Originally published July 7, 2015 on bivouacannarbor.com/blog/.
In early July, I visited the city that never sleeps for a 24-hour sprint through the greatest sights and destinations the city has to offer. I don’t get to visit New York often, and so cherish every second of my uncommon visits. Since I now live half a continent away in Ann Arbor, these visits have become even less frequent. So, when I heard I’d be getting a solid day’s worth of time in the Big Apple during my visit home for the July 4th holiday, I went into planning mode. If I was going to make up for a year’s worth of lost time in the world’s greatest city and only one day to do it, I would need to prepare. Now, I’m going to pass on my planning to you.
I did the research – you get the results. The following shopping/city guide is decidedly menswear focused, but a lot of the stores are unisex or have women’s-only counterparts literally on the same block. You shouldn’t feel pressured to visit every place listed in the order explicitly listed. Except for a Ground Support Coffee break somewhere in the middle. That part is mandatory.
Here’s how to make the most of New York City (well, downtown and midtown Manhattan) in just one day.
0:00 (1:30 pm) I got into the city at 1:30pm on July 2 and checked into the hotel with my family. NYC hotels charge their guests a daily rate for parking, and it was made abundantly clear to me by the powers that be (my parents) that I would not be a second past 1:30pm on the 3rd lest I bear the full brunt of a city daily parking charge. I really wasn’t kidding about the 24 hour thing.
0:10 (1:40 pm) Take either the F or the R line subway to SoHo and get off at the Prince St station. You are officially downtown! The train takes ~20 minutes from midtown, but hey – it beats walking 30 blocks in the summer heat (more on that later).
0:30 (2:00 pm) From the Prince St station, walk to Steven Alan (103 Franklin St). The first Steven Alan store opened in TriBeca in 1994, and since then, the brand has expanded to include an in-house designer clothing line and 9 stores total within the greater New York City area. The original store at 103 Franklin showcases wares from names like A.P.C, Common Projects, Our Legacy, Apolis, and Filson. Steven Alan stocks smart casual American wardrobe staples with a uniquely styled and curated twist – this is the place to try on all those things you’ve only seen on the internet. Oh yeah, and they also have their own in-house sneaker collaboration with the legendary Victory Sportswear. “From humble beginnings”, right?
1:30 (3:00 pm) Exit Steven Alan and walk northeast until you meet Canal St. Then, walk two blocks east, take a left onto Mercer, and walk about two blocks until you see a large white sign with three discrete characters: 3x1 (15 Mercer St). 3x1 is a bespoke denim workshop, where the discerning customer selects every facet of their jean – from fabric weight to rivet material – then retires to a comfortable lounge while their custom creation is handstitched right before their eyes. The jeans are expensive, but you really can’t put a price on total and complete satisfaction. If I had the money, I’d already own a pair.
1:45 (3:15 pm) Exit 3x1 and walk north on Mercer until you meet Broome St. Take a left on Broome, walk three blocks to the corner of Broome and Lafayette, then go one block up Lafayette St until you reach an unassuming brick storefront covered with a decal of a giant raven. Push open the giant glass door, and you’ve stepped into the world of Odin (199 Lafayette St). Odin is a menswear boutique with a decidedly Brothers-Grimm-meets-GQ theme: porcelain gnomes, string lights, and antler chandeliers accent Thom Browne jackets and Comme Des Garcons dress shirts. If the décor didn’t already give it away, despite its impressive list of brands (AMI, 3.1 Philip Lim, Junya Watanabe), Odin doesn’t take itself too seriously. That vibe carries over into the entire Odin experience, making it one of my new favorite shops. The salespeople are knowledgeable, unobtrusive, and just genuinely friendly – I tried on Common Projects sneakers and United Stock Dry Goods jeans while talking World Cup soccer during a slow period. Odin is a must-visit for anyone wanting to see the best SoHo has to offer.
2:15 (3:45 pm) Huh. I guess I did forget to eat lunch. Exit Odin, walk one block up Lafayette until you reach Spring St, take Sprint St to Mulberry St, and walk two blocks until you hear the din of friendly chatter. The Grey Dog (244 Mulberry St) is a New York café with Michigan roots – the owner is a Wolverine alumnus who put down roots in the Big Apple, and now proudly serves “Michigan Sandwiches” alongside a host of distinctly “Hand”-crafted beers (Bell’s and Founder’s, anyone?) The Grey Dog is set up like an old-school counter service deli, where your order is taken down just as quickly as you are shown your seat on vintage wooden benches. I wolfed down a delicious Cuban Press sandwich, said my “Go Blue’s”, and struck back out into downtown.
