A city landmark and a slice of Old New York, Pete's Tavern has been serving food and draft beer uninterrupted since 1864. It does not take much to envision Pete's as it was a century and a half ago. The scarred, carved bar, the high-backed booths, tin ceiling and functional 1950's register are reminders that this was once the favorite haunt of writer O. Henry, a speakeasy, and a pre-Civil War "grocery & grog. " Walking through the rooms, one can also discover hundreds of photos of people from our past - James Cagney, Mickey Mantle, and celebrities of today, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Adam Sandler. To drink here is to drink half in the past and half in the present.
As I walk the side streets of Manhattan, I am constantly seeing the destruction of the past. Thus, it was refreshing to find a new establishment, like the Refinery Hotel, embracing, and even perpetuating the city’s history: through its refurbishment, its restaurant, Parker & Quinn and even its branding. The Refinery’s building, (with its own entrance on 38th Street or through the restaurant on 39th) originally named the Colony Arcade, was once the millinery hub of the Garment District and continued as a hat factory until the 1980s. With hat-making tools, sewing machines and other manufacturing objects integrated throughout the Hotel’s interiors, the Refinery bridges materials of the past with a luxury hotel experience. Their rooms feel extra spacious with high-ceilings, custom-made furniture and stunning hardwood flooring, a rarity in hotels for sure. Besides drawing on the building’s millinery history, the Refinery recalls the past in their lobby lounge. Soon after the building first opened in 1912, Winnie T. MacDonald opened a ladies’ tea salon on the ground floor where she offered female shoppers a place to rest, to socialize and to get an extra kick in their cuppa gin or whiskey. Today, Winnie’s Lobby Bar continues as a resting place for weary travelers in need of a drink, conversation or entertainment – as there is an added bonus of live jazz Monday through Friday evenings between the hours of 7: 30 and 10: 30. I was completely enchanted by the lobby, the art and the guest rooms, but the surprises did not stop there. The lovely woman, who showed us around, then took us to the rooftop bar, which offers another breathtaking view of the Empire State Building and its surroundings. I was most impressed when introduced to the in-house mixologist who mentioned that he had worked for NASA. Before concluding our tour, we walked through the other end of the lobby to enter Parker & Quinn, which dresses up American comfort food in a delectable looking menu and atmosphere. With chandeliers of depression-era glass, wide booths and decorative tiles, this restaurant emanates that same vintage feel as the hotel.
Founded in 1949 and named for Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, Birdland has legitimate claim to its moniker as "The Jazz Corner of the World. " During its heyday in its original location on Broadway near 52nd Street, it became a popular destination during a time of magnificent jazz musicians, regularly playing host not only to its namesake, but also to Count Basie, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and, seemingly, the rest of the jazz hall of fame. Celebrities flocked to see them play: Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and Marilyn Monroe among the many admirers. As musical trends shifted and rock n' roll rose to prominence in the 60's, the club was forced into bankruptcy. After re-opening uptown in 1986, the club, ultimately, moved back downtown to its current space, where it has enjoyed tremendous success for almost twenty years. Over the years, Birdland was able to showcase thousands of emerging and established artists, often those from the initial space revisiting the club that had helped make them who they were. Contemporary jazz artists continue to come play the venue, hailed as a haven for connoisseurs, and people from around the world flock to Birdland for a taste of the rich history of jazz.
