New York Neighbourhood Guide: Midtown
Midtown has a touristy reputation, but there’s plenty of gems for fans of design here.
The natural habitat of the business traveller, Midtown gets a reputation for not having much of a reputation, but when your rubric extends from Carnegie Hall to Carnegie Deli, you have enough diversity to satisfy pretty much everyone.
The MoMA is the natural here, but it’s always so packed that it’s tough to enjoy anything, especially if it’s a Björk retrospective or whatever pop culture reference the museum is chasing these days. Instead, walk to MAD (the Museum of Arts and Design), where furniture by Ron Arad and Frank Gehry and sculptures by Louise Bourgeois occupy the space with quite a few quilts and very few tourists. Because the making of exquisite things is so central to the MAD mission, visitors can watch a featured artist at work or join a hands-on seminar on most days. Also from now until November, famed architect Santiago Calatrava (Calgary’s Peace Bridge) has a sculpture exhibition on Park Avenue between 52nd and 55th streets.
The departure of the Conran Shop a few years ago left a hole in Midtown design shopping that has been neatly filled by the Knoll Home Design Shop, the iconic brandís only direct-to-consumer outpost. The gang’s all here—Saarinen, Bertoia and Eames—but it’s the new guard like Daniel Stromborg and Marc Krusin who are really exciting (mostly because their designs haven’t been knocked off a thousand times yet).
Aldo Sohm is the wine director at the famed Le Bernardin, but he somehow managed to find time to open the note-perfect Aldo Sohm Wine Bar across the courtyard from his day job. A mid-sized but perfectly curated wine list is paired with a short menu of beautiful small plates, meaning you can have a grilled foie gras lollipop with a glass of obscure blaufränkisch from Austria and still emerge only $31 lighter. With your savings, march a few blocks north to Momofuku Milk Bar for a slice of legendarily addictive crack pie (hence the name).
Business hotels rarely excite, but behind Le Parker Meridien’s placid facade rests a hotel that likes to let its hair down a bit. The first clue is the outpost of Burger Joint off to the side of the lobby (look for the line starting at around 11:30 a.m. every day); the next is the sprawling subterranean complex below—with a huge gym and Moonshine, the only spa we’ve ever visited that looks like a swank speakeasy.