Circle Light Sightseeing Cruises (Courtesy Circle Light Sightseeing Cruises)
Most visitors to New York City are well acquainted with Midtown Manhattan—the roughly 25-block stretch in the middle of the island that’s home to some of the city’s most iconic landmarks and attractions. With so much to see, John Mark Hopkins, Chef Concierge at The Lowell New York (28 E. 63rd St., 212.838.1400), where he’s worked for the past 10 years, helps whittle down the list by sharing his top three must-visit spots.
First up, he recommends seeing the city from a seafaring perspective, specifically aboard a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises’ vessel. “The Circle Line is one of my favorite things to do, and I never get tired of it,” Hopkins says. “No, I don’t need anyone to point out the Brooklyn Bridge to me anymore, but how could I possibly get tired of the views of Manhattan from the water?” For an all-encompassing experience, Hopkins suggests the Best of NYC Cruise, which includes the opportunity to take snap shots of more than 100 sights as well as an up-close gander at the Statue of Liberty. “If you don’t round the tip of northern Manhattan and go past the Palisades and under the George Washington Bridge, you’re missing out.”
Back on land, the venerable Grand Central Terminal is more than just a train station, with several dining options, retailers and more housed within the iconic structure—which turned 100 in 2013. “It is a spectacular landmark in the middle of Manhattan; you can take tours (self-guided or led by docents from The Municipal Art Society of New York) and learn about its design and construction, and marvel at the constellations on the ceiling,” Hopkins says. “Then, visit the retail shops and buy a computer, luggage or a new pair of shoes.” On the food front, visitors can find everything from Belgian chocolates and French olive oil to wines from just about every corner of the globe. “If you’re in charge of making dinner tonight, hit the market for everything you’ll need to whip up something spectacular; if you’d rather take something home that’s already prepared, go to the Lower Level Dining Concourse. Or, do what I usually do: have an apéritif in the Campbell Apartment and dinner in the Oyster Bar below,” Hopkins suggests. At the aforementioned Oyster Bar, which boasts 25-30 varieties of oysters and a retro seafood menu, patrons can enjoy views of the vaulted tiled ceiling or “a bit of cabaret when the waiters argue with the kitchen staff.”
Koreatown (or K-town as it’s known to locals) is a bustling area of W. 32nd St., roughly between Fifth & Sixth aves., that’s teeming with Korean restaurants and other Korean businesses. “It may not be on a typical list of Midtown attractions, but it’s one of my favorites for one main reason: food,” Hopkins says. “Mandoo Bar has delicious dumplings to eat there or take away; New Won Jo has 24-hour Korean barbecue, where your galbi and bulgoki are grilled at your table over real charcoal (your clothes might smell like smoke after, but it’s worth it); Gaonnuri serves modern reimagined versions of traditional Korean dishes in a spectacular dining room on the 39th floor, overlooking the Hudson River (don’t miss the sunset); and Hangawi features a sublime vegan tasting menu in a tranquil setting that feels miles from Midtown.” While visiting the area, Hopkins always makes a stop at Han Ah Reum Supermarket before heading home. “They have a mind-boggling variety of prepared banchan, and, of course, lots of different kinds of kimchi, as well as non-Korean products (I always stock up on sambal oelek and Kewpie mayonnaise).”