Sometimes, after what has felt like an interminable day, we seek refuge in the basics, such as a lawn chair and a beer. The most understated of the rooftop bars we visited, Bar 13 captures the ambience of a cookout. Tall tables and standing room are available for those who have spent all day sitting at a desk.
The best thing about Bar 13 is its tri-level layout where there is dancing to a mix of music by a variety of DJ's on two floors. If there is a need to get away from it all, the rooftop deck is the perfect place to chill out. There is a cover charge to get in on many nights, but their happy hour is two for one on weeknights.
Enter through the looming stone archway and immense wooden doors and walk inside the Horseman, where the gloomy interior is an aesthetic rather than dreary. The exposed brick, recycled wood from new England barns, and flickering natural gas lamps conjure a communal vibe. In the dark warmth, one can almost imagine a massive stone fireplace roaring with pots of stew simmering over open flames, or moors lying in wait just on the other side of the smoked windows. This rustic, colonial gastropub is one of the latest additions to 15th street. When we asked the bartender why the pub was named after Ichabod Crane’s spooky pursuer, he gestured toward the door and asked us what street we were adjacent to: Irving Place - and local legend claims Washington Irving lived at 122 East 17th Street. His famed character’s namesake bar is anything but sinister. The rotating seasonal beers and atypical comfort food could warm anyone's bones.
It was certainly a first for me when I walked into Old Town and began a conversation about Manhattan Sideways with the bartender who instructed me to head straight to the back and check out the urinals in the men's bathroom. One can feel the years in the 55-foot worn wood and marble bar, sense the history in the great silver bar mirrors and the 16-foot high pressed tin ceiling, hear it in the ring of the antique registers, and watch it as the food is transported up and down the oldest dumbwaiters in the city, but it was the towering porcelain urinals - monuments really - that resonated with me. Two of the few changes instituted since the 1890s when Old Town first opened its doors is the relaxed policy on women at the bar and the light fixtures, which are still the original, just electrically wired now. Old Town does not just look like old New York, “we are old New York, ” owner Gerard Meagher told us. In 1892 the bar opened as Viemeisters, a German restaurant in a predominantly German neighborhood. In the 1920s, the owners renamed the spot Craig’s Restaurant and served alcohol for the duration of Prohibition – a speakeasy complete with hollow booths fitted to conceal bottles of alcohol - booths that people continue to occupy today. Around 1933, Henry and Claus Loden, a German-American father and son, christened the place “Old Town” and began to serve up German food once again. Gerard’s father purchased the establishment from the Lodens in the 1960s, and the rest, as they say, is history. Old Town is a thinker’s tavern, a conversationalist’s dream. “It’s a place you can talk about ideas. The atmosphere attracts people who want to discuss things, ” Gerard said. The food and drinks stay moderately priced, contributing to Old Town’s reputation as a favorite hangout for patrons from all levels of the economic strata. “New York bars and restaurants have become segmented – gay bars, working man’s bars, hipster bars, ” says Gerard. “Anyone can walk in here and feel welcome. Nobody feels out of place. ” Their policy is simple -- no TVs, no cell phones, and no loud music to disrupt the customers. Simple is good here, as good as a chilled beer from the wooden icebox behind the bar. It is a philosophy that everyone can get behind.
A jazz and cocktail lounge that has come into being under the ownership of Jared Gordon and Jesse Wilson, Analogue is a fitting addition to West 8th Street. When we visited the first time, we thoroughly enjoyed the live soft jazz that allowed for easy conversation. Analogue offers live jazz every week in their candlelit space with a soft, neutral, and classy décor. The owners’ aim is to create a “more open and organic experience for both the artists and the customers” when it comes to jazz. The second time we visited we were able to chat with Evan, Analogue’s Director of Events, more about the atmosphere at Analogue, one in which anyone can feel comfortable enjoying a drink and quality music. We were also able to sample The Analogue, the lounge’s signature cocktail, made expertly with spiced dark rum and bourbon, ginger and lime cordial, and a bit of lemon. We could have sat for hours watching the bartenders serve up all the various cocktails; one of the bartenders told us about the “hidden art” of cocktail making and had us sample the various syrups Analogue incorporates into its drinks. It was obvious from our two visits that Analogue is a place where every detail is carefully considered when it comes to fostering the perfect environment to indulge in a cocktail and good jazz.
While other bars on the block present a casual scene, Park Bar is reserved for the well-dressed crowd. A thick black velvet curtain shrouds the door on weekends, the floor is awash with white tiles, and the bar top itself is small and intimate. The experienced Park Bar bartender we met was cordial and adept, fielding our questions while seamlessly filling orders. Simply stated: it is a neighborhood bar that is busy on weekends, tame during the weekdays, and serves a steady stream of young, suited professionals.
