Sofia Wine Bar is, in a word, intimate. A post-work favorite, its dim lighting and relatively small space makes Sofia’s the perfect place for a quiet night out. Owner and designer Antonia DeGrezia, along with his wife Tomasso, wisely chose to keep some pieces from the spot’s previous life as a chandelier gallery to add to the ambiance. Although the emphasis is on their extensive wine list, Sofia has a short menu of “Italian inspired” tapas and thin crust pizzas with a variety of toppings. For a complete old world Italian meal, the couple’s DeGrezia Ristorante is only a few doors down.
Wine Bars were a relatively new trend in the early 2000s – Orhan Cakir and Burak Argun the owners of Pierre Loti, would know best. They met one another - and a third partner - when Burak emigrated from Istanbul in 2000, and they all attended the same language school. Together, they opened one of the first wine bars in New York City, Turks and Frogs in the West Village, and then went on to provide an excellent wine experience for customers at Pierre Loti in Chelsea, Midtown and Union Square. Pierre Loti is a fictional character created by French novelist Louis Marie-Julien Viaud. Loti was a French naval officer who traveled to Istanbul and fell in love with the culture. Burka noted that he thinks the spirit of Viaud's character well exemplifies the cultural exchange between the tastes of French wine and Turkish cuisine happening in his bar. Orhan’s eyes lit up when he spoke of the variety of wine that the bar offers and how the bar brings in a new, “dynamic” wine every month. In addition to operating multiple wine bars, the men have helped create their own label of wines from France, with a specific emphasis on Burgundies and Bordeaux. Each bottle has an illustration of Loti on the bottle. Orhan is originally from Istanbul, where he studied engineering. It was there, however, that he also began his career in the restaurant business. Reflecting back, he told me that having worked in hospitality in two different countries enabled him to create a wonderful experience for others. When he came to the US, he realized that “wine was an addition to the food, but was never the main focus. ” He wanted to change that notion, and that is what inspired him to open Turks and Frogs. As I admired the interior design of the space, Orhan revealed that he built everything in the restaurant, including the tables and the bar. While at Pierre Loti, wine continues to be the center point, there is also a menu of excellent small Mediterranean dishes available, including Manti, a type of Turkish dumpling that Orhan has recreated from his childhood in Turkey. The bar has a lot of regulars, and Burak told us that nearly half of their customers live on the block. In addition, given its cozy decor and romantically dim lighting, Pierre Loti is a prime first date spot. Having witnessed many a budding romance take place in his bar, Burak remarked, "If the lady orders a main course, I can tell it's a good date. "
The delectable assortment of French pastries was only the beginning of the excitement for me when I first visited Eclair Bakery. Getting to observe and speak with owner Stephane Pourrez, as he was preparing pastries, macarons, croissants and, of course, a variety of eclairs made the experience very special. An alumnus of Ferrandi, the French School of Culinary Arts in Paris, Pourrez worked in New York for a year as a pastry chef before he fulfilled his "childhood dream" of opening his own bakery. No matter what time I chose to pop in, I always found others sipping on their cafe au lait, and mingling with fellow French natives.
At Coffee Project NY, coffee-themed cocktails and high-quality java brewed with a mixologist’s eye are the stars of the menu. The concept was created by co-owners and founders Chi Sum Ngai and Kaleena Teoh in 2015, and has since expanded to having several other locations across the five boroughs. “We are very excited to be part of Hell’s Kitchen! ” Ngai said, adding, “In the opening of this new location we hope to create a community gathering space while sharing our passion for coffee with the neighborhood. ” “I’m a bit of a coffee snob and [Coffee Project] delivers on very good quality coffee, ” shared Paul David, a Hell’s Kitchen local. “I also really like the environment — the seating isn’t too crowded and it’s really peaceful. ”One of the shop’s innovative specialty beverages is its deconstructed late, which manager Jed Baxter said evokes a multi-sensory experience. In addition to deconstructed lates, Coffee Project offers classic lattes (complete with intricate latte art), classic pour-over brews, and teas. The cocktail menu includes drinks such as spiked Irish Coffee made with Teeling Whiskey and the brand’s own Teeling-blend beans. This story was adapted from the W42ST article, "Brew-tiful Transformation: Coffee Project Opens at Ikebana Zen with Day-to-Night Caffeinated Creations! ”
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. ”
When legendary bartender Doug Quinn parted ways with his longtime employer P. J. Clark's a few blocks north, he marched right over to 53rd Street and began creating what he describes as "an iconic New York saloon restaurant. " Doug's goal is to make Hudson Malone, named after his two young boys, the kind of neighborhood spot where people can feel at home. Whether the customer is twenty-one or ninety, "I like people to mingle with one another, " Doug told me. His hope is to build something that he believes New York lacks at the moment. A big part of this is Doug himself, as I witnessed while visiting. His warm greeting to familiar faces and new customers was genuine and charming as he quickly ran behind the bar to fix them their favorite drinks. It is also in the small details of Hudson Malone, particularly the decor, where Doug has collected photographs of New York sports legends including the 1938 Yankees, a twinkling jukebox by the front of the bar, and a chalkboard displaying Quinn's Laws - "They're all things your Grandma should have taught you, " Doug demurs. I was particularly drawn to the upstairs room, which has its own private entrance and features an intricately carved nineteenth-century center-piece serving as the backdrop to the bar. This is just one more example of the classic saloon decor. In addition to a wide selection of beers and cocktails, Hudson Malone offers a traditional American menu held to Doug's high standards. "I like putting on a show every night, " Doug excitedly told me. "I want the food coming out of my kitchen to cause people to turn their heads. "
Chances are that any local stopped on the street would know about P. J. Clarke's. One of the oldest saloons in New York City, it was established in 1884 to attract the neighborhood's copious Irish laborers. One such immigrant named Patrick Joseph Clarke began bartending there around 1902, and devoted himself to the barroom until he earned enough to buy it a decade later - and give it his name. Through two World Wars and Prohibition, through economic boom and devastation, the little brick house has remained. Starting in the 1940s it became popular among celebrity figures, but its local loyalty never faltered. Despite its legendary status in New York history, P. J. Clarke's maintains a straightforward self-presentation as the simple, classic American pub it has always promised to be. When I entered the building, my eyes were quickly drawn to a baseball game on the TV screen overhead. Red-and-white checkered cloths were spread over the tables, and at the bar, a crowd vastly dominated by men in pastel button-downs shoved and clamored. One quieter pair of fellows engaged me in a friendly chat. They were both visitors to New York, and had heard that P. J. Clarke's was an obligatory stop. As I was about to leave, their burgers arrived. I stayed just long enough to see their eyes shut in focused satisfaction as they bit down.