Meet 82nd Street
Stepping out onto the east side of 82nd Street, I enjoyed finding hints of the eastern European cultures that had once called the neighborhood home. The street is in the middle of the area known as “Little Hungary,” which stretches from 79th to 83rd Streets. Though there are not many traces left of the Hungarian community, I was intrigued by the Hungarian House, a cultural center that resembles a gingerbread house nestled among the other Upper East Side buildings. While there, I learned that East 82nd was once christened “Saint Stephen of Hungary Way,” referencing the historic church on this street that has since combined parishes with Saint Monica’s on 79th.
The first scrumptious shop I came upon, however, was French rather than Hungarian. The concept for Canelé by Céline began when Céline Legros left her career as a lawyer in Paris to start a bakery business, focusing on mini canelés – confectionaries from Bordeaux that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Further on, I met John of Little Wolf Cabinet Shop, who is a seventh generation woodworker in a family business that began in Munich, Germany in the 1800s. John Wolf’s father brought the business to the United States in 1956 and named it for his son, who was known as the “Little Wolf.” I continued my cultural journey down the street at Ebisu, which sells high quality Japanese toys and other gift items in a bright, colorful space.
On the corner of Second Avenue, I stopped by Brady’s Bar. Purchased by an Irishman named Dan Brady in 1961, the building has been a bar since the early 1900s. I had a pleasant visit with the founder’s son, also named Dan Brady, and listened to him recount stories from his childhood growing up in the bar.
Next, I found two fascinating specialty stores, located just below street level. Sutton Clocks is a magical workshop filled with quiet ticking and tolling, where Sebastian Laws continues the horological work of his father, Knud Christenson, who came to New York from Denmark. Next door at the Swed Masters Workshop, the Manhattan Sideways team was dazzled by a collection of finely crafted Judaica, which contained hidden contraptions and clever mechanisms that turned each silver piece into an eye-widening gadget. And 82nd Street continued the European theme: I was totally charmed by Elizabeth and Paul at King’s Carriage House, a British restaurant that has been serving not only lunch and dinner, but an elegant tea each afternoon since 1994. My last stop on the East Side pays homage to old world dining. Owned by a wonderful American couple, Tina and Chip Smith turn out spectacular classic French dishes at The Simone.
The West Side greeted me with two stunning churches. At the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Volodymyr, I met Volodymyr Muzychka, who arrived from the Ukraine in 2010. Despite the language barrier that we experienced, he was warm and welcoming. The cathedral may not have been as big as some of the other spiritual bastions on the side streets, but it certainly made up for it with exquisite gilding and décor. At the Church of the Holy Trinity, I was serenaded by a melodious Letourneau organ as I gazed around the grand sanctuary covered in Guastavino tiles.
A few steps down, somewhat hidden from the street, is an unexpected “community center,” Salon Riz. Originally from Beirut, Lebanon, Mike Riz has created an enchanting space that is not simply a hair salon, but rather serves the neighborhood as a perfect venue to stop in for a friendly visit and a cup of tea. It is Mike’s true talent as a hair stylist, however, that draws the biggest crowd. I can attest to his skills, and I will now never go anywhere else.
By the time I reached the Hudson River, and reflected on my walk, I felt as if I had been on a mini tour of Eurasia – from Hungary to France to Ukraine to Lebanon. The journey had left me with numerous heart-warming stories of hard work, family, friendship, and passion.