The newest Casa Carmen shares a familiar hacienda style with the Tribeca location and its menu continues the homage to the iconic Mexico City based El Bajio restaurants.
On a perfect summer day, the Sideways team sat down for lunch at Tacombi, a relatively new and thriving addition to Manhattan’s Mexican food scene. Sitting at one of the higher tables near the front of the restaurant, with a breeze blowing in from 24th street, one can’t help but notice that the restaurant practically gleams (at the time of writing, it is just about seven weeks old). Even the painted sign advertising “Frutos Naturales” above the juice bar looks as if it was finished that morning. We sampled a variety of tacos and other Mexican staples (including their remarkably flavorful rice and beans), as well as some of their fresh-squeezed juices. Although all of it was delicious and satisfying, we were particularly taken with a few of the dishes we tried. Their El Pastor tacos, prepared with pork roasted and marinated with pineapple for two days before serving, were tender and savory. For our vegetarian readers, the Quesadilla Maiz Azul, prepared with dried chili sauce, Chihuahua cheese, and corn on a blue tortilla, and the Black Ben Y Sweet Potatoes taco, are must-haves. And, for the scorching summer days to come, their pineapple juice with ginger and mint takes refreshment to another level. Our food came with sides of salsa verde, salsa roja, escabeche (a mix of pickled vegetables), and radish and mint, as well as an optional extra-hot habanero sauce for the adventurous — all fresh and prepared in-house. Fresh, in-house, and local is the name of the game for Tacombi’s executive chef Jason DeBriere. Everything from the tortillas — which, if you come at the right time of day, you can watch them make in their tortilleria — to the guacamole, to the meat used in their tacos, is prepared fresh every day. DeBriere even goes personally to markets around New York City to select the vegetables for the escabeche. Alan, a chef at Tacombi with whom we had the privilege of speaking, described DeBriere as a mago de comer, which roughly translates to “food wizard. ” “He never cuts corners, ” he added. He also emphasized the dedication of every chef in the kitchen to making everything fresh every day, as well as making locally sourced ingredients a major priority. “We’re just trying to produce traditional Mexican food, ” Alan told us. “We’re not trying to do a fusion with American food. ” This philosophy extends to their breakfast menu, which is full of traditional Mexican breakfast dishes like their huevos rancheros and fresh-baked breakfast pastries, like their fruit-filled empanadas. With its open, relaxing atmosphere and exceptional Mexican cuisine, Tacombi is a great place to stop by for any meal. “We want to create a space that does more than welcomes you, ” Alan said. “It transports you. ”
Although this is not its original location, the 18th Street restaurant remains loyal to its traditional Mexican cuisine roots. Known for its signature guacamole and frozen pomegranate margaritas, the restaurant consistently offers excellent, authentic food. Rosa Mexicano roughly translates to “Mexican pink, ” which is meant to embody the colors of the country's sunset. A beautiful waterfall divides the cavernous room into two sections to provide a pleasant barrier between dining patrons and those enjoying drinks before their meal. This elaborate piece of art in the middle of the restaurant, which was created by a designer from Dubai, adds to the overall experience of entering a world outside of New York City. The back room, referred to as the sky room, is illuminated by natural light that enters through the ceiling. The first location was established in 1984 on 1st Street, where Rosa herself could be found cooking behind the bar, sharing her infectious personality with everyone around her. To this day, Rosa Mexicano is proud to employ a majority of Mexicans on its staff and to present the beauty of Mexico through its cuisine.
I had been following the developments of Cosme since I first read about the impending restaurant earlier in 2014. As soon as I learned that they were taking reservations for their October opening, I grabbed one for the first week. Spacious, with cement floors and industrial black pipes on the ceiling, I found Cosme to be uncongested. The table arrangement provided far more room in this restaurant than New Yorker's are used to when dining out. I also appreciated the individual spot lighting, allowing for a more private ambiance, and the planted cacti in Mexican pottery outfitting each table. The restaurant's contemporary decor was intriguing, yes, but it was the food that took center stage. Victor, our waiter, was proud to tell my group, that Enrique Olvera's restaurant, Pujol in Mexico City, was "very famous. " I knew that the owner and chef of Cosme had a fine international reputation, but enjoyed listening to this delightful man sing his bosses praises. He went on to elaborate on the fresh ingredients and the authenticity of each; "The corn is all grown in my country and used in almost every dish that we serve. "While beginning the meal with a few tasty drinks, including the classic Margarita, we polished off a few baskets of the over-sized homemade blue corn chips and spicy dipping sauce until our orders of fried, cheese-filled quesadillas arrived. Unlike the plate of flat, limp triangles often served elsewhere, these quesadillas were crisp, puffy, and oozing with quality cheese. Although we were eager to try Mr. Olvera's take on guacamole, we were disappointed to learn that this was a bar-only item. Next time, we will have to stop at the front of the restaurant first. Moving ahead to an order of Burrata with Weeds - Victor said that "tonight's [Weeds] have a mix of dandelion, arugula and watercress" - we were ecstatic with how creamy and absolutely delicious the large ball of mozzarella was. For the main course, the guys had ordered simply prepared slices of filet that they said were perfection, served with shishito peppers, a bit of sauteed onions and an avocado and tarragon sauce. I tried a vegetarian version of the Barbacoa with small pieces of mushrooms and squash. When I asked about the Chilaquiles, a mélange that starts with fried corn tortilla chips at its core, my twenty-five year old nephew from California replied, "Well, this was the one thing that I recognized on the menu, so I ordered it, but it tastes nothing like what I am use to getting in LA. " I smiled, pleased to have introduced to him to the gourmet version of this Mexican classic.
