Drew Crane tried poké for the first time during a family vacation in Hawaii, and he immediately fell in love with it. “My initial reaction was: why haven’t I heard of this before?" he said.
When I told him that I am one of the uninitiated, he informed me that poké originated many years ago with fishermen mixing leftover scraps of fish with sea salt and seaweed. Over time, it evolved into its current form: sushi-grade fish diced into cubes, tossed with veggies and sauce, and served over a base of rice or salad. He found that the dish was ubiquitous in Hawaii - in restaurants, grocery shops, poké shacks, liquor stores - and an intrinsic part of the food culture there. However, when he returned to New York, to his surprise, he could not find any poké restaurants.
Drew started making poké at home for his friends, who all responded the same way he had: "This is amazing, why haven’t I had or heard of poké before?" That is when he got the idea, he said, of “bringing poké to New York City." He left his job at Goldman Sachs in March of 2014 to pursue this dream, and in January 2016, he and his partner Bryan Cowan opened Wisefish Poké in Chelsea.
It is a cozy little restaurant, with just one long wooden table for seating, but that does not stop the eager customers queueing up every time I have stopped by, drawn to the irresistible smell of fresh seafood wafting from the doorway.
Drew told me that the enthusiastic response has been a pleasant surprise, given that they do not do any PR or advertising. It is a testament to the quality of the food, which is paramount to Drew. Frozen fish is an absolute no-go at Wisefish Poké. “We are completely transparent about where our tuna comes from. I could tell you who caught it, where they caught it and when." He considers it essential to pay homage to the Hawaiian tradition of poké, which is made with freshly-caught fish and simple, but high-quality ingredients.
I asked Drew if quitting his finance job to start the restaurant was a hard decision. He responded with an immediate, confident "no." He explained, "I had a true passion for this, so the decision was easy. I didn’t even spend any time agonizing over it.” Drew shared with me that he has always been entrepreneurial and passionate about food; he spent ten years of his childhood in Hong Kong and was exposed to a lot of different kinds of cuisine while growing up. “It ignited an excitement and curiosity in me for food." And with Wisefish Poké, Drew is loving the opportunity to share some of that enthusiasm with New York.
The moment I walked into Burger and Lobster, I knew that it was not a typical seafood restaurant. Huge lobsters swam in tanks by the door, and a whimsical chalkboard announced the restaurant’s grand total of three menu items: the burger, the lobster, and the lobster roll. When Burger and Lobster opened in January of 2015, no one knew whether its limited menu would appeal to New Yorkers. Vanessa, the general manager, was especially skeptical. “But after just a few weeks, ” she told me, “the restaurant was a huge success! I couldn’t believe it. ” Since then, Burger and Lobster’s reputation has continued to grow, and the wait on weekends can be up to an hour. When I stopped by on a sweltering July afternoon, I could see why the restaurant has become so popular. Housed in a former tae kwon do studio, Burger and Lobster feels both casual and upscale, with high ceilings and simple décor (I especially liked the lobster trap light fixtures). With seating for up to 300 people at a time, the restaurant can easily accommodate large groups, and the downstairs space is available for private events. Even better, every item on the menu is $20 and comes with generous portions of salad and fries. Burger and Lobster has a distinctively American feel, so I was surprised to learn that the company is based in the UK. According to Vanessa, it all started out with four friends who had known each other since high school. They already owned several high-end London restaurants, and when they decided to do something fun and different, Burger and Lobster was born. The first restaurant was so successful that the business multiplied, and now has eight locations in London and several others in Manchester, Wales, and Dubai. All of Burger and Lobster’s locations have the same laid-back atmosphere, but Vanessa told me that the New York restaurant is the most fun. “A lot of our servers are actors and actresses, ” she explained, “and they’re always having a good time. Last week, two of them performed a scene from Dirty Dancing, and everyone loved it! ”In spite of its relaxed environment, Burger and Lobster is very serious about the quality of its food. Vanessa explained that they buy all of their lobsters from the same group of lobstermen in Nova Scotia, while their beef comes from carefully selected Nebraskan ranchers. “We work really closely with them to make sure all of our food is of the highest possible quality, ” Vanessa added. We had the opportunity to try the food for ourselves just a few minutes later, when the server presented us with all three of Burger and Lobster’s menu items. The lobster paired perfectly with the lemon garlic butter (as did the fries), and once we managed to bite into the towering ten-ounce burger, we found that it was juicy and filling. The Manhattan Sideways team especially enjoyed the creamy lobster roll on soft butter brioche, a choice that felt refreshing and summery. Though we did not sample the drink menu, Vanessa told us about the signature cocktails and wines that Burger and Lobster has on tap, as well as its many beer options. When we had eaten as much burger and lobster as we could—the portions were quite large—Vanessa took us on a tour of the restaurant’s lobster lab. This area, which was designed by a marine biologist and is regulated by a complex computer system, can hold up to 4000 pounds of lobster at any given time. “We go through a lot of lobster, ” Vanessa told us. “On weekends, sometimes we use as many as a thousand per day. ” While the smaller lobsters are kept downstairs in the lab, the “big boys, ” as they’re affectionately known, are kept on the main floor for customers to admire. Between six and eighteen pounds, some of these lobsters are estimated to be eighty or ninety years old, and they are quite an impressive sight. We even got a chance to hold one of the big boys, a six-pounder who remained surprisingly calm as we lifted him by the claws. Burger and Lobster’s Manhattan location has received rave reviews, and Vanessa told us that the company will soon bring its high-quality food and impressive service to other locations in New York and the United States. But until then, anyone hoping to experience Burger and Lobster will have to make their way to this cool, casual spot on West 19th Street.
Many bars and restaurants are open every day of the week, but how many are open every single day of the year? McManus was founded in 1911 and moved to this location in 1936, and four generations of the family have operated this warm and welcoming Irish tavern since. Today it is Peter McManus’s grandson and great-grandson who stand side by side serving beer. The bar has a real neighborhood feel, with regulars stopping in at all hours to watch sports on one of the several TVs, listen to music on the jukebox, or play video games. A room with shiny vinyl booths and red and white checked table cloths is available for anyone who would like to grab a bite from McManus’ simple American menu. We were taken with the original features of the building, especially the Tiffany stained glass windows and the two classic wooden telephone booths.
Tom Geniesse is in love with the Flatiron District and he believes he has chosen the perfect location to house his cleverly laid out wine shop. As he explained, there are two ways to shop for wine - first - the old fashioned way with the wines alphabetized by country. Thus, along the walls at the front of the store, multiple wine regions from around the world are represented alphabetically, beginning with Argentina. It is down the center of the shop, however, that Tom'sother idea for displaying wines comes to fruition: The same wines that line the sides are now separated by category - Meat, Seafood, Take-out, Treats, Gifts, Value, Events. Get the idea? The fun doesn't stop here, though, for next to each bottle Tom has a "resume" of each wine, providing tools to make wise choices. Collectors with deep pockets can find a fine selection as can university students who prefer not to spend a great deal. Bottlerocket is designed to build a bridge for consumers to make the right decision. When asked what drew him into the wine business, Tom said that he was a "crazy entrepreneur" who had lots of different jobs but continuously found himself disappointed in wine shops. "I always wanted to know more, and this is a result of that effort. "