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.
European cheese dishes have long been staples in American cuisine, from fondue to burrata. But as Edgar Villongco noticed, raclette - a Swiss cheese that is melted and scraped fresh from a cheese wheel onto a dish - never caught on in the United States. When the Manhattan Sideways Team met with Edgar, he told us about his wonderful journey with raclette, the cheese that eventually became synonymous with his widely popular East Village restaurant. Edgar was working in Europe in the aerospace industry when he was introduced to raclette by a former French girlfriend. He fell in love with the dish, quit his job in Europe, and decided to work for a year under a French-trained chef, who taught him the ins and outs of French cooking and dining. Along the way, Edgar refined the menu for his future restaurant. Edgar knew that his idea would be a success from the start. “I always knew it would work. I never had a doubt in my mind. People are crazy here in New York for really good cheese. ”After cooking by himself for a year, navigating the New York City permit process, and running a bike shop on 12th Street to support himself, Edgar opened Raclette in 2015. Immediately, Edgar became famous through a series of videos uploaded by users to social media outlets, as well as coverage by major New York food reviewers and bloggers. Raclette opened right as social media hit a critical point in the restaurant business, Edgar said. “We were in the right place at the right time. ” Customers uploaded shots of cheese being scraped fresh from the wheel - “instagrammable” moments. After noticing Raclette’s virality online, Facebook partnered with the restaurant for its new video platform, which should debut by the end of 2017. A short episode will feature Raclette’s signature cheese dishes, as well as some other wonderful shots of the space. While we spoke with Edgar, we tried Raclette’s classic dish, a plate of bread, potatoes, small pickles, pearl onions, various cold cuts, and salad covered in delicious, gooey cheese. Raclette’s cheese come from a farm in the Alps, and is from free-roaming cows. The cheese is warmed immediately prior to serving, and is best eaten directly after it is scraped from the wheel. That way, we learned, the flavors from the cheese are strongest and the cheese has the best consistency. While this dish is Raclette’s most popular, the restaurant also offers a wonderful variety of croques, a French grilled cheese, and tartines. Edgar has brought a classic Swiss dish to the United States, and as a result, the food has spread outside of his restaurant as well. After starting the restaurant with just himself and a cashier, Edgar now has a full team working for him and hopes to expand to other locations in the city. “I put it all together, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. You have to be a crazy to start a restaurant in the city, yet I never had a doubt this would work. ”
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.
While gazing at the menu, one of the members of the Sideways team giddily pronounced, "This is totally hippy food. " It immediately took her back to her time spent in Oregon and she was thrilled. The tiny sandwich shop owned by chef Nisha Patel, is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, serving incredible bowls, wraps, salads and smoothies of healthy, delicious food. With their success in Brooklyn at the now well known and loved Smorgasburg, Shiv Puri and Shikha Jain decided to open their own brick and mortar in the fall of 2013. The only issue that anyone could have with this tiny gem is deciding what to order, as everything is excellent.
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.
Originally founded in Soho under the name Melampo, this upscale Italian sandwich shop has remained in business since 1986 because of its tastefully curated flavor profile. The meats are all high quality, the seven different kinds of bread are sourced from five different bakeries, and Walter Momente, a native of Italy who took over 2001, carefully composes the forty sandwich combinations. In answer to popular demand, this second location was opened in 2015 with Tommy Polihronopoylos as transformative builder, Jon Streep on the business side, and, of course, Walter Momente on the food front. Hanging mason jars, clean-cut wooden surfaces, glazed Venetian tiles, and wall plants give a sweet and rustic vibe to the authentic shop. And, unlike the smaller original location, this spot has had the luxury of seating, drinks, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches. The Alidoroli, a donut-Cannoli hybrid with a spongy outside and ricotta cheese and cream filling, has gained a strong following. The breakfast sandwiches, served hot, feature poached eggs, and sitting down with an espresso is a joy not to be overlooked. Though these new additions add to the experience, the sandwich remains the star. If not for the Romeo, an affair of smoked chicken breast, hot peppers, bel paese cheese, and arugula, Jon Streep may never have joined the team. “I fell in love with that sandwich in 2003, ” Jon expressed. One of his favorite parts of his job is seeing the people’s expressions as they try an Alidoro sandwich for the first time. I had the pleasure of seeing my friend’s excitement just after he had delighted in the Alidoro - a beautiful mess of prosciutto, hot and sweet peppers, mushrooms, fennel, spicy spread, and arugula, only partially clad by two slices of Italian hero style bread. The next day he went back for more, tempting me to do the same.
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.
