Welcome to Manhattan: The weird and the wonderful

Cult flicks, flappers, funky fragrances and foie gras ice cream – here’s some of the strangest stuff this NYC borough has to offer


Some love the East, and some love the West; for some, wetter is better, so rainy Florida’s the best – but if you ask me, the one habitat in which I thrive is good old Manhattan! Dweeby rhymes aside, I’ve been a resident of this NYC borough since birth and would have a hard time planting roots anywhere else.

When college time rolled around, I couldn’t bear to leave and so chose Barnard, Columbia University’s women’s college perched atop Morningside Heights, where everyone and everything (right down to the benches) is intense. What can I say? I’m as faithful to this town as a subway rat.

While paeans to Manhattan are heaped as high as sauerkraut on a Gray’s Papaya hot dog, I’m glad to add mine to the mix. When my Barnard friends hailing from all over tap me as tour guide, the following spots are the ones I choose as some of the best the island has to offer.

Snack on a scoop of sausage at Oddfellows Ice Cream Co

That’s right – sausage ice cream. Chorizo sausage, that is – one of the many funhouse flavors at this East 4th St. gem. Daredevils take the plunge with flavors like Foie Gras, Caramelized Onion and Tobacco; the slightly less adventurous among us can find comfort in softer selections like Peanut Butter and Jelly, Buttermilk Biscuit and Honey Lavender Strawberry. My first tango with OddFellows was a scoop of Ants on a Log sorbet – insect-free and divinely refreshing.   As my friends stuck to safer options, I felt like a renegade – possibly my sweetest rebellion.

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Be sure to: Ask for samples of everything.

Catch a cult film at the Angelika

I first developed my obsession with arthouse cinemas in middle school. It was 2008, and the Angelika Film Center downtown was screening a super-gory goth rock opera. I simply had to go – but had to bring my dad as chaperone, or so he insisted. Seeing my khaki-clad, disoriented dad standing on line with cerulean-haired, cinema-mad cyberpunks was a riot, but more thrilling was discovering a theatre that specialized in the cult and kooky. I’m still a frequenter (although now chaperone-free) and adore their fresh celluloid catches – (The) Lobster, anyone?

Be sure to: Do a movie night with the fam – but maybe let them pick the flick this time?

Glitter at Icon Style

This darling UWS store surrounds you wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling with good old antique sparkly stuff. The former pharmacy makes good use of its old apothecary cases, stuffing them with gems; there’s a wealth of vintage garments as well, from marmalade-colored Moschino to Escada in ecru. Those charmed by snakes are in luck – Icon Style has a considerable collection of jewelry featuring the motif.

Be sure to: Ask to try things on – if only to dream.

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Sniff lightning at Bergdorf Goodman’s J.A.R

There’s a dark jewel-box annex tucked away in the legendary department store’s beauty floor that promises, quite literally, lightning in a bottle. Elusive jeweler and perfumer Joel Arthur Rosenthal creates scents with top-secret note combinations: Almond? Moss? Licorice? You’ll have fun guessing in the purple-velveted JAR enclave as the friendly representative walks you through the scent smorgasbord. In my unforgettable JAR walkthrough, the fragrance I found to be most mysterious was a nameless one bearing a bolt of lightning on its flacon – it’s absolutely worth a visit to try your hand at the olfactory puzzle.

Be sure to: Bring an open mind – some of the scents are intense.

Scribble at the Society of Illustrators

As night begins to fall on the Upper East Side, flappers, wrestlers and nightlife stars descend upon the Society of Illustrators for dedicated doodlers to immortalize in the most laid-back life-drawing class around. All levels and styles of sketchers are encouraged; I suggest sitting at the back of the class to catch a glimpse of attendees’ wide-ranging interpretations of the costumed models. Drop everything when “Vanity and Friends” are in town – this team of models’ elaborate frippery allows for intricate inking of ruffles, roses and pearls.

Be sure to: Feel free to get avant-garde and as nonrepresentational as you desire!

Catch up on writing at the Nomad Library

To digest these experiences, I finally recommend stopping by the NoMad Hotel’s Library for a little diary jotting. Whether you’re pounding away at a hot lede or a cool mystery novella, no atmosphere is more comforting for getting some work done than the NoMad’s stacks. While this study spot recommendation is a little on the nose (books everywhere! Spiral staircase!), there’s nothing wrong indulging with the drama of it all – that’s what Manhattan’s all about.

Be sure to: Ask to see their menu…if parsnips are your bag.

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