As I walk the side streets of Manhattan, I am constantly seeing the destruction of the past. Thus, it was refreshing to find a new establishment, like the Refinery Hotel, embracing, and even perpetuating the city’s history: through its refurbishment, its restaurant, Parker & Quinn and even its branding.
The Refinery’s building, (with its own entrance on 38th Street or through the restaurant on 39th) originally named the Colony Arcade, was once the millinery hub of the Garment District and continued as a hat factory until the 1980s. With hat-making tools, sewing machines and other manufacturing objects integrated throughout the Hotel’s interiors, the Refinery bridges materials of the past with a luxury hotel experience. Their rooms feel extra spacious with high-ceilings, custom-made furniture and stunning hardwood flooring, a rarity in hotels for sure.
Besides drawing on the building’s millinery history, the Refinery recalls the past in their lobby lounge. Soon after the building first opened in 1912, Winnie T. MacDonald opened a ladies’ tea salon on the ground floor where she offered female shoppers a place to rest, to socialize and to get an extra kick in their cuppa gin or whiskey. Today, Winnie’s Lobby Bar continues as a resting place for weary travelers in need of a drink, conversation or entertainment – as there is an added bonus of live jazz Monday through Friday evenings between the hours of 7:30 and 10:30.
I was completely enchanted by the lobby, the art and the guest rooms, but the surprises did not stop there. The lovely woman, who showed us around, then took us to the rooftop bar, which offers another breathtaking view of the Empire State Building and its surroundings. I was most impressed when introduced to the in-house mixologist who mentioned that he had worked for NASA. Before concluding our tour, we walked through the other end of the lobby to enter Parker & Quinn, which dresses up American comfort food in a delectable looking menu and atmosphere. With chandeliers of depression-era glass, wide booths and decorative tiles, this restaurant emanates that same vintage feel as the hotel.
Fine & Rare, shorthand for “fine food and rare spirits” is the latest creation of Tommy Tardie, restaurateur and owner of the Flatiron Room on West 26th Street. In contrast to the more common restaurant theme of the 1920s and 30s, which Tommy considers to have “played out,” Fine & Rare aims to be an aristocratic parlor straight out of the 1950s, modeled after classic Manhattan hideaways such as The Explorers Club. “The challenge was getting it to look like the Flatiron Room - old world, almost like we discovered it,” Tommy told the Manhattan Sideways team.The space has had other lives as a Japanese restaurant and a photocopy center - Tommy said that when he first saw the space, it was raw, with concrete floors that had holes them and wires hanging from the ceiling. In 2016, it became a little slice of vintage Manhattan, complete with a repurposed teller booth from Grand Central Station serving as the hosts’ stand. The wallpaper is finely textured with glass and sand, and the stainless steel ceilings are reclaimed parts from a former distillery. Descending into the restaurant, we walked on 125-year-old floorboards from Connecticut that have the names of the restaurant’s investors carved into it. Two of these investors are Tommy’s young sons, River and Sawyer, who each made a $1 investment in the establishment in order to garner a place on the floor. Hanging above the booths are pieces of taxidermy that Tommy believes “bring in some more old world charm.”The room is large, but because the tables are isolated from one another, each setting is intimate and unique. “Wherever you are in the restaurant, you feel like you’re in your own area.” Each side of the dining room features a fireplace: one has hand carved marble from Italy, and the other is repurposed from the door of a country schoolhouse. The jazz stage provides a theatrical ambience to the space without overpowering it. “We want the performance to enhance, but not be, the experience. There’s always a show going on even if nothing is onstage.” The walls are decked out with the restaurant’s inventory of over 1000 bottles, which Tommy noted are, “part of the architecture.” Some sit atop high shelves and can only be reached by ladders, which members of the staff will climb throughout the night. Others sit in the caged bottle keep, with personalized labels that can be bought. “New York is all about showmanship - people love to put their name on something.” The back elevated room holds up to thirty-five people and is used for tastings and private events. It has a few hidden elements of its own, including a chandelier and leather and steel door from a masonic hall.While speaking with Tommy, the Manhattan Sideways team sampled a few of the restaurant's scrumptious items, including the burrata served with arugula and an assortment of fruits, the