The Arabic name of this Mediterranean cafe translates to welcome and peace, and its colorful, wordly decor effectively brings this atmosphere to life. Its owner, Bassam Omary, left his home of Damascus in the 1980s and came to New York, where he worked at his cousin’s Greenwich Avenue Syrian restaurant. When his relative was ready to hand over the reins, Bassam bought the business with his wife, Joan, and relocated to 13th Street. “We always had a good feeling about this place, ” Joan explained. The space is adorned with pillows, pictures, and tapestries from Syria and mosaic-patterned Moroccan tables. A small, private dining area allows groups to experience the Middle Eastern custom of sitting on cushions on the floor. Loyal patrons visit time and again for the succulent tagines, grilled kebabs, and what Joan says is the undisputed customer favorite: uzis — crispy phyllo dough stuffed with rice, raisins, and the protein of one’s choice. As the only chef, Bassam is constantly experimenting, returning to the traditional dishes his mother taught him how to prepare while freely exploring the spices, ingredients, and flavors he is passionate about.
When we first visited the Walker Hotel, it was known as the Jade. The 1920's speakeasy theme became obvious to us immediately as we entered the hotel and walked through the lobby, but it was quite fun to see that it was carried through to the guest rooms with their antique-looking rotary telephones by the side of the bed. The comment from the young people with me that day was that it immediately reminded them of "Boardwalk Empire. " This pleased the woman showing us around tremendously. Built from the ground up - the land was a vacant lot when Gemini Hospitality bought it in the early 2010s - the goal for the hotel is for guests to feel welcomed from the moment they step inside. There is a warm and embracing atmosphere with a fireplace and library as the focal points. We appreciated that the collection of books on the shelves will be by well-known favorite authors who once lived in the vicinity. This boutique hotel has 113 rooms on eighteen floors. We had the pleasure of previewing some of them all the way up. Besides the standard queen being perfectly lovely with all of the amenities one would need, it also sports an amazing view - with no obstructions. From the north, we could see the Empire State Building, and from the South we looked downtown to the Freedom Towers. Just spectacular. We certainly applaud the concept of the hotel, which is to introduce guests to the wonderful places, people and atmosphere that surrounds 13th Street. Rather than encouraging visitors to leave the area to explore the popular tourist spots around the city, they are providing guests with lists of things to do right in Greenwich Village and Union Square. A philosophy that matches ours completely. In 2016, the Jade became the Walker Hotel Greenwich Village. We were happy to hear that it is still spearheaded by the same management.
Originally, an offshoot of David Chang’s award-winning restaurant group Momofuku, 13th is one of the fortunate streets to have one of his well-loved milk bars open. Today, acclaimed pastry chef Christina Tosi takes the combination of baked goods and milk to a whole new level at each of her locations – yes, I have had many a treat. Soft serve “cereal milk” or jugs of this tasty milk to go, the infamous crack pie, cornflake or compost cookies... and then there are the packages of cake truffles – these are slices of cake that are condensed into supremely dense balls of sugary goodness. Definitely worth a bite or two... or three. Milk Bar also donates a portion of every dairy sale to various independent and family dairy farmers in need. All in all, Milk Bar is a dessert lover’s heaven.
Peridance Capezio Center is a mecca for dance in NYC, fostering the arts in the local and international dance communities, for over 30 years. Peridance offers multiple platforms for dancers and non-dancers alike, including more than 250 weekly open classes, a Professional Training Programs, an F-1 Visa Program for International Students, and The School at Peridance - a comprehensive children and teen program. Their adult open classes are offered in all styles and levels, from Absolute Beginner to Advanced. Peridance Capezio Center is also home to the professional dance company, Peridance Contemporary Dance Company and its affiliated Peridance Youth Ensemble. In conjunction with their renowned faculty and partners (Capezio, Djoniba Dance Centre, Limón Dance Company, Baila Society, and Dance Informa), Peridance has gained an international reputation for the programs it offers. The Center is housed in a beautiful landmark building featuring six spacious studios, The Salvatore Capezio Theater, the Peridance Coffee Shop, and the Capezio dance-wear Boutique. One afternoon, I had the privilege of stopping by the Peridance Capezio Center to observe their students training. I witnessed the explosive athleticism and technical discipline at play in Shannon Gillen’s Advanced Contemporary class, as students tested the strength of their bodies in an array of conditioning and floor exercises. Later, in the large upstairs Studio 1, bathed in the sun’s rays from the skylights above, I watched as dancers chasséd and pirouetted across the room in Breton Tyner-Bryan’s Advanced-Intermediate Ballet class. I would not be surprised to find any one of these talented performers on stage someday.