Must-See Tribeca

Jessica Allen

The acronym TriBeCa stands for "Triangle Below Canal," a coveted swatch of real estate bordered by Canal Street (to the north) West Street (to the east), Broadway (to the west) and Vesey Street (to the south). Among the bold-faced names currently calling the area home are Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Gwyneth Paltrow and Taylor Swift. Robert De Niro has famously done much to encourage TriBeCa's vitality. Plenty of unfamous folks live here too, thanks to excellent public schools, lovely parks and superb views of the Hudson River. Indeed, the neighborhood has a family-friendly atmosphere you might not expect from the cast-iron buildings and cobblestone streets, which speak to the area's industrial past, or from its present reputation for exciting dining and nightlife. Former warehouses have become lofts, galleries and performance spaces, and in the evening, the streets thrum with people out for a drink at one of the many lounges, looking to hear a song or see a play or trying to get a table at one of the neighborhood's many extraordinary restaurants. For ideas on what to see and do, read on.

(From left) Atlantic salmon at Tribeca Grill photo By Evan Sung • The Odeon photo by Alex Lopez

Dining Out Downtown
Once upon a time, The Odeon was the downtown version of the Algonquin Round Table, where the quick-witted and well-heeled came to chat and chew. (Its facade was featured in the opening credits of Saturday Night Live for many years, and an image of it graced the cover of Jay McInerney's generation-defining novel, Bright Lights, Big City.) Today The Odeon continues to produce classic brasserie fare, but it's been joined by countless other restaurants, many of them foodie landmarks, like Tribeca Grill, which features a wide variety of delicious fare and an even wider selection of varietals (including the world's largest selection of Châteauneuf du Pape). Among the neighborhood's many other high-end options are Atera, for fancy modern foraging from chef Matthew Lightner; Bouley, for fancy modern French from chef David Bouley; and Jungsik, for fancy modern Korean from chef Jung Sik Yim. Tamarind Tribeca serves classic Indian in an elegant atmosphere, while Locanda Verde offers casual, contemporary Italian; The Harrison offers casual, contemporary American; and Blaue Gans offers casual, contemporary German-Austrian. (See a pattern?) Like The Odeon, Bubby's is another neighborhood favorite. Starting as a pie company in 1990, the homey brand has expanded into a full-blown restaurant—each meal relying on recipes for comfort food from Grandma. If you can't find something to eat in TriBeCa, you probably aren't hungry.

Courtesy, Nobu

Little Tokyo?
If the neighborhood has a patron saint, it's Robert De Niro. In 1994, he and his partners opened Nobu, devoted to chef Nobu Matsuhisa's modern Japanese. Success followed, leading to Nobu Next Door, a more casual offshoot, as well as legions of imitators of its signature black cod and miso. Other Japanese restaurants followed, and nowadays TriBeCa boasts some of the best Japanese fare in the City. Rosanjin presents a traditional take on the beautiful, seasonal tasting menu known as kaiseki, while Brushstroke, by David Bouley, presents an updated version. Ichimura at Brushstroke is a 12-seat sushi bar within the larger restaurant, giving diners the opportunity to try omakase, a series of small plates that showcase both the chef's creativity and the food's freshness. Like Ichimura, Michelin-starred Sushi Azabu is an under-the-radar sort of place, a sushi restaurant located in the basement of Greenwich Grill, which itself tweaks traditional Italian food using Japanese ingredients and flavors. Finally, there's Takahachi Bakery, which makes such treats as black sesame macaroons and green tea crepes, along with coffee drinks, sandwiches and light meals to stay or go.

Brandy Library. Photo: Joe Buglewicz

Step Up Your Stepping Out
Brandy Library boasts "the biggest collection of brown spirits in New York," more than 900 rare bottles and a comprehensive cocktail menu that features all the classics. Spirit sommeliers and librarians (aka "bartenders") are on hand to make recommendations, but you can learn more by taking a class at Spirit School in "Rare and Precious Bourbon" or "Scotch Whisky." Ward III also traffics in elegance and education, in the form of bespoke cocktails. To craft your perfect drink, a mixologist might ask you to select from among several flavor profiles, such as "easy" and "spirit-forward," or to describe significant tastes. If you'd rather, you can order a standard or signature cocktail, as in the Ward 3 (Maker's Mark bourbon, egg white, apple puree, Angostura bitters, lime and cinnamon).

M1-5. Photo: Ellis Occident

Live, Tonight
There's live music practically every night of the week in TriBeCa. Shake Rattle and Roll Pianos modernizes the old-timey fun of dueling pianos; audience participation is most definitely required at these events, often held at Brick NYC, and the pianists demand requests. At Tiny's, you can sit beneath antique wallpaper and a pressed tin ceiling, chatting the hours away. And then there's M1-5, which puts dancing first, forgoing bottle service, long lines and nasty bouncers for a "hassle-free, customer-oriented environment." Music videos play on several flat screen TVs, so you don't have to look far if you start to run out of moves on the dance floor.

Courtesy, Tribeca Film Festival

Movie Magic
What began as a way of quickly revitalizing the community in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, has grown into an important showcase for big budget and independent movies, an entertainment complex, a production company and a resource for creative professionals, all of which have helped make TriBeCa a hub of film and visual storytelling. In spring 2002, Robert De Niro, producer Jane Rosenthal and real estate investor/philanthropist Craig Hatkoff sponsored a film festival to help stimulate the creativity and economy of the neighborhood they called home. More than a decade later, the annual Tribeca Film Festival screens narratives, shorts, documentaries and features around Lower Manhattan each spring, including at the SVA Theatre. The rest of the year, the screening rooms here show other movies and function as private events space. Tribeca Film acts as the distribution arm, producing and releasing home video, video on demand, theatrical, television and other types of entertainment. Finally, the nonprofit Tribeca Film Institute funds grants and offers programs for student and established filmmakers.