Strolling on 7th Street in the East Village, it is quite easy to miss the narrow Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef's Table. Doing so would be a shame, however, considering the unique wine-drinking experience that owner Patrick Cournot, a Greenwich Village native, presents to the customers that pass through its Moroccan-style arches. For starters, Patrick’s “dynamic groups of wines” - mostly from southern France - go beyond the usual red or white. Here, the red wines offered range from translucid to inky black, and the white wines from pale with hints of green to deep amber. Customers can enjoy their wine while looking at contemporary art by Alberto Burri and Patrick’s wife, Elena Hall, who also designed the space. Everything from the wine bar’s organic design to the intriguing dishes prepared by chefs Josh Ochoa and Andy Alexandre “puts you in the right frame of mind to enjoy the wine, ” according to Patrick. The polished 3, 000-pound concrete bar and colored ceramic patterns on the wall create a contrast with the colors of the wine, which Patrick thinks often get lost in the dark wood and dim lighted décor of most wine bars. The kitchen is located behind the bar, so customers can be reminded that Ruffian Wine Bar puts as much care into its food as its wine. As for the dishes, it is difficult to describe the menu as a whole because, according to Patrick, a vast percentage of it changes every week. The dynamic quality of the food selection, though, allows Patrick to “incorporate flavors as they come out” seasonally. Yet whatever the menu of the day is, Patrick wants to ensure that the dishes have an intense flavor, which often translates into doing a contemporary twist on familiar ingredients. Two members of the Manhattan Sideways team were able to sample Josh’s culinary inventiveness with a dynamic dish made of lentils cooked in salt water, dressed with yogurt spiced with curry leaf, mustard and cumin seed, and topped with beet sprouts, crunchy noodles, Thai basil, and lemon juice. The result was a perfect appetizer with many levels of texture that, Patrick assured us, “brings up and shows the vibrant elements of the wine” that accompanies it. More than that, it shows Patrick has reached his goal for his wine bar: “to do ambitious things in a small space. ”
The legendary Neary’s has been a staple of New York City dining since its opening on St. Patrick’s Day in 1967. Its founder, Jim Neary, continues to grace his customers with the same, unique dining experience - in 2019 - that they have enjoyed since the beginning. The classy dress code, classic red booth seats, walls filled with an assortment of beautiful and often historically significant pictures, and knickknacks around the restaurant such as two Super Bowl rings, are only a small part of why Neary’s is so special. Neary’s is embodied and defined by its founder, Jimmy Neary, whose compassion and famous “Jimmy Neary smile” has made Neary’s the kind of place where there are “no strangers... no matter if it’s their first time walking in, everyone talks to everyone. ”Jimmy was born on a farm in Ireland, and his first job coming into America was at a swimming pool. He eventually moved on to become a bar tender at P. J. Moriarity’s, another Irish-American restaurant, where he met his eventual business partner Brian Mulligan. When Jimmy found his 57th street location - 57th street being the two-way street in the city that runs river to river - he “knew it was the place for him and never looked back. ” Over the years he has slowly added to the décor, and stated that “every picture has a story behind it. ” With the care that Jimmy has put into every aspect of Neary’s - along with the presence of Jimmy himself - he has managed to make his restaurant an important fixture in the lives of many for generations. Offered the opportunity to expand over the years, it is no surprise that Jimmy has refused, for in his words “it would never be the same. ”Jimmy considers Neary’s a family-oriented place, with many of his staff having worked with him for over forty years. Essentially, they have all grown up together. His daughter Una, who works on Wall Street during the day, has worked at Neary’s part time for close to forty years and ascertained that “the food is wonderful, the staff is amazing, but people come for my father. ”Jimmy works seven days a week, and in Una’s words, “to get him to take a day off is a major, major feat. ” While every day at Neary’s is a special day, its devoted following especially looks forward to St. Patrick’s Day, which for fifty plus years was counted down to by a special clock, and the celebration of Jimmy’s annual surprise birthday party. As a place where everyone is not just welcomed, but also family, it is no surprise that when asked what he liked to do to relax, Jimmy responded that he is “relaxed right here. I come through the door and I’m at home and I walk out happy. ”
Nestled among the charming area that is Korea Town, is an eatery with a dual-personality. By day, the business exists as Cup & Cup, an artsy cafe that serves affordable fusion lunch dishes, artistically inserted into giant teacups, and smooth, rich coffee. At night, the same area morphs into Take 31, a dimly lit lounge area, with live music, succulent dinner dishes and a cool, hip vibe. The menu is made of classic Korean dishes with a twist. The dishes are inspired by Japanese, Italian and Mexican cuisine and cater to vegetarians, meat-lovers and those in between. South Korean owner, Kihyun Lee, studied fashion design at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in NYC, and merged his love of authentic Asian food and passion for modern art into each dish. He revived this space in 2011 with the help of his friends. On our afternoon visit, we tried their classic bowl artfully filled with mushrooms, minced beef, rice, chopped egg and carrotsCup & Cup, its daytime persona, was introduced a year and a half after opening Take31. The airy rooms feel clean, with minimal lines. The shelves along the walls are carefully decorated with quirky, vintage memorabilia, but do not feel cluttered. A table with an ice-water cooler is stationed in the middle, for easy access. One statement wall is entirely dedicated to a blueprint of the space, delicately and organically painted by the architects at work. While much of the design is fresh, brightly colored Lego pieces are playfully juxtaposed throughout. Some of those Lego pieces are even inserted within the wall's low-hanging light fixtures and plastered near the giant window at the entrance. During the day, Cup & Cup offers patrons with a few hours dedicated to "Study Time, " as business professionals and students quietly sip green tea lattes and munch on noodles, while using the Wi-Fi connection. At night, locals flock in when the sun goes down, as dinner, drinks and music serves a different, yet equally, artsy crowd.
