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Ever wanted a New Yorker’s opinion on something? Where to go? How to avoid everyone? Where to find hidden spots? This week in the New York on My Mind interview series, My New York, Upper West Side blogger, Tracy Kaler, tells us about a hidden restaurant row in New York City.

What neighbourhood do you live in and why?
I live on the Upper West Side. I love how quiet it is up here. I also adore the blocks of brownstones, and living between Riverside and the Hudson River to the west and Central Park to the east. For me it’s the perfect location in the city to feel part of the chaos, but away from it at the same time.

Upper West Side brownstones

Favourite time of year in the city?
Hmm… that’s a really tough question! I love every time of the year to be honest, except ridiculous freezing weather. Probably my very favourite time of year here is early May when New York is in bloom and the days are slightly warm (around 70 degrees) and the evenings are slightly cool (around 55).

Best brunch spot?
In my neighborhood, Hummus Place on Amsterdam Avenue because it’s simply the freshest hummus you’ll find anywhere. They make it to order. And even though it’s an unlikely combination, I love hummus with eggs. Outside my neighborhood though, I love Buttermilk Channel (below) in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn for the indulgent comfort food and hip vibe. I highly recommend the short rib hash.

Buttermilk Channel Brooklyn

Favourite discoveries?
I love taking time to stroll through the community gardens throughout the city – there are too many to count and I love them all!

Best meal ever?
It’s got to have been at Eleven Madison Park on my birthday a few years back. Every moment was decadent, and I love how the restaurant’s design pays tribute to the city.

eleven madison park

Favourite shop?
For luxury, I’d head for Bergdorf Goodman. Bergdorfs offers the best service without the attitude. And for me, even a walk through is the quintessential NYC experience. Shopping in the shoe department is sublime! For thrifting, Housing Works – great prices for a great cause. Profits are donated to Housingworks.org, which helps people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Building you’d most love to live in?
A townhouse in Chelsea with a garden in front.

What’s the city’s most overlooked site?
It’s got to be the Helmsley building. I believe it’s one of the city’s most stunning pieces of architecture and doesn’t get recognition like the Empire State Building or the Chrylser.

Helmsley building

Best place for a first-night dinner?
Definitely the Union Square Café (open until end of year, then a new one opens next year just a few blocks away) because it offers a slice of classic New York and the food is wonderful. Or then there’s Lupa Osteria Romana for Italian food. It’s a quintessential Greenwich Village spot where celeb chef Mario Batali’s passion for simple, straightforward Italian food shines through.

Favourite deli?
Zabar’s or Citarella. I love both of these spots because they’re convenient to my apartment and have fantastic salads, sandwiches and cheeses. They’re perfect for a grab-and-go meal to take to Central Park.

Best-kept secret?
Cornelia Street’s restaurant row in the West Village. It’s such a beautiful street, lined with trees and some of the city’s nicest restaurants. I think few tourists know it exists.

cornelia street cafe

What would you do as Mayor?
First, I would try hard to fight to end homelessness. Second, I would try to save shelter animals and make New York a no-kill city.

How would you spend a spare afternoon?
This is easy – I’d grab my camera and jump on the subway, head to a different part of the city, start walking and see where I end up. And I’d take lots of photos along the way.

Best thing a taxi driver has said to you?
“New York is a place where anyone can come, and if you work hard, you can make your dreams come true.”

What inspires you about New York City?
The ambition, the people, the attitude, the infectious energy, and how walking outside my door makes me feel that anything is possible.

Craziest thing about living in the city?
That anything can happen. And it does.

A word of advice for tourists…
If you get lost, ask a New Yorker. We’re happy to help!

Read Tracy’s blog, here.

(Upper West brownstones via City Girl Writes, Helmsley Building photo via Like Good Gracious, Eleven Madison Park photo via Laissezfare)

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