short rib burger, the seafood Cobb salad, and the Greek grain bowl with quinoa, mint, and beet humus. While the Flatrion Room focuses largely on whiskey, Fine & Rare features cocktails with tequila, rum, and brandy. This does not mean that they do not still have some amazing whiskey options, such as the breathtaking smoked Old Fashioned that was presented to us to photograph and then sip.Tommy began his professional career as a creative director in advertising on Madison Avenue, but realized after a dozen years that he was craving something more exciting. “The higher I got on the corporate ladder, the less creative it got. It lost that cool factor.” He resolved to go the route of the entrepreneur, initially with a few clubs, and later with the Flatiron Room and eventually Fine & Rare in 2017. “With this one, I decided to make the demographic and design a place I’d like to go, as opposed to previous projects that centered on reaching a specific consumer base." Tommy also remarked on how Fine & Rare is the result of the trial and error from past ventures: “This is as if I got to do it again and I could do it better. I think entrepreneurs are genetically coded to forget how difficult it can be starting out, but a new project is fun. It makes your heart pump and your adrenaline go.”
New to 38th Street in 2014, and without much competition surrounding it on the side street, District appears to be off and running. With flat screens in the booths, a mile long list of beers, and an American menu that includes appetizers of lobster sliders, buffalo quail wings and truffled cheese croquettes, people in the area seem to be ecstatic that this tap house has arrived on 38th.
Neon lights, on the back wall, greeted us as we entered Trademark Grind, the “boutique coffee bar” serving Sweetleaf Coffee Roasters from Brooklyn. In this quaint space, we were treated to excellent cups of hot chocolate, perfect on this winter day. A few minutes later, the PR manager, Matt, greeted us and invited the Manhattan Sideways team to follow him through a small entryway where we discovered Trademark Taste, a cozy, dimly lit restaurant... a safe little hideaway in the middle of bustling Midtown Manhattan.Opened in the spring of 2016, by In Good Company Hospitality, Trademark Taste & Grind serves a mixed clientele, from guests at the attached hotel and the pre-show crowd from Madison Square Garden to those looking for a unique weekend bar scene. The menu is impeccably curated by culinary director, Jeff Haskell, to featured favorites like Burrata and Knots and Tuna Poke. However, with its dark, mellow colors, graffiti motifs and hints of industrial flair, Trademark is all about the space. The walls are white and black with accents of red. Intimate hidden booths circle a large center bar, the anchor of the room. As soon as I took a look around, I wanted to settle into one of these booths for the evening. When I repeated this to Matt, he replied, “People tend to not want to leave.”
After eleven years in her Noho location, Executive Chef and Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli opened Butter in the Cassa Hotel, a Midtown twin to her well-known restaurant. Shaped by Guarnaschelli's own travels and time spent working abroad, the attractive dark wood restaurant with comfortable booth seating, is American but with the requisite global touches and ingredients expected of fine dining. When Chef Guarnaschelli isn't filming, she is in the kitchen, on the line, adding her fine touch into every aspect of the cooking. As members of her staff shared with us, Alex is dedicated to bringing fresh and simple ingredients together in beautifully crafted dishes.On a rare and special night out with just my husband and daughter, I could not pass up the opportunity to bring my butter-loving girl to this dining experience. Since she has always considered the dairy treat to be its own food group, I had the highest hopes for the meal - particularly the bread basket - which did not disappoint. The warm Pullman-style rolls with the house-made butters (a plain with a hint of sour cream for richness, and an herb that was light and lovely) were out of this world. All three of us agreed we could leave satisfied just from that - and a spicy cocktail, of course (the Ghost Margarita) But we powered ahead sharing the burrata salad. The creamy burrata with garden-fresh tomatoes was divine and the ribeye steaks that my husband and daughter ordered were cooked perfectly and sat atop smashed purple potatoes. And, as a vegetarian, I always keep an eye out for restaurants working to develop unique, hearty main courses. The charred coconut milk-soaked cauliflower was much appreciated. We finished things off, in case one thought we had already indulged ourselves sufficiently, with the raspberry beignets accompanied by a vanilla dipping sauce. If the name of this restaurant alone does not have one's mouth watering, I am sure that it is now!