The chef and owner, Frank Prisinazo, had it right when he opened Supper, the restaurant and wine bar, whose decor was inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper". Italian food paired with Italian wine can make you feel like you have died and gone to heaven. Supper is an osteria where Northern Italian cuisine is the specialty, and for us, the dishes served are worth savoring. Seven of us were able to gather around our table where we each inhaled the grilled polenta appetizer, the limone pasta, the pappardelle wild mushroom entree and several other outstanding dishes. The rustic, yet warm and cozy ambience allowed us to have a perfect evening.
Candles flicker from every corner casting a glow over the dark wood bar and tables at Cello, while softly illuminating the bottles of wine and liquor on display. Modernity intrudes in the form of a small TV mounted in one corner, but, otherwise, the atmosphere is quiet and rustic enough that it is easy to forget one is still in Manhattan. Tom, a manager and part-owner of Cello for five years, describes the bar as an "easy-going place" with a focus on getting people to try new wines. Patrons are encouraged to sample wines before they make a decision, and Tom stressed that there is no price incentive to buy a bottle rather than a glass. He went on to say that the bartenders pour four glasses per bottle - "you're getting a really full glass, " Tom added. Though they will sometimes keep a specific bottle in reserve for regulars who request it, Cello stocks a rotating collection of wines from "The Old World and New World" to keep their selection varied. One wine for sale when we visited came from a volcano caldera in the Canary Islands. Their list is meant to cater to wine aficionados and novices alike. Tom confidently declared, "We'll definitely be able to find something you like. " Cello also offers a well-stocked bar and a modest range of beer choices for non-oenophiles, as well as a pizza and tapas menu featuring meats and cheeses imported from France, Italy and Holland. Tom described the food as "very good, very well thought-out" with wine pairing opportunities in mind. There are a lot of "first dates" that stop by Cello, but otherwise, Tom characterized the clientele as a mix of businesspeople, local business owners and residents of the neighborhood and, simply, people "chilling out" late at night.