While the digital age has allowed us to streamline many services, there are some art forms that must remain analog. One trip to Best Shoe and Bag Original Repair on W21st Street in Chelsea and you’ll be convinced that the time honored art of cobbling is one that can’t be replaced. It’s an art that has been passed down to owner Marcia Sailema from her father, who ran the shop for decades until he retired in 2015. Marcia said that in addition to helping her dad run the family business, she took classes at FIT to sharpen her skills in repairing luxury shoes and bags, which are the businesses specialty. “I learned so much industry vocabulary that I never knew before – like the way that the first part of a shoe design is called the last — and ‘the last comes first! ’” she laughed. She quickly acclimated to the delicate art of making much-loved, long-worn bags and shoes look like new by making delicate leather, paint and stitching matches to designers from Dior to Chanel and in fragile vintage pieces. The intricate work — which Marcia proudly showed us can make a nearly unusable bag or shoe look fresh off the shelf – has led to a loyal customer base. For Marcia, it’s a labor of love. “I really like working on the bags, ” she said, admiring a classic Louis Vuitton monogram bag that she’d recently completed repairs on. “Look at these zippers! ”
Merakia occupies the space that housed Kat & Theo from 2015-2017 - and while the restaurant maintains the same ownership as before, it also has a different mission. The modern Greek steakhouse prides itself on its meats and classic seafood items, while maintaining a classy, hip atmosphere in its cavernous space on 21st Street. “We built a new team… and a new vision, ” managing partner James Paloumbis shared with the Manhattan Sideways team when he spoke of the switch from Kat & Theo. He then went on to highlight Merakia’s differences from other Greek restaurants. “It’s not white and blue like every other place in New York City. Our menu is not the copy paste of any other place. ” The menu is heavy on steaks and seafood, boasting their signature lamb on the spit ("the only restaurant in the city to do so") while, surprisingly, offering some robust meat-free options as well. “Everything is farm to table, we use fresh ingredients, [and] we make everything from scratch on a daily basis. ” James told us that part of his mission is to bring back the adventure of going out to eat, a phenomenon he has noticed declining over the years. “People don’t like to go out anymore just to eat. You can eat at home, you can eat down the street, you can order your meal online. But to get an experience of nice service, some nice flavors, nice music, nice drinks - it’s worth your while to go out again. ” Husband and wife team behind Kat & Theo - Renee and Andreas Typaldos - seem to have orchestrated a smooth transition from their previous restaurant. As their past executive chef, Paras Shah, believed, "there should be a movie written about the couple's romantic backstory and that he “couldn’t have worked for better folks. ” Andy is originally from Greece, and the restaurant was named after his parents, Katerina and Theodosios. Andy came to New York on a scholarship from Columbia and met Renee, who is from the Bronx. He took her out on a first date “with holes in his shoes and with no winter jacket, ” according to Renee. She added, “The romantic, poetic way people get together. ” Today, they are paying homage to Andy's Greek heritage and according to James, “People have to trust their stomachs and their palates with a restaurant, so that’s what we’re trying to do here. Trust us - our food is fresh, our food is made with care, and we love what we do. ”
Calvary-St George’s church moved to Gramercy Park in 1832. It has a strong history of influential members and it was here that Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence was set. In addition to movie nights and summer programs for children, we witnessed a small, delightful concert performance along the sidewalk while walking one day.
Perhaps the attitude of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, ” works well at Society Billiards. They seem to know that sometimes a classic pool hall is just what people need. Extremely spacious and stocked with countless pool tables, anyone looking to get lost in the game will be sure to love this dimly lit, relaxed, yet classy spot.
As we peered behind the counter at Joe, we saw what looked like a machinist’s shop or a technological artist’s studio, and yet the rich aroma of coffee was unmistakable. Joe is a place for serious coffee, and they hope to make serious coffee-drinkers out of their customers. The front of the shop holds a regular coffee bar, with three stools, and a display with some useful coffee tools for at home brewing. The majority of the space, however, is filled by the coffee studio in back where customers can watch the machines whir and the experts work their magic. For those of us not as knowledgeable in the coffee arena, Joe offers regular classes on topics ranging from brewing technique to what they call “coffee theory. ” While they have several locations throughout Manhattan, Joe's on 21st street serves as the “pro shop” and headquarters.