They are pretty and they are scrumptious. That is why they work perfectly as a present for a friend or as a present for ourselves when walking all of 23rd. La Maison du Macaron is known for having a fantastic collection of macarons of all flavors – strawberry, vanilla, salted caramel, chocolate, rose, coffee - and along with these famous French treats, chocolate glazed éclairs, delicate fruit tarts with custard, and miniature cakes are also beautifully displayed. We cooled off here one very hot afternoon with iced drinks, and sugary treats. Perfection!
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.
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.
Some of the most heart-warming stories that people have shared with me while walking the past twenty-three streets have been family-related and this one falls right into that category. Thirty five years ago Jose Rojas' parents opened the first Columbian bakery in Elizabeth, NJ and now today, Jose is using the same recipes that his mom taught him in his own bakery on 23rd. And whenever his mom is able, she comes into the city to make her incredible empanadas or a batch of flan for Jose's loyal customers. Everything in the shop is Latin influenced including the traditional Queso Blanco - fresh bread stuffed with white cheese. Other favorites include whole wheat or raisin bread, gluten-free bread made with yucca and corn flour, a variety of sweets including red velvet cupcakes, "fun fetti" cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, and a puff pastry square built with three layers of guava, cream cheese and dulce de leche. A perfect treat on a very hot July afternoon was the ice cold drink that Jose offered to me - lemonade made with fresh mint and watermelon - describing it as "summer in your mouth. " I spent quite a bit of time observing the customers, the food going in and out of the ovens, but mostly enjoying my conversation with Jose. He is a fascinating guy who told me that he did the Wall Street thing studying finance, but decided that he did not want to commit to a nine to five job, so instead "I do the 5am to 9pm, but at least it is my own. "
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.
As of March 2022, Eataly's rooftop bar Birreria has been turned into the pop-up SERRA. The rooftop of Eataly changes its concept each season. In 2016, for example, the sky-high spot transitioned from the beer-centric Birreria to a sea-side-themed rooftop bar called Sabbia. Each reincarnation of the bar is equally impressive, which comes as no surprise after visiting Eataly downstairs. Birreria was a sky-high brewery where Fred Avila, the head brewer, created beer in-house for three or four days out of every week. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Fred and talking to him about his experience brewing above Eataly’s impressive food palace. Fred has been working for Eataly since 2011, but he started home-brewing in 2007. He has become a master at blending different flavors together and was proud to tell me about Birreria’s two seasonal beers. Vera is a summery beer with hints of lavender and blood orange, whereas the Wanda is a dark, mild beer for the fall and winter, with a lightly roasted flavor. Fred is very attuned to the weather when he drinks beer. When I asked if he has a favorite, he said that it changes with the seasons and the forecast, though he did admit, “I love to drink Oktoberfest beers. ” He featured obscure sours and saisons (pale ales specifically brewed for warm weather) in the summertime and interesting stouts in the fall. “People used to just drink IPAs or Pilsners, ” he explained to me. It is clear that working in the beer world has become considerably more exciting. Birreria collaborated with a collection of external breweries, including Dogfish Head, a microbrewery based out of Delaware. Because Birreria was part of Eataly, the list of collaborators also included two Italian companies, Birra del Borgo and Baladin. The founder of Baladin, Teo Musso, is considered the “godfather of the Italian brewing movement, ” Fred informed me. He also let me know that he always liked to have one or two New York beers available. The food menu was no less impressive, especially since it was made entirely using produce from downstairs. Unlike other parts of Eataly, however, Birreria often strayed from Italian cuisine. For example, Fred told me about a mozzarella-stuffed quail, which sounds more Northern European than Italian. Everything on the menu was designed to pair well with the bar’s unique selection of beers, creating a perfect culinary balance. I visited Sabbia shortly after it opened in 2016. It was like a taste of the tropical seaside in the middle of Manhattan: Imagine listening to the Beach Boys and sipping on one of their signature summer cocktails while lounging on a beach chair in the cabanas. The menu is filled with seafood specials that continue the seaside resort theme. It is the perfect summer spot for those who cannot leave town, and there is a retractable roof for rainy nights.
