshake. It's that kind of place, and nobody's keeping track of your calories anyway.

Buvette
42 Grove Street
212.255.3590
buvette.com
The place is small, but it feels big-hearted. You can make friends easily in such a charming little location, or you can enjoy your own company — while you're delving into delicious cuisine at a tiny table of your own. Open morning, noon and night, the place evokes Paris with the menu — but somehow it's also the perfect New York spot.

China Fun
1221 Second Avenue
212.752.0810
chinafun-ny.com
Need a solo spot for good Chinese food? China Fun isn't fancy, but on both sides of Central Park we have visited the company's outposts as solo diners. The service is as speedy as we want it to be, and the cuisine is proof that Chinese food is the modern-day American comfort food. There's even a singing delivery dude — but that won't matter if you head there to enjoy the wonton soup in person.

Best Breakfast

Café Luxembourg
200 West 70th Street
212.873.7411
cafeluxembourg.com
Make breakfast something special on the Upper West Side, where Café Luxembourg has a wide-ranging menu. There's Eggs Benedict and the Florentine variety too, along with granola and a concoction called the Breakfast Bowl. There are gluten-free options too. And it's all in a classy setting. An unusual way to start your day.

Good
89 Greenwich Avenue
212.691.8080
goodrestaurantnyc.com
Yes, it's good. Some fans say it's great. It's definitely good enough to earn this brunch spot a place on our breakfast list. We've had some great service and memorable meals. The late-morning meal draws the crowds, and the discerning foodies, and once you see the banana cream cheese stuffed French toast on the menu, you start to understand why. There's less dramatically titled fare, too, and it's, well, good too.

The New Amity Restaurant
1134 Madison Avenue
212.861.3255
Sometimes all you want is a diner, a good one, and a simple egg dish. That's why the New Amity is here. It's a regular restaurant in an increasingly upscale retail landscape, and maybe that makes us appreciate the omelets and the pancakes and the side of potatoes even more. At the Amity, there's a feeling of a regular American restaurant, which in our city sometimes seems like the most unusual thing you could find.

Best Vegan Restaurant

Peacefood Café
460 Amsterdam Avenue
212.362.2266
peacefoodcafe.com
It's labeled a “vegan kitchen and bakery,” and it delivers on both counts. Founded in 2009 on the Upper West Side by two friends, the eatery drew media attention – and diners. Things get creative on a menu that starts with something called “The Other Caesar” and takes visitors through the tahini sprout sandwich and a vegan cheeseburger burger and a mushroom pizza before landing smoothly with desserts. Things are extensive there too, with macaroons and strawberry cheesecake and the solid old chocolate chip cookie. Going healthy doesn't have to be dull.

Blossom
blossomnyc.com
187 Ninth Avenue
212.627.1144
Before Blossom went bigger, it started in a two-story townhouse in Chelsea. It's still there, still thriving, and your best bet is to get reservations. Then get anything from the black-eyed pea cake appetizer to the tofu BLT. Brunch is busy time, too, complete with the Blossom Benedict. This upscale and organic world is a good place to try a different way of eating — and dining.

Candle 79
154 East 79th Street
212.537.717 9
candle79.com
It's the sibling of the Candle Café, and its website explains that it's “dedicated to your health through our commitment to excellent vegetarian cuisine.” The Candle crowd gets both parts right, the excellence and the vegetarian. That's why even meat-eaters come for pan-seared dumplings with sesame-ginger soy sauce, avocado salad and herb-grilled cauliflower. Organic wine and beer and eco-cocktails add to the sense of adventure here.

Best place to Eat and Have a Conversation

Chez Napoleon
365 West 50th Street
212.265.6980
They've been dishing out fabulous French food for more than a half-century — and they've created a landmark at which you can dish with your friends. It's quiet, it's classy and it's of another time and place. This isn't the place to play with your cell phone; experience this. Here's the spot for a special occasion or a special relationship. Order the dessert soufflé when you decide on your main meal, so there's time to prepare that finale.

