The partnership of Interface and Till and Sprocket is something I have not encountered in my years of walking the side streets. Interface is a co-working space, located at the back of the property, where anyone can sign up for a membership in order to use the space’s facilities. Intrinsically linked to Interface is Till and Sprocket, the café and restaurant that occupies the storefront. I spoke to both Andrew Karp, the director of Interface, and Anthony Briatico, the General Manager of Till and Sprocket, to better understand the relationship between the two.
Andrew, who has a lot of experience in the co-working world and has launched and managed a co-working space in Chelsea, was approached about the project by the owner of the property, Alex Bernstein of Bernstein Real Estate. Alex, whose family used to be furriers on a street that was once full of fur purveyors, was looking to create a space that could be used by local businesses in the neighborhood. He came up with the idea of having a private co-working space that would be entirely catered by a public restaurant. Though only just finished when I visited in the fall of 2015, Andrew explained that memberships would be $100 per month and would include access to all facilities and workshops. The programs will be set up according to members’ wishes and will explore anything from coding to perfume-making to cooking. He called the space a “catch-all” for tech startups, which he believes are slowly migrating north from their downtown homes. He has been watching the neighborhood change from being “Fashion and fur” to “new media and tech” and is excited to see what sort of people they attract.
Along with specific programs, Interface offers a wide range of services to its members. There is a chalkboard wall, a mobile bar, a projection screen, Wifi, microphones, and bleachers stacked in the closet. Interface is prepared to host any private event and can provide furniture, infrastructure, and catering, which is where Till and Sprocket comes in. Best of all, everything is affordable. Interface has already hosted a few events in its short time as a finished space that have run the gamut from data visualization meet-ups to sex therapist fireside chats. “We’re trying to be good neighbors,” Andrew explained. And Till and Sprocket is helping them in that regard. “They are the yin to our yang,” Andrew said.
Venturing back towards the Till and Sprocket dining room to speak with Anthony, I recognized him as the person I had interviewed when he ran Zampa, a wine bar in the West Village. Here he told me that his goal is to make “tasty, well-sourced, conscientious” food with a strong wine list. He is also trying to figure out “where do we best fit in this neighborhood?” The locals clearly felt a need for an independent restaurant and coffee shop, since Anthony informed me that there had been people outside eagerly awaiting their opening in the fall of 2015. When I visited in the early afternoon, diners could choose to grab a cup of coffee, sourced from local companies like Parlor in Red Hook and Lofted in Bushwick, and a pastry, or a full meal with a glass of wine. I sampled the amazing chocolate hazelnut cream doughnut, made by pastry chef Sydney Dempsey, famous for creating the Cronut at Dominique Ansel bakery. With a grin on his face, Anthony announced that later in the night, the bakery gets filled with wine bottles. “We make it a little sexier after five o’clock.”
I then met the chef, Bryan Arbelaez, who brought out a colorful faro dish that smelled like fresh cherry tomatoes. It contained fennel, brussel sprouts, and grilled shrimp. Bryan admitted that he was really “into grains," since he was a vegetarian for the first sixteen years of his life, and that there is a whole section of his menu that allows diners to choose a grain and a meat to go with it. He likes to create what he calls “honest food,” using natural flavors and local ingredients as much as possible. Bryan seemed to be quite excited to “bring something different to the neighborhood.” His cuisine, alongside the unassuming décor complete with bouquets of flowers tucked into coffee carafes, matched the meaning of the restaurant's name: Till and Sprocket, evoking the combination of the organic and the mechanical, is where nature and new technology meet.
At Paris Baguette, the Manhattan Sideways team grabbed a tray and a set of tongs and indulged. We found each baked bread to be more desirable than the next, from the simple white loaf to the peanut crumb to the chocolate cream bread. The cakes are magnificent pieces of art. We were particularly drawn to the strawberry and fresh cream, and the chocolate and banana. A chain that originated in Korea, Paris Baguette now provides baked goods to almost three thousand stores. Although not everything is prepared in-house, the aroma alone makes it worth a visit, as does the show of people who come through Paris Baguette each day.
