This article is part of a guide to New York by FT Globetrotter
It’s no surprise that New York is such a popular setting for romantic comedies – a genre that is, more often than not, about the novelty of love. Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy meets boy, girl meets girl. . . New York, with its endless crowded sidewalks, is practically designed for these happy collisions. Every morning you step out of your front door into what is potentially the first act of a love affair.
I think that’s why, for me, the most romantic places in New York are the ones that have been around for a while. In a city buzzing with relentless reinventions and new beginnings, old spots are the ones that ground you and remind you that you’re just one page in a story far longer than your own. Here are some of my favorites.
72 West 36th Street, New York, NY 10018
In the middle of a part of town that isn’t particularly historic – a slump here and there known as Midtown South – you’ll find one of the most gloriously specific yesteryear capsules New York has to offer. offer: Keen’s Steakhouse. Founded in 1885, Keen’s began as a watering hole and feeding ground for theatrical decor. Broadway actors regularly wet their whistles here before, after, and sometimes during performances.
The first thing you might notice upon entering this sprawling maze of dining rooms and bars are the old clay tobacco pipes hanging from every square inch of the ceiling. Once upon a time there were regulars who enjoyed a puff after dinner and were asked by management to store their pipes on site. They’re still around to this day, including those owned by Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein, Theodore Roosevelt and countless other luminaries who have savored Keens’ legendary steaks and chops over the years. If you don’t get goosebumps imagining the conversations these walls have heard, you’ll at least have one of the best steaks New York has to offer. (Website; directions)
1648 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Listen to me. A plate of sausages is not inherently romantic. Nor a waiter in lederhosen. Heidelberg has both of these in abundance, but I promise you we’re a long way from the Germany Pavilion at Epcot. It’s the real thing, passed down through the generations. Once upon a time, this Yorkville neighborhood was filled with German émigrés, and Second Avenue was lined with beer halls. Heidelberg is pretty much all that remains of that forgotten era, but what a specimen it is. You can hear the drinking songs still echoing off the murals. I always choose the beef goulash with spaetzle and one of the many delicious beers in a mug the size of a small fire hydrant.
Then, to leave it, I exit, walk to East 86th Street, turn right, and keep walking until I reach Carl Schurz Park, my favorite green spot in Manhattan, a place that looks like miniature Central Park, albeit in a sleepy part of town no tourist would ever think of visiting. Take a walk through the park, up the steps and towards the river walk. Find a bench and watch the water go by. You can see a fine collection of bridges from here, as well as a lighthouse at the tip of Roosevelt Island. This is the perfect place for a summer evening. (Website; directions)
129 East 18th Street, New York, NY 10003
A big part of Pete’s appeal is that it’s in the middle of one of New York’s great historic neighborhoods, so before you even walk in, take a little stroll. Irving Square is a beautiful little green avenue, with generous coats of ivy creeping over its stone and brick facades. Walk a few blocks north and you’re in Gramercy Park, New York’s closest to a classic London private square. Even if you’re not lucky enough to access this slice of calm (the only keys belong to residents who live across the street), a walk around its circumference is a great way to step back in time. and work up an appetite for what some say is the best burger in New York.
Pete’s has been around forever – it even survived Prohibition disguised as a “florist” – and it’s no wonder, because it looks and feels the way you want every bar to look and feel. The oak is dark, the conversation is lively and the history is palpable. Short story writer O Henry lived nearby and wrote “The Gift of the Magi” at one of the tables. (Or so the legend goes. It wouldn’t be a great bar story if it wasn’t served with just a whisper of apocrypha.) (Website; directions)
Grand Central Oyster Bar
89 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017
Grand Central Terminal is undoubtedly one of the best locations in Manhattan. It’s hard to find spaces that are both stunning and open to the public – it’s pretty limited to churches and train stations. And it’s a very special station. The tall, enormous ceiling, with its constellations of orange-yellow stars set like jewels against a blue-green sky, is one of those sights a million postcards won’t prepare you for when you see the real thing in person. .
But to access my favorite place in Grand Central, you have to leave the Grand Lobby and go down the ramp to the lower level, where you’ll find a place that looks like a repurposed catacomb in Christmas lights and subway tiles. It’s the Oyster Bar, and it’s older than all of us. There are plenty of tables, but turn right when you enter and take a seat at one of the counters. Order a dozen oysters and a martini, and you’ll share communion with over a century of commuters who have hidden here over the decades before heading off to parts unknown. Finish your meal, head back upstairs, gaze at the stars once more, and I challenge you, right now, not to feel the sudden urge to hop on a train and go somewhere you don’t. ‘ve ever been. That’s the beauty of this place and New York: the endless sense of possibility. (Website; directions)
Carter Bays is the co-creator of the American sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” and the author of mutual friendpublished by Hodder and Stoughton
What is your most romantic place in New York? Tell us in the comments
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