Say what you will about millennials—they are cold-blooded murderers of J.Crew and '90s mall staples, excessive consumers of environment-destroying avocados, "inventors" of the ubiquitous millennial pink, the reason why "influencer" is considered a commonplace job occupation, and proponents of $10 green juices as a cure for everything—but, for the most part, they have impeccable taste. Blame it on the posse of social media accounts they're constantly feeding with photos, video, stories, live-streams, but Generation Y is endlessly obsessed with aesthetics. In fact so much so that on a recent trip, the group I was traveling with made our bus abruptly stop on the side of a busy road to take photographs of the sun setting behind a mountain framed by a cloud of pink sky. Was it pretty? Yes, it was. Did it require stopping the bus right that second in the middle of the road? Meh.
All to say, millennials are very particular about what their favorite places to eat, drink, shop, and self-care at should look like; after all, we are also a generation who knows what it wants and when it wants it—and, in case you haven't caught on, we want it all right now. But it takes more than simply painting the walls in a subdued shade of pink in order to lure us inside. And no number of succulents, no matter how ornately arranged in a terrarium full of crystals (we love our crystals!), will convince us to dine at a restaurant that will not substitute our salad's romaine with kale (preferably massaged).
To figure out what, exactly, makes a millennial space, we looked at 25 of New York's most photo-worthy and Instagram-frequented establishments. The findings: lots of neon signs, house plants, and, yeah, pink. We don't hate it.
This all-pink Italian restaurant is THE quintessential millennial space in New York City and maybe even the world; though the Gallery at Sketch London is some tough competition. All-pink everything from the walls to the bar chairs and utensils (there's more than half-a-dozen shades of this pastel hue adorning the space)? Check. Plants in textured pots? Check. Neon outdoor sign? Check. Millennial slang? Check. Bathroom just made for selfies (designed by artist Curtis Kulig, no less)? Check, check, check. It is indeed pink AF, and we love it. The food is good, too, but that's kind of beside the point, no?
It can't be argued that millennials are responsible for the success of young cult beauty brands like Glossier. The pastel pink-branded, minimal products that are intended to highlight natural beauty have a home in this IRL beauty oasis in the heart of Manhattan's SoHo. All the products, from the colorful Super serums to the Cloud Paint blush and Balm Dotcom, pop against the pink walls and minimal decor, making this place Instagram gold and a real cash-drainer.
Millennials are also singlehandedly responsible for making matcha an obsession Stateside (it's old news in Asia). Cha Cha Matcha was one of the first shops to jump on the trend, transforming a small-ish space in Nolita into a retro-esque tropical paradise with palm trees, vintage Cha Cha records and film posters, and a menu that boasts rainbow and ginger turmeric matcha lattes and matcha soft serve, among other things. And since this generation also loves puns that are borderline dad jokes, Cha Cha Matcha's bright pink neon sign that spells out “Matcha Gracias” and "I Love You So Matcha" are a welcome addition.
Brought to us by Samantha Wasser (the mastermind behind another Generation Y favorite, by CHLOE) and Ali LaRaia, The Sosta has taken a fast-casual approach and applied it to Italian cuisine. A neon sign translating to "Let's Eat, Baby" is the centerpiece of this impossibly chic interior, featuring pale pink banquettes, cutesy menus, and graphic light fixtures rounding out the aesthetic. Additionally, everything from the mouthwatering pasta (which can be substituted with zucchini noodles, a millennial go-to) to the salads and focaccia sandwiches is served in pink-and-white packaging that you'll want to snap for a #foodie post.
Not only does this spa-cafe offer matcha lattes with your Hangover Cure massage, but the surroundings, which include the above sign, gold-topped tables, prettiest of nail designs, and Moon Dust, are a millennial dream.
This is one the most body-positive fitness studios in the city. In addition to offering themed classes that range from "The Other You" to "Mother's Day Special," which included mimosas served by scantily clad men this past May, and "3-0-Chella," this cardio dance studio encourages twerking and humping yourself in the mirror. A can't-miss-it "Girls Girls Girls" neon sign and a pink Vespa front the Greenwich Village studio and rotating artwork graces the walls.
