Travel

A Day of History, Culture, and Great Food on the Upper West Side

Created with Van Cleef & Arpels

Written by: Kelly Martin

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Published on: February 13, 2024

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The Upper West Side has many charms: Pretty brownstone-lined side streets and landmark-lined avenues. Major cultural institutions (the Natural History, Lincoln Center, Zabar’s…). Excellent restaurants, from classic diners to Michelin-starred gems. And a quainter, more relaxed character than its counterpart to the east of the park. One day on the UWS, sometime soon? Here’s how we’d spend it.

9 a.m.


 

CAFE LUXEMBOURG

A neighborhood staple for four-plus decades, Cafe Luxembourg just brought back weekday petit déjeuner—with warm doughnut holes dusted in cinnamon sugar, eggy sandwiches on pillowy brioche, and cheesy, herby omelets. Weekend brunch remains a fixture here, too, with a wider menu and even more reason to linger. (That said, our next stop beckons—don’t linger too long.)

Photo courtesy of Cafe Luxembourg

10:15 a.m.


GARDEN OF GREEN AT THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

We’re forever fans of the French jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels. For the craftsmanship and timeless appeal of its pieces, yes—but also for the way its designers have looked to nature for inspiration since the maison’s earliest days. On display now at the American Museum of Natural History: 44 pieces from the jeweler’s archives, spanning a hundred years, crafted from a variety of green gemstones (jadeite jade, peridot, malachite, chrysoprase, green chalcedony, and emerald), and inspired by flora and fauna.

Give yourself half an hour to ogle the glimmering greens. (Try to keep your jaw off the floor—you can’t.) And tack on an additional hour to wander through a couple of the museum’s permanent exhibitions. Beyond Garden of Green, the rest of the Halls of Gems and Minerals are mesmerizing; don’t miss the world-famous 632-carat Patricia Emerald. And the butterfly vivarium—which is in the newly opened, and architecturally stunning, Gilder Center—requires an additional, timed ticket, but it’s well worth the extra effort.

Garden of Green is on view only until March 17—catch it before it’s gone.

Photos courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels. 1) Installation view, Garden of Green. 2) Plane tree leaf clip, 1951. Platinum, yellow gold, Mystery Set emeralds, diamonds. Van Cleef & Arpels Collection. 3) Quatre chemins necklace, 2019. White gold, platinum, 16 emerald-cut emeralds for 27.79 carats, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds. Private collection.

 

12:15 p.m.


PARK WALK

On your way to lunch, if you have some time to burn, swing west toward the Hudson and make your way down through Riverside Park. If you took your time at the museum and have less flexibility to journey over, Central Park is the quicker route.

1:30 p.m.


 

BAR BOULUD

This French bistro, whose arched ceilings give it a cozy, wine-cave-like feel, plays the hits spectacularly. Expect garlicky escargot, coq au vin, trout amandine, and Burgundy and Rhône Valley wines. But what’s particularly special is what’s found only here: a board of pâtés and terrines curated by owner and chef Daniel Boulud, whose Upper East Side flagship has two Michelin stars.

3 p.m. 


NYC BALLET

At Lincoln Center, on the weekends and some weekdays, you can catch a matinee for the ballet, theater, opera, Philharmonic—whatever tickles you. The vibe in the audience is a little more laid-back than it is at evening performances, more chic and elevated than dressed-to-the-nines. We have our eye on three ballets running soon: Copland Dance Episodes by Justin Peck, Innovators and Icons, and Balanchine and Wheeldon. (Soft spot for opera? Make your dinner plans accordingly late.)

Photo courtesy of Erin Baiano

7 p.m.


TATIANA

If Afro-Caribbean Tatiana isn’t already high on your list, it should be. James Beard Award–winning chef Kwame Onwuachi takes inspiration from his childhood in the Bronx and from the legacy of San Juan Hill, the vibrant neighborhood that preceded the construction of Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side. The menu is distinctly Onwuachi, and distinctly New York: The chef works with ingredients and techniques from his Creole, Nigerian, and Caribbean roots—and plays with ideas from French cooking, Chinese takeout, Jewish delis, and city bodegas.

Tatiana is one of the toughest reservations in the city right now, but one worth planning around if you can swing it. (Spots open four weeks in advance, at noon.) If you’re dead set on tonight, they save a few seats for walk-ins. Your best bet is to get there before opening and grab drinks elsewhere while you wait.

A couple more dinner options, if needed: Sushi Kaito for an excellent 15-course omakase. Or Vin Sur Vingt, which always hits. There are two locations within walking distance of Lincoln Center: one on Riverside Boulevard, and the other on 84th off Columbus.

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