2010 was a big year for Fany Gerson. A native of Mexico City and a former pastry chef at Eleven Madison Park, she spent the spring and summer launching her business, La Newyorkina, which sells traditional Mexican ice pops and sweets. But as winter approached, business began to slow down, and a good friend of hers suggested that they open a doughnut shop together.
Fany was skeptical at first—“Bed-Stuy didn’t seem like the obvious place for gourmet doughnuts”—but in spite of her reservations, she accepted the job. After long discussions with her business partner about textures and flavors, Fany set out to create the perfect old-fashioned doughnut, thick and hearty, but also light. “We wanted a doughnut that would taste good naked,” she told me “and we knew it was all about the dough, hence the name.” Finally, after endless tweaking and experimenting, Fany hit on the perfect recipe, and three weeks later, Dough opened its doors in Brooklyn.
It was the beginning of a wonderful partnership. Throughout the fall and winter, Fany devoted most of her attention to Dough; as the weather grew warmer and doughnut sales declined, she had time to develop new flavors and recipes for La Newyorkina. But it has not always been easy to balance the two businesses, especially since Dough’s second location opened in the fall of 2014. “That first summer,” Fany recalled, “the hot weather unexpectedly affected the doughnuts, and I had to adjust my recipe last-minute and work on La Newyorkina at the same time.” She smiled, and added, “I don’t get a lot of sleep.”
But in spite of the difficulties, it is obvious that Fany loves what she does. She gave me a fascinating tour of Dough’s kitchen, enthusiastically pointing out where the dough rises and how the doughnuts are fried, about one minute on each side. “Most places make their doughnuts in the morning,” Fany explained, “but we take it a step further. Our doughnuts are fresh and warm whenever you come in.” Once the doughnuts are fried, they are ready for the final touch—the glaze.
I was eager to ask Fany about this stage of the process, since Dough is known for its exotic flavors—some of its best sellers include hibiscus, mocha almond, and dulce de leche. “Inspiration is everywhere,” Fany told me, “but a lot of my flavors come from my memories of Mexico.” She invented the hibiscus flavor, for example, on a hot day when she was craving the refreshing hibiscus water that she used to drink back at home. “We needed a colorful doughnut,” she told me, “but I didn’t want to use coloring. And it occurred to me that hibiscus has a beautiful natural color.”
Some of Fany’s flavors have become so popular that customers complain if she takes them off the menu. “We have a few flavors that rotate, but not many,” she told me. “We have to give the people what they want, but we also try to keep it interesting.” Some of Dough’s best-selling staples include salted chocolate caramel, café au lait, and nutella, although Fany’s personal favorite is the cinnamon sugar. “I also like the tart flavors, like passion fruit and tropical chile,” she told me. “The glaze is a nice contrast to the richness of the doughnut.”
I was surprised to learn that, in addition to producing hundreds or even thousands of doughnuts each day, Dough runs a wholesale operation at night, selling doughnuts to nearby coffee shops and supermarkets. To keep the business running smoothly both during the day and at night, Fany estimates that Dough employs thirty or forty employees total.
Dough has been hugely successful, and Fany told me that they will soon be opening another location in Manhattan. “It’s hard,” she told me, “I’d like to see the business grow, but I’m hesitant to do franchises in other cities.” Instead, she prefers to keep Dough personal, developing new products and flavors and expanding on a smaller scale. “We’re trying new things every day,” she told me, “and we’re growing organically.”
After the tour, Fany led me out to Dough’s front counter. “Would you like to try one?” she asked, and after a moment of deliberation, I chose the dulce de leche doughnut. The smooth caramel flavor of the glaze paired perfectly with the crunchy slivered almonds on top, but the best part, as I expected, was biting into the soft, airy dough, still warm from the oven.