“Probably, it is too big, ” says Vincenzo, a solemn expression on his face. This is Pisillo, purveyors of fine panini sandwiches, in its second petite location. Pisillo is Italian from back to front, importing everything - including the handsome young men and women assembling the paninis - from the old country. The weighty sandwiches are studies in the perfection of simplicity, a perfection which begins and ends in the ingredients: bufala mozzarella, parmacotto, prosciutto, speck, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and bright-tasting olive oil. “Everything comes from Italy, ” says Vincenzo. “It tastes better... I don’t know what it is, maybe what the animals eat. ”Indeed, Pisillo, itself, is a story of Italian transplantation. Vincenzo, who oversees the new Chelsea shop, was born in NYC, but went to live in Italy with his parents at age seven. When he returned as a grown man, things had changed: “The first thing I noticed [when I came back to America] is nobody playing in the streets in the nighttime. There were no kids outside anymore. ” The Italian community, on the other hand, is good-naturedly stuck in the past. “[Italians] remain with tradition... when they came here in the 50s, they stopped time. ” Having worked in tile flooring, then restaurants, coming to own his own pizzeria back in Italy for a period, Vincenzo exudes fulfillment. “I did my little steps. ”Thanks to a Juventus Jersey, a chance meeting between Carmelo and Antonella - Pisillo’s founders - and Vincenzo developed into a business venture and lifelong friendship. “We are not like friends, we are like family, ” he stated, adding: “But this is their story. ”Vincenzo also worked in construction, and still carries a contractor’s keen sense of what makes a good location: “We feel good about our side street location... there’s a lot of people on the avenue. ” A tall boxy storefront opening onto the street, Pisillo is little more than a counter, a couple of high-chairs, and a blown-up photo of Montesarchio, Italy. Soft blues, yellows and whites provide a welcome respite from the outside grey. The sandwiches are each named after an Italian city, with the “New York” (roasted chicken breast, fresh mozzarella, hot peppers, arugula, lemon dressing) being half an exception. Pick your city, pick your bread - the soft focaccia is a favorite of both diners and employees - and the sandwich is assembled. Unadorned and un-grilled, the paninis allow the fresh ingredients to charm the palate individually. They are also weighty enough to challenge anyone with a Manhattan-length lunch break to finish them in one sitting, but there are no plans to scale back the grandeur. “If you reduce it, you’re gonna become a regular sandwich, ” says Vincenzo, “This is what makes you special. Everybody says, this is really big, and this is really good. ”
Who doesn’t love a good, healthy smoothie? Fresh from Hell, a very cleverly named Hell’s Kitchen health food restaurant, serves them up, well, fresh. Founded in 2016, this bustling local favorite is known for its acai bowls, smoothies, and sandwiches. From wittily-titled favorites like the Hell’s Kitchen Sink - an acai bowl featuring chia, peanut butter, and granola - to can’t-go-wrong classics like the ham and swiss sandwich, this side street treasure has something for everyone. According to Jorge, the manager, Fresh from Hell was established with one simple goal: “to serve healthy food. ” That goal has clearly been met. Multi-grain bread is always an option, and specials for vegan or gluten-free customers are some of the favorites. Even the Chocolate Lover acai bowl could be considered health food! Fresh from Hell gets its name from the neighborhood and the dedication to serving fresh food. Jorge stresses that “everything is fresh. ” While many similar restaurants pre-make and refrigerate their sandwiches, at Fresh from Hell, “all the sandwiches are made when the customers order. ” Walking into the shop on a hot summer day, I immediately cooled down, and as I soaked in the smell of fresh food and the sounds of the customers talking, I couldn’t help but notice how dedicated and efficient the kitchen staff was. With delicate speed and expert craftsmanship, each bowl, sandwich, and smoothie came out looking perfect, and the smiles on the customers’ faces were a testament to the food's taste and quality.
Open twenty-four hours a day, the Donut Pub is a classic on 14th Street. This sweets bar harkens back to the style of the vintage soda fountain joint with black and white tiles, marble countertops, and stool seating. It is a true relic of an older time, and this is all thanks to Buzzy Geduld. Buzzy and his brother, Irwin, opened six donut shops around the city back in the 1960s “when there was a donut place on every block. ” Toward the end of the decade, Buzzy was offered a job on Wall Street, and he closed all but one of the businesses: the Donut Pub that is still standing today. Even as Buzzy worked in finance until the 2000s, he visited the shop every Saturday to have a coffee, a treat, and to discuss ideas for introducing new donuts or improving on old recipes. However, the core elements have remained the same. Buzzy is proud to say that everything at the Pub is made by hand, “the old-fashioned way. ” He continues to stop by on weekends to indulge in one of his favorites — a black and white Boston cream — and witness others enjoy the fruits of his labor.