As we approached Haymaker Bar, Olivia, a member of the Sideways team, mentioned that she often finds herself around Penn Station with time to kill, but nowhere to kill it. She does not know where to go, besides the chain stores and sports bars that populate the area. Her eyes lit up when we walked into Haymaker, a hip bar with an individual spirit, where the emphasis is not placed on sporting events, but rather the large selection of drinks and good food. The space emanated a sense of rustic hospitality and old-world charm, without seeming in the least old-fashioned. There we met Tristan Colegrove, the bar manager, and David Smith, the owner. Tristan showed us a menu, telling us that instead of using a chalkboard, he uses a clever stamping system on the menu to show the “constantly rotating” beers. He was incredibly enthusiastic about Haymaker, which had only opened a few weeks prior to our visit in the fall of 2015. Tristan immediately began pouring samples. He started with a cider and mentioned a tasting that was slated for that evening with Kyle Sherrer from Millstone Cellars. We found the most interesting to be the Millstone Bonfire Cyser, where cider, mead, and smoked fish peppers blended together into a perfectly balanced spicy-sweet combination. After being introduced to some interesting ciders, Tristan moved on to beer. Olivia and Tom eagerly tried Hop Showers from Other Half Brewing Co. in Brooklyn, which, true to the name, was hoppy and refreshing (“I try to bring in guys that are local, ” Tristan said). That was followed by a sour from Crooked Stave, based in Denver, and Olivia’s favorite, the Kent Falls Shower Beer, with hints of lime, coriander, and sea salt. Tom’s favorite, the “Bomb! ” from Prairie, was brewed with chili peppers, chocolate, and espresso beans. The beers come in a variety of sizes, including eight-ounce glasses that allow people to try more and still remain, in Tristan’s words, "productive at the office after lunch. ”As we sipped on the different drinks, David spoke about how the restaurant was formed. Originally from Northern Ireland, he moved to New York in 2006, where his career in the bar world started to kick off. He and his current business partner, Jeff Anszulewicz, met while working at Dempsey’s in the East Village. They wanted to open a bar/restaurant in an up-and-coming neighborhood. They looked in Brooklyn, but could not find exactly what they wanted. When the Haymaker’s current home became available, they grabbed it. Even though it is Manhattan, David and Jeff recognized it as a neighborhood that needed a bar with their vision. They wanted to be certain that the quality of the food matched the caliber of the drink, so they brought in Jim Takacs as executive chef and Tristan to run the bar. While chatting, Tristan brought out some of Haymaker’s food specialties for us to try, and as we were sitting at the bar, a shipment arrived. Tristan turned his attention to the box and we were able to witness the sight of him opening the new case of beer. It was like watching a child on Christmas morning. We happily continued to snack on the creamy orange pimento cheese with crackers and fresh cut up veggies. “The wings people go crazy for, ” David announced, as he put the plate down. Olivia and Tom wholeheartedly agreed, as did my husband and friends when we stopped in a few days later. I was quite pleased with the cabbage salad which was light, crisp and colorful. Flavor is king at Haymaker, and David says that a devoted core of regulars has already started forming. People come by for a variety of reasons, whether it is to take advantage of $2 off select wine, beer, and house drinks during Happy Hour from 4-7, to grab a light lunch with coworkers, or because they are a “beer nerd” and treat Haymaker as a destination bar. The crew is eagerly anticipating the completion of the Hudson Yards project, as they know they are in a perfect location to attract this new clientele.
After celebrating the one-year anniversary of its opening in June of 2019, Santiago’s Beer Garden has quickly propelled to one of the most popular and hearty eateries in El Barrio, or East Harlem. As the Manhattan Sideways team sat down to interview Matt, the restaurant’s twenty-eight-year old owner, a customer assured us, with great enthusiasm, that we were in “the best spot in the whole area, on everything! ” For such a young business owner with little experience owning his own restaurant, Matt has excelled in every direction, allowing Santiago’s to become a distinctive community staple. We discovered Santiago’s Beer Garden as we were walking through El Barrio, cross-checking the Sideways website for updates. Our eyes were instantly caught by the wide open gates on 120th St that led to two colorful murals and a large garden terrace. We entered, introduced ourselves to Matt, and two days later we were licking our fingers after a frank, lively interview and a full and authentic Dominican meal. From the Bronx, and having worked “everywhere but the kitchen” in the restaurant business since age seventeen, Matt recently moved on from managing and bartending at various restaurants to return to “what [he] knows”: Dominican food. He climbed up the chain of the restaurant and bar industry quickly after he graduated from college, landing gigs at the W Hotel and, eventually, sports bar Tonic East, where he became a manager. He