Yes, Jay-Z told us all about the 8 million stories in New York City in “Empire State of Mind.” And while I’ve visited the city several times, I thought as we prepared for our most recent visit that I’d ask a few of my friends who call the Big Apple home to tell me about their New York stories. So a big welcome to Carolyn “the wino” Godfrey of The Lazy Travelers, who has her story in this guide to the Upper East Side.
Introducing the wino of The Lazy Travelers:
Carolyn “the wino” Godfrey // The blonder and boozier half of The Lazy Travelers. After two sojourns abroad, first as an undergraduate student and then as a very sorry excuse for a graduate student, she’s learned how to make the most out of traveling on a tight budget and a short attention span. She can tell you when and where it’s NOT appropriate to get a little tipsy (on the steps of the Notre Dame with your mother) and where it’s perfectly acceptable to throw back a pint or two (anywhere on the Emerald Isle). She’s currently transitioning from life in the Big Apple to a new home in Philadelphia and simultaneously trying to balance her “real-world” job and an incessant case of wanderlust.
What is your favorite New York neighborhood to hang out in?
Though much cooler New Yorkers may make fun of me for this, it has been and always will be the Upper East Side. This is where I’ve called home on and off for the past four years, and it’s become my favorite place in the city.
What makes it unique?
The Upper East Side went from being predominantly upper-class families to a mix of young professionals and 20-somethings that couldn’t afford the elevated prices of living downtown. New bars and restaurants are opening every day to cater to this new crowd, and yet the neighborhood still has all the upscale amenities it’s had from the past. It’s the perfect balance.
What are your go-to places/attractions to take visiting friends?
Central Park is a must and an easy walk from almost anywhere on the UES, buuut let’s be honest — I almost always go for pub hopping. Favorites include The Penrose, City Swiggers, The Supply House, Bondurants, and Earl’s Beer & Cheese.
- Favorite pizza: This changes weekly, but a good go-to is always Mimi’s on 83rd and Lexington.
- Favorite brunch: Another tough one! For serious brunch-goers, try Orsay. For something less formal, just pick up a bagel at H&H and head to the park.
- Favorite ethnic: The Upper East Side used to be a predominantly German population, so I’d recommend Heidelberg (and be prepared to eat and drink!). It’s beyond good.
- Favorite splurge or nice meal out: Flex Mussels on 82nd between 3rd and Lex is my go-to special occasions restaurant. It’s fancy enough for a celebration but has a great laid-back and unpretentious vibe.
- Favorite bar: Pleading the 5th! Depends on my mood and what I want to drink!
- Favorite neighborhood spot: Madison Avenue. On the Upper East Side, Madison Avenue is lined with luxury store after luxury store. It makes for the best window shopping and the best pretending-to-be-a-New-Yorker-that-can-afford-these-things.
- New restaurant: Five Mile Stone on 85th and 2nd. It’s two floors with two full bars and a balcony. The menu is so simple (think elevated pub food) but so well done!
- Your favorite tourist dining experience: Alice’s Tea Cup! I think this is a tourist spot?
Do you have favorite thrifts, boutiques or fleas? If so, please share!
There are consignment shops everywhere in New York City. Almost every other street has some sort of second-hand store! I like to wander in if I pass a window and see something interesting!
Imagine going back to being a kid. What do you think you’d love to experience in New York as a child in 2014?
The Natural History Museum, for sure. It’s changed so much over the years, but it still seems so quintessentially New York. My 3-year-old nephew is completely enthralled with the life-sized humpback whale that hangs from the ceiling there!
Describe a perfect New York day:
Good food, good drink and good company. Luckily, any neighborhood in New York City can provide at least the first two!
Editor’s Note: I want to give a special plug to the city dwellers series at The Lazy Travelers. This recent series was a good source as I began planning our visit to New York, especially the Gramercy edition.