Stout NYC has the magic ability of seeming both like a large fortress and like a cozy cavern. It claims to be New York's largest Irish pub, and yet comfortable seating and cobblestone floors give the bar a warm, friendly atmosphere. With two other locations in the Financial District and near Grand Central, Stout NYC has set itself up as a neighborhood hangout three times over.
Jonathan Boyarsky, fourth generation owner, has found himself a terrific niche on 39th by being one of the only menswear shops to remain on the ground floor. Over the years, he watched as companies moved upstairs into offices in the garment district, or even overseas, but he chose to remain where people could easily spot him. Although he feels that he has remained "under the radar," at times, when people come in they are "ecstatic" with what he has to offer. His family began their men's clothing business on the Lower East side back in 1919. Over the years, members of the family spread out and opened related businesses offering either custom made shirts, suits or fabrics. At No. 257, Jonathan has combined it all. He describes it as "double dipping." They used to sell only the fabric and then send people elsewhere to have their clothing made. Today, within the three floors of space at Fabric Czar, customers can select from some of the finest cloths, and then meet first class tailor, Steven Tabak, of Beckenstein Bespoke, where their clothing is designed...and, everything is constructed on the premises. "We are one stop shopping, whatever a customer needs, we can make it for them." And for Jonathan, it is only about quality craftsmanship.
There are intriguing spaces sprinkled throughout the city that invite corporations to utilize their facilities, but stepping inside Offsite is a unique experience designed specifically for the business meeting clientele. The brainchild of Patrick Everett and Shawn Kessler, they have created a stunning turnkey facility where all day conferences can be held. Companies are invited to bring their employees together for a productive 9am-5pm meeting in the three levels of fully equipped space, which can then be flipped effortlessly into an appropriate venue for an evening event. The rooms are configured so that some forty people are able to sit around one gigantic table or be rearranged into smaller units. Attendees never have to feel confined to one space, as they can move around freely on each floor, dividing up into smaller breakout sessions, when necessary. The rooms are versatile and technology oriented, fully outfitted with AV equipment - as Patrick referred to it, "plug and play." Endless pens and pads, drinks and snacks, including large jars of enticing candy, are provided throughout the day. The partners have paid attention to every detail, taking into consideration exactly what they believe their clients will require, including a small executive office that allows for a private phone conversation and a myriad of white walls that are actually whiteboards. Offsite works with some of the terrific catering facilities in the area to provide top lunches and dinners for groups, and everything is served on their attractive dishes. While being given a tour, Patrick told me that he had been an event planner. When he discovered that there was something important missing in the corporate world, he found his niche. As he began to imagine the possibilities, he worked diligently on his concept with Shawn. Basically all one has to do is book the space, and the rock star team at Offsite will handle the rest.
A line out the door at lunchtime certainly caught my attention. When I inquired, I was told that the food is fresh, the sandwiches are terrific, and that their Mediterranean menu is worth the wait. Thus, the Manhattan Sideways team queued up along side everyone else, as who would not trust the word on the street? Meeting the two animated Israeli owners, David and Yariv, was an added bonus, as we secured one of the few tables to sit and eat our freshly made dishes. We eagerly delved into the bowl of hummus, the hot pressed mozzarella sandwich and the strips of zucchini with lemon, olive oil and toasted almonds. We left with a full understanding of why people are willing to stand on line. Although, we also learned that Picnic Basket is expanding their kitchen in an effort to accommodate more people at a faster pace.