This newish West Village restaurant was created with an Instagram-obsessed crowd in mind. From the bright green kale margarita to the equally green avocado toast, the food and drink appear more for photographing than consuming. The marble bar top, the pink banquettes, the pale blue bar stools, and, again, a neon sign are just further proof that the restaurant had a very specific audience in mind.
One of our favorite spots in New York City, this Southeast Asian restaurant hits all your aesthetic senses at once with graphic zig-zag bar and menus, bright pink tables and neon signs featuring flamingos and a maybe evil eye, and lots of greenery in the form of plants hanging from the ceiling and pineapples, that millennials arguably brought back into print popularity in the last few years. What's more, the food, featuring curries and typical Southeast Asian street fare, is delicious, and the drinks are served in coconuts, tiki bowls, and kitschy glassware. Talk about #visuals.
This generation loves to meditate, which would explain an explosion of meditation studios popping up all over major cities. In addition to boasting a clean and organic aesthetic, with lots of wood detailing, plants, and bright light, MNDFL hosts 30- to 60-minute classes that are intended to help you live your life more consciously—and what's more millennial than that? Maybe taking a photo inside the space whose sole purpose is to make you unplug from your devices. Millennials are nothing if not ironic.
Fact: Millennials will never admit to loving a blow-dry chain like Drybar. Enter: amika, a quirky and colorful style bar in Brooklyn's Williamsburg, which offers a variety of effortless styled looks (with recently launched bridal services... for the cool bride, of course!) along with a buckthorn berry mimosa and weekly events like happy hours and Mani Mondays. Plus, there's that neon sign.
Millennials love barre. It's intense without being overly sweaty, making it easy for us to go from studio to brunch in the same outfit (long live athleisure, a trend we're also responsible for), and does something with our emotions, that makes us feel vulnerable during the most thigh-shaking part of the routine. (Also, we love the slow torture of our muscles going into submission.)This fitness franchise is a dream, then, with quirky wallpaper, color-coded dumbells, and instructors who push all of us no-work-life-balance overachievers to do more than we think is possible.
There have been numerous articles written about the love affair between millennials and their house plants (this one from NYLON's very own Taylor Bryant is especially on-point), which is why on any given weekend, you will find this bright and airy plant store full of shoppers in their mid- and late-20s digging through pots of succulents, aloe vera, and rubber plants. Blame it on the fact that millennials are putting off buying houses with backyards or waiting longer to have kids or even pets really, but indoor plant-ownership is on the rise—and there are hashtags like #MonsteraMonday, #SansevieriaSunday, and #PlantShelfie to prove it.
Another meditation studio, this one pulls on our smart-everything-obsessed strings by employing changing lights, otherworldly sounds, and scents for a trippy ride rather than a traditional meditation experience. We dare you to pass the above dome without Instagramming it after you finish your Focus or Mindful sessions. The pre-recorded audio guide is also appealing to those millennials who text instead of calling, order food online rather than getting takeout, and meet more friends on social media than IRL.
Children of the '80s and '90s love nostalgia. This old-school cinema with retro-esque screening rooms, a book store, and a commissary where you can eat and drink pre- and post-movie, provides just that. Add the fact that it screens old 35mm films, hosts events with filmmakers, and has a concession shop that is stocked with millennial favorites like Pocky sticks, Green Matcha Kit Kats, overpriced cold-pressed juices, flavored pre-packaged popcorn, and raw coconut water, and, yeah, millennials will wake up early on a Saturday for a noon screening of an animated classic, like Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro.
Another space that pulls on the heartstrings with its old-fashioned vibes, is this ice cream shop that boasts old-school counters, a working cash register, and employees dressed in uniforms of decades prior. Don't be fooled by the vintage vibes, this parlor serves some of the most innovative flavors imaginable including licorice, durian banana, burnt sage, banana curry, cardamom lemon jam, green tea pistachio, and black coconut ash (for the witches in us). In addition to the ever-changing flavors, the shop collaborates with other restaurants in the area, has rotating "sor-bae" creations, and even had a Kanye-dedicated week. Plus, that cone will look great against the graphic tile (tiles are big with millennials, go figure).
