The name "Patisserie Florentine" has two roots. It is inspired first by owner Tomer Zilkha’s favorite pastry, the Florentine cookie - a French treat invented to honor France’s Italian allies. However, it is also a nostalgic nod to a beloved Florentine neighborhood in Tel Aviv, nearby to where both Zilkha and partner Guy Jacobitz grew up. “It was edgy,” said Tomer, “It was a lot like the East Village, actually.”
New York is home to Patisserie Florentine’s second location. The first is in Englewood, New Jersey. After Cafe Silan - a restaurant owned by Guy in the same location on 10th Street - shut its doors, Tomer heard about the vacant space in the East Village and seized the opportunity. “One thing led to another,” Guy explained. He and Tomer decided to partner up.
I happened to stop by in the spring of 2017 on the same day as their grand opening. The New York location specializes in almond croissants, which I, of course, had to sample. They were buttery, and flaky, a carefully formulated recipe that mixes French decadence with a very American “no nonsense” touch.
On a subsequent visit, I had an amazing cup of mushroom soup, while other members of the Manhattan Sideways team tried the spinach quiche, and we were each treated to small bites of their incredible "pizza." It had a croissant-style crust and was served with an assortment of toppings, including grilled eggplant, pepper, and goat cheese.
For Guy and Tomer, it is not only about the food at Patisserie Florentine. They are very community oriented, caring both for the environment and for those around them. “It’s about the people just as much as it is about the food,” Guy told me. “We like to support the neighborhood that supports us.” Guy said that they reuse as much as they can and they even donate their coffee grounds to fertilizer companies. Once a week, someone comes to pick up food to take to a shelter in the Bronx. In addition, the pieces hanging on the walls are by local artists. These are just a few examples of how the owners try to give back. As I was leaving, Tomer added, “It’s a joy to be part of everybody's breakfast who walks through the door.”
Serving an interesting but decadent assortment of coffees, hot cakes, desserts, Japanese tapas, sandwiches, pasta, and more, Hi-Collar functions as many things. In the morning the atmosphere is subdued and relaxed like a coffee shop, as customers come to enjoy “kissaten” – a term to describe Japanese-style coffee shops. The lady we spoke to at Hi-Collar told us their coffee selection is extensive and that there are a variety of beans to choose from. Not only is there the opportunity to select the bean varietal, but one can also choose how the coffee is made as well: pour over, aeropress, or siphon—each method drawing out a distinct flavor. For the non-coffee drinker, there are teas and even a fruit milkshake. As the afternoon wears on and evening approaches, Hi-Collar becomes a bar complete with wine, sake, and beer. Inquiring about the name, we found that Hi-Collar is in fact a term that came to be during the Japanese Jazz Age, when Western culture infiltrated Japan and many men were seen wearing Western style high collars. The only seating available is at the long bar, and the beautiful flowers and lamps that hang from the ceiling add to the allure of this multifaceted nook on 10th.
When life brought Chef Ali Sahin from Turkey to the USA, his first American address was in the East Village. Though he studied economics back home, in New York City he worked in restaurants, first as a bus boy and eventually as a cook. When he decided food was something he might want to turn into a career, he went to culinary school to learn essential techniques, such as how to prepare the perfect egg, something Ali told me chefs love to talk about but few dare to actually serve in their restaurants. C& B (“Coffee and Breakfast”) Café serves eggs all day long - really good eggs - along with other brunch plates. The chef uses his small kitchen to its fullest potential, even going so far as to make sausages in house, and hopefully one day his own cheese. On the afternoon that the Manhattan Sideways team visited, Ali arranged a beautiful bowl of chicken and eggs, one of the café’s top selections. The slow-poached eggs, each cooked for over an hour, and the flavorful shredded chicken with potatoes and toast perfectly captured the café’s fine dining approach. They enjoyed each bite of the colorful dish while Mr. Brown, “The Espresso King, ” crafted beautiful lattes, teas, and pour-over coffees for customers working at the communal table in the back of the shop. Ali told us that all thirteen of the C& B menu items are created using only seasonal, local ingredients, which is why he never serves avocados. To Ali, sourcing is the most important part of cooking. He explained that while growing up in Turkey, all his food came from provincial farmer’s markets, as there were no supermarkets in the region. With that in mind, he modeled his café after one of his old East Village haunts and one of his favorite cafes in LA that serves solely organic fare. East Village dwellers appreciate Ali’s vision: the café opened in January 2015 but already boasts a large number of repeat customers. Ali takes the time to get to know the regulars and has really helped C& B to take root in the neighborhood. The walls of the café are adorned with paintings from community artists and even some of the cafe’s staff. Ali drew the café’s logo himself to reflect the leaves of the American Elm Trees growing across the street in Tompkins Square Park. Serving the most important meal of the day all day, while emphasizing healthy, wholesome ingredients, C& B Café is gearing up to become a new neighborhood favorite.