Perhaps not as old an institution as some of the clubs on 44th, but this cafe has certainly had a long run, and I have enjoyed being one of their patrons for several of these decades. Occupying space on 44th since 1977, Un Deux Trois has hosted generations of artists and theater district figures. "We were very hot in the '80s," explained manager Pierre, name dropping celebrities from Andy Warhol to Meryl Streep and Al Pacino. And Pierre went on to say that today, long-time regulars who grew up eating in the restaurant are now bringing in their own children.Breakfast is served from opening at seven thirty until midnight every day of the year. The food is traditional French brasserie style, with a prix fixe menu available for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Steak tartare continues to be a popular choice, as does the quiche lorraine, but on my visit while walking 44th, I opted for another typically French favorite, a spinach and cheese stuffed crepe with a simple side salad. The decor remains from a past life as a hotel lobby, with a mosaic-tiled floor, stained glass windows and Corinthian columns amid all the festivities. Now appearing in various travel guides to Manhattan, it plays host to tourists, theater-goers and locals alike.
How nice it was to literally bump into David Rabin - one of the owners of the magnificent rooftop bar, The Skylark, on 39th Street - when I first entered the luxurious, historic Chatwal Hotel where the Lambs Club is located. He explained to me that this, too, was his. After the hotel was re-envisioned by father and son, Sant Singh and Vikram Chatwal, the team behind the restaurant decided to bring back some of the old world charm of the original Lambs Club. Comprised of a group of the creme de la creme in theater that began in London in 1868 came across the ocean to New York in 1874.The restaurant is a standout of modern American cuisine. Executive chef Eric Haugen is an up-and-coming superstar in the New York culinary scene, as he works alongside renowned chef Geoffrey Zakarian. The wine list has garnered the attention and approbation of Wine Spectator magazine, and the jazz shows enliven Sunday brunches. The simple, but delightful salad that the team assembled for us to photograph was a work of art. On the plate was "Gem" lettuce, sliced asparagus, peas, pickled red onion, shaved radishes, candy cane beets with a fresh spring herb dressing of ramps, chervil and tarragon. Although we did not dine at the Lambs Club while walking 44th, we certainly look forward to it one day soon, as the ambiance, the food and the professional staff were enticing.
One would not think, walking into Gleason’s Tavern, that one were in the middle of Times Square. The Manhattan Sideways team were quite surprised to find Gleason’s to be a welcomed reprieve from flashing neon lights and electronic billboards.Gleason’s is a traditional bar that serves breakfast, as well as pub fare for both lunch and dinner, and craft cocktails. The bar is intimate, with an event space in the back that can accommodate a small party. The bar is the fourth establishment from owners Mike Droney, Tom Cames, and Colm McGuickian. Unlike their other bars, Punch Restaurant, Wined Up Wine Bar, and Cassidys, Gleason’s is not known for specialized food or signature cocktails. As Tom says, “A cheeseburger is a cheeseburger and a beer is a beer, but it's the people that make a bar."The owners worked in tandem with the newly opened Shocard Hotel, which is adjacent to Gleason’s, to bring this project into fruition. Black and white photographs of classic New York City line the walls, transporting visitors back to a different age that people today only get to experience in movies or stories. When Tom, Mike, and Colm were deciding on this location for their new bar, they could not resist being a part of a project to restore aspects of vintage 1970s Manhattan. According to Tom, “It takes you back a bit to old seventies Times Square, but with a new day twist.” Both the hotel and Gleason's want to reestablish what has been lost in the Times Square community.Tom mentioned that the bar in the center of the room was built to be a noticeably lengthy fifty feet long so that customers from around the globe can more easily communicate. The staff is friendly and eager to talk when someone new walks through the door: Everyone is a part of the mission to make Gleason’s a place that anyone can call theirs. The bartender on duty, Chris Trindade, attested to the laid back feel as he poured an Negroni. “You want to work somewhere you want to invite friends to.”And the people are exactly why Tom loves being in the restaurant industry. For him, the personalities coming into the bar are what will make a place successful or not. Businessmen in the area, Broadway cast members looking for a place to unwind, and men sneaking away from families for a drink during the Aladdin intermission are all what give their bar its particular character. No matter who comes in, Tom is happy to start chatting with customers to find out their story and what brings them to what is, in his opinion, the center of the universe.
