ny guide: a morning in union square
In many ways, I think of Union Square as the heart of the city. When I first moved, I lived in an itsy bitsy fifth floor walk up nearby and it became my homeward bound landmark. Later, it became my go-to spot for meeting friends for a drink, and now it's where I work. Depending on the time of day and your mood, it can be beautiful, packed, sweaty, infuriating or peaceful, and on one of those New York days, all at the same time. But my favorite way to experience it is a Saturday morning -- not too early, and not too late -- but when everyone is out, and alive, and preparing for the luxury of the rest of the weekend. Read on for my favorite morning routine.
Everyman Espresso on 13th - attached to the Classic Stage Company, everyman is a classic east village hangout with some of the best espresso in the city. I’m yet to have a better cappuccino, or iced cap (envision a less milky, even more delicious iced latte, no foam). It’s my favorite spot for meetingtime, worktime, hangingouttime, and caffeinetime. Steal a spot in the window if you can, and watch the east village start to wake up.
Wander west on 13th to the Strand on Broadway, known for its tagline “18 miles of books.” I have no idea how they calculated that, but there an awful lot of books in there and it’s a classic institution in NY, whether you've lived here 20 years or are in town for the first time. It has all the bestsellers and recently released that you’d expect, but more impressively incredible collections of art, travel, antique, and poetry, you name it. It’s a safe bet you can pick up gifts for everyone on your list, too. (Also winner’s tip - it’s a great meeting point if you ever need to get together with someone in the area -- you can kill hours in there.)
Then head straight to the square for the Saturday greenmarket (also hosted on Mondays, Wednesday, and Friday). In the wee hours of the morning, chefs come and pick it over, and then the waves of locals and tourists pour in. I recommend taking a lap around the square clockwise to gauge the scene and then create your plan of attack. (Pro tip: the best flowers are almost always out of the truck at the east side of the square, right where the market peters out).
I always like to ask what’s about to go out of season so we don’t miss anything. This trip it was the lilacs (beautiful lilacs, why do you have to leave me?), and fiddlehead ferns. I couldn’t believe sunchokes were still around and went a bit nuts gathering their knotty little bulbs.
From there, lug your bags over to Breads on E 16th. Don’t bother debating the fact that the chocolate babka requires you to buy a full loaf - it’s fully worth it. As are the croissants, and the quiches, and pretty much anything this little bakery pushes out. From there it's home you go. Or to lunch, or really to anywhere, as is the magic of a saturday morning.