Abraco Espresso started in a little nook on the other side of the street before it moved to its current larger space in 2016. The shop invites coffee lovers to stop by and enjoy a fresh brewed cup - according to many it might be one of the best you will ever experience. The space is perfect for those who wish to gather round and chat or just to savor their sweet homemade treats along with the exceptional coffee.
Do not be deterred by the bottleneck entrance, just continue walking toward the back where there is a welcoming outdoor courtyard that is always open, and heated in winter. The coat of warm, red paint on the walls, the rock and jazz music playing in the background, and the fireplace make this a cozy place to settle in with friends. The steaming cup of coffee, heaping with frothed milk, is smooth and light, exceeding all expectations. If you are as taken with their blend as we are, they package and sell their own beans. When we dined here our brunch was fresh and delicious, served with hearty bread, rice and beans.
The strong smell of coffee permeates the air in this specialty shop. Potato sacks line the shelves, filled to the brim with dark beans that can be scooped up and ground to order. Thirty years of coffee dust lingers and everything caffeinated fills this rustic shop – teabags, chocolate, coffee, more coffee. The original location, on Bleecker Street, has been providing java lovers with beans since 1907.
This bright and colorful West Village thrift shop is just one of the many businesses run by Housing Works, one of New York's highly regarded non-profits. Housing Works was founded in 1990 by members of ACT UP, an AIDS activist group that is dedicated to fighting the joint issues of homelessness and the AIDS epidemic. Their first thrift shop opened in Chelsea in 1992 and thirteen more have opened throughout the city since then, as well as a bookstore café in SoHo. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, the social stigma associated with those living with the virus or simply being LGBTQ+ resulted in thousands of individuals being denied the foundation of a stable living: housing. Whether it was from familial rejection or housing discrimination, more and more HIV positive people found themselves on the streets, and poverty, queerness, and AIDS soon became intrinsically linked. Recognizing this often neglected connection, the founders of Housing Works sought to create an organization that addressed this crisis. The non-profit is committed to ending the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain their efforts. Luke, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, sat down with the 10th Street store manager, Lauren Guttenplan, to discuss the community atmosphere forged in their shop. She mentioned, “Community feels very central to the mission. We’re not too far from Christopher Street and Stonewall, so many of our customers and volunteers have lost someone or have a personal connection to the cause. They like to know that the money they’re spending is going to help towards something good. ” Guttenplan also noted that many of their regular customers come in as frequently as once or twice a day, and that the staff, the majority of whom are volunteers, often know customers’ names. Some patrons will even make a point to shop on a day where they know when a particular volunteer is working. Guttenplan credits much of the success of the operation to the devotion of the volunteers, whom she describes as “the face of the store. ” The shopping experience is truly unlike many other in that there are opportunities for customers to become volunteers or get involved in local activism and protests. With a retail background and a degree in social work, Lauren finds Housing Works to be a perfect blend of her passions. The organization provides the unique opportunity to run a business and actually make a difference. She appreciates that with programs like job training, it is particularly satisfying to witness the impact of her work first hand. Because all of the merchandise sold in the stores is donated, each of the Housing Works shops also serves as a reflection of the surrounding neighborhood. The West Village shop, with plenty of natural lighting and exposed brick, features not only fun and unique clothing selections, but also many household items, including kitchen items, home décor, and even furniture. The store hosts a number of events, the biggest of which are the Best of Fall and Best of Spring sales.
What started out as a couple of ice cream trucks in 2008, has since become a beloved collection of shops throughout Brooklyn and New York City. Van Leeuwen offers delicious fresh milk ice cream and vegan options made with only “coconut and cashew milk, raw cocoa butter, extra virgin olive oil, and organic sugar cane. ” These artisanal ice cream makers are extremely concerned with the quality of their product and the source of their ingredients - their vanilla flavor comes from organic bourban and Tahitian vanilla orchids, and their chocolate from a family-run French company concerned with quality and free trade practices, Michele Cluizel Chocolate. Van Leeuwen also offers sophisticated flavors like ginger, sweet sticky black rice, earl grey tea, Ceylon cinnamon, and salted caramel with buffalo trace bourbon. This is a must try ice cream spot for vegans, dairy-lovers, and everyone else.
