At Paris Baguette, the Manhattan Sideways team grabbed a tray and a set of tongs and indulged. We found each baked bread to be more desirable than the next, from the simple white loaf to the peanut crumb to the chocolate cream bread. The cakes are magnificent pieces of art. We were particularly drawn to the strawberry and fresh cream, and the chocolate and banana. A chain that originated in Korea, Paris Baguette now provides baked goods to almost three thousand stores. Although not everything is prepared in-house, the aroma alone makes it worth a visit, as does the show of people who come through Paris Baguette each day.
An inviting gourmet deli for both to-go bites and sit-down fare, Cafe Fresco offers a salad bar, an omelet station, sandwich fixings, "legendary bagels, " and many other options for all sorts of cravings. One of their featured dishes, the eggplant Milanese, is made with oven-roasted eggplants, pesto ricotta and fresh mozzarella. Open windows give each seat a full view of either First Avenue or St. Catherine's Park. When I stopped in with a fellow Sideways member on a brutally humid summer day, we watched the children swinging higher and higher outside at the park as we hid inside from the heat, refueled ourselves, and recharged our cell phones.
Guy Vaknin and his wife Tali opened Beyond Sushi in July of 2012 with the goal of producing healthy, beautiful and earth-conscious food. After learning of the depletion of fish in our oceans – not to mention the health benefits of a meatless diet – Guy set out to be the “first to pioneer the fish-less sushi movement. ” He views “sushi as a vessel that carries the perfect amount of flavor to just grab it in one bite. ” He also praises sushi for its consistency, which gives him room to play around in creating interesting and perfect balances of vegetable's flavors and colors. When describing his extensive background in the restaurant industry, Guy told us, “I had a dream to cook since I was young. I’ve always loved food. ” He grew up on a Kibbutz in Israel - and came to New York after serving in the Israeli army - to help out in his father’s restaurant. He went on to work at numerous other restaurants in New York doing every possible position, and after a brief dalliance with computer engineering, returned to the food world by studying at the Institute of Culinary Education. Fresh out of culinary school, Guy became the executive chef at his father’s kosher catering company. When a request for a sushi station popped up, and knowing that meat and fish are restricted in some areas of the Jewish world, he decided he wanted to create something “cool and innovative - and not fish. ” It took two years to develop his vegetarian sushi, but after selling out at the Vegetarian Food Festival two years in a row, Guy decided to open a business on 14th street. Within three months - working solely with the help of his sushi chef - the growing popularity of his beautiful, healthy, and delicious food quickly enabled him to expand into the thriving company that Beyond Sushi is today. One of Guy’s main goals is to balance sustainability and accessibility to encourage people to choose the healthy option of Beyond Sushi, and the passion that sustains this goal is his creativity. Even now that he has grown Beyond Sushi into a consistently expanding company, Guy still spends around fifty percent of his time cooking, and loves adding new dishes to his menu. He thinks of his business expansion in terms of community impact and wants to be “as big as possible. "
We love Buon Italia in Chelsea Market for all their fresh ingredients imported directly from Italy, and what better way to enjoy those ingredients than prepared in a traditional Italian-style panini? La Panineria offers just that since it was opened by Mario Pesce, whose uncle is the owner of Buon Italia over in Chelsea Market. La Panineria is a quaint, authentic little Italian deli that offers sandwiches, pastries and desserts, soups, cheese plates, beer, wine, soda, and coffee, in addition to their small selection of Italian groceries. The shop is small, with just a couple of barstools in the window and one central table for people to eat around, but the food is absolutely delicious. We sampled the Parma Panini — a perfect combination of prosciutto and robiola cheese, along with the Cornetto — the Italian’s take on the croissant filled with Nutella and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Needless to say our taste buds were satisfied as we chatted with Mario about the subtle but notable differences between “American” Nutella and authentic Italian Nutella (Italian Nutella is apparently slightly healthier! ).