Malibu Diner
257 West 14th Street
212.691.1369
malibudinernyc.com
Just about the opposite of the Malibu in California, the Malibu Diner is a neighborhood hangout. If Chelsea used to take settling into a booth here for granted, that changed when the place became a focal point for visitors after the summer terror bombing nearby. Suddenly it seemed worth cherishing the not-so-fancy spot with the above-average burger, the aromatic soups and the array of desserts. The minimum order for delivery is listed at $8, which means you can get that Malibu essence at your place, without even making the effort of getting to the right spot on 14th Street. But go anyway, cause it's the spot for a heart-to-heart with someone who matters to you. Some conversations can only occur at a diner like this.

Isle of Capri
1028 Third Avenue
212.223.9430
isleofcapriny.com
This is old-school Italian, with Bloomie's conveniently nearby. There's are a couple of spaces for private dining, making this ideal for that landmark birthday, or you can turn a regular day special by sitting quietly and munching on old-school Italian comfort food. (One vote here for the chicken parm.) You can hear yourself think at Isle of Capri, which has the décor to match the food. This is the Italian-American restaurant you always loved, a tradition kept alive on Third Avenue. But a warning: the bread and breadsticks can make a meal in themselves, so remember to leave room for your entrée.


Kids

Best Story Hours

Bank Street Bookstore
2780 Broadway
212.678.1654
bankstreetbooks.com
Tuesday through Saturday at Bank Street, there are free 10:30 a.m. story hours for toddlers. It all happens in the special setting of Bank Street, a bookstore for children and their parents and teachers. And the store plays host to a range of other events too, like NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan's recent appearance celebrating his new children's book. Check the web site for Bank Street's latest plans.

Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street
212.989.3270
booksofwonder.com
A few years ago, the staff here kicked off a new series for the next generation of readers. On Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 10:30 a.m., youngsters enjoy the story time session at Books of Wonder, a wondrous and longtime literary presence in Chelsea. It's a “good, old-fashioned” story time, the store promises. Sometimes there are scheduling conflicts, so double-check before to make sure that the story's all set to be shared.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
212.535.7710
The museum's Nolen Library has quietly become an important part of the lives of the city's toddlers, one story at a time. Museum admission is not required for the Toddler Story time offered weekdays by the Met, but it's a first-come, first-served situation, so be there beforehand. There are regular story times and toddler versions, covering children from 18 months through six years old.

Best Playgrounds or Play Areas

Elephant Playground
40 Riverside Drive
212.870.3070
A playground so cool that even realtors in the neighborhood know it's a draw. A few years ago there was an upgrade, and even before that it was a standout playground for kids form the area – and it's worth traveling too. It's got New York elegance and an official name, Neufeld Playground, although the famous sprinklers mean that it deserves the elephant label. The play equipment isn't unusual, but the playhouse provides an artistic touch. And somehow the children here make the space their own.

City Treehouse
129A West 20th Street
212.255.2050
citytreehouse.com
This is a perfect indoor play space for youngsters during the winter. The concept here is to “learn through play,” and that happens through playtime, classes and events. Since a guiding philosophy includes the notion that it's “fun to get wet,” you might want to bring an extra set of clothes just in case. Up to 25 children can share the play space here and you do not need to be a member to get in. Check the web site for pricing – and for ideas.

Billy Johnson Playground
Fifth Avenue and 67th Street
So close to so much, and still somehow the perfect place for a child's imagination to wander and wonder. It's not about big stuff or even bigness at all; instead it's a manageable, imagination-inspiring spot in Central Park that kids love – and their parents appreciate. There are baby swings, stunning views and, in warmer weather, cool water spots. It's worth waiting for spring just to return to the scene.

Best Times for Teens

Totto Ramen
366 West 52nd Street
212.582.0052
tottoramen.com
There are several Manhattan outlets of Totto Ramen, and your kids might have their own favorite. But we like the bustle of Hell's Kitchen. Teens appreciate the speedy service and yummy menu items. Nobody can blame them. Ramen's big—and this is one big reason why.

The Great Lawn
Central Park
centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/attractions/great-lawn.html
Sometimes the simple things are the best. A big ol' lawn, conveniently located in the center of the universe, is the perfect place for sharing conversations, analyzing angst, monitoring a changing political landscape and people-watching. New Yorkers of every age and background have noticed it—and so have our kids.

