You may have noticed, in living in one of these five boroughs, that people like to visit New York. Which is wonderful if you are an “I [heart] NY” T-shirt merchant, but presents problems for the rest of us. In this instance, I don’t mean the problem of trying to walk within a block of Canal Street, but rather the problem of what the fuck to do with people who come to visit you.
If it’s your parents, it’s easy. You know what your particular parents like to do. Probably they’re happy just to see you. What’s tricky is shepherding around people you’re trying to impress — high school friends, say, or siblings. People you need to trick into envying the sophisticated urban lifestyle that you do not actually have. During working hours, you can just release them into the wild with a map and cell phone. The complicated bit is after that. You need to meet them somewhere for a drink, but you can’t go to your local cheap bar because they have local cheap bars in Austin or Cincinnati or wherever. But it can’t be too fancy, ‘cause you want to look like an urban sophisticate, not an i-banking dink. It’s got to be full enough to seem respectable, but empty enough that you can actually sit down and catch up, especially since they’ll have been walking all day.
Essentially, you’ve got to find a place one or two grades nicer than your usual place, but not outside the realm of possibility. Allow me to suggest Von. It’s a wine bar, yes, but it’s not totally poncy. There are many bottles of wine that even relatively broke people can afford. It’s not usually crazy busy, and it has a warm, old-timey wood and curtain thing going on without being obnoxious about it.
For even more refinement, try Brandy Library. It’s but a hop, skip, and a jump from knockoff shopping, has fancy cocktails in fancy glasses, and serves food. It’s done up to look like a rich person’s library, which has a lot of potential for stupidity, but somehow the décor doesn’t strike my palate as overly precious, just snug and welcoming.
The important thing to remember is to be prepared, or you’ll end up throwing back Run Forrest Rum Runners at Bubba Gump Shrimp in Times Square. You’ve been warned.