If, like us, you are a humble plebe who can't escape to the Hamptons or Fire Island or the country during the summer weekends, and are stuck for ideas on what to do in town, here are some of our favorite haunts.
Favorite Restaurant: Il Corso, 54 W. 55th St., (212) 957-1500.
Hands down, our absolute favorite Italian in the city, and possibly our favorite restaurant outside of Italy itself. Chef Andrea Giacomoni is absolutely brilliant at producing meals which are casually elegant yet homey, soul-satisfying, and above all, savory. Yes, you could have a fine meal if you stick within the safety zone of, say, a richly creamy burrata with prosciutto; a toothsome tangle of homemade fettucine a la bolognese; or a perfectly crisp-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside veal Milanese. But the specials are uniformly spectacular, and if Chef Andrea is offering braised, stewed, or pan-roasted lamb, veal or pork, it is not to be missed. We are not overstating our case when we say that some of our best, most richly rewarding meals have been at the hands of Chef Andrea. Our current favorite: an antipasti of delicately fried mushrooms (light and crackling good - the mark of a good chef, in our opinion, is their ability to fry properly; the result should be sprightly and crisp, not heavy and sodden) followed by Andrea's heroic pan seared double pork chop. This remarkable cut of meat is, without question, the juiciest, best-prepared pork we have ever had. Period. The quality/cost ratio is excellent; the staff will do backflips to please you; the ambiance is cozy and completely outside of trends; and regulars (like us) are there every single night. Oh, and Il Corso's coffee is the best and strongest in town.
Favorite Bar: The Modern at MOMA, 9 W. 53rd St., 212.333.1220.
When you want to avoid the model wannabe/hedge fund a**hole crowd, but still crave a chic, sleek scene, The Modern is the perfect destination. It's a truly adult experience, with a sophisticated, well-heeled, well-polished crowd who have better things to do than dance on banquettes and throw up in their town cars. As befits a bar/restaurant located in the Museum of Modern Art, the space is cutting-edge, but the service is friendly and unpretentious. Dinner in the Bar Room is casual, lively and cool; the Dining Room is a serene oasis from the glamorous chaos up front. And the bar itself serves up one hell of a martini: ice cold, generously proportioned (but not ridiculously so), crystal clear, expertly mixed. In addition, considering the quality and the scene factor, the price tag is low indeed: a top-shelf martini runs around $14, compared to the $20 and up that the King Cole Bar or Four Seasons will stick you for. Another plus: the "speciality cocktail" list isn't full of nauseatingly sweet concoctions aimed at Paris Hiltonettes.
Favorite Shop: Seigo Neckwear, 747 Third Ave., (212) 308-3008.
Without a doubt, Seigo is a bow tie lover's wet dream come true. The sheer amount of heart-stoppingly gorgeous, handmade, limited edition ties to choose from is staggering, and almost overwhelming. We've learned that one must enter Seigo with a purpose and a plan: a certain color scheme, say, or a specific pattern; simple browsing simply won't cut it, with all the choices available. Seigo also sells regular neckties, as well as simply beautiful pocket squares, handkerchiefs, and ascots. Seigo Katsuragawa handcrafts each piece from kimono silk, giving his ties a unique sheen and texture. The colors are mouth-watering, the charming Japanese salesgirls are unwaveringly polite and friendly, and the cost? Around $50 for a bow tie, $45 for a pocket square. Much less than what you'd spend at Paul Stuart, and about the same as what you'd pay for a factory-made, mass-produced product at Brooks Brothers. If only we'd discovered Seigo sooner...
Favorite Entertainment Venue: The Metropolitan Room, 34 W. 22nd St., (212) 206-0440.
With Bobby Short and Eartha Kitt returned to Fabulon, there is very little reason to sell a kidney in order to afford a night at the Cafe Carlyle. With few exceptions, Feinstein's is no better, and often (in terms of service) worse. Which makes The Metropolitan such a breath of fresh air. Showcasing top talent like Marilyn Maye, Julie Wilson, Tammy Grimes and Annie Ross, as well as the cream of the rising cabaret upstarts, The Metropolitan also boasts a truly music-savvy audience. Unlike the Carlyle and Feinstein's, where high rollers attend shows simply to flaunt their bankroll, The Metropolitan attracts a crowd who knows their stuff, and appreciates the performers. Seating can get cramped at the communal tables, but hey, you'll always make new friends with your neighbors. Service can sometimes be on the slow side, but invariably sweet and well-intentioned. Even better, the cover charge hovers around $25-45, depending on the star perfomer, with a two drink minimum. It's very possible to have a fabulous night of entertainment here for two, and spend only around $75 total.
Favorite Theatre: The Walter Reade Theatre, 165 W. 65th St. (upper level), (212) 875-5601.
The Film Society at Lincoln Center presents its movies in a spacious, comfortable, clean space, and on an absolutely gorgeous big screen. Many of their revivals are studio prints, all the better to revel in their Technicolor/CinemaScope glory. This summer alone, we've seen glorious screenings of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The King and I, and Inside Daisy Clover; and we're seeing Gypsy and West Side Story this weekend. Frankly, that's our idea of a grand, gay time on the weekend, rather than X-ing it up with les boys out on the Pines.