Tucked away on 13th Street just blocks away from the hustle and bustle of Union Square is the unforgettable Indian restaurant Babu Ji, a calm location made for sharing stimulating flavors. The restaurant, whose original Manhattan location was in Alphabet City, successfully combines a number of “non-traditional”, idiosyncratic elements of Indian cuisine with both the Australian and American. While speaking with Jason, a server and our host during our visit, the Manhattan Sideways team listened to various Motown hits as we admired the atmosphere, which included a large framed picture of the Beatles during their 1968 visit to India, old posters with large elephants advertising cricket games between India and Australia, and a beer fridge.
Jason did a wonderful job relaying to us his knowledge of the business’ founding and of its menu. Originally “wildly popular” in Australia and opened by Jesse and Jennifer Singh, it added a location in New York and eventually to their current location, now owned by Cobi Levy, who also owns SoHo’s The Little Prince. Babu Ji finds a relaxed middle between casual and fine dining, notes Jason, as they provide wine tastings and a wide array of local beers to create “the best of both worlds” - culture and relaxation.
Babu Ji seeks to adapt to a variety of dietary preferences and a majority of the dishes we were served were either completely vegetarian or vegan. By far their most popular and one of our favorites was the Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower, a hybrid take on a classic Chinese-American dish made with tempura and a tangy orange sauce. Along with intricately-crafted cocktails like the rum-infused Bullet 550 came a Papadum and Chutney Tasting Tray with 6 chutneys, our favorites being the Cumin Yogurt and Pickled Green Mango. The light chickpea flour chips literally melted in our mouths. A second tasting tray with multiple entrees included classics such as Chana Masala, Unauthentic Butter Chicken, Cucumber and Tomato Salad topped with edible flowers, and the Southern Yellow Dahl.
With a tight-knit staff that genuinely enjoys their work and the connections they look to make with customers, Babu Ji is a great location for anyone looking to eat a filling meal without the frills of fancier restaurants or a meat-heavy menu, especially larger groups.
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.