2:30 (4:00 pm) Leave the Grey Dog heading north, and take a hard left onto SoHo’s storied Prince St. Walk a few blocks up the corridor of big names, both designer and retail, until you reach Mercer St. One block to your left lies APC (131 Mercer St). If you didn’t already love APC, hopefully this guide will influence you. APC was founded in Paris in 1987 as a reaction against the glam fashion of the 1980’s. The guiding principle of “Atelier de Production et de Création” is simple: a garment should not outstrip its wearer. For close to 30 years, APC has focused on making basic pieces refined to their highest form. The brand’s legendary New Standard jeans and Breton Stripe sweaters are perennial best-sellers, seemingly immune to fashion’s fickle transience. I spent over half an hour wondering whether I wanted to make rent or own the best pair of jeans ever made. Sadly, I’ll remain a tenant this month.
3:30 (5:00 pm) Leave APC and meander you way down Prince St. There’s a lot to see and even more to just take in. While I intentionally avoided big international chains this trip, special mentions go out to Clark’s and J. Crew. Both stores provide exceptionally different NYC-only shopping experiences that make each worth a visit. Clark’s for their personalization options only available in-store, and J. Crew, for their in-store NYC exclusives (like Onitsuka sneakers in rare colorways). And because both are the SoHo outposts of multimillion dollar international powerhouses, the store interiors are deservingly gorgeous.
4:00 (5:30 pm) I am a caffeine addict. It’s far from the healthiest preoccupation I’ve ever had, but in the grand scheme of things, enjoying a hot cup of joe for an afternoon pick-me-up is one of the simple pleasures I truly enjoy. Take short detour off Prince St to visit Ground Support Café (399 West Broadway St). Proudly serving Intelligentsia Coffee (read all about Intelligentsia in the Chicago trip report), this local independent coffee house features incredible espresso drinks and eclectic seating. I recharged myself – and my iPhone – while sitting on a tree stump, watching the busy café’s late afternoon rush pour through the door. If you go, try the cappuccino. There’s a reason why Ground Support is popular with tourists and locals alike.
4:30 (6:00 pm) Down the last of your drink, depart Ground Support, and walk one block South on Broadway until you see the massive black tapestry. The flag, and the time machine surrounding it, will be impossible to miss. RRL (381 West Broadway St) is simply put, the coolest store I have ever visited. RRL (pronounced “Double R-L”) is Ralph Lauren’s tribute to everything Americana. Where Polo emulated Gatsby, Double RL looks to Rosie the Riveter and John Wayne. Everything about RRL drips quality and attention-to-detail. Garments are made using original historical patterns, hand-stitched in America using the finest fabrics available without any corner-cutting accountancy work coming between the craftsman and you. The store itself projects that same grandiose exceptionalism: carved hardwood tables, vintage militaria, and hand-annotated photographs from the turn of the century create a frankly indescribable atmosphere. Try on some jeans and a blazer or two, listen to the scratchy bluegrass piped in over speakers just the right amount of tinny to stir even the most reluctant nostalgia, and if you can, take something home with you. It’d be a shame to ever see Double RL go bust.
5:30 (7:00pm) Five and a half hours of near-constant motion later, it’s time for dinner. I wandered my way towards my restaurant of choice with time to kill and ended up with time to spare. I made 7:30 reservations at SoHo’s Hundred Acres, a slow food, farm-to-table joint at 38 Macdougal St. Hundred Acres is a Zagat-rated “New American” (think: The Raven’s Club) restaurant serving up artisanal takes on bucolic farmland classics. The meal is intentionally long to encourage savoring and conversation, and considering I had spent all afternoon darting up and down SoHo, I was thankful for the R&R. I was too busy enjoying my plump, juicy Berkshire Ham to take pictures (shocking concept, right?) so you’ll just have to take my word for it: the food is superb, the ambiance is unforgettable, and the dessert is worth the whole thing. The Bourbon Pecan Panna Cotta is as “New American” as it comes and worth every bite.
8:00 (9:30pm) I said goodbye to the school friend I had met for dinner and made my way to the R line to head back uptown and get some much-needed rest. Take the F train back up town, bask in the glow of neon lights outside the Radio City Music Hall, and retire to the hotel.
The city may never sleep, but I had to. And at an early time, too. Tomorrow was only a few hours away, and that 24-hour clock was still ticking. By the time I made it to the hotel, 8 hours of sleep (and an all-too-early 6:30am alarm) would leave me with a measly 7 hours to take in all of Midtown. Good thing I had a plan.