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For Isaac Mizrahi, there's no place like home

Story Highlights

• Mizrahi is a lifelong New Yorker and a creature of habit
• "I have my dog, my Yankees, my friends"
• The designer often goes to the children's store Estella for inspiration
• He prefers late-night soufflé at Knickerbocker to trendy nightclubs
By Horacio Silva
Travel + Leisure
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(Travel + Leisureexternal link) -- "I'm as much a part of New York as the rats," says Isaac Mizrahi, the fashion designer, host of the cable TV show "Isaac," and unofficial poster boy for Big Apple-induced ADD.

"I never wanted to live anywhere else. But I'm in my forties now and starting to think, 'Are you really going to stay in the same place your entire life?'" Probably.

Mizrahi has been known to arrive at the airport only to tell his driver to turn around. Besides, he's too much a creature of habit to ever decamp. "I have my dog, my Yankees, my friends. I love the continuity I have in New York. In my dreams, I go to the farmer's market in Union Square and buy micro greens for dinner. But in truth, I eat out at the same places -- Benny's Burritos is an important part of my life." (Rate your favorite citiesexternal link)

Just as he plays limbo with high and low, designing for both Bergdorf's and Target, Mizrahi lives in the West Village and splits his time seamlessly between Uptown and Downtown.

What's in store

When he's looking for inspiration, Mizrahi heads to Estella (493 Ave. of the Americas; 212/255-3553), a children's clothing store in the West Village. "It sounds totally random, I know, but I adore the incredible color sense. They never get too twee the way they do in other kids' stores -- it's very eclectic and sophisticated in an exclusively New York way."

Another favorite stop is Penine Hart Antiques & Art (100 Kenmare St.; 212/226-2602). "I love the idea that a shop like this still exists in New York City -- the owner doesn't take any of it too seriously. If you were young and just decorating your first apartment, you could go and afford things."

When it comes to Mizrahi's shoes, only the best will do, so he heads uptown for custom creations at John Lobb (680 Madison Ave.; 212/888-9797). "Philippe flies in from Paris four times a year to do the fittings."

Brooklyn bound

Even though he grew up in Brooklyn, Mizrahi rarely ventures outside of Manhattan -- except to Klaus von Nichtssagend (438 Union Ave., Brooklyn; 718/383-7309), to see the work of emerging artists. "The gallery feels like the real deal, like there's someone with an actual point of view behind it -- even though Klaus von Nichtssagend is a made-up name."

Restaurant scene

"It's cozy to have a neighborhood place you love, like Sant Ambroeus (259 W. 4th St.; 212/604-9254; dinner for two $110) and return a few times a week," says Mizrahi. "It has a kind of Village glamour, like it's been there for years."

The other place he can't live without is Il Cantinori (32 E. 10th St.; 212/673-6044; dinner for two $110), where he has been going since he was a kid. "I had a million first dates there. I've had birthdays there. And I've dined there after funerals. It's full of memories, and the food's good. I eat the same thing almost every time: grilled whole striped bass and cauliflower."

Club rules

Mizrahi recently taped a segment for his TV show in the wine-cellar room at 21 (21 W. 52nd St.; 212/582-7200; dinner for two $150), a former speakeasy, and was taken by the special bottles that line the walls. "There's a bottle for Elizabeth Taylor, a bottle for Richard Nixon -- I don't know what they think they are going to do with that -- and a bottle for Jocelyn Wildenstein. Maybe it's her secret elixir -- you know, like the one in "Death Becomes Her." I should have asked for a shot."

Nightlife

The former Studio 54 habitué says he is too old to go out these days and would rather go somewhere grown-up like Knickerbocker (33 University Place; 212/228-8490) for a late-night soufflé than to some trendy club for girlie pink drinks. "What am I going to do? Hang out with a Brazilian model in a clingy dress or a big tall guy with muscles? They're the last people I want to talk to!"

People who see people

A fussy patron of the paranormal, Mizrahi chooses his psychics as carefully as his fabrics. "There's my astrologer, Maria Napoli, who I've been seeing since I was eighteen. I go to her every six months for a checkup, like you would a doctor." But since getting an appointment with Napoli is as difficult as getting into the Oscars, Mizrahi also recommends Tony LeRoy (877/818-2700). "I see him for tarot readings two or three times a year. He's a real optimist."

Street smarts

The designer frequently finds himself strolling down 43rd between 9th and 10th Avenues. "It's so Sesame Street, so happy tenement! I keep expecting a puppet to jump out of a garbage can." His pit stops:

  • Mario Batali's seafood restaurant Esca (402 W. 43rd St.; 212/564-7272; lunch for two $70). "I love the crudo, but I can't have it for lunch because it upsets my stomach -- God, I sound like my mother."
  • The pool at the Manhattan Plaza Health Club (482 W. 43rd St.; 212/563-7001; day pass, $35 per adult), where he has been swimming for more than 20 years.
  • Good and Plenty to Go (410 W. 43rd St.; 212/268-4385; dinner for two $24). "I eat at a sidewalk table even in the freezing winter."
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