In the frenetic center of Korea Town on 32nd, Grace Street is a quiet haven. Couches line one wall, and there are plenty of tables for folks who want a more upright experience. Smoky charcoal sketches and colorful photos enliven the walls. Wi-Fi is not in the usual coffee house mix, as people come to Grace Street to relax and chat. But enough about the space – what is style without content? The coffee is nice, and my Americano treated me exquisitely. But the homerun is the Ho-dduk, a traditional Korean filled pancake—reminiscent of a donut—that is a perfect companion to a cup of coffee.
A young, hip crowd filled the house on a Wednesday at 4pm, and not just for the incredible baked goods. There are numerous bakeries sprinkled throughout Korea Town, but I, like many others, was particularly drawn to Tous Les Jours for its vast seating area and the music videos playing on a huge screen.
Naturopathica is a one-stop shop for healing and wellness. The modern, uncluttered storefront on 26th Street contains a vitality bar where customers can purchase tonics, elixirs, tinctures, teas, and cold-pressed juices – as well as simple coffee and specialty hot drinks including spiced hot chocolate, matcha lattes, and coconut kava lattes. Each blend serves a purpose, whether it is to aid with healthy, clear skin, balance natural immunity, or ease stress or joint pain. And there is a lot of room for customization: for instance, kombucha, coconut water, and any juice can be combined with a herbal tincture and a vitality shot. On the other side of the store, there are shelves of Naturopathica’s various skin care products and remedies. The back wall, the “Remedy Bar, ” has jars of loose tea for visitors who wish to continue their road to wellness at home. As Heather Neufeld, the spa director of the Chelsea location, pointed out, Naturopathica has a “360 degree approach to wellness. ”As we were walking through the space, Heather shared a bit of background on Barbara Close, the founder and CEO. After being trained in aromatherapy, Barbara decided to create skincare and herbal remedies to reduce inflammation in the body and skin. She got her start in the mid-1990s and has since gained a reputation in the wellness and lifestyle world, thanks in part to attention from celebrities, notably Martha Stewart. Her methods involve products that work with the body’s natural processes rather than against them. She opened her first Healing Arts Center in East Hampton and has had her products carried in over 450 renowned resort and day spas in North America. Heather spoke about the East Hampton center, mentioning that it “speaks to the heritage of the brand. ” Enter the Manhattan store, which opened in December 2015: the new, twenty-first century base for Naturopathica. The Vitality Bar is one of their new features, and Heather says that it has been a wonder for introducing people to the brand. “There’s a discovery point for everyone, no matter where you are on your wellness journey. ” Even those who just come in for a coffee and decide to try dandelion root tea instead have been aided by Naturopathica. After all, “Your gut has so much to do with your overall health. ” What many people do not realize upon their initial visit, myself included, is that Naturopathica is much larger than it appears. Walking through a door in the back, I discovered numerous treatment rooms. Each one was decorated with their signature blue, with some rooms containing "seperatory funnels" filled with colorful oils. In addition to the six rooms, there is a consultation area where therapists can have private conversations and share their thoughtful cards that give clients a step-by-step list of instructions. Around the corner, a calming meditation center was situated, with a peaceful projection of a night sky in the woods. The projected photography evolves, but the softly glowing candles and variety of mats and low seats remain constant. As Heather led me back to the front, she assured me, “We practice what we preach. ” Her enthusiasm for the culture that Barbara has created was apparent. “Everything is mindfully created. ”
Located right at the intersection of 26th Street and Eighth Avenue, Bean & Bean is a perfect spot for coffee-lovers looking to get some work done. The spacious interiors offer an abundance of seating options, including a table with revolving office chairs that promote productivity, and the glass walls allow the sunny energy of Eight Avenue to seep in while keeping out the noise. The baristas are ever-ready to satiate anyone who has caffeine cravings with Bean & Bean’s organic, daily roasted coffee.
Hailing from a family of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu royalty, Renzo Gracie is not a good man with whom to make trouble. He is, however, a good man to train with, carrying several blackbelts and fight records, including bouts against past world champions. In 1995, while still an active (young) fighter, Gracie moved to New York and opened Renzo Gracie in midtown Manhattan, a few blocks north of its current location. Since then, the gym has moved south, added Muay Thai to its training acumen (as well as comprehensive MMA and boxing programs), and seen more than one world champion come to train.
