‘Tis the season

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A look, and a few tastes, at the shops in Bryant Park, Union Square and Grand Central


  • Kent Stetson’s boutique at Grand Central Station. Photo: Andrew Willard

  • Freddy Rojas preparing a cheesesteak at Truffleist in Bryant Park. Photo: Liz Hardaway

Most of the holiday shops are up and running, some since even before Halloween. We perused dozens, in Bryant Park, Union Square and Grand Central, to distil the best of the best. Here’s a guide to the gift spots, food and unique stores in the winter wonderlands.

BRYANT PARKBest Gifts — Hella Cocktail

For some, the best way to get through the holidays is with a little booze. Mix in some cheer with your festivities by having a fresh-squeezed Bloody Mary mix. “It’s a way to bring craft drinks into the home,” Fabiana Santana said. Hella Cocktail has margarita and Bloody Mary mixes for $10, or you can get a full kit for those crafty mixologists in the family so they can make their own bitters from scratch.

Best Food — Cheesesteak by Truffleist

Steak, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, oh my! Truffleists’ cheesesteaks make any mouth water around the Bryant Park Winter Village. With melted, bubbling cheese, truffle oil and a secret sauce, these are the talk of the town. One can even opt out from meat with the delicious truffle cheese fries.

Best Niche — Boneyard Pets by 32 Square

Want a pet that doesn’t bark? Using PVC plastic and recycled milk jugs, Eric Winston created a dinosaur-skeleton puzzle that is great for stimulating young paleontologists. From miniature T. rexes to jumbo-sized triceratopses, these vibrant bones will brighten any room in the home.

UNION SQUAREBest Gifts — Beekman’s Copa Soaps

Soap is always a safe bet. These cold-processed, all natural soaps make the perfect gift for everyone. From honey oatmeal to avocado, Beekman’s Copa Soaps use herbs and essential oils to leave skin soft and moisturized.

Best Food — Dulcinea Churros

The Union Square Christmas Market is the best place to try this year’s Vendy Award winner for best dessert. Whether you get your cinnamon-crusted churro plain or prefer it smothered in chocolate, a Dulcinea churro in hand is a must as you stroll among the park’s shops.

Best Niche — Cork Buds

Always wanted to create an indoor garden? These cute (and practical) succulents are the perfect addition to a small cubicle or office space. All cork buds are made from upcycled corks and hardy airplants and succulents. Whether or not you’re considering purchasing or not, Cork Buds is definitely the cutest cubby in the place.


In this pristine boutique, clutches sporting margaritas or sushi or with the Manhattan skyline printed on the front definitely make a statement worth stopping for. Starting off as an artist, Kent Stetson decided 15 years ago to cut up his paintings, and use purses as a framing device. Now, his art can be used as a wardrobe staple. “The likelihood you are going to have fun is enhanced by what I make,” Stetson said.

Best Food — Brownsville Roasters

Sip the taste of Brooklyn while browsing the festivities. Next to the holiday fair lies the Great Northern Food Hall, where the most delicate and delicious marshmallows are stored next to a very robust organic coffee. Brownsville Roasters is a quick and tasty option whether when waiting for a train or buying your in-laws that last minute gift they’ve been wanting.

Best Niche — Raw Design

Does that meat need seasoning? Do it in style with the best functional kitchen art Grand Central has to offer. At first glance, these handmade, wood salt and pepper shakers look like interesting wall decorations, but actually end up being useful and in the saucepan. One customer and friend of the owner, Isabelle Segal-Roges, said she has had hers for over 15 years. With the wood being dyed such bright colors, instead of being painted, the shaker won’t soon lose its striking look.

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