"Daily Provisions followed a long trajectory, " Max Rockoff announced as we sat down to chat about the neighborhood hot spot, an offshoot of the newly opened Union Square Cafe. I met Max, the warm and enthusiastic general manager, in late August of 2017, a few months after the Union Square Hospitality Group debuted their latest restaurant venture. "As Union Square Cafe's space grew, ours continued to get smaller and smaller, " Max told me. "We weren't quite sure where we were headed, but the space dictated the concept, " he continued. When Danny Meyer and his team found this location, a few blocks north of the original Union Square Cafe, they knew that they wished to utilize every inch of it in the most sensible way, but they were always thinking of the community surrounding them. "We had to make an unbelievable place in a tiny footprint, " Max explained. They kept asking themselves, "What can we do with this jewel box on Park Avenue and 19th Street? " They were eager to give a "gift" to those who lived nearby. When the group sat down to discuss their ideas, foremost in their minds was, "What are the daily things people want? " They hoped to provide the best versions of what their customers know and love. Max said it had to start with fantastic coffee first thing in the morning, together with some smashing breakfast treats. This would then be followed by salads and interesting sandwiches on freshly baked bread. At the end of the day, the space could provide an outstanding roast chicken that could be picked up on the way home. The final innovation by the team was “cross-utilization. ” Within the downstairs kitchen - accessible from both restaurants - there is a shared bakeshop facility. It is here that they make the incredible "house loaf" - a brown sour dough bread that is served in the restaurant and used to make many of the specialty sandwiches all day long at Daily Provisions. "There is no redundancy here, " Max asserted, "We can feed families all day long. Our breakfast is nothing crazy, it is just the best. " In fact, the bacon, eggs and cheese sandwich is one of the most requested items at almost any hour. Therefore, they offer it until 4: 00 p. m. every afternoon. "The people demand it, so we provide it. We listen to them. " The roast beef sandwich is a classic lunchtime treat, "but it is our version. " I also learned about a special sandwich that is not on the menu, but which is proving to be the real "go-to" - herbed ricotta and arugula served on their house-made English muffin. Then there is the Patty Melt - the meat is blended with grilled onions and served on housemade rye bread with melted cheese. Max shared that the team tried all kinds of cheese for their melt, and when they did a blind tasting, it was the classic American that won. The Daily Provisions team also wanted the small cafe to be a place where people could stop by and unwind, sip on some wine, work on their computer, or simply meet up with friends for relaxing conversation. Somehow, although not surprisingly, this talented and well-loved restaurant group has managed to accomplish it all. I had the pleasure of meeting a woman who came by for a glass of wine around 5: 00 p. m. She worked upstairs in the building and told me that she makes a habit of coming to Daily Provisions at the end of her day. It was so nice to watch her settle in comfortably, acknowledging members of the staff, as well as other patrons sitting around the white marble counters. When I commented to Max on how extraordinary this was, he said, "She is a microcosm of what we've become. "Max was genuinely pleased to tell me that many guests who initially visited when Daily Provisions first opened continue to gravitate back on a regular basis. "They're comfortable here. " Gushing, Max said that the best time of day is when everyone gathers on weekend mornings. He loves how the neighborhood utilizes the shop, be it for a cup of good coffee or a full breakfast. It is a place for all ages that has become a routine stop for many. "Everyone uses it in their own way. " He has found it fascinating to see how the area denizens have embraced them. "They have made us their own. " It was also quite apparent to me how Max and his staff have effortlessly enveloped the community.
It is not always easy to satisfy a dessert craving and stay healthy. Baked goods are often packed with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. At Protein Bakery, the Manhattan Sideways team found treats that were both delicious and healthy. Stephen Lincoln, the founder and owner, has designed his recipes to attract health-conscious customers who still want a tasty brownie, blondie or cookie. The black and white patterns on the wallpaper of the bakery help to create a room that looks slightly like an optical illusion, drawing intrigued customers (like members of the Manhattan Sideways team) into the store. Stephen began Protein Bakery in 1999 and opened this location on 19th Street in 2016. When we sat down to speak with him, we learned that while on his journey to lose weight, he found himself constantly looking for a healthy snack to satisfy his hunger. Unable to find one, he decided to create his own. While working as a fitness instructor, following a new fitness regiment, and eating his own healthy snacks, Stephen was proud to reveal that he had lost eighty-two pounds, and has continued to keep the weight off. Baking in the same kitchen since 1999. Stephen uses his own whey protein concentrate, which is "richer and better-tasting than a lot of other commercially-available protein powders. " All of the products used are gluten- and preservative-free. In order to add flavor to his snacks and pack in even more protein, Stephen will sometimes add walnuts, peanuts, and coconut. Though he started off locally, Stephen has expanded his product line and now ships across the world.