Delicatessen
54 Prince Street
212.226.0211
delicatessennyc.com
Kids really get the mix of cool and comfortable, and can get both at this elegant take on American cuisine. There are three private event spaces here, too, so it's not a bad spot for the birthday bash that's coming up. But this Delicatessen in Nolita can make an afterschool break seems special. And the all-day breakfast menu doesn't hurt for kids who want to wake up on their own schedule.

Best Museum Hangouts and Happenings

Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center
212.799.3400
metopera.org
Now you don't even have to go the opera to go to the opera house. Earlier this fall, the Met started allowing visitors during weekday mornings to tour the famous facility. The latest innovation in the “open house” initiative: brunch. The Metropolitan Opera's Grand Tier Restaurant has a new menu – and plans for diners to enjoy brief recitals from members of the company's young artist program. Also, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Sunday, the Met's grand staircase, chandeliers and balcony overlooking Lincoln Center are all open to the public.

The Rubin Museum
150 West 17th Street
212.620. 5000
rubinmuseum.org
Try Café Serai, Tibetan-inspired cuisine in a cool setting. This isn't your average museum restaurant. Then again, it's not your average museum — and there's lots going on at the Rubin, which is smaller than the mega-museums, so it can feel more manageable. And more adventurous. There's funky stuff happening, like the Brainwave lecture series, a range of musical options and summer workshops for teenagers.

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
212.534.1672
mcny.org
It's not just the new permanent exhibit, “New York at Its Core,” that's winning raves at the Museum of the City of New York. There's also an event to go with it, “Music to My Ears,” which is a family-friendly program at 11 a.m. on Dec. 18 and 24. This is a way to learn about how music matters in the city and (way) beyond, and goes nicely with upcoming events like Hanukkah family day and “Winter Scene Painting.”


Recreation

Best Seaside Escapes

City Island, the Bronx
Sometimes you can get out of the city without actually leaving the city. As in City Island, the way-uptown respite from big-town living. The island in Long Island Sound is a place to see a charming New England village of sorts, without having to trek to New England. Instead, take the 6 train and the Bx29 express bus. Then walk about. Breathe. And of course eat—maybe at the famous family restaurant, Sammy's Fish Box, at 41 City Island Avenue.

Mystic, Connecticut
Speaking of the Long Island Sound ... the Mystic River flows into it. That river takes center stage in Mystic, Connecticut — which technically is within Groton and Stonington. But Mystic is a state of mind, too, and a restful one for visitors, who flock to the maritime museum and seaside buildings. It's a beautiful place to watch sun shine on water, even in cooler months, and a getaway from the hustle and bustle. And it's incredibly convenient by rail travel.

Asbury Park, New Jersey
It's doesn't just have to be part of Bruce Springsteen's history; it can be part of yours too. And Asbury Park seems just about finished with its high-profile revival. Go and you'll see the houses that have been renovated, not far from the restaurants and lively pubs that have arrived on now-busy Cook Avenue. This is increasingly a second-home option for New Yorkers, but start out with a weekend. Especially since famous designer Anda Andrei is behind the look of The Asbury, the upscale hotel that arrived this year.

Best Bike Breaks

Nyack
Looking for a bike getaway nearby? Start by heading west over the George Washington Bridge. Then make your way to charming Nyack, where you can grab a tasty lunch in a downtown that can feel like a mini-vacation from Manhattan living. Don't forget that Nyack is home, too, to the Edward Hopper House, which is more than a memorialization of an essential American artist. It's also very much an art museum itself.

Governor's Island
Go to Governor's Island—and don't hesitate to take the bike with you. Governor's Island holds its Art Fair each September, and it's increasingly a recognized part of the city's art scene. But bikers abound too, and they should. The bike loop on the island takes riders around the army barracks of old, providing stunning views and good exercise simultaneously.

Best Car – or Train – Getaways

Hudson, New York
You can drive or take Amtrak. Either way, the Columbia County city that shares a name with its neighboring river is making news these days. It's not just an upstate version of Brooklyn. It's a just-gritty-enough, just-charming-enough combination with restaurants, bars, galleries and the kind of independent stores who used to be able to rent space in Manhattan. Consider staying over at 26 Warren Bed & Breakfast, where the décor is warm and there's easy access to Hudson's gifts.

