The Ultimate Travel Guide to New York’s Meatpacking District

Story by Kanara Ty.

Before I went to New York City this past summer, I asked a colleague for some tips on her
favorite spots in Manhattan — best cheap eats? Favorite rooftop bar? She told me to completely immerse myself in the Meatpacking District, perhaps Manhattan’s trendiest neighborhood right now. While the name doesn’t exactly scream glitz and glamour, I assure you that you can’t just make one visit to the Meatpacking District during a vacation in the Big Apple — it packs a whole lot of punch with high-end boutiques (Alexander McQueen, thank you very much!), critically acclaimed dining destinations (Buddakan and Morimoto), and swanky nightclubs with the toughest doormen in the world (Wass Stevens of Avenue — we’re talking about you!).

Before it became one of NYC’s hottest social spots, the Meatpacking District was known for its various industries throughout the years. In the mid-1800s, you would have found carpentry and woodworking manufacturers. After the beginning of the 20th century, the neighborhood became a huge meat market, literally: approximately 200 slaughterhouses and packing houses abounded (hence the name), in addition to cosmetics, printing and automobile companies.

During the ’70s and ’80s, the area went into decline, transforming itself into an entertainment and nightlife mecca for the gay and bondage/S&M crowd. Interestingly enough, it’s alleged that the Mafia and some members of the NYPD protected some of these after-hours establishments, which allowed them to flourish. This included The Mineshaft, which was shut down by the Department of Health in 1985 at the height of the AIDS epidemic (20 years later, the space was reopened as a Chinese restaurant).

Despite, or perhaps because of, its lurid history, the Meatpacking District, is one of the most fascinating neighborhoods in Manhattan today. Here are some highlights.

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S T A Y

-Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC
It’s known as the Meatpacking’s first luxury hotel and remains an iconic location since it opened in 2004. The Gansevoort added a different kind of character to the grittiness of the neighborhood, helping to transform the area into a hip entertainment district. If you’re easily star-struck, beware — the hotel’s been featured on MTV and Vh1, and you’re sure to run into a celebrity or two (we spotted Will.i.Am in the lobby).
If you’re looking to go all out, consider booking the Gansevoort’s Duplex Presidential Suite. It’s the ultimate experience: the 1,700-square-foot duplex features 30-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, a state-of-the-art sound system, dining area, pool table, cardio machines, full bar and custom furniture. Our favorite part? The step-out balcony with extraordinary views of the Hudson River. Not convinced? Check out our Summer 2013 10th anniversary issue’s cover editorial with Rinko Kikuchi — trust us, it’s quite a treat. Details Gansevoorthotelgroup.com.

 

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E A T
The Meatpacking District is a foodie heaven for those looking to experience something out of the ordinary. We’ve got two Stephen Starr restaurants on this list — enough said.

-Num Pang Sandwich Shop
Long after I’ve left New York, this Cambodian sandwich shop still lingers in my mind. I can’t forget the Five-Spice Glazed Pork Belly sandwich, topped off with some Ithaca Ginger Beer or Ginger Pineapple Ginger Tea. Also try their delicious Grilled Coconut Corn with Chili Mayo. Note that some of their sandwiches are seasonal, so be sure to check what’s available. For you non-meat eaters, the Roasted Cauliflower sandwich is flavorful as well. Details Numpangnyc.com.

-Buddakan
When you enter Buddakan, it doesn’t exactly feel like a restaurant. In fact, you think you might have walked into a large nightclub. The interior is just remarkable, with oversized chandeliers, high ceilings, golden bookshelves, and yes, even a banquet table enough to seat 34. The eats to check out? Duck and Foie Gras Dumplings, Dungeness Crab Sticky Rice, and Singapore Chili King Crab. Don’t forget the dessert — get the Sichuan Peanut Semifreddo. Details Buddakannyc.com.

-Morimoto
You know the name — Masaharu Morimoto is quite synonymous in celebrity circles with anything Japanese. Honestly? He lives up to the hype. All you need to do is get the Morimoto Omakase ($125 per person), and you let them take care of the rest. Details Morimotonyc.me.

-The Lobster Place
Fresh seafood right at your fingertips — and it’s prepared in front of you! I can only imagine my facial expression when I saw the fresh uni before me. But if you’re not sure what to get, go for the popular Lobster Roll. Details Lobsterplace.com.

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P L A Y 

 

-Avenue
It’s got a reputation for being one of the toughest nightclubs to get into in the world — primarily because the doorman, Wass Stevens, is one tough cookie to break. If you can make it past the velvet ropes, you’re in for quite an experience. Basketball phenom Jeremy Lin was recently sighted here at a Knicks aftergame party. Details Avenue-newyork.com.

-PH-D
Located at the Dream Downtown hotel, people say this is quickly becoming one of the hottest new spots in NYC. The short moniker actually stands for Penthouse at Dream Downtown, which is the rooftop lounge at the hotel. If you can get in, you’ll feel like you’re in a secret garden with beautiful people, good music and a majestic view. Details Phdlounge.com.

-Provocateur Café + Nightclub
There’s something for everyone here: the nightclub for those who are looking for an evening of debauchery (drinking and dancing all night long) or the café for those who want something more chill (drinking and talking all night long). Be sure to check out their calendar for the most updated list of upcoming DJs if you’re into the EDM scene. Details Provocateurny.com.

 

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E X P L O R E 

-High Line
Despite all the clubs and eateries in the Meatpacking District, this was at the top of my list to check out. A cool public park, The High Line was transformed by some community residents from an elevated freight rail line facing demolition. The park was recently used for a top-secret Alexander Wang event (he gave away free clothes and caused all sorts of pandemonium). Check it out after dinner or for your pre-party — it’s a nice spot to walk off those calories and catch some good scenery.

 

This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here