From leotard-clad dancers writhing on stage to winefueled audience-participation nights to political poetry slams, New York abounds with avant-garde theater and performances. Downtown is home to many of the off-off-Broadway theaters, including the Public Theater, which showcases emerging playwrights, and also hosts the splendid Shakespeare in Central Park event every summer.
The studentthronged Astor Place is a breeding ground for independent theaters, including Under St. Marks, a black-box-and-folding-chairs performance space. As its name suggests, the theater space is under St. Marks Place, a street that has long been known for its incense and zany performance art.
The Bowery Poetry Club also presents an eclectic range of performances, from poetry recitals to performance art. For a sassy night out, come by for a “Badass Burlesque” night. The club also puts on lively events for the neighborhood, including puppet performances and bingo nights hosted by a popular local drag queen.
If America is a melting pot, then New York’s diversity of cuisine is one of its finest manifestations. In the foodie capital of the USA, it’s not so much a question of finding a cuisine, as trying to choose between them. The numbers say it all: over 180 nationalities – and counting – live in New York. You could find your way through the neighborhoods by scent alone, from the smoky tang of caramel-skinned duck in Chinatown (Peking Duck House is one of its best restaurants) to the chunky tomato sauces that hark back to grandma’s kitchen in Naples, ladled out at many of Little Italy’s trattorias. And of course, New York-style pizza is a city obsession and the ultimate urban fuel, often wolfed down while on the run – try the thin-crust slices at Lombardi’s.
The city’s Jewish heritage introduced such favorites as bagels with cream cheese, which have become synonymous with New York cuisine. You’ll find old-world delis across town, particularly on the Lower East Side, where one of the best is Katz’s Delicatessen. And if you’re in the mood for spicy food, try some fiery salsa at the Mexican and Latin American taquerías (taco stalls) of Spanish Harlem, or head to Koreatown – or K-town – for kimchi (a spicy vegetable dish) and karaoke on and around West 32nd Street.
Farther afield, munch on grape leaves and tangy feta at the lively Greek restaurant Agnanti in Astoria, Queens, and for a vodka-fueled Russian feast, make your way to the restaurants of Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, where nothing’s done in moderation, from the velvet paintings to the bubbling vats of beef stroganoff.
The club also puts on lively events for the neighborhood, including puppet performances and bingo nights hosted by a popular local drag queen. Finally, for avant-garde improvizational comedy, check out the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB). Keep your eyes peeled: amid all the emerging comics, big names will occasionally stop by, including Robin Williams and Tina Fey.