Even casual fans of the beloved television comedy Parks and Recreation know about the deep self-care philosophy practiced by two of the show’s most hilarious characters. It is referred to in an oft-called-back joke between the always-hustling Tom Haverford and the eternally unimpressed Donna Meagle: the ability to “treat yo’ self.” The concept is simple, but the results are profound. Sometimes in life, you see, you simply must do, buy, and taste things you might not normally think prudent—and you often need to seek them out alone. In these turbulent times, a single day of treating yourself well can make a big emotional difference. And good news for New Yorkers and visitors to our sleepless city: It’s probably the best place in the world for such solo missions.
Stop 1: Lunch at Le Bernardin
Most New Yorkers can’t afford to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant every day—but today you can. Start your you-day at legendary chef Eric Ripert’s seafood palace, Le Bernardin. Head for the elegant lounge, and for $57 give yourself over to a three-course meal updated weekly. (You’ll feel good while eating well; five of those dollars will be donated to City Harvest, a nonprofit with a mission of feeding the roughly 1.3 million New Yorkers who can’t afford to buy enough food.) My early January lunch sampling included a perfectly cooked organic salmon delicately made up with an array of Asian mushrooms, lotus root, and maitake broth, plus a succulent dish of sautéed North Carolina shrimp, served with unfussy baby greens, so as not to distract from the main attraction. 155 West 51st Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenue), Midtown
Stop 2: The Best 18-Mile Walk Ever
How could such an imposing stroll be pleasurable, you’re wondering? That’s because this saunter is done along the creaking, iconic floors of the Strand, a place that famously boasts of having 18 miles’ worth of books. While your last visit to what is arguably the world’s most wonderful bookstore was probably done under siege—overwhelmed by the sheer volume of pages surrounding you, and with an impatient friend in tow—today you will linger in every magical nook and cranny of the shop, which has miraculously survived every publishing trend and wave of bookstore closures for the past 86 years. This means heading downstairs to the cool basement of the building and discovering the vast and beautiful travel books section. And also going up, up, up to the rare-books room, where you are sure to fall in love with a new hardback bestie you never knew existed until that moment. For me, it was an oddly tall, signed collection of poetry by Charles Bukowski. In the end, I resisted forking over the few hundred bucks for the book—a decision I still regret. Don’t be like me! 828 Broadway (between East 12th and 13th Streets), Union Square
Stop 3: Dinner, Drinks, and an Old Movie
In a city stuffed with stylish digs, few locations make a person feel instantly cooler than the movie-loving Metrograph. Upstairs is a bar, restaurant, and bookstore (built for your inner cinephile) that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bogart and Bacall flick, what with its long-reaching potted plants and slick, dark-wood decor. Grab a well-mixed cocktail and order a bite off the solid New American menu (check the Writer’s Menu for small plates and literary drinks, like the Zhivago, which happily combines vodka and horchata). Then move downstairs to catch a revived classic you’ve been dying to see but haven’t because you’ve yet to find a viewing partner who feels the same way. Recent Metrograph screenings of movies that rarely play the big screen these days include Max Ophüls’s 1948 romantic tragedy, Letter From an Unknown Woman, and perhaps the most underrated film of Paul Thomas Anderson’s career, the Thomas Pynchon adaptation, Inherent Vice. That title seems appropriate for a day spent in idle, unaccompanied bliss. 7 Ludlow Street (between Canal and Hester Streets), Lower East Side