4 W. 33rd St., at Fifth Ave. 212-564-2100
For decades, the Russians have dominated the Manhattan steam scene, and there’s no question that the Russian & Turkish Baths in the East Village and the Wall Street Bath & Spa still slap you with the hottest heat. But their rooms can also be drafty and grungy. Enter the Koreans, ready to improve on an Eastern European tradition. The steam room at Koreatown’s Spa Sol wraps the assembled soft-bodies, many descending from the Empire State Building across the street, in a blanket of dense fog and sandwiches them in hot slabs of marble and jade stones, which are believed to help the body detox. Hot air is filtered through a basket of Asian herbs and ginseng root (smelling, not unpleasantly, like broccoli), while the temperature remains a perfectly unbearable 120 degrees at all times. And unlike the Russian competition, Spa Sol never runs out of towels. (Steam and sauna only, $30; body scrub, $50 to $70; massages, $90.)
Best Place for a Sweat
So what exactly does “best” mean in a city with thousands of pizza joints, hundreds of celebrity masseuses, and museum-worthy concept shops on every corner? Well, in the case of this, our annual “Best of New York” roundup, there’s a heavy emphasis on what’s new or what has somehow remained virtually unheard of (until now, of course).