Best days to visit NYC during the holidays [Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn]

We will be visiting NYC for 3 to 4 days between the 23rd and 31st. It’s been 9 years since we were in NYC around those dates and I can’t remember what it was like. As for food places, we primarily visit bakeries like Bien Cuit and Dominique Ansel, go for dim sum, and prefer single focus places like Neapolitan pizza shops and dumpling houses.

So two questions. First, are these sorts of places usually open during the holidays? Second, are there days we should avoid? For example, is it best to come after Christmas or does it not matter?

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The only day within that date span where places might be closed is Christmas Day. For example, Dominique Ansel is not open that day. So, if you decide to include the 25th in your 3- to 4-day visit, it’s best to check to see if the place you’re interested in going to is open.

By the way, in case you are not aware, earlier this year, Bien Cuit opened an additional location in the Grand Central Market. (The Market will be closed on Christmas Day.) My blog post about it is here.

Have a great visit!

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I don’t live in New York City. So this comment is not specific to NYC. But as a rule, if I want to dine out, I always save Chinatown and other immigrant-run restaurants for Christmas Day or other public holidays. Unless their clientele is not primarily immigrants, most of them just open as usual on public holidays.

I think coming after christmas yet before new years is the best window of time- everything is open and business as usual, plus the bakeries will still be making special holiday only desserts and such.
If you haven’t been to the Great Northern food hall in grand central be sure to go for their fantastic breads (the pumpernickel is my favorite) and look for the fresh gingersnaps in a stack in a clear bag- they’re crispy and spicey and the best gingersnap cookie i have ever purchased.
While you’re in soho for dominique ansel it’s worth stopping in at the soho Laudree if you want a pastry, they make what are basically individual sized buche de noel and usually have several varieties as well as a special hazelnut holiday pastry- i forget the name- it’s a white ring with decorative stars on top and basically the most intense hazelnut flavor ever.

If you want to do Flushing chopsticks and bone marrow is an amazing blog and he covers flushing extensively.
I honestly don’t know the guy at all, but i sent my parents on one of his food tours of queens and they were just a group of four and had the best time going to random hole in the wall spots. You could also certainly put together your own itinerary to do from his blog recommendations. (Link for tours is at bottom of the webpage here)


I cannot second this enough. The city is an absolute zoo right now and will only get worse for the next week. Between Christmas and New Years (but before the 30th-31, when people roll in for the Times Square ball drop atrocity) will be SO much nicer. If you are in town on Christmas day, I heartily recommend a trip to Flushing for a Chinese feast, dim sum or even just dumplings. We did that a couple of years ago and it was a great way to spend the day, although Flushing and all of its restaurants were still bustling to say the least.

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Thanks everyone! These are exactly the type of responses I was wishing for.

@Ttrockwood, I am already working on an excuse to drive by that garlic knots place. One of the hardest things to find a good version of. Also, we’ll be staying in Flushing! A few years ago we stayed in the same spot and just kept walking around exploring and hardly did anything else. This time we have to make sure we save Flushing for last. I’m afraid the same thing will happen again.

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If - no, WHEN- you go to see the once in a lifetime show of Michaelangelo at the Met the garlic knots place is on your way to/from if you get off at 72nd st 6train. I have no idea if the pizza at the same shop is any good.
How perfect you are staying in flushing! I am admittedly a total amateur when it comes to the area but i do know that the Golden Mall is like one crazy amazing gathering of food stalls- just make sure to have cash for them. And go hungry :):grin:

I read on your blog that Bien Cuit is owned by relatives, so I understand if you are hesitant to answer any questions.

Do you know if the Grand Central Market location gets fresh shipments of bread and pastries every day? We’ve been to the Cobble Hill location many times and were always impressed how even the pastries were always made the same day.

My only issue with Bien Cuit was that the butter in their pastries would absorb the sourdough aroma and flavor from the breads. Did you find this to be the case at the Grand Central location?

We took the advice here seriously and will be in New York right after Christmas and out of there on the 30th.

Grand Central looks like a worthwhile stop. We can visit two bakeries and I guess tour Grand Central while we’re at it.

@Ttrockwood, thanks for the link to that blog. Already spent way too much time on it. And I really appreciate the specific recommendations. On Yelp, people will just go for the popular items and you always wonder about the other things. For example, at Dominique Ansel, the cronut is my least favorite item. I go there for the other pastries. I’ll take a kouign amann over a cronut any day. Plus, like Bien Cuit, they are incredibly consistent.

