By Erik Torkells
To take the measure of a city, you need to get out of the tourist zones and explore a residential neighborhood. But some cities, such as New York, have so many to choose from. I humbly submit my own neighborhood, Tribeca, which you’ve probably heard of, either because of the Tribeca Film Festival (which is mostly held elsewhere in the city), Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” or the Subaru SUV.
Tribeca is a pretty affluent neighborhood, which is only really relevant in that it’s safe even for travelers who might get lost—and get lost they do, given that the streets aren’t on a grid. That doesn’t have to be a problem, though: Personally, I love poking around Tribeca (or any neighborhood), taking in the details. Fans of historical architecture, industrial details, and people-watching (including celebrity-spotting) will have a blast.
The northern border of the “Triangle Below Canal” is Canal Street (the southern border of Soho), but as more residents have moved in, the other boundaries have spread. Tribeca is more of a trapezoid these days, and I’d say it’s all interesting from Canal down to the World Trade Center site, from the Hudson River over to Broadway (and occasionally farther east).
Here are my picks for places you shouldn’t miss:
• Staple Street is a two-block-long street that’s not just notable for the quaint narrowness and the surrounding buildings, but for the old metal bridge that links two buildings. The odds are decent you’ll see a photo shoot going on underneath it.
• Fans of Ghostbusters will need to take a photo in from of the Ladder 8 firehouse at Varick and N. Moore streets.
• There are plenty of high-end stores, but there are also stores that aren’t crazy expensive and still unique. I’m thinking of the Japanese knife store Korin; Playing Mantis, which sells handmade and natural toys; Working Class, home to all kinds of British objets; and Mysterious Bookshop, where mystery lovers will be in heaven.
• The restaurants don’t tend to be grouped on main streets, so you may have to search around. For a cheap lunch, you can’t beat Café Clementine. For a coffee break, the favorite places are La Colombe, RBC NYC, and Kaffe 1668. For the kind of dinner you can’t find anywhere else in New York (or the U.S. in general), I’d suggest Greenwich Grill, which serves “Tokyo-Italian,” and Jehangir Mehta’s inventive Mehtaphor.
• One last thing: If the weather is decent, head over to Pier 24 in the Hudson River Park, where you can play a round of miniature golf with the skyline behind you.
New York hotels in Tribeca
Formerly the editor of Budget Travel magazine, Erik Torkells has written for many other publications, including Travel + Leisure, the New York Times and T Magazine. He has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, and “Good Morning America” on Orbitz’s behalf.