So many amazing restaurants, so little time. But don't worry: If you want to take a big bite out of New York, we have the solution. We've paired a five-star hotel in skyscraper-studded midtown with the ultimate restaurant crawl: a six-course, six-stop meal that allows you to sample some of Manhattan's best and buzziest restaurants.
Our progressive dinner suggestions take you from Midtown all the way down to the East Village, from aperitifs through appetizers, entrées, dessert and digestifs. And your secret, super luxe digs make the perfect crash pad -- after a couple of laps of the state-of-the-art gym's treadmills and a session in the spa's steam room, you'll be ready to pick up the silverware again.
First Stop: Cocktail Hour
Your hotel's lobby bar mixes a great Manhattan; alternatively, skip over to the Bar Downstairs at Andaz Fifth Avenue. It's cozily lit, with expanses of dark wood and an open kitchen, and cocktailing there feels like kicking back at a friend's apartment (if your friends' apartments are capacious and Architectural Digest-worthy, that is). Make friends at one of the long communal tables or score a comfy two-top near the back and sip a seasonal Negroni: it's as balanced as the classic, but with a softening tinge of cinnamon.
Second Stop: Be Shellfish
Walk a half-mile south on Fifth Avenue, turn right on 29th Street and you'll hit the hipster HQ that is the Ace Hotel. Stop at its no-reservations John Dory Oyster Bar for the obvious -- there are a dozen choices of top-notch east- and west-coast mollusks -- and a Sasha Petraske-devised cocktail like the Bottlerocket, made with tequila, jalapeno, lime and a spoonful of honey, or a crisp glass of Chablis.
Third Stop: Blue State Salad
Continue south on Broadway to ABC Kitchen, a white, woodsy Jean Georges Vongerichten restaurant serving innovative local, organic fare that's a politico favorite: the President held up traffic when he dropped by a couple of weeks back; we recently spotted the Clintons and Elliot Spitzer (but not together). If you haven't booked (well) in advance, snag a seat at the bar and order the simple-sounding but seriously delicious carrot-and-avocado salad. You'll get some sprouts, a dollop of garlicky crème fraiche and a smattering of sesame, cumin and sunflower seeds atop roasted carrots and creamy slices of avocado.
Fourth Stop: Spice it Up
New York's top eats don't all come with a top-dollar price tag. On the corner of St. Marks and First Avenue, Xi'an Famous Foods is a hot spot in more ways than one -- NYU students and East Villagers love the fiery noodle dishes and the pricetag -- entrées are under $10. Our favorite? The Spicy Tingly Beef Noodles -- fat, hand-pulled noodles swimming in a vermillion, house-made hot sauce with beansprouts, spring onions and generous chunks of beef.
Fifth Stop: Hello, Sweetie
By the time you reach your penultimate stop the crowds should have abated at Empellon Cocina, a new taqueria by celebrated young chef Alex Stupak. He's now known for his fantastic Mexican food, but Stupak got his start as a pastry chef at the venerated wd-50, and that's why you're here. The must-devour is a frozen mango mousse with white chocolate, amaranth and lime.*
Final Stop: Scene Swigger
The perfect conclusion to an evening of superlative gorging? A highly wrought nightcap at Booker & Dax, the new bar by Manhattan chef-god David Chang of Momofuku fame. His barman, the French Culinary Institute's Dave Arnold, uses blowtorches, dry ice and atomizers in his quest to craft New York's best cocktails. And his drinks are indeed unusually innovative: the Mustachio, for instance, is a frothy blend of herbal and licorice liqueurs, bourbon, egg-white and pistachio topped with a dusting of nutmeg in the shape of a handlebar mustache. Witty and enervating, it's like New York in a glass. Cheers!
* Correction: A previous version of this article listed a dessert that is available only at Empellon Taqueria, a sister restaurant to Empellon Cocina.