It is easy to pass by City Cakes, but if that happens, circle back and find it. The first time I went in, there were several regular customers squished into this tiny basement bakeshop, hotly debating their favorite cookie flavor, with the consensus being oatmeal raisin. I sampled the triple chocolate spice cookie, a sensational blend of chocolates and ground cloves. On a subsequent visit, we learned about the new breakfast cupcake, which was being highly praised and considered remarkable - a pancake-batter cupcake, topped with maple butter crème and fresh bacon bits. Owners Marc Matthias and Benny Rivera started this business as a custom cake studio in 2005. Due to demand, the two expanded the bakery and began selling directly to the public. Benny does the design, while Marc handles the cake construction and marketing. They are a great duo that shoots for non-traditional designs and superb flavors. The cakes are wondrous to look at and taste divine, but to indulge in any of their smaller treats is also heavenly. On any given Friday or Saturday, one can stop by to observe the cake assembly, but while there, it is essential to try something else - be it a classic chocolate chip cookie, a sugardoodle cookie, or a salted caramel cupcake.
Every time I am walking with someone new, I find myself winding past Breads Bakery to have us try yet another delicious bite of their freshly baked goods. I cannot call this a hidden gem, by any means, as the lines are sometimes out the door. In a matter of a few weeks from when Uri Scheft and Gadi Peleg opened, they have managed to be written up everywhere. They have even been cited as having the best rugelach and babka in different periodicals, but I must encourage all who visit to sample Breads' take on focaccia - the multigrain version. If it is not still warm from the oven, then take it home, heat it up, add a bit more olive oil and savor every bite. Another that I cannot resist are the flaky cheese straws. Direct from the oven, they are impeccable. In fact, fresh is king here, and the baked goods are often fresher than the vegetables around the corner. While most bakeries have their employees come in during the night to pump out a days worth of starchy creations, Uri's staff at Breads Bakery has fresh bread coming out just in time for each of the mealtime rushes. Uri was raised in Israel, but went back to his parent's roots in Denmark for his training in baking. He then traveled and worked in Europe before returning to his homeland to open up his first bakery in Tel Aviv. Many years later, Gadi was traveling in Israel and discovered Uri's Lehamim Bakery. It took several more years of persistence, but ultimately the timing was right and Uri made the huge decision to move to New York and partner with Gadi to open up shop near Union Square. The store itself feels modern and spacious, with one counter for bread and baked goods just as you enter on the left, and another further back with sandwiches and drinks. Extending further back another 75 feet are the kitchens. Customers can watch bakers ease proofed dough off rolls of canvas onto an adjustable conveyer belt, which feeds into the carefully regulated ovens. Unlike Sheft's locations in Israel, he got to design this one from the ground up so the technology involved is sometimes just as amazing as what comes out of the ovens.
The moment I walked into Burger and Lobster, I knew that it was not a typical seafood restaurant. Huge lobsters swam in tanks by the door, and a whimsical chalkboard announced the restaurant’s grand total of three menu items: the burger, the lobster, and the lobster roll. When Burger and Lobster opened in January of 2015, no one knew whether its limited menu would appeal to New Yorkers. Vanessa, the general manager, was especially skeptical. “But after just a few weeks, ” she told me, “the restaurant was a huge success! I couldn’t believe it. ” Since then, Burger and Lobster’s reputation has continued to grow, and the wait on weekends can be up to an hour. When I stopped by on a sweltering July afternoon, I could see why the restaurant has become so popular. Housed in a former tae kwon do studio, Burger and Lobster feels both casual and upscale, with high ceilings and simple décor (I especially liked the lobster trap light fixtures). With seating for up to 300 people at a time, the restaurant can easily accommodate large groups, and the downstairs space is available for private events. Even better, every item on the menu is $20 and comes with generous portions of salad and fries. Burger and Lobster has a distinctively American feel, so I was surprised to learn that the company is based in the UK. According to Vanessa, it all started out with four friends who had known each other since high school. They already owned several high-end London restaurants, and when they decided to do something fun and different, Burger and Lobster was born. The first restaurant was so successful that the business multiplied, and now has eight locations in London and several others in Manchester, Wales, and Dubai. All of Burger and Lobster’s locations have the same laid-back atmosphere, but Vanessa told me that the