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.”
The Jeffrey is a chameleon: it morphs from being a coffee shop in the early morning hours, to a cafe with sandwiches and craft beer by day, to a chic cocktail bar by night. There is something for everyone, which probably explains the origin of the name – "Everybody loves a Jeffrey," from the film, Get Him to the Greek.Between the morning rush and lunchtime, I pulled up one of the stools at the high wood tables in the back area of the restaurant and had a chat with owner, Patrick Donagher. I quickly learned that he comes to this venture with firsthand experience having been raised in his family's bar in Ireland since the age of six. Patrick has essentially been living and breathing this business all of his life and he seems to have learned the craft and perfected it to a tee. He also happens to be an electrician, and was, therefore, able to do most of the construction for the Jeffrey himself. This was no small feat, since the space used to be a pet store. Patrick relayed the story of when the beams collapsed on him during the renovation, and he was stuck underneath them for four hours. After that, he reinforced everything.One of the Jeffrey's greatest strengths is its devotion to local businesses - their wine list is 100% from Long Island. Many of their craft beers come from New York, and are made at breweries that rarely distribute outside their hometown. The Jeffrey works to debunk a lot of myths, especially the assumption that many American beers "taste like dirty water." Patrick feels that his vast variety of craft beers proves that the U.S. offers an exciting spectrum of brewed flavor.I also spent time speaking with Alex, the charming barista, who demonstrated his impressive creativity by allowing members of the Manhattan Sideways team to taste one of the many syrups that he has created. His Caje Toso includes caramel spray, whiskey, and goat milk, a combination that has the ability to turn the simplest cup of coffee into a decadent treat. He has also had fun developing combinations of stuffed breakfast sandwiches, and many drink concoctions, like the Pinot Noir Caramel Macchiato, made from a caramelized wine reduction.The class and attention to detail provided by the Jeffrey is a blessing for the neighborhood – it is far from being a dive bar, as Patrick explained. Instead it is a place for people who want to taste good beer and where the locals appreciate the warm, friendly environment and communal tables. There is no doubt that the growing group of regulars has put The Jeffrey on the map as a neighborhood haunt. On a subsequent visit one Saturday afternoon, I was pleased to see that every seat was taken, yet the noise level was not too high as everyone was simply enjoying a glass of beer or mulled wine and appreciating being indoors on a very cold winter day.I would not be surprised, thanks to The Jeffrey, if the very east side of 60th becomes a fashionable neighborhood. The employees have already coined a name for it – DUQBO, Down Under Queensboro Bridge Overpass.
The name of this tavern that opened in the fall of 2013 pays homage to Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Irish novelist James Joyce's Ulysses. Each year, on June 16th, the date on which Ulysses takes place, the pub hosts a large 'Bloomsday' party, complete with a dramatic reading of excerpts from the book with local theater artists. The tavern's namesake is also evident in the decor, featuring Joyce memorabilia alongside literary quotes on the walls. While chatting with owner, Noel Donovan, I learned that he had been the general manager for nine years at Eamonn's Bar & Grill on 45th Street, before deciding to take the plunge and open his own Irish tavern.
As we were entering Serendipity 3, Olivia, a member of the Sideways team, revealed to me that when she was a little girl, she wanted her room to look exactly like the inside of Serendipity, with every inch of space covered with eclectic art and knick-knacks, and the walls lined with quirky mirrors, and garlands dripping from the rafters. Upon returning to Serendipity, after a gap of ten years or so, she was delighted to see that little had changed. The ceiling continues to teem with everything from street signs to priceless Tiffany lampshades, and an Andy Warhol doll wrapped in a pink boa hangs over one table, a nod to the pop art prince who named Serendipity one of his favorite New York restaurants. Even the menu remains how she remembered it - like a game of I Spy – can you spot the Hebrew eye chart hidden among the food offerings?The colorful trip down the rabbit hole continues upstairs to what looks like a tea house ballroom. Dancing bears made of shrubbery and Christmas lights sparkle in the windows while antique mirrors make everything seem larger and dreamlike. A bedazzled parrot sits on the mantel, framed by floor-to-ceiling paintings.Patch Carradine, Calvin Holt, and Stephen Bruce decided to create a "coffee house boutique," the first of its kind, while all living together in Little Italy. The name came about when Patch, a crossword puzzle master, solved a clue with a word that struck a chord with him: "serendipity." The founders called themselves the "Serendipity 3" and the name stuck. Stephen, the only one of the three still living, runs the place with the same whimsy and delightful eccentricity that defined it when it first began.Olivia is not alone in her childhood love for Serendipity. The restaurant has called to young girls since it opened in 1954. One of my first clear memories of time spent in New York was when I was twelve and my mom took me to Serendipity after seeing the Broadway show 1776. Both of our adoration and nostalgia is not only due to the extraordinary decor, or the foot long hotdogs and challah French toast, but it is also due to their notorious desserts - especially, of course, the Frozen Hot Chocolate!