This women-only multi-purpose space is available solely to those with pricey memberships. Serving as a co-working space and social club that regularly hosts empowering talks and lectures plus more casual get-togethers involving tarot card readings and makeovers, this aesthetically pleasing space (with lots of pale pink details and whimsical wallpaper) seeks to offer like-minded women a place to network and connect. It's biggest mission though is to show the kind of magic women can create when they are brought together. What's more millennial than girl power, a library featuring female-only writers, bathrooms stocked with Glossier and Peet Rivko, a makeup room, and, like, another neon sign?
Brought to you by the creators of Dirty Lemon (whose sleep and skin + hair lemon concoctions have become popular with the younger set), this brand-new "nonalcoholic cocktail bar" is the millennial answer to what you can do when life hands your lemons: You turn them into a start-up. Inspired by the pharmacies of the '50s, The Drug Store features mixologist handcrafted, made-to-order activated charcoal-infused lemonade, lemon-based drinks with fortified roots and flowers (rose lemonade, anyone?), and iced matcha. And who but millennials would shell out $10 for lemonade that promises to detox and give you better skin and hair?
Millennials hate clutter, which might explain why so many are followers of Marie Kondo's tidying method when it comes to clothes. This boutique, more akin to an art gallery than a fashion store, with fixtures that frame and separate every piece hanging off the copper-colored hanger from the one before and vignettes of looks styled on wooden surfaces, is a fashion-forward minimalist's dream, stocked with only the coolest of designers (the owners work with a lot of designers based in Asia). With a healthy mix of high- and low-cost investment pieces and a primarily muted palette with a few pop of prints here and there, this store is exactly what one would want in their rented apartment's walk-in closet.
In addition to meditation, this generation is really into astrology... like really, really, really into astrology. (And why shouldn't we be? The divine universe knows more about us than we do ourselves!) At this healing wellness oasis in Brooklyn, you can get your birth chart and tarot cards read to tell you everything (well, kinda) that you need to live the life the goddesses have intended for you, as well as participate in favorites like acupuncture, hypnosis, reiki, and sound healing.
The Happiest Hour
Millennials love tiki bars, but only if they are ironic. This cocktails-and-burger joint, located in a somewhat dingy (by neighborhood standards) space in West Village, is decked out in palm printed wallpaper, machines churning out tropical slushies, tropical glassware, and bartenders in Hawaiian shirts. What balances the kitschy decor are the mouthwateringly straightforward, deliciously greasy burgers for when you're having a cheat day from the Whole30 diet.
Credit all those selfies, because millennials are making nail art popular again. This manicure-only SoHo salon is a beauty favorite for its minimal designs that focus more on complementary colors and shapes than on the wackiness of designs. Sit at the bar area and choose your design while sipping wine, and then take a mani photo booth photo that you can instantly share on your socials. If you're not convinced of the millennial draw of Paintbox, check out its recent rosé-inspired design collaboration with Summer Water.
Millennials are a health-conscious bunch, which would explain the explosion of many vegetarian and vegan restaurants that look ripped out from pages of Domino. This popular plant-based restaurant, that refers to itself as a “vegetable slaughterhouse," boasts an interior full of houseplants, copper and wood details, and acai bowls and bee pollen (which is a thing now) juices.
This wellness center favors unorthodox yoga and meditation sessions that are surrounded by a myriad of sensory experiences from sound vibrations to rotating visuals. With technology-driven practices, WOOM satisfied the millennials with sensibilities to both connect and disconnect. Plus, the onsite cafe offers matcha and elixir shots.
Millennials are a generation who love a good co-working space, which would explain the rise of places like The Wing and WeWork, and services like Spacious. This stunning hideaway, an offspring of the eclectic New Orleans-style bar Loosie Rouge and Loosie’s Kitchen, has you walk down an alleyway of vines and ivy to enter and it offers plenty of outdoor and indoor visual stimulation, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi, happy hour starting at noon, and a drink offering that includes matcha, kombucha, and charcoal tonics.
Don't be fooled by the name, this art-centric cafe is nothing like a typical French bistro. Owned by André Saraiva, a graffiti artist and Le Baron nightclub owner, and with Camille Becerra as head chef, this graphic cafe boasts pink tabletops (a perfect contrast against those grain bowls), sassy art, Prouvé furniture, pegboard walls, a diner counter, and an outdoor neon sign made by the ultimate cool girl Petra Collins.