Rhinebeck, New York
It's weird sometimes to drive for two hours and then wind up in a traffic jam at the community's central corner. But then you see all the activity near that corner. There's the Beekman Arms, which bills itself as the first-ever inn in the nation. Franklin Roosevelt spoke on the porch; now yuppies do. Nearby is The Local, one of the great dining options in Dutchess County, where the servers may know more than you do about what you want. This town has Upstate Films, where the programmers display especially good taste in their choices, and Oblong Books, a smartly stocked independent bookstore. Not far away is the idyllic, best-breakfast-ever Whistlewood Farm, open for weekends during the winter. There's a two-night minimum, but it's worth it to walk down to the barn with engaging proprietor Maggie Myer when she feeds the horses.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The getaway doesn't have to be rustic. Some of us love cities—so much so that, even though we live in the best one, we also like to see others. You've been hearing for years about the renaissance in Philadelphia, and how foodies there can afford to open a restaurant that takes chances and doesn't necessarily cost a fortune. Go see, especially since it's all true. And don't be surprised if the old favorites — that Liberty Bell, the one you saw on the elementary school field trip — somehow steals your heart all over again.

Best Place To Work Your Abs

Chelsea Piers
212.336.6000
chelseapiers.com
No, it's not just about hitting a baseball or seeing the view of the river. Chelsea Piers is home to a members-only sports center with more than 175 group classes every week, and your abs will thank you — eventually — if you get busy there. CoreExtreme and CoreBall get you in shape. Seniors and students have their own membership categories, and would-be athletes of all ages can call the number above or inquire about membership through the website.

The Bari Studio
23 Leonard Street
212.966.2274
thebaristudio.com
These people know how to get you in shape, especially with their hybrid workout approach. But fans say that classes focusing on abs are effective. Feel the burn in the core, sure, but at least you're noticing your own progress.

Asphalt Green Upper East Side
555 East 90th Street
212.369.8890
There's a new dedicated Pilates reformer studio at the longtime Upper East Side location — and that's a neighbor we should all greet. Asphalt Green is such a familiar part of life on the far Upper East Side that it's easy to forget what's so right under our nose — but neighbors can enjoy an array of activities, especially aerobic ones.

Best Mind/Body Practitioners

Diana Rilov
Equinox, Exhale and JCC
dianarilov.com
She makes meditation seem like something that even a skeptic can embrace. She's got practical advice — and believes in more than one path to the promised land of meditation, speaking with warmth and humor about the different methods. Rilov teaches excellent, mind-calming classes at Equinox and Exhale for members. She also does a gig at the JCC on Amsterdam Avenue where you don't need to be a member.

Life in Motion Yoga
Lifeinmotion.com
2744 Broadway
212.316.3338
The class that Mary Nichols does on Sundays, “Gentle Yoga,” is a good one for beginners. She goes beyond that gym version of yoga, explaining and championing and even seeming to live the concepts right in front your eyes. Nichols and others here will get you into physical positions — and states of mind — you never thought you'd get into. A single-class can cost $10 as an introduction. Then later you might want a 10-class card for $150. Once you're hooked.

Sonic Yoga
944 Eighth Avenue
646.791.4240
The atmosphere here is accepting and somehow simultaneously energizing. With a new location on Eighth Avenue, Sonic Yoga has a home from which to care for its students — paying attention to their individual development, providing non-judgmental instruction and always encouraging the next pose. One great class: “Flow Fundamentals.”


Makeovers

Best Nail Salon For Men

Salon G83
100 West 83rd Street
212.769.3908
When it comes to keeping the place clean and the mood welcoming, SalonG83 excels. It's not a place that's all about the men, but they certainly seem to be part of the scene at this Upper West Side salon. It's unisex for hair and for nails, and in both cases the impulse here seems to be to treat everyone well. The service meets the good vibe, too, with excellent manicures for men the standard here.

Bliss Soho
568 Broadway
877. 862.5477
blissspa.com
Bliss isn't just for women. At all. The “manly cure” at Bliss gets your fingers in shape for a certain professional look. And it's a personal pleasure to enjoy this escape from the stress and strain of regular life. Bliss indeed — for customers of any gender or age.

