I struggled a little with this last installment about New York City because I didn’t want to talk about it at first. It’s not sexy. It’s not romantic. It’s about business.

When you work in the 10022 ZIP code, you are in the heart of Midtown East, home of Madison Avenue and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Rockefeller Center is just one ZIP code over. Central Park and the Theater District are close by. But after a long day of meetings, taking a cab or walking far seems cumbersome. Staying in your postage stamp size room is also not an option. Okay bright lights, big city – NOW what?

Of all the places in Manhattan, Midtown East is what I know best. I stay in 10022 every time I’m in town and have learned where to find my favorite morning bialy (PAX on E. 51st and 3rd Ave) and which street cart has the freshest knish. If you are doing business in Midtown East and don’t want to walk 15 blocks for dinner or a drink, here are my favs close to most 10022 hotels.

NY Luncheonette: This diner gets mixed reviews on Yelp, but I love it. It’s not gourmet, it’s not expensive. It’s clean, has fast service and the food is hearty and good. If you don’t want to eat in a dull hotel restaurant, this little diner comes with New York flare. At lunch it’s full of office workers, so you may have to belly up to the old fashioned counter, but that seems like a prize, not a punishment. Tip – try the veggie burger, even if you’re not a vegetarian. It’s the size of your face and made with avocado. Delish. (E. 50th and Lexington)

Bill’s Gay Nineties: This is probably the first speakeasy I’ve ever been in, but that’s not what makes Bill’s glorious. The converted brownstone mansion has transformed the first level parlor into a piano bar. Narrow and dark, you can sit at the bar or at one of the few tables, if you’re lucky enough to find a seat. And jammed into the corner is an upright piano with a crooner belting out Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. Grab a martini and feel free to sing along. (E. 54th and Madison Ave.)

Dawat: If you’re a foodie who wants to have a reasonably priced meal in Midtown, Dawat is your spot for flavorful Northern Indian fare. Internationally acclaimed chef Madhur Jaffrey owns the establishment and avoids the traditional Indian feel with a more upscale atmosphere. Try the Dal or Masala dishes for a guaranteed party in your mouth. (E. 58th and 2nd Ave.)

Fusia Asian Cuisine: You may think Fusia is a mistake when you walk in. It has an any-man’s-Chinese-buffet feel about it, but when the beautifully decorated plates arrive and you take that first bite, you know it’s going to be okay. Wonderful flavors of hot, piping food await. (E. 56th and Lexington)

Pretty much anything you find on 2nd Ave. between E. 58th and E. 48th are going to have good food and atmosphere. There are tiny French bistros and Latin cafes that spill out on the sidewalk in the summer. There are Irish pubs, English pubs and sports pubs. The crowd is typically a mix of locals, internationals and business travelers, which makes for a pleasantly eclectic atmosphere.

Winds of New York

The beauty and the bane of living or working in Manhattan is walking from point A to point B. It  could be a glorious spring day or a frightful winter wasteland. Even on a 50 degree December day, it can feel cold. A Minnesotan who now lives in The Big Apple summed it up best. “In Minneapolis you leave your heated office and take the heated skyway to your heated parking garage. In New York you leave your heated office and go out into the elements.”

The first weekend in December was actually quite nice by New York standards – perfect for roaming if well dressed. Husband and I decided to make a day of walking to Ground Zero. But as we strolled, the temperature (and sun) began to dip.

There is a Starbucks every 50 yards in Midtown. As you move toward more residential areas of lower Manhattan, the coffee shops begin to thin. By the time we reached Washington Square Park we weren’t cold as much as in severe need of a bathroom. Pointing ourselves toward Bleecker Street, we had to find a warm coffee house with a loud espresso machine waiting to greet us. But after passing night clubs and standing-only restaurants, we were desperate and dashed into a white linen cafe.

Two cups of coffee and nearly $10 later, we emerged. It was one of the most expensive pit stops on record.

We pushed forward with our camera backpacks through Soho and TriBeCa to Ground Zero. We viewed the construction site, walked through St. Paul’s Chapel Cemetery across the street, bought a $5 scarf for husband on the street, and turned back toward Midtown.

My face was numb by TriBeCa. But we trudged on, determined to get to Soho. There had to be a Starbucks in Soho.

In the center of Soho we didn’t see a Starbucks or anything that resembled a coffee shop. With no legitimate option for warmth in the middle of the afternoon, we opted for the best option within a few feet of us.

Toad Hall, a bar on a sleepy street in Soho, was dark with rustic English decor and a pool table in back. It was also warm and full of people chatting or reading alone while drinking coffee. Of course! They don’t drink coffee at Starbucks. Too tourist. Too ordinary. The residents of New York were in the bar for their cup o’ Joe.

After thawing in Toad Hall we agreed to keep the walking more tempered. In TriBeCa we tried our luck again, this time at Broome Street Bar, which also had piping hot clear glasses of coffee and cappuccinos. Again, conversation and book reading at the tables. It was never a scene I expected to find there, in the bars off West Broadway, but it feels like a graduation of sorts. After many trips to New York, I know where the locals find the best cheap coffee.