Travel

With Love From... New York City

By Max La Manna
03.04.19

New York, New York - if you're already humming the Frank Sinatra song you're in the right place, because Max La Manna's sustainable city guide to the Big Apple is just as much of a love letter. 

 

New. York. City. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. It really is a world of its own and if you’ve ever been to this world - then I’m sure you might have endless stories and fond memories to share with friends and family back home.  If you haven’t been - what are you waiting for?

I’ve spent the last 10 years living in and out of NYC and can now crown myself an official New Yorker. I think it’s a pretty cool title to have. It’s a wonderful, crazy and loving city to live in and visit that holds such a dear place in my heart. I started my career in modelling and acting here, lived in almost every borough and have many stories to share with you.  

Recently, I went back to visit with Venetia and we spent a little over a week visiting our favourite places to eat and hang out, as well as trying out new experiences together, like walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and turning off our phones for a day.

You never know what you’re going to get yourself into when you’re in NYC and new opportunities present themselves around every corner.  This is why I love this city so much, it forces you to stay on your toes and be alert and aware in every moment.  If you blink it may just pass you by.

If you’re hungry…

If you haven’t been yet, go and check out JAJAJA Mexicana. Venetia and I love going here for the sexy ambience and delicious tacos.  We went with two of our friends who were visiting from Toronto. They don’t take reservations, so show up early for a table. I also order a coconut mescal cocktail – “no straw please” – and the buffalo flower tacos.  If you can handle a bit of spice and heat then try some of their homemade hot sauces.  For pudding, the churritos are always a must – it’s also Venetia’s favourite too – just be sure to ask for no paper bag as that is how they present them #LessWaste.

If you have the chance, visit Westbourne. They say they’re ‘nothing to landfill’ and are 'zero-waste', which is incredible.  I had no idea this place existed and I was living within walking distance.  It’s not entirely vegan, and I overheard other customers say their food was delicious.  I had the coconut yoghurt chia bowl for breakfast and the sautéed mushroom sandwich on rye bread (veganized, of course).  I went for three days in a row and eventually they remembered my name.  They’re also a no reservation space, so show up early and snag a seat before it’s too late.   Bonus: they serve all food on plates and reusable cutlery, but also have linen napkins! 

(READ MORE: BEST VEGAN RESTAURANTS IN NEW YORK CITY)

If you want fresh local produce… 

No matter what time of year, I love heading to the farmer's market for fresh seasonal local produce. There are only two farmer's markets that I go to when I’m in New York and they are definitely a must try.

The most popular is 14th Street Union Square Market. Farmers make their journeys into Manhattan bright and early to set up their stalls, all coming from within 1-2 hours' driving distance - so you know you’re getting local and fresh ingredients.  You’ll see mushrooms from upstate New York, apples from Connecticut, squash and kale from Long Island.  Make sure you have a few dollars to spend, as most farmers don’t have contactless.

Greenpoint McCarren Park Greenmarket in Brooklyn is another favourite of mine.  Enjoy shopping amongst smaller and more boutique farmers’ stalls and head into McCarren park for an afternoon picnic when you're done.

If you’re wanting to create less waste…

Creating less waste in New York City? Yes, it’s possible to do this and fairly manageable too. My favourite zero-waste and bulk stores to visit are easy to get to and will have everything you need to fill those jars and bags of yours.

Looking to set up your zero-waste kit? Check out Package Free in Williamsburg.  There you’ll find reusable bags, razors, stainless steel food containers, and feminine hygiene products. It can feel a bit overwhelming walking into this space for the first time as you may start to re-evaluate how you shopped before.

The 4th street coop between NoHo and Bowery has the bulk shopping you’ve been asking for - dried fruit, a variety of pasta and grains and even a section to fill up your oils and soap. It’s a bit cramped and can get quite busy.  I find shopping here midday during the week to be the best time.

Bushwick Food Cooperative is another amazing bulk store, but not zero-waste.  Be sure you bring your own bags with you as they charge a fee for using theirs.  I can refill my spices and herbs, dish washing detergents and baked good essentials.  This is another bulk store that has it all.

If you’re looking to do a bit of vintage shopping…

I travel light and pack clothes I only absolutely need, but then there are the few occasions where I do need a jumper or a button shirt for a special outing.  If you’re reading this, it’s not too late to give up fast fashion.  Just be sure you love that item of clothing and intend to wear it for life.  New York City has all the thrift, vintage and second-hand stores you can ever imagine.  

We know how challenging it can be to find the right piece, but you’re in luck because there are several stores within walking distance from each other in the East Village.  Check out these vintage shops:

Buffalo Exchange 332 E 11th St
L Train Vintage 204 1st Avenue
East Village Thrift Shop 186 2nd Ave

If you’re thirsty…

You’ll like this one a lot because it’s not just an elixir bar, it’s also a wellness space in the middle of Manhattan. It feels like I’ve been transported out of the city and placed in some vagabond retreat centre for those who wander and ‘go with the flow’.   The Kollectiv has it all for you. Have a wellness tonic with ashwagandha or reishi, and then head down stairs for cryo-therapy or an infrared sauna session. You’ll leave this place with an energetic buzz that will last for hours – and much better than a glass of red wine buzz.

If you want a breather…

Not sure if you’re going to always get this here in NYC (#AirPollution), but Central Park is the only place where I want to visit to get some fresh air. Whether you decide to walk, run, or bike, the park is a great place to explore - but never by horse drawn carriage because who still does that?

Take a walk up the west side of the park and visit Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, have a picnic lunch and surround yourself with trees and skyscrapers.

If you want to take a walk…

As an official crowned New Yorker, you always avoid the touristy attractions; like 42nd street, Times Square and even the Brooklyn Bridge, but there is something fascinating that I can’t even deny the magical essence of these attractions.

Take the train downtown to the Financial District where the Freedom Tower is now erected and take a nice long walk over the Brooklyn Bridge – I hope you’re not afraid of heights or bridges. Be careful of cyclists who zoom by you without any warning.  Enjoy the views as you start your slight uphill climb over the East River.  Remember to look back and see the buildings towering over you and out in the distance you can see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Once you make it over the bridge and into Brooklyn you’ll see cabbies lined up to bring people back to Manhattan – simply decline the offers and make your way back over.  It’s a little over a 2-mile walk round trip.

New. York. City.  Definitely one of the most magical cities in the world and if you can make it here, you will definitely make it anywhere.  

With Love From New York City,

Max

 

Want to explore more vegan eateries around New York City? See Max's guide here.

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With Love From... New York City