Although filled to the brim inside, the adventure begins simply by gazing through the impressive windows of John Salibello's three antique lighting shops on East 60th. The dazzling chandeliers hanging from the ceiling at No. 211 were only the beginning, for upon entering, I learned that the excitement extends back into an even more inspiring gilded maze where every inch of space is utilized to display the carefully curated collection, both upstairs and down a flight.Lori Gray, the store's manager, spoke to me about John Salibello's origins. It turns out that she is one of the best people to do so, as she has been by John's side for years - ever since he was working in the fashion industry. Lori followed John when he left Benetton, as he had become a close friend and she "deeply respected his taste." I learned from Lori that John was one of the first people to deal in Mid-Century Modern design, "probably because he opened his business just as it was becoming temporarily distant enough to be desirable." Breaking new ground, he found his stride and has stayed true to it ever since. John's knowledge of the period is extensive, but he makes a point of not being driven by a particular designer, despite their fame. As Lori explained, "He can "talk that talk," but in the end, John travels the world searching for beautiful pieces, no matter what their origin. "This is why he has been so successful as a trend-setter," Lori proudly stated.Most items are vintage, but there are some custom-made objects, such as a row or colorful glass boxes made by an artist from Murano. The employees chimed in during a conversation one day, sharing with me how they enjoyed having input into the color combinations for each one. The staff is a crucial part of this well-oiled machine. As one woman put it, they are in charge of the "visualization of the store - John does the buying and we set it up and then sell it." They are also meticulous about maintaining the inventory, as every piece is always gleaming, a hard outcome to achieve in a store filled with so much glass.John Salibello's triumph in the furniture world also has a lot to do with its location. Because the store is in the design district, everything is in one place, making it easy for interior designers and their clients. When engaging in conversation with John, himself, one day, he expanded on his concept of three boutiques on one street. "We have a tremendous amount of inventory, as that is what our customers prefer." He said that he loves 60th, but because he cannot house everything in one location, he has chosen to take over additional retail space, while remaining in the same neighborhood. John explained that just the shear size of the pieces he finds requires more room, and then went on to say that he is pleased that his shops are in demand, as people like what he carries and he is forever finding new things to add. As John expressed, "if you want to be spectacular, this is the only way to do it."
In 1852, six men with similar interests formed a club and called themselves "Gesellschaft," a word that means "community and society" in German. This group would grow and solidify into the Harmonie Club, the second oldest private club in New York after the Union Club. All six of them were German Jews, and therefore were denied access to the Union Club because of religious discrimination. Much has changed since the Club's founding: at the beginning, a qualification for membership was German ancestry, and communal singing and declamatory contests were popular. Today, one must still be invited to join; however, the emphasis on musical interests has been lost. The building is also different - in 1905, the Club moved from its original 42nd Street location to its current Beaux Arts residence, complete with a grand, elegant dining room that is still in service. Despite all these changes, the Harmonie Club remains a place where the leaders and achievers of the world can find companionship.The above is the history of Harmonie; however, it is not often that I get to offer my own personal note to places of such distinction. Therefore, I must mention that I was married at the Harmonie Club in 1979. From the moment I became engaged, there was no question in my mind, that this was where I wanted my wedding to be held. My father had been a member of the club for a number of years and I had grown up having the most elaborate Sunday brunches in their exquisite dining room. My husband and I chose not to have the traditional Saturday night affair and, instead, opted for a morning wedding with a brunch motif. Having everyone we adored gathered in this private sanctuary was sheer perfection.
Having been raised in New York, and involved in the performing arts since childhood, Rose Caiola went on to graduate from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and fantasized about establishing her own pre-professional ballet program. It was always her desire to provide top-tier instruction in a nurturing environment that discouraged unhealthy competition. In 1994, Rose's dream became a reality when she opened Studio Maestro on 68th Street as a non-profit organization and began Manhattan Youth Ballet. Her program has been recognized the world over with students moving on to dance professionally here in New York with both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, as well as companies around the country and abroad.While spending time with Rose, she recounted that when the program outgrew its studio on 68th, she had difficulty finding a new space. She turned to her Italian immigrant, real estate mogul father, in the hopes that he could help her secure an appropriate location. After much negotiation, Rose and her father eventually found a beautiful space on 60th Street, and following three years of construction, the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center opened in 2008. Today, it is a multi-functional facility with bright dance studios streaming with sunlight and a 199 seat off-Broadway theater that efficiently transforms into two studios when not in use. Rose proudly told me that with enrollment reaching over 200 students, the center not only houses Ellison Ballet and Rose's Manhattan Youth Ballet, but that many consider MMAC as "home away from home."Throughout the year, MMAC offers a number of workshops for adults including yoga classes, dance intensives by the Jerome Robbins Foundation, and martial arts training. The center also hosts an alternative preschool and offers children's dance classes. Rose told me that after a chance meeting with actress and author Julianne Moore, Rose wrote and workshopped a production of "Freckleface Strawberry the Musical" in one of the MMAC children's summer camps. The musical went on to premier off-Broadway at New World Stages and has now been performed around the world, launching Rose into a career as a Broadway producer. (Four shows that she recently produced, including "The Elephant Man" and "You Can't Take it With You," are 2015 Tony Award hopefuls.)As new residential buildings are rising at an incredibly fast pace and surrounding the Center, Rose is looking forward to families and other artistic people finding a haven in MMAC. Rose's ultimate goal is to have more dance companies and Broadway productions utilize the space, which in turn could provide more scholarships to Manhattan Youth Ballet. Already there are organizations recognizing this oasis as Rose told me that Dodgers Theatrical, Alvin Ailey and Cirque du Soleil have been taking advantage of their remarkable facilities for auditions, castings, readings, and rehearsals.
As we walked into Christ Church, one of the members of the Sideways team commented, "Sometimes it's good to feel small, and that's exactly how I feel right now." The United Methodist congregation has called Park Avenue home since 1929. In shades of gold and deep blues, the stunning metallic, mosaicked ceiling supported by towering marble columns glistened over our heads. The tiled patterns, however, were not completed until 1949, due to World War II. High on the walls, larger-than-life icons stared down upon us as we sat in the rows of traditional wooden pews for prayer and meditation. Despite the sheer size of the sanctuary, we did not feel intimidated or unwelcome; rather, a sense of peace and calm came over each of us, making this the perfect haven for rest in the midst of the bustling streets of the Upper East Side.