New York restaurant is the most fun. “A lot of our servers are actors and actresses, ” she explained, “and they’re always having a good time. Last week, two of them performed a scene from Dirty Dancing, and everyone loved it! ”In spite of its relaxed environment, Burger and Lobster is very serious about the quality of its food. Vanessa explained that they buy all of their lobsters from the same group of lobstermen in Nova Scotia, while their beef comes from carefully selected Nebraskan ranchers. “We work really closely with them to make sure all of our food is of the highest possible quality, ” Vanessa added. We had the opportunity to try the food for ourselves just a few minutes later, when the server presented us with all three of Burger and Lobster’s menu items. The lobster paired perfectly with the lemon garlic butter (as did the fries), and once we managed to bite into the towering ten-ounce burger, we found that it was juicy and filling. The Manhattan Sideways team especially enjoyed the creamy lobster roll on soft butter brioche, a choice that felt refreshing and summery. Though we did not sample the drink menu, Vanessa told us about the signature cocktails and wines that Burger and Lobster has on tap, as well as its many beer options. When we had eaten as much burger and lobster as we could—the portions were quite large—Vanessa took us on a tour of the restaurant’s lobster lab. This area, which was designed by a marine biologist and is regulated by a complex computer system, can hold up to 4000 pounds of lobster at any given time. “We go through a lot of lobster, ” Vanessa told us. “On weekends, sometimes we use as many as a thousand per day. ” While the smaller lobsters are kept downstairs in the lab, the “big boys, ” as they’re affectionately known, are kept on the main floor for customers to admire. Between six and eighteen pounds, some of these lobsters are estimated to be eighty or ninety years old, and they are quite an impressive sight. We even got a chance to hold one of the big boys, a six-pounder who remained surprisingly calm as we lifted him by the claws. Burger and Lobster’s Manhattan location has received rave reviews, and Vanessa told us that the company will soon bring its high-quality food and impressive service to other locations in New York and the United States. But until then, anyone hoping to experience Burger and Lobster will have to make their way to this cool, casual spot on West 19th Street.
Four generations of the McManus clan have operated this jovial Irish tavern, making it among the oldest family-run bars in the city. Its originator, Peter McManus, left his quaint Irish hometown and disembarked in Ellis Island with “basically five dollars and a potato in his pocket, ” as the story goes. He opened the first McManus as a longshoreman’s bar in 1911 on West 55th Street, which he then converted into a thriving general store during Prohibition while migrating his liquor business into a number of speakeasies. Once the restrictions ended in 1933, the shop was so successful that Peter kept it going and found a new spot on 19th Street in which to revive his bar. Peter’s son, James Sr., spent close to fifty years working in and later running the pub. It then passed into the hands of James Jr., who now stands beside his own son, Justin, serving beer and cracking jokes over a century later. Knowing that they will find pleasant conversation and an intriguing cast of characters at McManus, people often come alone to see what the night holds for them. The atmosphere at McManus is merry, but patrons still respect the history and charm that suffuse every corner of the space. Much of the bar is original, including the stunning Tiffany stained glass windows, the hand carved woodwork and crown molding, and the terrazzo floor that can no longer be made today. “We try to preserve it and are pretty protective of it. This bar was built to last, ” Justin said.
Tom Geniesse is in love with the Flatiron District and he believes he has chosen the perfect location to house his cleverly laid out wine shop. As he explained, there are two ways to shop for wine - first - the old fashioned way with the wines alphabetized by country. Thus, along the walls at the front of the store, multiple wine regions from around the world are represented alphabetically, beginning with Argentina. It is down the center of the shop, however, that Tom'sother idea for displaying wines comes to fruition: The same wines that line the sides are now separated by category - Meat, Seafood, Take-out, Treats, Gifts, Value, Events. Get the idea? The fun doesn't stop here, though, for next to each bottle Tom has a "resume" of each wine, providing tools to make wise choices. Collectors with deep pockets can find a fine selection as can university students who prefer not to spend a great deal. Bottlerocket is designed to build a bridge for consumers to make the right decision. When asked what drew him into the wine business, Tom said that he was a "crazy entrepreneur" who had lots of different jobs but continuously found himself disappointed in wine shops. "I always wanted to know more, and this is a result of that effort. "