flatiron building

Tourists, tourists everywhere. When you exit the subway (N/R) at 23rd and Broadway/Fifth Avenue, that’s all you see: tourists. And they’re all looking up. At what, you may wonder? Well, either the Flatiron Building on 23rd Street, or, to the North, the Empire State Building up on 34th Street.

There’s much more to Flatiron than a few notable buildings, of course.

Let’s start with Madison Square Park. Spanning three blocks long and one avenue wide, this 6.2 acre park is where Madison Square Garden was first located before they moved it west. (Seems obvious now, doesn’t it?) Nowadays, it’s best known as the park where the first Shake Shack opened. Beyond burgers, they’ve got rotating public art installations (fascinating!) and events put on by the Madison Square Park Conservancy on a fairly regular basis. Plus, every few months, they hold Madison Square Eats, where some of the best food vendors in New York set up shop for a few weeks.

Once you’ve toured the park, walk over to Eataly to experience the mecca of all things Italian that was co-created by chef Mario Batali. Expect long lines (of tourists, naturally) and somewhat exorbitant prices for various foods ranging from cured meats and gelato to fresh pasta and exotic chocolates. Stop by their Nutella bar, in the space once inhabited by Eataly’s wine shop, for a sugar-induced coma or two, and take the elevator to the roof to try the Birreria for some beer, antipasti and salumi.

For the adults, the Museum of Sex is a stimulating way to spend an afternoon, but you may be more interested in their gift shop, filled with erotic books and paraphernalia, on the first floor.

Now, what about food? Flatiron has plenty of it to go around, some good and some not so good. Hill Country Barbecue ($$) serves up decent ribs, brisket and macaroni and cheese, but don’t count on a cheap meal—your meal ticket items add up quick! Across the park and veering on Murray Hill territory is Blue Smoke ($$), which has arguably better barbecue than Hill Country, for a slightly steeper price. Bo’s ($$) (review here) offers delicious Southern-inspired flavors and, down the road, newcomer Café El Presidente ($) (cousin to NoLita’s Tacombi, review here) has a fair selection of tacos at an affordable price point, but their esquites and rice and beans are not nearly as good as Tacombi’s. For the whiskey enthusiast, there’s Maysville ($$) (review here), which has an extraordinary bourbon list (they measure your 2 oz. drink with a jigger, by the way) and passable food that doesn’t seem to be worth the price. I would steer clear of Obicà ($$$) (review here) and try SD26 ($$ – $$$) for their Italian fare instead. If you’re looking for grilled cheese (of course you are), go to Birch ($) instead of Melt Shop ($), and sample Birch’s delectable treats and coffees while you’re at it.

After eating, unwind to the tune of live music at Toshi’s Living Room on 26th and Broadway.

And, don’t worry, Starbucks has got you covered. There’s at least four that I know of within short walking distance of Madison Square Park.

If you can stomach the shutterbugs stopping mid-sidewalk to take a selfie with a building, be my guest and spend an afternoon or evening in Flatiron.