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Let Your Taste Buds Be Your Guide

Summer days and warm weather mean lots of time for meandering and exploring parts of town you’ve never been to or may have overlooked. One of the best ways to slow down and appreciate unfamiliar areas of the city is to make neighborhood restaurants your destination. Here are some of my favorite crawls around the city.

One of my favorite areas to poke around in without an agenda is Koreatown in Midtown Manhattan, a jumble of bars, shops and restaurants that makes me feel like I’m back in Seoul. For a relatively pricey dinner I highly recommend Atoboy (not to be confused with Attaboy, a celebrated cocktail bar on the Lower East Side), a stylish Korean restaurant serving small plates that can be enjoyed with beer, wine or soju.

Korean barbecue is also a fun, interactive way to spend an evening, and my favorite destination is Yoon Haeundae Galbi — largely because of its signature accordion-cut, marinated short rib that tastes extra beefy and pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s banchan (small plates of food that accompany the main dish). And I recently came across a brilliant and affordable date idea from the Tik Tok user @PicturePerfectNYC: buy snacks at the H Mart on 32nd Street and head to a free movie night in Bryant Park.

I live in Jersey City, which means I have access to a lot of fantastic restaurants representing India and neighboring countries. I always find something interesting in the aisles at Patel Brothers, an Indian grocery store in Journal Square that sells dry goods, produce, beauty products, sweets and more. (There’s also a location in Jackson Heights, Queens.) For takeout, walk just 10 minutes to Korai Kitchen, a gem of a restaurant specializing in earthy, spicy Bangladeshi fare run by a mother-daughter team. Don’t miss the fried fish combo plate. Add in a trip to Mana Contemporary, an art gallery in Journal Square, to cap off your evening.

Some of my favorite Mexican restaurants are in the Bronx, so when I visit, I try to take advantage of my time and hit a few spots. My top pick is La Morada, a casual restaurant run by the Saavedra family that serves homey, delicious Oaxacan cuisine, has a poet-in-residence and is involved in advocacy work for undocumented immigrants. The spot’s pambazo torta is a fantastic lunch sandwich with plenty of spice.

A few years ago, I covered the history of pizza as a beloved New York food and had to taste through about a dozen places all over the city with my husband (to his absolute glee). I’d truncate that route a bit to fit it into a day and focus on Brooklyn: Start at L’Industrie with a margherita slice or Williamsburg Pizza for a plain cheese slice before bouncing over to Roberta’s in Bushwick for a pie (my favorite is the Bee Sting: soppressata, hot honey and basil) and a cocktail. I’d finish the night at Ops with a calzone and some red wine, which would promptly send me to bed for the evening.

Another way to see a neighborhood in a different light is to take a tour with an expert. There are plenty of fantastic food tours available, including the Little Caribbean Food Tour in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and a tour of Queens’ sprawling Chinatown with Culinary Backstreets.

In Queens, a trip to Flushing for me always includes a stop at Joe’s Steam Rice Roll for its signature springy namesake dish. I like to add cilantro and bean sprouts for crunch on mine but you can doctor yours however you please. Another great option for a Saturday night in Queens is Queens Night Market, where you can try several different dishes from more than 50 different vendors.

If you’d prefer to explore from the comfort of your own home, a virtual cooking class is also a great way to engage with a community more deeply. League of Kitchens offers classes hosted by local women from all over the world. Currently held online, classes last two hours; you’ll learn how to make a few dishes and absorb some firsthand information about a culture. I’ve been eyeing the Uzbek and Argentine classes for an upcoming Saturday evening. It’s a great way to work up an appetite.

Whether you’re mastering the mambo or just learning jazz, Ailey Moves NYC is the 10-day dance celebration packed with workshops and events you won’t want to miss, starting this Saturday and continuing through August.

Savor the golden hour and what lies beyond at a Rooftop Cinema Club screening, where beloved films are paired with skyline views and all the amenities of a premium theater experience.

The good times keep rolling at Central Park’s Wollman Rink, where morning events and evening parties make The DiscOasis the hottest ticket for four wheels.

True art lovers should look no further than Date Night at the Met, where world-class exhibits meet live music and drink specials every Friday and Saturday evening.

Finally, Peruvian Independence Day is coming up, and you can celebrate on Thursday, July 28, at Popular, the restaurant at the Public Hotel. For $150, you get a prix fixe Peruvian feast, with four prominent Peruvian chefs preparing two dishes each, a wine pairing option and Pisco cocktails. Live Latin music will complete the vibe.

Patrick Hays contributed reporting.

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