Issey Miyake. Photo: Natasha Phillips

Women's Wear
Before she went independent, Israeli-born designer Nili Lotan worked for Nautica and Ralph Lauren, and this experience manifests in the clean lines and sophisticated yet simple style at the heart of her TriBeCa studio-cum-store. At Gary Graham, incense swirls against black walls, the fabrics' stripes echo the steel girders and fire escapes of the neighborhood, and the clothes are designed for "independent, creative women who demand versatility and longevity." Dresses, jackets, pants and other garments mix patterns and textures, as well as styles and sentiments. A Uno sells contemporary women's clothes and jewelry by European designers, such as High, ELM and Ivan Grundahl. The Issey Miyake flagship displays accessories, jewelry and clothes for men and women by the eponymous designer in a space that's as much art gallery as retail emporium. A fluid titanium sculpture by renowned architect Frank Gehry dominates the entrance, underscoring this brand's focus on unique shapes and creative experimentation.

Courtesy, Thom Browne

Sharp-Dressed Men
Thom Browne gives new meaning to the phrase "short pants." His slightly-too-small suits bare men's wrists and ankles, a look as distinctive as it is polarizing. To browse the pointy, polished shoes and bespoke garments for men at Thom Browne's TriBeCa showroom, you might want to call ahead for an appointment. (Browne designs women's clothes too, including the outfit worn by Michelle Obama at the 2013 inauguration.) For its first menswear-only store, J. Crew repurposed both the space and the name of a beloved TriBeCa watering hole—J.Crew Men's Shop at the Liquor Store. The company kept the Liquor Store's oak-and-brass bar but replaced its stools with leather chairs and taps with carefully curated clothes like pocket squares, fedoras and cashmere sweatshirts. You can drop in anytime, pull down Hemingway from its shelves and stay a while amid new and battered-to-beautiful vintage goods. A few blocks south, J.Crew's The Ludlow Shop specializes in stylish, affordable suiting. Despite the name, Steven Alan sells products for lots of people by lots of designers. The namesake fresh shirting sits alongside streamlined clutches by Clare Vivier, chunky circular scarves by Wool and the Gang, "grandpa cardigans" for kids by ESP No. 1 and elegant dishware by Haand, among other clothes and objects for house and body.

The Mysterious Bookshop. Photo: Rob W. Hart

Literary Life
"Nobody shoplifts from a store that knows 3,214 ways to murder someone," reads a sign along the wall at the Mysterious Bookshop. Billing itself as one of the oldest mystery bookstores in the United States, it specializes in detective, crime, espionage and mystery novels. First editions, hardcovers, paperbacks, used books, rare titles and collectibles fill the floor-to-ceiling stacks. There's also an excellent selection of Sherlockiana. Unsure what kind of work of nonfiction or novel you're in the market for? Have a chat with the incredibly friendly staff, expert solvers of such dilemmas. Down the street, the Fountain Pen Hospital supplies cures—including cleaning, ink refills and parts replacement—for all that ails writing instruments. The staff has a combined total of 150 years of pen-related experience. Founded by a father and son in 1946, the store is still a family-run business, repairing and selling all kinds of recently made and vintage, high-end and everyday pens.

Poets House. Photo: Alex Lopez

Poets House regularly hosts readings, workshops and panel discussions for poets, poetry lovers and people who don't yet know they love words in this way. Its annual showcase strives to display every single book of poetry published in the United States that year, from complete works by Pulitzer Prize winners to one-of-a-kind hand-sewn chapbooks. The rest of the time, anyone can browse the more than 50,000 volumes that constitute its library, a light-filled space overlooking the Hudson River. Its events are designed to appeal to twenty- and thirtysomethings (although everyone is welcome to attend unless otherwise noted) and to provide intellectual, artistic entertainment, often with a Jewish focus. The Flea Theater has a slightly different mission: to produce "a joyful hell in a small space." This Off-Off-Broadway theater puts on original music, dance, theater and interdisciplinary performances most nights of the week.

Let There Be Neon. Photo: Gary Rosenbaum/Jeff Friedman

Museums and Galleries
A mecca for graphic designers, historians, style mavens and the typographically curious, the Poster Museum is run out of Philip Williams Posters and purports to be the largest gallery of vintage posters in the world. Founded in 1973, Philip Williams Posters sells ads, magazines, sheet music, film stills, maps, religious iconography, prints and posters from the 1870s to now. On-site framing is available, too. Let There Be Neon allows for another type of museum-going experience, wandering around its historical artifacts and contemporary creations, all in neon. For more than 40 years, this working studio has designed neon signs, imagery and lighting for stores, extravaganzas like the Victoria Secret Fashion Show and art galleries. Among its many initiatives, apexart presents opportunities for independent curators to organize shows, puts on events for the public, sponsors artist residencies, funds art shows outside of New York City and publishes books and catalogs. Its Unsolicited Proposal Program allows anyone anywhere to submit a proposal for an exhibition in its TriBeCa gallery, which helps bring eclecticism and diversity to the contemporary art world.