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.
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.
For the busy worker on a short lunch break in the area, Café Deli-Cious may be the best deli option for a quick, healthy, reasonably priced midday meal. Like its surrounding counterparts, Café Deli-Cious serves the requisite brewed coffees and teas, and sells a wide variety of energy bars, chips, soft drinks, and other snacks. The main difference here is the café’s unusually large, diverse, and superbly clean salad bar and buffet. Fresh greens and vegetables, grilled chicken and roasted meats, rice dishes and multiple soup options provide even finicky eaters with many options for an on-the-go lunch.
The Pickler sells coffee on one side and a wide range of sandwiches on the other. David Lowenstein, who opened the Pickler in 2015, decided to give the store a light and funny name when he took over the space from his boss. He decided on the Pickler after considering the names of several of the Batman villains. As a fun touch, he adds a pickle to every sandwich served. David first started working in restaurants when he was in college. He originally wanted to be a teacher, but quickly decided that the restaurant business was better suited to him. After working as the operations manager for three different restaurants, the space on 46th Street became available, and he decided it was time to set off on his own. He renovated the entire restaurant, knocking down walls and redesigning it to be more open. He kept the order windows in the back, which connect to LIM College, so students are able to stop by in between classes. David said that their food comes from "clean sources, " including their meat and dairy, and the coffee comes from organic fair trade farmers.