partnered with two other co-workers to invest in the space that is now Santiago’s Beer Garden and was originally a well-reviewed Brazilian restaurant called Vidigal. It closed in 2018, and Matt bought it and took over, making it his “house. ” He pushed through a tiresome initial setback; he was unable to work to his full abilities as a bartender as the restaurant was opening due to his being rear-ended by a drunk driver and injuring his back. Surviving financial difficulties and allowing himself to heal properly, Matt successfully transformed Vidigal into Santiago’s, keeping the “earthy, spiritual” murals on the wall and innovating with respect to his personal and professional background. Not a huge fan of hard liquor, Matt decided to utilize the outdoor space as a beer garden and center his drink menu on a variety of different beers. As Santiago is both a popular name and a Dominican city, he found it a perfect fit to complete the name of his restaurant brand. Describing his favorite drink on the menu, the Belgian Duchesse, as “sour” and sometimes tasting “like wine, ” Matt happily demonstrated a passion and love for quality beer. “You can only get it here, ” he exclaimed about the Duchesse, stating that it went well with red meat, while recognizing that most typically eat Dominican food along with a Presidente, a classic Pilsner. Matt created the menu himself, collaborating with his two chefs, sixty-two year-old José and sixty-three year-old Isabel, “focusing on the meats... and the rices. ” He highlighted popular menu items like yellow rice, coconut rice, ox tails, and beef and chicken stews. We were served a shrimp cocktail, fried plantains, steak and onions, and fried chicken, along with various rice and beans. The portions were great and surely filling, the steak pre-marinated for days, and the rice and beans rich. Matt proudly claimed his chicken better than the chicken bites at popular burger chain Shake Shack, and the food walked the talk. Matt offered honest and reflective advice to young entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry, emphasizing the importance of saving money and gaining experience in a variety of restaurant settings. Down-to-earth and funny, Matt showed us the livelihood and struggle that goes into founding a business that often goes overlooked. With his day-one, Rafa, by his side, Matt has effectively opened a community-oriented and trend-setting restaurant to which he is inspirationally dedicated.
I have lived on the Upper West Side for several years, but it was not until I walked on 70th Street one evening that I discovered Shalel. It is tucked away down a set of stairs with no signage during the daytime. Curious what this was, I descended the steps lined with rose petals and herbs, and entered what seemed like a magical cave, decked out in Moroccan décor and candles. There were secret nooks behind curtains and around corners filled with pillows, couches and tapestries. In the back, erupting from a mysterious darkness, was the fountain for which the restaurant is named - Shalel means “fountain” in Arabic. When I visited with the Manhattan Sideways team, I was able to learn the history of the restaurant from the owner. Vasilis Katehis, who hails from Greece, bought the basement space in 2000. “It was terrible, ” he said, describing an uninhabitable, dark piece of real estate that apparently had never been used for anything except storage. He began by lowering the floors by a foot and exposing the sheet rock, which he cleaned. The waterfall, he explained, used to be a pile of dirt. Despite the difficulty of the project, Vasilis greatly enjoyed the endeavor, since he considered it a labor of art. “I like anything having to do with design, décor, and poetry, ” he lyrically stated. “I had a vision. ” By the time Vasilis was done with the renovation, the difference between the beginning and end product was “like night and day. ” Even though the nooks and crannies had all existed before - and Vasilis's vision was to do “the unfinished thing, ” - he succeeded in completely transforming a basement into a romantic restaurant. Shalel immediately attracted customers, drawn to the idea of an underground eatery. Initially, it used to be more of “a date place, ” but in 2015, Vasilis told me that he tends to attract an older clientele. He also shared with me that he is the mastermind behind the entire menu, which is Mediterranean with an emphasis on Moroccan cuisine. As for Vasilis’s own background, he recounted, “I grew up as a farmer and a fisherman, ” and then added that he knows how to make both olive oil and wine, thanks to his upbringing on a tiny Greek island without a name. “For us, it was natural. ” Though he had other restaurants scattered around New York, Vasilis has sold them, with the exception of Shalel. He casually mentioned that he hopes to drift into semi-retirement and spend more time in Greece restoring his olive groves. It is unclear what the neighborhood would do without him, though. As he declared, “They know me on the Upper West Side. ” We had a long chat about the local businesses in the area, including those that have had to shutter over the years. After discussing raising rents, fallen culinary comrades, and the future of New York, Vasilis turned to me and added something rather poetic - If worse comes to worst, “We can all just go back to making olive oil. ”