Meet 57th Street
57th Street is a bustling two-way thoroughfare that feels more like an avenue than a typical side street. The sidewalks are flooded with a sea of people and lined with high-end stores, such as Chanel, Prada and Louis Vuitton. At first glance, 57th appears to be a street only for those who are able to spend great sums in its many art galleries, antique stores and luxury hotels. However, after digging a little deeper, I discovered an enticing array of hidden gems for everyone to appreciate.
My walk started quietly in Sutton Place Park but, as I headed west, I immediately found myself in the hustle and bustle that characterizes this street. Two of my first discoveries were Gotta Have It, a small collectibles store, and The Royal Athena Galleries, which is home to an impressive collection of antiquities from the ancient world. I received a thorough education in antique silver and jewelry from the knowledgeable staff at SJ Shrubsole, a shop that has existed on 57th since 1936. I never tire from exploring Hammacher Schlemmer‘s mind boggling assortment of new inventions, toys, and electronics. By then, I had worked up an appetite and found Le Colonial to be the perfect next stop. This attractive restaurant is reminiscent of colonial Vietnam and offered a welcome escape from the teeming sidewalks outside.
The next few blocks were also food-centric, as I came across the unassuming Italian restaurant, Teodora, the mouthwatering Jacques Torres Chocolate and the impressive BLT Steak, a restaurant that consistently delivers. The highlight, however, was a relative newcomer, Betony, where the Manhattan Sideways team indulged in sublime and innovative New American cuisine.
The west side boasts a string of historic landmark buildings. As often as I have walked 57th, I have never missed an opportunity to admire the rotunda inside Steinway Hall and to listen to the grand pianos being played. Sadly, at the conclusion of 2014, Steinway will end its run on this street after almost ninety years. The list of iconic venues continues with The Russian Team Room, a restaurant that seems to be on many a tourist’s list and The Art Students League of New York, where we were given a private tour of the various classrooms – perhaps one of the most memorable experiences on 57th. Between these, on the corner of Seventh Avenue, looms Carnegie Hall, the famed concert venue. Built in 1891 by steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, it represents the pinnacle of American musical achievement.
Other highlights included Stack’s Bowers Galleries, a rare coin shop that I remembered visiting years ago with my father, who was friends with the Stack brothers. Their gold ATM on the outside of the building, dispensing solid gold bars, was a sight to behold. I also reminisced while walking through the four floors of Lee’s Art Shop, as this was always a favorite stopping point for my own children. Ewa’s Atelier was a perfect discovery as I ascended to the second floor to meet Ewa, an immensely talented Polish tailor. In addition to allowing myself time to wander extensively through the kitchen shop, Sur La Table, I also took a break for an exquisite pampering at Studio 57. By days end, I was able to grab a few more peaceful minutes inside Church for All Nations, another one of the stunning sanctuaries on Manhattan’s side streets.