GA Voice

New York City is Ready to Dazzle Visitors Again

- Heather Cassell

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New York City felt like it was almost its bustling self again as I walked through the streets enjoying the warm spring weather during a recent trip.

The city, like many others, is forever changed after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in true New York fashion, the Big Apple is coming back. It was my second trip within six months after about a twoand-a-half-year break.

New Yorkers rolled up their sleeves (more than 80% are vaccinated), masked up, and have done pretty much everything they can to get their groove back. However, COVID-19 subvariant­s continue to emerge in the ongoing pandemic. Some venues are still enforcing proof of vaccinatio­n and masks. Face coverings are still required on all public transporta­tion until further notice and in Broadway theaters at least until May 31.

Some Broadway shows have canceled performanc­es due to COVID-19. Other shows are still taking place. New restaurant­s are opening, with reservatio­ns harder to get than ever before, and new museum exhibits are opening. Big events are also coming back, like New York Pride, which returns in-person June 26 with the theme, “Unapologet­ically Us.”

New attraction­s

Some of the new things to see in New York are Summit One Vanderbilt, the Moynihan Train Hall, and Little Island, the latest park near the Chelsea Piers.

Summit One Vanderbilt. is a 65,000 square foot space at the top of the 93-story office and residentia­l building at One Vanderbilt adjacent to Grand Central Terminal.

It wouldn’t be New York City without the many opportunit­ies to see art. This spring and summer visitors can catch the 80th edition of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s “Biennial 2022: Quiet As It’s Kept,” which opened April 6. The twofloor exhibit brings together a survey of 63 American artists exploring the darkness and disruption of 2020. The show runs through September 5.

Henri Mattise lovers can take in a rare exhibit of the French artist’s early works that formed modern art at the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, “Mattise: The Red Studio,” which opened May 1. The show runs through September 10.

The Brooklyn Museum is also featuring “Andy Warhol: Revelation,” showing now through June 19.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is featuring the DanceAfric­a Festival, which celebrates its 45th anniversar­y through the end of this month.

Dining and drinking

Food draws my girlfriend and me to New York just as much as Broadway’s musicals. For this trip, I sought out restaurant­s that were old favorites that survived the pandemic, some that were reborn, and others that were new.

During the day we lunched at the fun, cheeky and very gay diner Cafeteria; Elmo, a Chelsea neighborho­od staple; and famed chef and restaurate­ur David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar.

At night we hit the town, enjoying dishes crafted by some of New York’s finest lesbian chefs. Chef and restaurate­ur duo Rita Sodi and Jody Williams’ beloved Via Carota lived up to the hype. You can never go wrong with pasta, but theirs is exceptiona­l. I also dined at the culinary couple’s newest venture, The Commerce Inn. It veers away from the chefs’ usual turf in French and Italian cuisine, exploring and modernizin­g American Shaker dishes that hit the mark.

Lesbian executive chef Hillary Sterling crafted a distinctiv­e Italian menu at Ci Siamo, restaurate­ur Danny Meyer’s latest culinary venture. Lesbian executive chef Mary Attea at the Michelin-rated The Musket Room serves a re-visioned world on your plate. There was no doubt that I would enjoy chef and restaurate­ur Mark Strausman’s new restaurant, Mark’s Off Madison, which has a warm atmosphere and incredible, flavorful comfort food.

Two unique restaurant­s that might signal a shift in the queer culinary scene in New York are Tagmo and HAGS. Both restaurant­s are queer-owned and -operated. They actively hire LGBTQ staff and are deeply involved in the community.

Queer chef Surbhi Sahni is the heart behind Tagmo, an Indian restaurant that opened in Seaport, a small shopping and dining center near One World Trade Center in September 2021. Tagmo is not your average Indian restaurant. Dining there is a gastronomi­c adventure through India with all its diverse cuisines.

The much-anticipate­d HAGS is targeted to open just ahead of Memorial Day weekend, May 25. The Lower East Side restaurant aims to be the first upscale queer restaurant, according to business and life partners Telly Justice, a transgende­r woman, and Camille Lindsley, a queer woman.

New York’s nightlife isn’t what it used to be quite yet. My girlfriend and I enjoyed early nightcaps at Tiny’s & The Bar Upstairs in Tribeca, the historic Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, and Bar Veloce in Chelsea.

Village lesbian bar mainstays Henrietta Hudson and Cubbyhole, as well as Brooklyn’s Ginger’s Bar, all got makeovers during the pandemic and recently reopened.

The boys are back in action from Midtown to Harlem with bars and nightclubs for every stripe in the rainbow flag. Check out Midtown’s swanky The Townhouse of New York, head to the West Village’s Playhouse, or get nostalgic at New York’s oldest gay bar Julius’ and the historic Stonewall Inn. Head uptown to Harlem for the last remaining Black-owned gay bar, Alibi Lounge.

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