Travel bites: Manhattan Lower East Side & NoLita

New York, we missed you.

A post which I call myself lucky to write. After over two years of COVID travel stop and only short hauls hops to Italy (home, so almost doesn’t count) the time finally came for a proper holiday with a long haul flight. Having cancelled 3 trips in 2022 alone I was a little apprehensive as the date for our (once annual) trip to the Big Apple approached.

It took me a while but as soon as we hit the town, and I surfaced near the Radio City Music Hall ( I had a work meeting) it felt so right to be back, so familiar.

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Little Island

Change of scenery

A couple of months ago, when we started looking into accommodation we started with our usual neck of the woods but wow, the prices have gone up! Could not find anything in Chelsea, Meatpacking or the West Village for less than 200£ each per night. Not wishing to stay midtown (too touristy and soulless in our views), Financial District (no thanks) or further out, we found a decent priced accommodation in the Lower East Side and so we booked, hoping we’d not made a mistake.

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Meatpacking skyline


So the place that sounded too good to be true was actual real and not a fake. We arrived at Off Soho Suites on friday afternoon and were welcomed warmly by the guy behind the counter, who gave us our keys and marvelled at the rate we had managed to secure. He informed us that it was graduation week in New York and all accommodation prices had risen. No wonder!

Our ‘room’ was actually a flat on the 3rd floor, a ‘deluxe suite’. It had a spacious double bedroom (with plenty of storage space), a large bathroom with shower and bath, shelves, dauly changed towels and toiletries; it had an open plan kitchen (dating from the 80s but all fully functional and clean!), a double comfy sofa bed and dining table.

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We actually couln’t believe how good thisplace was; in the building there is a lift, a small gym and a laundry room. The location that so worried us was perfect. Thirty seconds walk to the J and Z subway stop (Bowery) which takes you straight to the Jamaica Centre where the airport train alights; 5m walk is Grand stop for B and C which gets you uptown or to Brooklyn.


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So where do I start? We always research eating, take recs and explore when we’re in NY. And there is so much to discover!


Of course coffee, coffee, coffee. Perhaps being so used to London’s quality, I did not find New York coffee as good overall, yet we did enjoy some pretty decent flat whites and espresso. Despite being right next to Little Italy, coffee there wasn’t exciting. Our favourite place instead was without a doubt local Nolita Cafe Integral (Elizabeth St), Nicaraguan coffee roasters with a scandi looking, small welcoming venue. Another great coffee we had at Madman Espresso in the West Village (various branches). We also loved our very first flat white when, jetlagged, we walked around early on a saturday morning and stumbled upon hole in the wall Blank Street (super friendly staff). Not a flat white but, when the weather turned warm and sunny, a delightful iced coffee blend is the Nut Latte from Honey Brains, a small chains of healthy food and drinks, recommended by my virtual local expert friend Sophie.

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Much of it, of course. Another quite eclectic selection walking around the LES, Nolita, West Village and Greenwhich Village. We had a fantastic lunch at diner-turned-fancy taqueria la Esquina. We had a posh brunch in what is allegedly the rebirth place of NY brunch, Balthazaar with my local friend gourmet connoisseur Michelle. Of course we visited more retro diners and loved Tom’s Restaurant where we had dinner before the Met opera; I am also glad we managed to lunch at Veselka, a historic Ukrainian diner. Breakfast was always a treat, and possibly our favourite was at Nolita branch of Egg Shop (as recommended by my friend Tom Cenci).


Oh yes. I really enjoyed the bakes we bought from Pane & Pasta NYC, a modern italian bakery in Chelsea; I then made a detour on a very hot day to check out Patisserie Fouet (also recommended by Sophie), a beautifully stylish and delicious french patisserie with a japanese twist. I wish I could have had the afternoon tea! We walked past Supermoon bakery and Levain plenty of times, resisting the temptation to get in. We were eating way too much already!


We walked so much. the weather was fantastic and we had comfy shoes (mostly. We explored the Lower East Side and Nolita, walking from one vintage restaurant to the next and checking out a few museums too. We visited the Museum of Chinese in America which we found very interesting and well laid out, in a new building on the outskirts of Chinatown, yet we also learnt there is some controversy around its existance too.

There is a similar museum dedicated to Italian immigration which I would have loved to see, but it was undergoing refurbishment, so hopefully next trip. Nearby, we booked a guided, themed tour at the Tenement Museum, another great opportunity to learn about the City’s past and the many different stories and histories that make up its complext layers. We really enjoyed it, and would come back for the other tours, although we still felt it was somehow a ‘sanitised’ version of the past, the lucky and the successful as opposed to the harsh reality linked to immigration.

One other tourist sightseeing we did was to the Little Island, a breezy, quirky cement island by Chelsea Market, which, on a sunny day, was perfect.

Nights Out

Perhaps because we had not been in town for a while, but we sure made the most of our evenings, we a diverse entertainment choice for sure. No immersive theatre this time, but we hopped over to Brooklyn to see Hannah Gatsby live (which was very cool), we dressed up for a night at the Met Opera seeing La Boheme with another virtual friend in the ensemble (my first opera!) and we also attended a really random but very interesting and free italian monologue in the village for the Italian Theatre Festival.

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Met Opera views

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