When I walked into Clash City Tattoos, Baz was hunched over his station, completing a tattoo sketch. The space popped with bold red walls, brightly colored ink bottles, and large tattoo designs. One could not miss the almost human-sized bass in the corner if they tried – “some friends just like to come in and play the bass, ” Baz told me as he shrugged his shoulders. Music influences much more of this tattoo shop’s ideology than I could have anticipated. Named after Baz’s favorite band, the space encapsulates the idea that just as The Clash could play such a range of genres, so too could Baz’s tattoos encompass all kinds of people. “Lawyers and rockstars alike listen to The Clash, ” he elaborated, “and I want my tattoos to unite my customers, just as a single beat can unite different listeners. ”Baz first visited the United States in 1991 while working on a cruise ship and was immediately drawn to everything American – particularly the music, cars, and TV shows. Working in a comic bookstore, he was captivated by posters for Iron Man, Planet of the Apes, and an assortment of cartoon superheroes. He claimed it was the “solid black lines, bold colors, and clear forms” of comic art that lent it a unique and sophisticated artistic quality. Moreover, his mother’s admiration for surrealist painter Salvador Dali offered him an early penchant for the freedom of abstract art anchored in bold lines – the ideal forms for tattoo art. Clients coming into Clash City Tattoos have usually heard about the store and like to visit with an idea of what they want inked. While Baz and his team are exceptionally friendly, asserting that their store “is a place that you won’t have to be afraid to walk into, ” they are also honest with clients about which designs work and which simply do not. Equipped with a creative bent, the team mostly designs custom tattoos using clients’ ideas. However, when someone comes in asking for a "full bible verse on their little finger" or an arrangement of “a heart with four names in it, two wings on either side, and a crown on top in the size of a fist, ” the team knows when to say “this isn’t working; let’s fine-tune. ” What is more, they pay exceptionally close attention to each client’s pain tolerance. While some can manage three hours of inking in a go, others (like Baz’s wife, he laughs) only last ten minutes. I asked Baz about the most challenging tattoo he was tasked with designing. When the bass player of globally-renowned British band Muse, Chris, asked for a tattoo of his son’s name, Buster, in Disney font, Baz started thinking of ways to make the design more complex and unique. A few days later, Chris and Baz were hanging out with a group of friends, when Chris recounted a story about Buster. The young boy was playing with his toys at home when he ran straight into the corner of an table and cut his forehead. But he continued with his play as usual until Chris’ wife noticed a large gash on his head and rushed him to the hospital. Buster was unfazed. The story inspired Baz to draw up the tattoo that now decorates Chris’ right forearm – a smirking cartoon kid with boxing gloves over the name “Buster” in striking black font. Chris loved it. Looking at Baz’s journey thus far, it is easy to see how he has settled into a characteristic set of themes and motifs. Through space backgrounds, gypsy girls, cartoon superheroes, and more, Baz eventually reached a signature design – “pin-up girls with stuff in their hair, ” as he amusedly called it. I was thrilled to see his gorgeous side profiles of girls with complex forms – ships, octopuses, and more – wrapped in the locks of their hair. Baz’s artistic genius spans a wide range of imagery, fixed into his defining black lines and bold forms.
I had heard about these baths for years, believe it or not, from my grandmother who lived nearby on Avenue A as a child. Needless to say, I was eager to have a look inside this spa that has been around since 1892. Upon entering, clients are given a key to the locker room, then told to take some towels and select a sauna... be it a Russian one that has a rock filled oven or an electrically heated redwood sauna. In addition, there is an aromatherapy room, a steam room and a Turkish room complete with cold showers. Other amenities include an ice-cold pool, a Swedish shower with cold-water jets, a sun deck, and a small cafe that serves an authentic Russian menu. Some on the list of treatments include a Swedish/Russian massage, Thai/Sports massage, the Platza Oak Leaf Treatment that involves being whacked with a bundle of soapy oak leaves and oil, or a Dead Sea Salt Scrub. Although I did not chose to venture past my guided tour of the baths, I did experience an old world, warm community with many foreign speaking clients.