Dyanna Spa
40 East 21st Street
212.995.2355
or
150 East 39th Street
212.213.0011
dyannaspa.com
Some spas feel unwelcoming, especially for guys. But that's not Dyanna, where everybody's a pal you haven't met yet. And where there's nothing wrong with a dude wanting to keep his nails clean, clipped and looking good. The Flatiron-area store is our favorite, but maybe that's because Harding's restaurant and a good Chinese place are right down the street.

Best Blowout Spots

Dry Bar Upper West Side
69 West 71st Street
212.500.1658
thedrybar.com
Why didn't they think of this earlier? As in decades earlier? Yes, it's part of a national trend, but when the beauty of the blowout goes local, you wind up feeling pampered in the perfect way. You pick the style you want, whether it's the Cosmo or the Southern Comfort or the appropriately named Manhattan. You also get the sense of taking a needed time-out for your day.

Blo
Five Manhattan locations, including the Upper East Side (260 East 72nd Street,
646.478.7988) and Chelsea (800 Sixth Avenue, 212.725.4500)
blomedry.com
It's a national franchise with local options, where the company says “you won't find cuts or color,” but you will get “blo-wn away.” This the place for those who think blow-drying your own hair is as sensible as performing surgery on yourself. At Blo they're ready for your extensions, your braiding plans and your love of the head massage and deep conditioning.

Best Tailor

Beyond Bespoke
45 West 46th Street, 2nd Floor
212.918.1966
beyondbespoke.com
“Nick Torres grew up with a tape measure draped around his neck,” the stylish Beyond Bespoke website tells us. The second-floor location reflects a similar tale, and is a good spot for a professional to get his suit and jacket spiffed up. Make appointments for either in-home or in-shop consultations. A sister spot, Beyond Bridal, caters to wedding dress alterations, so the Bespoke industry seems to have a lot of areas covered.

The Orchard Street Tailor Services
145 Orchard Street
212.228.0429
It gets a little crowded in this famous, helpful and ongoing New York institution. But that only makes sense once you see the workmanship on display. This is pretty much the opposite of pretentious and the epitome of practical, a place where they won't be surprised by what you show them — and more than a few New Yorkers swear by this classic enterprise.

Wo's Custom Tailoring
1386 Second Avenue
212.988.9889
wocustomtailoring.com
It's old-fashioned and gets the job done. More than that, though, this is a tailor with a motto: “In anything we do, we do it well, and we do it with love.” Workmanship matters here, and you'll find help for suits, shirts, gowns and a range of alterations. Customer reviews emphasize a higher-than-average degree of happiness from New Yorkers, who have been known to hold their tailors (and everyone else) to a pretty high standard.


Arts & Culture

Best Local Theater Group

The Actors Company Theatre
Office: 900 Broadway, Suite 905
212.645.8228
tactnyc.org
These are the people who almost single-handedly put the drama back in the staged reading. Even a stripped down production at The Actors Company Theatre (TACT) felt fully developed, right from the start 23 seasons ago. Since then, TACT and its company of familiar faces and great talents have breathed new life into plays we thought we knew. Like when Cynthia Harris broke hearts and scared audiences as the domineering grandma in Neil Simon's “Lost in Yonkers.” See a TACT show and fall in love with theater all over again. Your next opportunity: “The Gravedigger's Lullabuy” comes to Theater Row's Beckett Theatre on West 42nd Street in February.

Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street
212.727.2737
irishrep.org
The delicious new production of “Finian's Rainbow” has been extended to Jan. 29, giving more would-be audience members a chance to visit the Irish Repertory Theatre's new home. The place is lovely, but it's still the plays themselves, classics that deserve to live in fresh new ways and modern-day voices breaking through, that make this company a standout. The group started in 1988 and picked Chelsea as a full-time home in 1995. But one current offering, through Jan. 7, is being done in conjunction with the American Irish Historical Society. At the society's Fifth Avenue headquarters, there's a fresh take on James Joyce's “The Dead,” this time called “The Dead, 1904,” and starring Kate Burton and Boyd Gaines. Set in the classic mansion setting, the dinner scene this time plays out with an actual dinner – shared by actors and audience.