The third time was the charm for Mohamed Jamal, who cycled through several business ventures before settling on the perfect one. He first opened a candy store on 17th Street in 1989, which he then transformed into a juice bar, before finally arriving at the space’s current iteration: Rainbow Falafel. Mohamed used the recipes he learned at his grandmother’s knee during his childhood in Syria to create a healthy, Middle Eastern menu. “We stick to all of the old-fashioned, classic foods and never change them, ” Mohamed affirmed, adding that the freshness and preservative-free nature of everything he serves is key to his philosophy. Offerings include the eponymous falafels served in veggie-filled sandwiches and platters, as well as stuffed vine leaves, spanakopita, hummus and other spreads. Impressively, most of the spices and special ingredients are imported, such as tahini from Lebanon, olives from Greece and mango juice from Egypt. To Mohamed, who runs Rainbow Falafel alongside his wife and son, the restaurant’s prosperity is easy to explain — “We are always here and we are always happy. ”
Oasis Jimma Juice Bar has moved to 3163 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. As we enjoyed a nutritious quinoa and vegetable bowl and a "Times Square" smoothie, Abdusalam, the owner of Oasis, was kind enough to sit down with the Manhattan Sideways team and share his story. He was born in Ethiopia, “the birthplace of coffee, ” and grew up on his family’s farm. His view of food as essential to health was shaped early on by his parents, as his father had a holistic clinic that used what their farm produced to help the community and provide adequate nutrition. His mother would cook for the visiting patients, and she taught Abdusalam to do the same — even though it was uncommon for boys to learn to cook in Ethiopia. After his father’s passing, Abdusalam left home at 14 and entered the mining industry to make a living. It was quite a change from his upbringing, he confessed, since he went from a farm where food was fresh and readily available to an area where both food and water were scarce. In retrospect, he realized that this is where his troubles with nutrition began, as it was the first in a long string of environments where he had little to no access to healthy foods. Even so, he drew on his mother’s teachings and chose to become the cook for the other miners. He retained this position until the outbreak of war forced him to flee the country and join a refugee camp in Kenya, which suffered from a scarcity of resources. It was during his stay at the camp that he was diagnosed with diabetes, a condition that played a large role in reshaping his understanding of food. Abdusalam faced many trials upon emigrating to the US in 2004. When he arrived in Harlem, he was broke and did not speak any English. Language was not the only new element he had to adapt to: he was astonished by American food. Living in refugee camps and traveling across the Middle East left him malnourished, and he admitted that, “supermarkets looked like heaven to me. ” But the most shocking aspect for him was not the abundance of food, but rather its high fat content and overly processed nature. “I didn’t know food was unsafe. In my country, food is safe, and if we don’t have it, we don’t have it. ” He was struggling to provide for himself and his family by working three jobs, so fast food and other cheap, unhealthy options were the most convenient for him. With time, he developed increasing health complications as a result of his poor diet, heavy workload and diabetes. To combat these, he began researching nutrition and wellness, which eventually led to the decision to eliminate all processed foods from his diet. He quickly saw what a positive impact this made for him and his overall wellbeing. These results motivated Abdusalam to open his first juice store on 125th Street in November 2012, where he could impart his philosophy about food to others. “It’s not about business for me, it’s about sharing my idea that food should be good, affordable, healthy and delicious. ” To aid in this goal, the walls of his shop are covered in facts about food and tips for healthy eating. Since its opening, according to Abdusalam, Oasis Jimma Juice Bar has become one of the top five juice bars in the city. Inspired by this success, in 2017 he opened another location on 139th Street, in his own neighborhood, to continue providing Harlem with access to better options. His passion for his mission was obvious. “People should learn about food — how to eat, how to cook, how to buy, ” he insisted. When we visited during the summer of 2017, Abdusalam told us that he was in the process of opening the Oasis Power House on 139th Street. His plan is for this to function as a “no judgment zone” where people will be encouraged to teach their particular talents and passions to anyone who wants to learn them. He envisions it as a space where those who are seeking meaning and purpose in their lives can find it by sharing what they love with others, be it piano lessons, arts and crafts, writing, or any other skill. Abdusalam hopes to continue giving back to Harlem, his adopted community, by sharing his story and ensuring that others can learn from and be inspired by his life experiences.
Le Petit Parisien alludes to a nineteenth-century French newspaper. Started by Jean Dupuy in 1884, the paper achieved the largest media circulation of its time before retiring in 1944. The sandwich shop under the same name, which opened in 2015, is owned by Jean’s great-great-grandson, also named Jean Dupuy, in partnership with his nephew, Paul. Its narrow storefront is outfitted in copies of its namesake paper, and the menu offers a total of nine entrée sandwiches, including the deliciously simple "Parisien" - a ham and cheese sandwich. Others are named for historical French figures. The Brigitte Bardot contains artichoke, goat cheese, kale, and tomatoes atop a French baguette from Orwashers, while the Louis XIV, befitting the royal name, gets foie gras and fig confit. Other menu members include the Gainsbourg, the Charle de Gaulle, and the Marie Antoinette, which contains decadent, sixteen-month cured ham.