Arriving from South Africa, Albertus Swanepoel attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, which led him to an apprenticeship and ultimately his own glove-making business. The appeal of gloves, however, was “incredibly limited, ” as most people wear them only seasonally. So, renaissance man that he is, Albertus switched gears and slid seamlessly into the world of hats. Now he is firmly entrenched in his new niche, and has been producing haute couture headwear since the 1990s. Grounding his practice in old-fashioned millinery traditions, but using techniques from multiple fashion disciplines, he is able to approach hats creatively and expertly. This is a must for a bold garment that can fall flat if not done stylishly. “I try to make things that people wear everyday and look cool but not nostalgic, ” Swanepoel explained. And New Yorkers are wearing his high-end hats across the city. Albertus has a very optimistic take on his environment: “I think that’s the great thing about Manhattan. There are so many people living here that you can almost do anything and people will want it. ”
“We wanted to be that diamond in the rough, ” explained Ashley, the co-owner of Blank Slate. When Ashley and Zach, spouses and co-owners, were searching for a location for their restaurant, they wanted to find a neighborhood with a large crowd but not a lot of quality spots to eat. Blank Slate is successfully that hidden gem located in NoMad, one of Manhattan’s up and coming neighborhoods. Blank Slate attracts a crowd full of young, creative professionals who are quickly changing the area. Ashley and Zach established Blank Slate, which opened in November of 2015, in an effort to create the first coffee-shop-restaurant hybrid in New York City. Ashley explains that they were tired of going to places that provided quality coffee but low quality food. She wanted a place that offered superb grab-n-go coffee as well as more formal dining where friends could meet for a long meal. Ashley and Zach’s vision has been realized. Blank Slate serves killer coffee as well as an impressive assortment of salads, sandwiches and even gourmet desserts. Their coffee is proudly served from farm to cup in close to 20 days. They have a sign at the cash register indicating the green date and roast date of the coffee being served that day. My intern, Emily, hesitantly tried their brussels sprout Caesar salad and only had positive things to say about it, even though she usually does not enjoy Brussels sprouts. Blank Slate also has a small but wonderfully curated market located inside the restaurant, which offers primarily locally sourced products such as cookie dough, yoghurts, pickles and a host of beverages. In addition to serving excellent coffee and food, Blank Slate has a fun, creative atmosphere. Ashley and Zach chose Blank Slate’s name because they wanted to convey the idea that people can make or create everything here. While customers wait in line for coffee, for example, there are etch-a-sketches on which to play. They even have Instagram competitions that reward one talented etch-a-sketcher with a free meal. Ashley hopes that Blank Slate can be a space for people to create. She explained that the etch-a-sketch sends a message: the “possibility of everything. "
In the race among Manhattan restaurants to attract customers, simplicity is sometimes lost. But not so in the Mason Jar, a restaurant and bar that keeps it old school with good vibes and great tastes. The southern, barbecue-heavy menu and extensive list of craft beers and bourbons speak for themselves, complete with suggested pairings. Each month, a new craft beer is featured in an effort to support small breweries. If these beers attract a following, they are added to the full-time roster. While visiting with some Sideways members, I had a lively conversation with chef about the different styles of barbecue - our North Carolinian team member swears by vinegar sauce and appreciated Mason Jar’s variety. The food is fresh and not overdone, but at the same time the Chef “puts love into it. ” The high quality meat is treated seriously - specialty ribs are coated with a dry rub, smoked using apple and hickory wood, braised, and mopped with a tomato-based Kansas City-style sauce. Then grilled. The brisket and boneless pork butts are given no less attention. Replete with wood, American Flags, and comfortable seating, Mason Jar also achieves a homey feel to match its Southern style. Many of the University of South Carolina alumni in Manhattan choose this spot as the venue to catch the Cocks football games, and Villanova basketball fans flock here for their games, as well. With the hearty food, good beers, and down-home feel, it is easy to understand why. To put it plainly and simply, Mason Jar was a good find.