HOW TO LOOK LIKE A LOCAL
"You have to look like you're not trying. Most people are very casual in New York. It's casual chic: Levi's and a nice sweater - a designer sweater - with sneakers or Timberland boots."
"Good Enough to Eat on Amsterdam and 83rd has great breakfasts. It's not much on atmosphere, but the breakfast is really, really good. They have this strawberry butter that you put on the muffins. It's so delicious. They also have great omelets, waffles, and pancakes, and really good service. But I go just for the strawberry butter. I can't properly describe how good it is; you have to taste it and you'll know why."
"Go to the South Street Seaport. There's always a lot going on down there, always a lot of energy. The real New York energy is always, of course, at the Empire State Building. That's where you get a sense of what Manhattan is. It's romantic to look out over the city from the observation deck. You can sense the hustle and bustle of New York life. I love Central Park. That's where I feel New York the most. You could live in New York your whole life and never see all of Central Park. One day, you're just walking through and you think, Oh, my god, I've never seen this part of the park. And they have all of these activities going on there. I also like watching the ice skaters in the Wollman rink."
"I grew up in the Bronx in Castle Hill, a regular, lower-middle-class neighborhood. Very mixed. It was kind of like have you ever seen that movie I Like It Like That with Jon Seda? That was kind of what our upbringing was like. To me the subway really represents New York because I grew up on it, going from the Bronx to Manhattan, which is why I named my album On the 6. You see everybody on the 6, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high. It's a no-hassle way to get into the city. No traffic, no parking. That train is where I started my journey, going into Manhattan to practice and audition. I'd always get on the train at the Castle Hill Avenue stop and take it up to Phil Black's studio, near 51st and Lexington, where I used to take classes. It's now a tae kwon do center. That was a special place to me."
"I love having lunch at Downtown Cipriani. The best part is they have outside seating. And because it's right on West Broadway, you see a lot of interesting people walking by. I always get the artichoke salad. Delicious. They also have their famous pasta in cream sauce with ham. And how can I forget the calamari? Everywhere I go, I order calamari if it's on the menu, but Downtown Cipriani has some of the best in New York."
"My favorite shops in New York? Bagutta is really cool, by Downtown Cipriani. It's a clothing store. They carry lots of European designers, like Dolce & Gabanna, Christian Dior, Missoni, and Chloe. Downtown, in SoHo and TriBeCa, there are so many great shops you could spend all day - all weekend - down there. Furniture stores, clothing stores, record stores all along the streets. There's also the usual Gucci, Prada, and Versace, but what's unique is a store like Jeffrey New York, which sells hot little T-shirts and all kinds of different boots. It's a really cool, hip store in the Meatpacking District. Aedes De Venustas on 15 Christopher Street sells beautiful candles and perfumes. The areas in the Bronx where I would shop are Southern Boulevard and Fordham Road, where you can get two T-shirts for about $10. Everybody walks around there on the weekends."
"The Spa at The Peninsula hotel is the best. It's on the roof. They have every treatment that you can think of, and it's all about tranquility and quietness and serenity - and all of that is important in a city like New York, where everything's really crazy. They really pamper you at The Peninsula. They make you feel like you're special. I love the facials and the body scrubs. They loofah you everywhere and then pour moisturizers and oils all over, which leaves your skin so soft. You're baby-smooth for weeks."
IF YOU CAN EAT ONLY ONE THING
"For me, New York represents my culture, which is Puerto Rican. So when I think of going home, I think of home cooking. Like rice and beans and chicken and things like that, which you can get at any cuchi frito spot. Cuchi frito basically means "fried food." They're little Spanish restaurants. Also Brisas del Caribe is the most down-home Puerto Rican cooking you can get. It's really, really good. Divey and cheap, but great food."
"Mr. Chow for the Chicken Joanna. It's breaded breasts of chicken with amazing sauce. Their chicken sates are so good. For an added treat, you have to order the crispy beef. I don't know what they do to it. It's sweet, but also a little spicy. There's always a Hollywood scene at Mr. Chow. The scene is great, but the food is even better. I go to Nobu for the rolls. That's what I get every time."
"My favorite club of all time is Lotus, a cool restaurant/club where they have good food. There's a downstairs, and the upstairs has a real nice dance floor and stage. Everybody wants to go to Moomba, and it's fun every once in a while just for the scene. There are always interesting people there, and they have a deejay who's kind of hidden and playing cool, kind of mellow music. There's a seating section on the second floor that's really nice. Everybody's huddled together, listening to the music. I've performed with other dancers at Limelight, which is a crazy club in an old church. There's a swing in the middle of one of the dance floors that you can get on. People hop on and try to swing with you. It's a great mix of people, and it's open all night into early morning."