Abe Lebewohl always knew what work meant. His first experience was in Eastern Europe doing hard labor during WWII, and then after being miraculously reunited with his family in a displaced persons camp in Italy, he moved to New York with his mother, father and little brother. He then got a job working the soda fountain in a Coney Island deli, while also volunteering to do as much as possible to learn other aspects of the food industry. He graduated to other delis, absorbing the nuances of Jewish cuisine and eventually scraping together enough money to open his own. The grand day happened in 1954, on the corner of 10th Street and Second Avenue, and, thus, The 2nd Avenue Deli began. It was tiny to begin with, serving only ten people at a time, but eventually grew to become one of New York’s most popular kosher delis, in the heart of what was then considered to be the old Yiddish theater district (the Yiddish Walk of Fame honors luminaries from this fascinating era). At this point, “it wasn’t Abe’s business, it was really his life, ” according to his nephew Jeremy. This is where the rags-to-riches story halts. Tragically, in 1996, Abe was murdered while carrying his day's deposit to the bank. Jack, his younger brother by seventeen years, took over the business he had grown up in and kept it running for ten more years before disputes with the landlords caused him to shut it down in 2005. Two years later, Jack’s sons, Josh and Jeremy, decided to continue the family tradition and reopened in their present location on 33rd Street.
Over the years that I have been walking on the side streets, I have found that several of the successful food trucks and carts have decided to make the leap and open brick-and-mortar locations. At any hour of the day, this Middle Eastern company has been known to have a line down the block at their West 53rd Street cart waiting for their gyros. They began serving this cuisine on the streets in 1990, opened an eatery on 14th Street in 2014, and then a few months later, their second shop opened on 95th. The Manhattan Sideways team stopped in for lunch, excited to try the food after smelling it for so long on street corners. There is a quick and efficient ordering line right by the entrance as well as a collection of tables for those who prefer to eat in. The back wall is cleverly designed to look like a line of people queuing for a food cart, complete with a three dimensional umbrella. As for the food, the team agreed that though messy, it was excellent. Customers can order a sandwich in a pita, or a platter that comes with rice and lettuce. I had been warned that the Halal Guys’ hummus was some of the best in the city: sure enough, it was quite good, as was their flaky baklava.
René Henricks, a longtime inhabitant of the East Village, feels fortunate to have spent decades being able to walk to work. After spending time as a bartender at a Latin American restaurant on East 1st Street, she eventually took over the small space across the way to give her something to do between shifts. The kiosk had undergone many transformations since the 1930s, first as a shoeshine stand, then a newspaper stall, a flower shop, and even a front for a marijuana dealer, before it became Juicy Lucy Juice Bar. Three years later, René opened a second location on the avenue to attract more customers. All of the drinks and açaí bowls are made in small batches on the spot using produce that is delivered daily. “You can’t get fresher juice anywhere else unless you make it yourself, ” René asserted. As such, her regulars continue to return for both the delicious juices and the relaxed, friendly atmosphere that pervades Juicy Lucy. “I have been lucky to watch the progression of families here. ” The kiosk holds sentimental value for many who are accustomed to visiting Juicy Lucy or passing by its corner spot every day. “The East Village has afforded me a nice lifestyle. I’m really grateful to it. ”
I pass Gray's Papaya constantly, as I am either walking home or en route to another destination in the neighborhood. One cannot help but take in the strong scent that permeates the air from their open doors on both Broadway and 72nd Street. No matter the hour, there always seems to be a line. Although I have not actually had a hot dog myself, I have relished in the experience of taking many a visitor to sample the goods. Tom, the Manhattan Sideways photographer, was thrilled to stop in for a few minutes one afternoon as we were busy walking on 72nd and stand at the counter chowing down two hotdogs and a soda. Opened by Paul Gray in 1973, the neighborhood staple sells cheap hotdogs 24-hours-a-day, every day of the year, as well as their famous papaya fruit drink. Featured in countless films such as You've Got Mail and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, the establishment is reputed to be one of the most iconic hotdog joints in the city.
An eatery that specializes in grilled cheese, featuring bright yellow picnic tables and walls plastered with tongue-in-cheek witticisms, Melt Shop has mastered the art of the playful fast casual aesthetic. And although the line appears daunting, the staff move their customers along at a steady pace with great efficiency — so people can get in and out, having made their day a little better with a quality American sandwich. Speaking with one of the partners, Josh Morgan, I learned the company is continuing to grow as this location marks the third of numerous eateries that have sprouted up under the branding since its foundation in 2011. “It is all about the experience and serving the best quality product, ” he explained. Josh’s personal favorite happens to be the fried chicken sandwich with loaded tots. Next door, The Little Beet is under the same ownership and has garnered similar success with an emphasis on produce.