Meet 81st Street
My first stop on 81st Street was only a short distance from my starting point at the East River. The appropriately named East End Kitchen with its warm, classic design, excellent hospitality, and food to match was a lovely beginning to a street filled with friendly characters and a strong sense of history.
81st is well known for being home to many consignment shops, as the founder of what is now Designer Revival, Myrna Skoller, could tell you in her book, Miracle on 81st Street. The store is currently owned by Tiffany Cavallaro, who has taken Myrna’s high standards and consignment savvy and added her own passion for clothes and strong organizational skills. Next door, Gary Scheiner provides a similar service to the men in the neighborhood at Gentlemen’s Resale, where gently used fashionable garments hang on the well laid out racks at reasonable prices.
I took a trip back in time by stepping through the door of Art for Eternity, a gallery where Howard Nowes displays a dazzling collection of pieces ranging from wooden African masks to ancient Mesopotamian sculptures. Jumping forward a few millennia, I stopped into Woodard and Greenstein, an antique and rug store. The owners, Blanche and Tom, showed me their collection of quilts and rugs dating back to the early 1800s. I returned to the present day in Woolworks, a needlepoint shop that has been around since 1963. When they were on Madison Avenue years ago, my mom took me in to purchase my first canvas, so that I could begin to learn this craft.
Almost no side street is lacking in places to eat, but I found 81st to have an interesting array of choices. Bar Prima has a coffee house atmosphere by day and then effortlessly converts to a wine bar in the evening. I was totally absorbed in the story of Sanil Manalayan, a doctor who opened the bar in honor of his wife, a wine-lover who grew up in Italy. When visiting the final “Chapter” of Alice’s Tea Cup, we had the pleasure of sitting down with sisters Haley and Lauren Fox, who opened their three whimsical tea houses after being inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic work throughout their childhood. Meisterdish, a newcomer to the street, has its prep kitchen right next door to Alice’s Tea Cup. The company offers an innovative meal delivery system that provides customers with pre-chopped ingredients that can be turned into an excellent dinner in fifteen minutes or less.
When I hit Fifth Avenue, I walked straight into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Who can resist spending a few hours inside this New York masterpiece? After crossing Central Park, I then lingered in the halls of the imposing twenty-first century structure that houses The Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space (known simply as the Hayden Planetarium when I visited as a student years ago). Directly across the street – inside the Excelsior Hotel – is Calle Ocho, an expansive Mexican restaurant with innovative dishes and a lively crowd. Continuing my walk on what was primarily a residential street, I stopped suddenly when I discovered the sign for Cook Travel. Blake Fleetwood began his life in the travel business well over three decades ago, when he was a student at Columbia University. He was eager to visit Europe, but could not afford the flight. He was told that if he could gather a group together, he could travel for free. He did, and that summer his passion for the travel business began. For me, it was a refreshing sight to see over a dozen people lined up at their desks, servicing customers personally, in a world where travel agencies are virtually non-existent.