Since its opening in the summer of 2011, Empellon has been welcomed by just about every food critic in the New York area - and all to rave reviews. We finally had to try this for ourselves...and we were not disappointed. The team of highly regarded young chefs and the renowned head chef/owner produce a truly outstanding Mexican-inspired menu and pay homage to the taco and tortilla. The mezcal margarita with a tincture of seranno pepper was a great way to start the meal. Then we moved on to guacamole, several different tasty salsas, and a refreshing watercress salad with apples, pineapples and a mole dressing. Next up were shishito peppers and melted cheese served on warm tortillas, a healthy chicken taco, yucca fries and sweet plantains. Empellon definitely lived up to our expectations.
“We are one of the oldest gay bars in the city,” said Helen Burford. The owner of Julius’ considers it an honor to be a part of this history and to allow others to share in it. Many who stop by are keen to dip their toes into an earlier, more troublesome period. “We are a good reminder of the struggles people went through for those of us today.”What better way for young men and women to learn about landmark events like the renowned “Sip-In,” where gay activists challenged New York’s prohibitions on gay bars? The patrons who have been frequenting Julius’ for decades are happy to provide a history lesson. Every day around 4 p.m., they sit in a corner and share stories of what it was like back in the day. “This is their home. To them, Julius’ is not a bar — rain or shine, they need to be here.” The old group, now in their seventies and eighties, enjoy having a drink and chatting with one another, but they also invite “guests” into the conversation — passing the baton, as this is their legacy. “They are always trying to bring young people into the fold,” Helen commented.
Chef and owner Kurt Gutenbrunner grew up in a suburb of Vienna called Wallse. His West Village restaurant brings his native style and cuisine to New York. Wallse gave us the feeling that the people who dine here are absolute regulars. Everyone seemed comfortable with the staff as they settled in for a traditional meal with a contemporary flair, filled with Austrian favorites in a setting made for fine dining. Of course we had to order wiener schnitzel and a side of spatzle - everything that we tried was cooked to perfection.Gutenbrunner, who also happens to be an art aficionado, embodies the saying that every chef is an artist first. The artwork that can be found around every corner and on every wall of his restaurant space is made personally for him – one large painting is even a portrait of the chef himself.When we came back for a second visit, we found the restaurant newly expanded. A vacancy next door presented Wallse with the opportunity to add a second, more relaxed space with its own bar and small kitchen. It is meant to appeal to wider audiences, particularly the younger generation, but still offers up Chef Gutenbrunner’s delicious Austrian cuisine.
Anything olive oil sounds enticing to me. We decided to take advantage of a special gift of warmth and sunshine well before we should have had it this season, and we ate brunch outside with tons of others. We all applauded our choices from the menu, and had fun sampling the variety of tasty olive oils that our server was kind enough to bring to our table when we asked.
The ice cream at Alphabet Scoop is refreshing in more ways than one:Managed by Robbie Vedral, Alphabet Scoop is an extension of Father’s Heart Ministry, which has been focused on empowering the neighborhood youth in the Lower East Side since 2005. Robbie, for his part, has always believed that if you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of you—in this case, those employees just so happen to be high schoolers from the East Village.Under the wishes of his parents, who are still pastors of the church next door, Robbie has taken it upon himself to hold Alphabet Scoop to an uncompromising standard, always ensuring that things are done right. From a background of 25 years in retail, Robbie has found that he can learn from anyone’s mistakes - including his own. He has, in this vein, adjusted the shop’s schedule to keep it open all year; previously it was just a summer stop, but Robbie found that being a seasonal location made it more difficult for customers to anticipate when Alphabet Scoop would be in business.So, now, rather than seasonal hours, Alphabet Scoop boasts seasonal flavors. Pistachio flavor, a summer 2019 special, comes highly recommended by the Manhattan Sideways team. Alphabet Scoop is also constantly experimenting with new flavors suggested to them by customers, so if you’ve been saving up that million-dollar ice cream flavor idea, Alphabet Scoop might just be the place to make it a reality. The “sweet n’ salty” flavor is proof of the potential here, as it was suggested by one of the shop’s younger customers.While the spritely New Yorkers that work in the shop are paid for their work, Alphabet Scoop is also a non-profit. The mission, transparently, is as stated on the walls: “Justice & Sprinkles for all.” The kids, typically between the ages of 14 and 16, learn all aspects of the business, from hands on skills such as making ice cream to managerial skills like taking inventory. The goal of Alphabet Scoop is to encourage maximum involvement from its employees, so they are invited to help make decisions about the business. Robbie told us a story of a young woman, for example, who has worked in the shop for close to two years, and who was initially quite difficult to work with - but with patience and persistence from Robbie and other employees, the young woman grew to better understand the mission of Alphabet Scoop, and now even has keys to the shop.Robbie’s work at Alphabet Scoop shows the importance of creating strong foundations for young people, as well as how truly influential small businesses can be in their communities. Stop by the shop - any time of year - to help Robbie make his impact.
I do try very hard whenever I am out for a meal to frequent the side street restaurants, but I cannot deny that I have eaten at Peacefood Cafe on the UWS often, as it is one of my favorite vegan spots. The atmosphere is as relaxed and informal as one can get in Manhattan. The food is consistently excellent and inventive. I love their soups, sandwiches, desserts and muffins. One of my sisters-in-law has terrible food allergies, and whenever she comes to the city, this is her first stop. She loads up on whatever home-baked goods they have on the counter that day. Needless to say, I am thrilled that there is also a location downtown on a side street. I recommend to anyone, vegetarian or not, to go and enjoy a meal there, as this location is equally as wonderful.
My wonderful husband knew that I wanted to have a romantic dinner in a small restaurant on a side street for my birthday. He did his research and this is where he surprised me! Nestled on the corner of West 10th Street, this classic townhouse offered the perfect ambiance. Although they did not offer a vegetarian entree, I enjoyed sharing a wonderful bottle of white Burgundy with my husband, and my salad and a few vegetable side dishes were just fine... and dessert was delicious!
Located in a charming, quiet area of the West Village, Cafe Cluny is a perfect setting for a ladies lunch, as I can attest to, having eaten here on several occasions with friends. The menu is American, but with a nod to the French. The breakfast menu is also quite impressive, with a selection ranging from granola with sheep’s milk yogurt and different styles of organic eggs to cured salmon served on a bagel and brioche French toast.Over the years, I have also dined at the other restaurants owned by partners Lynn Wagenknecht, Judi Wong, and Steven Abramowitz – neither the Odeon nor Café Luxembourg have disappointed.