Of course, glad you found it helpful- he’s truly an expert on the area so I’m sure you will find some delicious spots!

If you’re pro-bagel in Soho the bagels at Sadelle’s are really great, a smaller actual ring shape with a defined hole in the middle and proper chewy crust. There’s a counter in the front to order to go ( staying to eat there is highly recommended but they certainly have soho prices)

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I may be in a minority but I did not like the offerings at Bien Cuit in Grand Central. The crusts are very hard, almost burnt and my almond croissant was incredibly sweet, with the same burnt crust.

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Another thought- Urbanspace Vanderbuilt is basically next door to grand central. For lunch i would definitely do something from the nordic offerings in the great northern food hall, but in urbanspace there’s a location of Ovenly. They’re best known for the chocolate chunk cookies which are rather chubby and very soft inside- i think what makes them notable is that they’re actually vegan yet widely held as one of the best in the city. The olive oil cake by the slice and peanut butter cookie are also worthwhile.
There’s also Dough doughnuts which everyone but me seems to love (they’re just not the same style doughnut as what i grew up having) and they often have interesting flavors like hibiscus and such.

And this sounds insane but Paris Baguette has a few locations in flushing, they sell that super fluffy light spongy "cheesecake " that is really popular, and this time of year they usually feature several chestnut buns and pastries, i haven’t been recently but there was a tasty bun last year with a thick chestnut filling that was quite good.

If you are doing lunch in Grand Central and want to treat yourself, go to Agern, which is located at the back of the food hall. It’s a bargain compared to dinner ($65 for three courses as opposed to $145 or $185 for the dinner tasting menus) and the food is really spectacular. I meant to do a write up of our meal there but forgot; I’ll post some photos here in a second so you can at least see some of what we enjoyed!!

Steak Tartare

Corn and mushroom appetizer - I am not a fan of corn and I LOVED this.

Pork belly with cauliflower puree:

Gorgeous chocolate dessert. All of the desserts were wonderful, in fact.

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Thanks for reminding me about that thread. I agree that their crust is very dark and hard to chew. Although I didn’t like it at first, their bread grew on me. Reading the other thread, it seems like they may be having quality control issues.

I wasn’t impressed with their cookbook, but I am very excited to see how their products look and taste in the actual bakery.

Always on the lookout for doughnuts. I only like one doughnut place in Baltimore. At home, it’s very time consuming to make different flavors of doughnuts.

Insane, indeed. I’m way too snobby for Paris Baguette. Many years ago, I kept getting things from Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jours, but was never impressed. We were in China this year and I was hoping to eat sponge cakes every day, but bakeries were not popular in the region we stayed in. So I’m looking forward to a steady of diet of sponge cake next week!

@bmorecupcake, Sorry for the delay in responding. Despite Bien Cuit being owned by my cousins, I have no inside information regarding Grand Central Market deliveries. I’ve bought bread and pastries from the GCM location only once, and I found the quality to be as good as what I’ve eaten at and taken home (to NJ) from Smith Street many times. Maybe my senses are not as sharp as yours, but I haven’t noticed the sourdough aroma being absorbed by the pastries.

I very much appreciate that you’ve read my blog. And “Thank you!” on behalf of my cousins for being a Bien Cuit customer.

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It’s just a counter of Ovenly , their actual bakery is in greenpoint brooklyn so there’s a smaller selection- i don’t recall seeing cakes at for example but maybe they have them now.

If you’re going to be anywhere near union square/flatiron district especially in the morning make Daily Provisions your first stop, they have a cruller doughnut , kouign amann, and breakfast gougeres i think you would love

Unfortunately i have only been for lunch (and had a tasty delicata squash sandwich) so those items had already sold out for the day.

Totally understood on paris baguette! Haha, and there really is something wonderful about those chinese sponge cakes! I always love the sticky rice pastry stuff too like the plain triangles and balls filled with peanut or sesame.

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You’re going to be the end of me. I am guilty of chasing food, especially stuff I can’t make well at home. I will “waste” a half day to chase a perfect bagel or kouign amann or garlic knots. My immediate family are almost as nuts as I am, but you can see looks of desperation on our friends’ faces.

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What is the place with the garlic knots called? I’m going to have to make a trek there the next time I’m in the city!

I had no idea this place was there. Always enter and exit through the market so I never see Vanderbilt. I will have to check it out!

Yeah it a weird location, but good for a lunch stop or the coffee at Toby’s is great. I seem to go when i’m near grand central and yet don’t want to deal with or need to go into grand central itself (in good weather i would park my citibike in a mearby station)

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2