With its sharp corner spine, perpendicular window displays, and eye-catching red accents, the façade of Three Lives and Co. resembles an enticing book cover. Inside, caramel-colored shelves, a cozy patterned carpet, and warm lamps surround an assortment of handpicked reads. As the current owner, Toby Cox, put it, “just open the door and it’s a jewel box. ”Three Lives, which takes its name from the Gertrude Stein novel, was opened in 1978 by Jill Dunbar, Jenny Feder, and Helene Webb. Originally located on Seventh Avenue, the shop moved to the corner of 10th Street and Waverly in 1983. It has since remained a “small neighborhood bookstore, ” while the neighborhood has grown “to sort of become the world. ”Toby first stumbled upon the store on a visit from his home state of Rhode Island, where he sold books for ten years after graduating from Brown University. He was so in awe of the little shop that he sung its praises in the local Providence newsletter. Nine months later, he moved to New York to work as a book publisher, and for the next three years, he frequented Three Lives to “revel in the store. ”Then, “it all came together in a magical way. ” Toby asked Jill if she was interested in having him as an additional partner; Jill countered by offering Toby the business. In early 2001, Toby took over the store. Toby sees Three Lives as much more than a store selling books. To him, it is a vibrant community center — a place to “step off what’s going on outside those red doors, relax, unwind, have an easy chat with a staff member, and let go of all the pressure. ”
Founded by Antonio Veniero, who emigrated to New York as a teenager from a small town outside Sorrento on Italy’s Amalfi coast, Veniero’s has been an East Village mainstay since the turn of the twentieth century. Initially a confectionery shop, it later evolved into a cafe and then a full-fledged pastry shop, with culinary creations by some of Italy’s finest bakers. Along with his wife, Pasqulina, and their seven children, Antonio followed the Italian custom of keeping business in the family. Veniero’s passed through four generations until reaching its current owner, Antonio's great-nephew Robert Zerilli, who had worked at the cafe alongside his father, Frank, for decades before taking over. Beyond the business legacy he left behind, Antonio also birthed an extensive family tree. “The Venieros are every-where, ” Robert quipped, adding that the legendary Bruce Springsteen is his second cousin. The business savvy of the extended Veniero family has helped keep the shop alive. Tales of Antonio’s relentless determination to succeed are still retold with pride by his relatives. He is also credited with bringing electricity to the neighborhood, home to mostly poor immigrants at the time, by rallying local support and collecting signatures to sway the reluctant energy company. In another bit of local lore, Antonio is said to have ushered in the entry of Italian espresso to the city, as he started roasting his own beans right in the shop’s backyard. Fittingly, Robert has Veniero’s to thank for meeting his wife, whose love for their iced cappuccinos made her a regular customer until he found the courage to ask her out on a date.
Confectionery is the brainchild of two passionate vegan chefs who owned separate bakeries in New Paltz, NY. Lagusta Yearwood began Lagusta’s Luscious as a boutique vegan chocolate shop, and Maresa Volante's Sweet Mresa specialized in macarons. They met, found that they shared a passion for sweets and vegan cooking, and Confectionery was born! Nowadays, the East Village shop serves a wide clientele, from random passersby following the sweet aromas to the front door, to avid cult fans in the city on vacation, and, of course, to those who either prefer or require a vegan diet. Confectionery is a space of inclusivity and giving, as evidenced by the prominent “Mitzvah Wall” that greeted me when I entered. The idea is to pay it forward: buy a cookie and put a note on the wall for someone to reward. When speaking with the counter server, a young woman who had been a fan of Lagusta’s Luscious for many years before working at Confectionery, she told me that she finds peace and comfort in the shop. “It's a nice, welcoming space where we can heal ourselves. ”
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. ”
Au Za’atar is an Arabian-French bistro at the edge of Alphabet City that serves everything from Mediterranean cheeses to couscous to mezze, a variety of small plates meant to accompany drinks — which can be paired with Au Za’atar’s extensive wine and craft beer offerings. The chef is Lebanese, but there are plenty of recipes originating from Morocco and Tunisia as well. The restaurant’s interior is simple and inviting, with brick walls, rich wooden tables, and red leather booths, making it a great place to sample some exotic dishes or just grab a drink at the bar.
Journey along St Mark's Place and discover David's Cafe, a cozy neighborhood spot serving up classic French-American fare. With large windows overlooking the street, David's is a cheerful respite from the hustle and bustle of the East Village. The minimalist decor and relaxed vibe contrast with the meticulous execution coming from the kitchen. What catches the eye from outside are the colorful murals flanking the cafe — one a vibrant wall proclaiming "Punk is Not Dead, " the other a triumphant boxer celebrating victory. At the helm is chef David Malbequi, a Daniel and BLT Market alum renowned for his precise technique. Dishes like the steak frites spotlight Malbequi's mastery, with a flawlessly seared hanger steak and crispy frites, joined by velvety shallot confit and fresh watercress. Even humble dishes like the burger are elevated under Malbequi's watch. The double patty stack with American cheese and special sauce achieves the perfect balance of flavors and textures. Ultimately, David's Cafe triumphs in delivering sophistication without pretense. Diners can enjoy fab renditions of bistro classics in a warm, unfussy environment. It's the kind of neighborhood jewel that makes the East Village such a captivating place to explore. Whether you opt for the eggs benedict or pancakes, a meal at David's is sure to satisfy.