Ever wanted a New Yorker’s opinion on something? Where to go? How to avoid everyone? Where to find hidden places? This week in the New York on My Mind interview series, My New York, Pink Olive founder, Grace Kang, shows us to all her favourite West Village haunts and hidden gems, including a tapas restaurant with a secret backroom and a mind-blowing special on the menu, and an eccentric, old-time hat shop where you can decorate your own with feathers, pins and buttons…
Are you a native New Yorker? If not, how did you end up in NY?
I was born in Korea and grew up in California and New Jersey. I went to college in Upstate New York and got my first job in the city as an assistant buyer for the department store Bloomingdale’s and developed my love for NYC.
What neighbourhood do you live in and why?
I had a personal mission to live in as many neighbourhoods as possible, and I’m happy to say that I’ve experienced a good chunk of them over the years. I’ve lived in all three boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. In the city, I’ve lived in Gramercy, Chelsea, West Village, Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper East Side, and now Greenwich Village because it’s smack middle of all of my Pink Olive store locations and near all the subways, which makes it convenient for hopping from store to store. As much as I love NYC, it’s also very important for me to pull myself out of it to get some rest, which is why we have a house in Upstate New York. It’s a historic building from the late 1800s, with unique charms and all and I love it.
Where do you pick up your morning coffee?
I usually make a fresh pot of coffee every morning with beans from Upstate or Haven’s Kitchen. If I need to pick up, I go to Joe’s (downstairs from my apartment), or La Colombe in NoHo.
Favourite place for brunch?
I love going to Tartine for brunch, a tiny little French bakery bistro on West 11th Street, and just steps away from our newly opened West Village location. When we’re Upstate, I make regular trips to The Grange, a sweet little farm-to-table spot. Everything they serve is so fresh, made with organic products and their menu changes daily. Unfortunately, their website doesn’t really do them justice. It’s a total gem!
Best date-night spot?
Since I’m such a foodie, date nights usually revolve around eating. Blue Hill is one of my all-time favourites and a perfect place for a date night or special occasion dinner. There are two restaurants – the one in the city is great and right in our back yard, but Blue Hill at Pocantico Hills in Upstate NYC is amazing and worth the trip.
Favourite spot for a mid-week dinner?
It’s got to be Il Buco Alimentari. It’s casual and cosy and their cacio e pepe dish is so simple, but sooooo good and one of my favourite dishes.
Best restaurant for a special meal?
I’m sticking with Il Buco Alimentari for this one, too.
Do you have a favourite shop?
I love dropping by Goorin Brothers on Bleecker Street in the West Village. Their hat selections are unique, and the whole shop takes you on a journey back to simpler times. I love that you can accessorize your hat with feathers, pins and buttons to really make it your own.
What’s your favourite deli for picking up a quick lunch or picnic food?
Everything from Russ & Daughters – it’s an iconic experience and serves Jewish deli food at its absolute best, so anything from here will surely be a people pleaser for a picnic.
What’s the city’s best-kept secret spot?
There’s a hidden room behind the kitchen on the second floor of this really cute tapas restaurant called Alta on West 10th Street. It’s so quaint and charming, and away from the loud noise from the main space and people don’t always know it’s there. Plus, you can order ‘The Whole Shabang’ and get one of every dish on the menu! There’s also a pretty garden you can sit in when the spring comes.
What’s your favourite museum?
The New-York Historical Society Museum & Library on the Upper West Side because there’s nothing more interesting than visiting New York’s oldest museum to get a glimpse of old New York.
Favourite time of year in the city?
I love all seasons for its natural beauty, but if I had to pick one, I would have to say fall. After months of hot and humid days in the summertime, there’s something so crisp and refreshing about the changing of colours and getting to put on my favorite pair of jeans and comfy sweater. Plus, I always look forward to going apple picking Upstate and keeping cozy this time of the year.
If you were to be a tourist for a day, what would you do?
I would skip the traditional route of Times Square and explore all the charming streets in the West Village. There’s no shortage of history and old-world charm in this neighbourhood and you can pretty much see and eat your way around it! If there is time, hop on a cab to visit The High Line, an urban park located on a once-abandoned elevated railway line that runs 20 blocks from West 14th to West 34th Street.
What would you do as Mayor?
I would work on protecting the small businesses from skyrocketing rents. It’s quite upsetting when I hear about my favourite places closing due to obscene rent hikes. Small businesses are what makes a community, and directly affects the lifestyle of the people who not only live in the neighbourhood, as well as the experience of tourists.
Best thing a taxi driver has said to you?
Back in my corporate days, I took a taxi home and realised that I didn’t have any cash and offered to write him a check. He was super understanding and accepted it!
What inspires you about New York City?
There’s no other place like NYC. No matter how long I’ve lived and worked here, I’m constantly inspired by new discoveries and finds. It’s the only place where I can walk for hours and see something I haven’t seen before. I’m never bored (that’s for sure) and short on things to do.
Most annoying thing about living in the City?
Probably the lack of space and noise. Sometimes, you just need some white space, which is one of the main reasons why I go Upstate on weekends.
A word of advice for tourists…
Wear comfortable shoes and just explore. Walk around the neighbourhood like a local and speak to shop owners and go to cafes. You’ll be sure to just stumble on hidden gems.
See Grace’s New York City recommendations here:
Find Pink Olive‘s new shop at 30 Charles Street, West Village.