Broadway: bright lights, big box retailers and don’t forget the tourists, and plenty of them. Not your ideal for a city stroll? Then skip over Broadway’s crowded sidewalks in Midtown and Soho and head to NoMAD, the quadrant of blocks North of MADison Square Park.
Herald Square may be a “crossroads of the world” intersection but best to just pass through the flocks of aimless tourists, Penn Station commuters and the less-than-chic elements settled into updated yet worn and sullied pedestrian malls. Starting at 33rd Street it’s a very east meets west dynamic of NoMAD where traditional African dress and Hasidic garb are as likely to be seen as au courant pret-a-porter. Architecturally, it’s a hodgepodge with lots of low scale buildings adding to its gritty character. In NoMAD get ready for iconic New York with the Flatiron (the onetime geographic catchall for this area), Empire State and New York Life buildings along with a slew of significant 20th century building designs. As far as parks go, skip over the grimy-appearing Greely Square for the greens of Madison Square.
Once you’ve managed to escape from the anxiety inducing labyrinth of Macy’s and sidestep the uninspiring Herald Center and Manhattan Mall, get ready for an interesting and engaging “retail split personality” of sorts along Broadway as you head downtown from 32nd street. From here the west side of Broadway is a Third World-feeling bonanza of import shops selling perfumes and colognes, all kinds of accessories and clothing. Kitschy mannequins front emporiums of budget retail fantasy but better get here soon - with the tech companies taking root in NoMAD all this retail will be gone in the blink of a New York real estate eye. And, so it goes on the east side of Broadway where newly minted shops lure in guests from the ACE and NOMAD HOTELS . For now you’ve got the design know how of PROJECT NO. 8, the couture leaning retail mix at OPENING CEREMONY and the hip-meets-chic men’s and women’s clothing at the tres French MAISON KITSUNE.
No eating in Herald Square, not even if you’re super hungry! Mediocre restaurants, fast food and, even a branch of ‘WICHCRAFT (in a kiosk that is easy to confuse with a public bathroom) do not make for worthy meal moments. Yes, it might make sense for a turn off 32nd Street aka Korea Way – gosh knows we love Paris Baguette and a bit barbecue – but there’s some great eating awaiting you on NoMAD’s Broadway.
Even with your inner hipster at full throttle you might not feel cool at the Ace Hotel with its Williamsburg meets San Francisco “hi, I’m in tech” vibe. But, you’ve got to eat and you’ll get better than just a square meal at the BRESLIN. Yes, there’s a Disney theme to this English-minded gastropub from the folks at The Spotted Pig but it’s well worth the staging as these are tasty and filling eats. If a lamb burger is too gamy for your palate then cross the lobby and take to the seas at THE JOHN DORY. It may be another Disney setting but topnotch briny fresh shellfish rule these plates. For takeaway to your room or office there’s terrific sandwiches of creative combinations at NO. 7 SUB. Wow, you’ve got a bit of food coma from all this eating so take time to grab an exceptional brew from STUMPTOWN COFFEE.
In style-meets-fashion circles there’s also a lot of chatter at the NoMad Hotel where period Victorian is very much at quirky play. At the THE NOMAD the talented chef Daniel Humm prepares some pretty rich vittles but beware as your wallet will be overwhelmed from truffle and foie gras. And, if you do go, reserve ahead for the light filled Atrium over the gloomy Marriott-esque Parlour (what were they thinking of with those overdone chairs, drapes and carpet) and The Bar which is just too darn dark for a dine.
Back on Broadway skip over roasted candied nuts from street vendors – ouch my stomach hurts – and head to the retro-styled HILL COUNTRY CHICKEN. From the smoke boys of Hill Country Barbecue it’s fried chicken time with all the fixings: this is finger licking yum especially with a mini-sized banana cream pie finish. For an alfresco dine you’re in Madison Square Park with high quality takes on classic Americana
roadside eats – burgers, fries, hotdogs, custard cones and shakes – at the original SHAKE SHACK. It’s become an institution so, rain or shine, make sure you’ve got a lot of time to wait in line. Speaking of lines, brace yourself for the food hall extravaganza that is EATALY. Here tourists and locals squeeze into shops (bakery, butcher, pasta, produce, etc.) and vie for seats in themed restaurant “areas’” that serve up delicious meals in high Italian style with Mario Batali flare.
Your NoMAD wandering might take you to Madison or 5th Avenues but when you come down to it there’s nothing much to these thoroughfares. Broadway is the oasis and it is by all means no mirage.