The “I’d Actually Want This” NYC-Themed Gift Guide

I’m by no means a minimalist, but unnecessary tchotchkes do tend to make me anxious. I’d never buy an item without first imagining where in my home I’d place it. All of the below are gifts I either already own–and think you should own, too–or things I’d happily own. Each represents the city in a specific, unique way.

1. TWA vintage NYC poster: I’ve had a mild obsession with vintage airline posters recently, and this David Klein creation (from $26 for 16 x 20) is one of my favorites. The vibrant colors, the cubist reimagining of Times Square–the design is a work of art. Which is exactly why it’s part of MoMA’s collection, with prints sold at the MoMA Design Store.


David Klein: New York Fly TWA print; courtesy of MoMA Design Store

2. Good Morning Asshole mug: Okay, this mug ($14.95) from cheeky New York-based tableware purveyor Fishs Eddy isn’t explicitly NYC-themed, but it reads like something one New Yorker might say to another. We don’t mince words around here, and insults can actually be used affectionately. This mug is wishing you a good–versus bad–morning, right?  Give to friends or family members who need to be reminded they are, in fact, assholes before their first sip of caffeine. I’ll even forgive the missing comma.


courtesy of Fishs Eddy

3. Serenity Now clock: Seinfeld is the archetypal New York show. More so than its story arcs, the sitcom had an overarching NYC ethos–biting, nihilistic, sarcastic–that’s difficult to properly articulate. Channel your inner Frank Costanza (possibly the show’s funniest character) with this modern, attractive “serenity now” wall clock ($30), and hope to avoid Lloyd Braun’s “insanity later” fate.


courtesy of Society6

4. Juilliard T-shirt: When I was younger, a local college t-shirt or sweatshirt was one of my favorite souvenirs when I visited a new city. I used to focus on Ivys or the bigger state schools–Dartmouth, Berkeley–but apparel from small, niche institutions seems a bit more memorable. I adore this vintage-inspired T-shirt ($30) from NYC’s own Juilliard, the nation’s best performing arts conservatory.


courtesy of The Juilliard Store

5. Katz’s Delicatessen chocolate egg cream candle: Have you ever had a chocolate egg cream? If not, you’ll be shocked to learn there is, in fact, no egg and no cream. It’s actually a fizzy concoction of chocolate syrup and seltzer. Sounds strange, but I highly recommend it! The drink was, for a long time, a staple of NYC delis and soda shops. Get it in candle form ($28) from NYC pastrami kings Katz’s Delicatessen.


courtesy of UncommonGoods

6. Levain Bakery cookies: I have a dear friend who lives on the Upper West Side. Whenever she arrives for a party in Brooklyn, she brings cookies from Levain, a bakery in her neighborhood. Why? Because she’s smart. She knows the cookies are an NYC mainstay and that people are obsessed with them. Levain’s cookies are huge, gooey, under-baked and somehow stay fresh for days. People swoon over the chocolate chip, but I’m gaga over the chocolate with peanut butter chips. The 8-pack assortment ($49) is ideal for an NYC expat.


courtesy of Levain Bakery

7. The Light of New York book: There is a beautiful, moody quality to the ghostly black-and-white images of New York City in The Light of New York ($75, Assouline). Jean-Michel Berts captures a city at dawn, empty of its citizens and sparking with a just-under-the surface energy. My husband and I used it as a sign-in book at our wedding.


courtesy of Assouline

8. Hamilton cast recording: It may well be one of the greatest artistic achievements of our time, and you still don’t own it? I can speak for hours about my love of Hamilton, but you won’t understand until you listen (from $18.99). Set in New York City (“history is happenin’ in Manhattan, and we just happen to be, in the greatest city in the world, in the GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD…”) this multi-genre-infused musical follows the dramatic rise and sudden fall of one of our more-overlooked founding fathers.


courtesy of Atlantic Records


Favorite Gift Shops

I love giving gifts. I’m one of those annoying people who prides herself on getting just the right thing for the right person. But even I can admit that shopping for gifts in the city can be annoyingly difficult. Folks elsewhere may think we have it easy, what with all of the options right under our noses, but we may suffer from a tyranny of choice (using the term very lightly). Sometimes, there are too many options. And one option is an hour subway ride away from another option. By the time you’re done, it’s evening, and all you’ve scored is one Voluspa candle, which, though lovely, you could’ve gotten at any area Anthropologie.

In order to lessen the anxiety, I’ve compiled a list of my go-to gifting shops:


Blue Apron Foods is a local gourmet foods store that just happens to be down the block from my apartment in Park Slope. It’s a great place to fill a gift basket for a food-obsessed friend (yes, I’m purposefully avoiding the term foodie), with area artisan-made items like Nunu Chocolates as well as imported goodies like chocolate-covered Gavottes biscuits from France. They also have a great selection of meats, cheeses and baked goods.


With its expertly sourced collection of vintage as well as new housewares, Sterling Place in South Slope and Boerum Hill, is the perfect place to find an eclectic gift for a birthday or housewarming. And, it’s one of the few places that stocks items for men, including vintage bar utensils, shaving accessories, globes and games.


Yes, it’s a chain, but it’s a great one. Paper Source features a huge selection of cards and paper goods by top brands like Rifle Paper Co. and Smock. Gift items include journals, picture frames, coffee table books and more. Though there are a few locations around the city, I prefer the first New York outpost, in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood.


Shopping for a friend’s baby can be a tad confusing. Which toy, which onesie, which stuffed animal will suit them just so? I’m so grateful for Pink Olive owner Grace Kang’s curatorial eye. Though the shop, with locations in Park Slope and the East Village, is modest in size, it’s overflowing with thoughtful gifts for the baby in your life. It’s also a great place for art prints, stationery and girly finds.


A New York staple, Fishs Eddy, located in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, is a wonderland of adorable tableware, glassware, flatware and gift items. There are New York and Brooklyn themed trinkets, collaborations with artists like cartoonist Roz Chast and the late illustrator Charley Harper (as designed by Todd Oldham) and vintage china collected from across the country. An ideal place to shop for a wedding or housewarming.


Idlewild Books, a travel bookstore that also runs language courses, is one of my favorite gift spots in NYC. Here, you can find country-specific critically acclaimed literature and essays in addition to standard guide books. Why not surprise a friend going on a big trip with a book that’ll do more than tell them how to manage the metro? There’s nothing like immersing yourself in the culture of a specific place and getting a feel for the people and the mood. It’s also a totally unexpected gift and one I’m sure they’ll appreciate. The main store is in Flatiron, with a smaller location in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill.

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