J.J. Owens’ Guide to New York City, Presented by Watchonista
Watch collectors collect more than watches. We collect experiences, secret spots, insider info, and we can rattle off expert opinions and insights on our towns like nobody’s business. For Watchonista, we start with one of our hometowns: The Big Apple!
Perhaps the only thing that can ably compete with my obsession for timepieces is my obsession with where I live.
New York is my home, a city of endless options and where there is always something new to do. It is genuinely the city that never sleeps (special shoutout to the coffee and bagels for the insomnia assist!).
I take such joy in finding and sharing those still-hidden gems as well as the tried-and-true classics. These are the kinds of places you can wear a baseball cap and get a Michelin-rated meal; places you can only find in the best city in the world!
Just a short trip from my apartment, you’ll find one of my favorite weekend activities: Material Good – a watch and jewelry store nestled privately above the crowded streets in Soho.
Not only is there a selection of modern pieces from Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet, but Material Good also has an equally impressive selection of vintage options, as well. Everything down to the décor and low-key yet utterly cool ambiance makes this store a must-visit.
Rest Your Head:
Choosing just one New York restaurant is almost impossible, but my Italian spot during the week is Piccola Cucina on the Upper East Side.
If I had an Italian grandma to go home to, this restaurant is what I imagine it would be like. A masterpiece-level ode to Sicily with menu items you won’t find anywhere else, my must-try list includes the fennel and orange salad and the pesto gnocchi with scorpionfish ragu.
Nighttime is the Right Time:
Recently opened, Pebble Bar is my new favorite evening haunt.
Situated near Rockefeller Center in a four-floor townhouse, this art-deco bar has just enough of a retro feel sprinkled in along with the modern flair of its investors (Mark Ronson, Pete Davidson, and Cousin Greg, to name a few). Order the Ginny Fallon and soak in a bit of old New York.
To me, nothing says “New York-style” quite like Bergdorf Goodman.
This statuesque department store commands an entire city block on Fifth Avenue for a good reason. Brimming with everything from handbags to home goods, it’s the closest thing to a fashion museum you’ll find. And for gents, the often-overlooked men’s store that sits just across the street is equally iconic and special.
Only in New York:
If I could tell someone visiting to do one thing, it would be this: Get your morning coffee at Sant Ambroeus on Madison Avenue and then walk across The Park (yes, like most New Yorkers, I only acknowledge one) to the Upper West Side’s Barney Greengrass, the best Jewish deli on the planet.
Order a plain non-toasted bagel with sable, a schmear, and tomatoes at this classic cash-only spot and enjoy my years-long Saturday ritual.
Room in Your Suitcase:
A good walking shoe is imperative everywhere, but it’s especially important in New York, where residents walk an average of 3 to 5 miles per day (that’s not even counting subway stairs or historic walk-ups).
And there is no better walking-around shoe than the leather slip-ons from The Sabah Dealer. My go-to shoe for over eight years, these Turkish loafer/slipper hybrids also happen to me my go-to gift.
JJ’s Wild Card:
Emmett’s on Grove brings my two favorite cities together in a very tasty way by serving Chicago-style thin crust pizza in a West Village restaurant.
Virtually undiscovered in its first few months of operation, this low-key spot is my spot. Decorated with no shortage of midwestern panache (yes, there is such a thing), the pizza has most flat-pie-friendly New Yorkers begrudgingly admitting its excellence.
(Photography by J.J. Owens or provided by the companies)