Tips for a New York Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Weekend in New York is a time to quell the rapid pace of city living with the well-deserved luxury of respite. While a trip to beach may seem somewhat daunting, or a backyard cookout a tad unattainable, New York has the makings for the perfect holiday weekend without treading beyond the city limits — whether it’s cocktails on the patio, exquisite barbecue, or a pleasant out-of-doors excursion.

 

DRINKING IN SUNSHINE

The New York ritual of the weekend brunch, with an emphasis on cocktails, is a city-dweller’s celebration of leisure and a chance for a final indulgence before the grind of the workweek begins anew – a sentiment essential to the spirit of Labor Day.  And with the summer drawing to a close, sunshine is crucial. Luckily for those eager to soak up the final rays of the summer sun, the institution of the weekend brunch has risen to the city’s very rooftops.

Among these is the STK Downtown & Rooftop offering a stellar menu, expertly mixed drinks, and a striking interior design matched beautifully by its outdoor rooftop garden. Its prime Meatpacking District location provides visitors with the option of a stroll down the Highline Park afterward or a trip to the Whitney Museum of American Art, conveniently open on Labor Day. [26 Little W 12th St, New York, NY 10014, (646) 624-2444, http://togrp.com/venue/stk-downtown/]

Just a little ways north lies Catch Rooftop. This fashionable Meatpacking destination has an equally chic yet cozy rooftop lounge to match their highly praised indoor restaurant space. Weekend brunch may be their strongest suit, featuring a creatively crafted Asian-fusion menu of fresh sushi rolls, alongside American breakfast classics like cinnamon roll pancakes and stuffed French toast, as well as the notorious “Hit Me” layered cake. All of which go down exquisitely with a chilled mimosa.  [21 9th Ave, New York, NY 10014, (212) 392-5978, http://catchrestaurants.com/catchnyc/]

A trip to Williamsburg is a quick and effortless journey for any downtown visitor. And well worth it – as the hip and thriving neighborhood offers some of the finest culture and cuisine in the city. Located right off of Bedford Avenue, Juliette offers the quintessential boho yet sophisticated scenery that encompasses the full charm of the neighborhood. The menu is both delicate and decadent with French selections like crispy duck confit, spicy lamb burger, omelets du jour – all within the comfortable umbrella-shaded atmosphere of their garden rooftop lounge. The indoor dining room likewise boasts a hanging garden of its own. McCarren Park is just a short walk away if you seek some outside Labor Day people-watching. And just on the park’s north side lies Sauvage, where you can get the best gin martini known to humankind. [ Juiette, 135 N 5th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249, (718) 388-9222, http://juliettewilliamsburg.com/; Sauvage, 905 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, NY 11222, (718) 486-6816, sauvageny.com]

 

YOUR LABOR DAY BARBECUE

If the William Vale catches your drinking fancy but you seek a taste of the downhome to broaden the scope of your Williamsburg Labor Day experience, you can get your fix a short and scenic walk away at Fette Sau. The establishment prides itself on quality and atmosphere. With rustic communal tables and an extensive selection of beers on tap, Fette Sau has been a consistent favorite for Williamsburg natives and Manhattanites who harbor high barbecue standards. The menu changes daily with a selection of locally raised meats from the prehistoric sized beef ribs to the celebrated brisket, set in a gutted garage that was once an auto body shop. This one will satisfy even the most erudite of barbecue lovers.  [354 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211, (718) 963-3404, http://www.fettesaubbq.com/]

A trip up to Harlem, on the other hand, begs an excursion to Dinosaur Bar B Q, a neighborhood staple situated just across the street from the legendary prohibition-era Cotton Club. Humble in its atmosphere, but grandiose in its portions, it has a feel that truly transports visitors out of the city – perhaps with a subtle feel of the suburban if that’s where your Labor Day nostalgia resides. The baby back ribs are all but unbeatable, with the deviled eggs and peel-and-eat shrimp serving as worthy companions for a holiday barbecue feast. [700 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027, (212) 694-1777, https://www.dinosaurbarbque.com/location/harlem/]

For those who wish to forgo the rough-edged aesthetic of barbecue and opt for an upscale setting within a more local venture, Blue Smoke delivers a more elegant experience without sparing any of the culinary bliss. Louisiana born chef Jean Paul Bourgeois adds a creole touch to the menu (try the fried green tomatoes as a starter), purveyed in a wooded barroom with red vinyl booths, a sunny two–tiered dinning room, and a popular jazz club downstairs should one desire to prolong their Labor Day celebrations into the realms of the nightlife. [116 E 27th St, (212) 447-7733, https://www.bluesmoke.com/]

 

PARK LIFE

Central Park, of course, teems with life on weekends and holidays. New Yorkers from all walks of life gather in the city’s oasis designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead; journalist, critic, and social administrator hailed as the father of American landscape architecture. Established in 1857 on 778 acres of land, it is home to a vast array of flora and fauna, and flanked by some of the world’s grandest residential architecture. The Upper East and West Sides are rich with shopping and dining destinations, and the Metropolitan Art Museum presides over the park’s eastern center. A row on the lake, a placid sunbathe, or a tour of the park’s grand fountains and monuments have sanctified the days of locals and tourists alike for 160 years.    

Castle Clinton located in Battery Park is best remembered as New York’s first immigration station – preceding even Ellis Island – receiving over 8 million immigrants between 1855 and 1890. Currently a national monument, it has also functioned as a beer garden, exhibition hall, theater, and public aquarium – now paid homage to by the Sea Glass Carousel constructed in 2015. The Park also houses Fritz Koenig’s sculpture “The Sphere,” an artwork once situated in the World Trade Center Plaza arranged in formation to emulate the Islamic Kaaba in Mecca. The sculptor intended to symbolize world peace through the agency of commerce and, though damaged, the sculpture survived the attacks of 2001 and was relocated to the Battery to maintain its meaningful message of hope. The Battery is full of meaningful monuments to New York’s history, and since dramatic improvements in landscaping and architecture over the last decade has become a major destination and center for cultural activity in Lower Manhattan.

Brooklyn’s Green Wood Cemetery, a renowned National Historical Landmark founded in 1898, is anything but dreary with its opulent monuments, majestic lakes, arboreal reserves, and neoclassical architecture. Once one of the city’s best-kept secret destinations, the 500 acre expanse has extended its program in recent years to host popular movie screenings, nature tours, concerts and cocktail parties. Lush with horticulture, fishponds, and wildlife; the cemetery houses monuments to historical New York luminaries such as Leonard Bernstein and Jean Michel Basquiat. Its vast hilly landscape and cobblestone paths are an idyllic setting for leisurely exploration. Conveniently located across from its west entrance is the artisanal bakery Baked in Brooklyn, stocked with anything required for an afternoon picnic. [500 25th St, Brooklyn, NY 11232, http://www.green-wood.com/]

 

Words by Micki Pellerano