St. Bart's Players
325 Park Avenue
212.378.0248 stbartplayers.org
Community theater in the big city is an actual thing — and they prove it at St. Bart's every production. The most recent, “Company,” was an ably-acted take on the Stephen Sondheim classic — and as good as versions that got a lot more ink and cost a lot more for tickets. When the landlord's a church, you might expect something toned down, but this is a sophisticated band of talents doing challenging work they love, and stuff that's worth seeing for lucky audiences.


Pets

Best Grooming

A1 Pet Grooming
A1petgrooming.com
212.369.3575
Atsuko Ishikura of A1 Pet Grooming, who's on the team that provides an at-home service, says A1 freshens the look for both dogs and cats. Do cats put up with that? “It depends on the cat,” she says. “But some cats really need grooming because they can't help themselves — especially the long-haired.” She says she has a lot of Upper West Side clients and pays special attention to a pet's personality and specific health needs. Ishikura's bottom line: “Good grooming has many benefits; not only the appearance of the pets, but for their mental and physical well-being.”

Downtown Doghouse
168 Ninth Avenue
212.924.5300
Lucky Downtown Doghouse customers just got a holiday-season-free-upgrade email, as if they needed a reminder of how much they appreciate the dog grooming given in a spa setting. Get a reservation before you go — and be aware of the Gramercy location too. The talents here do everything from hand-clipping to preparing show dogs for their moment in the sun.

Groomingdales
349 East 82nd Street
646.837.6404
It's not just a cute name. Groomingdales wins plaudits from regular customers who admire the service — and the attitude with which it's delivered. The salon says it specializes in poodles and bichons, but this is a spot where you can bring other breeds too. The aim, as the helpful web site promises: “the most enjoyable, relaxing experience possible.”

Best Dog Park

105th Street Dog Run
Riverside Park at 105th Street
There are bigger dog parks, but the one at 105th Street within Riverside Park is an endearing little spot, for dogs and their owners and those standing outside and enjoying the parade of pups. This is a part of the park with a neighborhood feel, and that extends to the dogs who greet one another enthusiastically.

Tribeca Dog Park
Hudson River Park
hudsonriverpark.org/explore-the-park/activities/tribeca-dog-park
At Pier 26 in Tribeca, big dogs and little ones are both welcomed. And the humans with them will appreciate the amenities, from benches and fences and trash cans and, when weather permits, running water. It's a stylish place for stylish dogs, and even the people they bring with them.

Carl Schurz Park
East End Avenue to East River,
84th to 90th Streets
Talk about being welcoming to dogs. Carl Schurz Park has two different dog runs, making it increasingly a draw for those with four-footed friends. The big dog run draws the bigger breeds, who put on an ongoing show for those without dogs. The little dog run is elevated above the boardwalk, making a fine setting for canines and kicking off the day for many East Siders.

Best Dog Walker and Cat-sitting

Wags West
910 West End Avenue
917.817.1073
wagswestnyc.com
Since 2006, Wags West has been taking care of dogs — and cats too — on the Upper West Side and in South Harlem. The company stresses loving and personal attention for the dogs it cares for, and will visit with a new puppy, do the traditional dog walk or do a 30-minute cat-care stop. Services include a free first-time home meeting, daily check-in emails and online scheduling and billing.

On All Fours Cat Sitting
917.623.0087
Onallfourscatsitting.com
Insured, bonded and veterinarian recommended, we know firsthand the service offered by On All Fours. One apartment dweller on the Upper West Side was recently talking about his cat-sitters — only to find a neighbor three doors down on the same floor also used the company. Leslie Kaufman, a former Humane Society volunteer who is the president of On All Fours, takes seriously her job overseeing an able stable of sitters. She hires the kind of people who report by email about how your cats are doing when you've made the mistake of actually leaving them to go away.

Dog Room Club
1476 Lexington Avenue
646.964.5220
dogroomclub.com
The Dog Room Club does day care on-site and some fantastic grooming. But in a city where so many of us appreciate — and need — a better-than-decent dog walker, it makes sense to put special emphasis on that task. This company tailors the experience to your dog, and her or his needs, rather than forcing a one-size-fits-all approach. The Lexington Avenue facility is staffed 24/7, a relief to those who need to board their family members here.

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