While gazing at the view from the thirtieth floor, some of the staff "fired up" mini cupcakes of mac n' cheese, and the bartender mixed two of their signature drinks for us to sip. We tried the Fort Knox made with bourbon, mezcal, yellow chartreuse, honey syrup, and a large grilled lemon ice block, and The Skylark composed of gin, vodka, St. Germain liqueur, blue curacao, and fresh lemon. Jasmine, the manager who guided us through the three levels, was upbeat and incredibly enthusiastic about her job. Certainly not a surprise, as not only is the view spectacular but so is the retro decor, the food, and the drinks. It sounds like she is meeting many interesting people who stop by for cocktails from the surrounding world of fashion.The lower level has a room where a small group can gather, or another with a billiards table. Up one short flight is the main lounge where the space extends across the entire building and there are different clusters of seating allowing parties to have intimate conversations. Up another stairwell, I ventured outdoors to take in the panoramic view of the city. Jasmine is excited for spring to arrive, as the Skylark opened in the fall of 2013, therefore, they have not yet been able to utilize the outdoor lounge area. I, of course, was more than happy to brave the cold in order to have the full experience of this exceptional location. Bob Savitt, the man behind this venture, owns the building, which is dedicated almost entirely to fashion houses. He decided a few years back that he wanted to add a rooftop bar, and proceeded to add on three more levels. David Rabin and the husband/wife team of Abigail Kirsch catering, Jim Kirsch and Alison Auerbuck, joined Bob to offer a sophisticated, beautiful bar setting. Skylark is only open Thursday - Saturday, as the rest of the days are reserved for private parties.
As I walk the side streets of Manhattan, I am constantly seeing the destruction of the past. Thus, it was refreshing to find a new establishment like the Refinery Hotel embracing and even perpetuating the city’s past: through its refurbishment, its restaurants and even its branding.The Refinery’s building, originally named the Colony Arcade, was once the millinery hub of the Garment District and continued as a hat factory until the 1980s. With hat-making tools, sewing machines and other manufacturing objects integrated throughout the hotel’s interiors, the Refinery bridges materials of the past with a luxury hotel experience. Their rooms feel extra spacious with high-ceilings, custom-made furniture and stunning hardwood flooring, a rarity in hotels for sure.Besides drawing on the building’s millinery history, the Refinery recalls the past in their lobby lounge. Soon after the building first opened in 1912, Winnie T. MacDonald opened a ladies’ tea salon on the ground floor where she offered female shoppers a place to rest, to socialize and to get an extra kick in their cup of gin or whiskey. Today, Winnie’s Lobby Bar continues as a resting place for weary travelers in need of a drink, conversation or entertainment – as there is an added bonus of live jazz Monday through Thursday evenings between the hours of six and eight.I was completely enchanted by the lobby, the art and the guest rooms, but the surprises did not stop there. The lovely woman, who showed us around, then took us to the rooftop bar, which offers another terrific view of the Empire State Building and its surroundings. I was most impressed when introduced to the in-house mixologist who mentioned that he had worked for NASA. Before concluding our tour, we walked through the other end of the lobby to enter Parker & Quinn, which dresses up American comfort food in a delectable looking menu and atmosphere. With chandeliers of depression-era glass, wide booths and decorative tiles, this restaurant emanates that same vintage feel as the hotel.