Stepping out of the culinary carnival in the main Eataly building through the side street entrance of the calm, cool wine shop next door was a soothing experience. The space is primarily filled with Italian wines, though there is a selection of local New York varieties upstairs. Also on the second floor is the “Riserva Room, ” a temperature-controlled chamber with rare wines, mainly acquired through auctions. What surprised me about the Riserva Room, however, is that the bottles are not very expensive. Despite feeling the need to whisper inside the elegant space, I noticed that many tags quoted prices under $100. We learned from Brianna Buford, the PR Assistant, that this is so that customers do not feel intimidated to try new wines. As with the rest of Eataly, Vino is dedicated to educating the public about the quality, origin, and uses of its products. There are helpful signs in the area and tastings every week. “Staff Pick” signs give shoppers individual recommendations and there are often fun promotions whose goal is to introduce customers to new labels. For example, in 2015, the wine store hid golden corks all over Eataly, offering anyone who found one a special bottle of Vino Libero. “Vino Libero” means “free the wine, ” a motto which seems to ring true throughout the store, where wine is freed from any pretension or intimidation and presented in a playful, educational way.
Many months ago, I gathered a group of friends and family to celebrate my husband's birthday. No one had ever been to Spin, so it was the perfect opportunity for everyone to have a terrific night taking turns playing a sport most of us adore, and sharing in conversation, drinks and appetizers. As we walked down the steps into the dimly lit lobby we were greeted by a friendly hostess in a chic black outfit, and it felt as though we had entered any other swanky Manhattan club. And yet, as we turned the corner we saw immediately that this was not the case. Instead of the usual dance-filled floor, at this club we were presented with rows of ping-pong tables and couples in heated competition. The diversity of the crowd was vast and only became more so as the night went on. Businessmen off from work, their white collared shirts glowing in the black light, rallied next to serious athletes there for a workout in gym shorts and sweatbands. Young couples looking for a quirky date played next to groups of older friends there to enjoy the nostalgia of this classic game. Everyone is welcome at Spin. Serious ping pong players make the circuits, challenging worthy opponents to games while casual paddlers compete in a more leisurely game. It has never been easier to enjoy ping pong, as Spin has eliminated the frustrating need for constantly picking up stray balls - staff with fascinating contraptions collect all the balls and reload the buckets regularly. Perhaps even more exciting, servers come by to the tables with what could be described as high-class bar food - some of our favorites were the alcoholic mango slushies, the fried rice balls, and the truffle mac and cheese. The delicious food and drink are honestly worth a visit on their own, and as the club often hosts championship ping pong games, even those who do not want to grab a paddle themselves can fill up a plate and watch the action. Originally opened by ping pong enthusiasts Franck Raharinosy, Andrew Gordon, Jonathan Bricklin and Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon, Spin has quickly become a hot spot both in other parts of the US and abroad.
Visions provides services for the blind and visually impaired; it is located in Selis Manor, a twelve-story apartment building dedicated to housing and assisting blind and otherwise handicapped New Yorkers of all types. Visions holds braille courses, exercise and rehabilitation classes, music programs, and various events and lectures.
If one were to close their eyes and walk into Hill Country, there is no doubt that in an instant they would know what kind of food was being prepared. At Hill Country, they take their barbecue very seriously. The food is prepared in their very own custom meat-smoking room, and everything is done in the style of Central Texas barbecue. The atmosphere is kitschy and relaxed, with live American music most nights of the week.
On a perfect summer day, the Sideways team sat down for lunch at Tacombi, a relatively new and thriving addition to Manhattan’s Mexican food scene. Sitting at one of the higher tables near the front of the restaurant, with a breeze blowing in from 24th street, one can’t help but notice that the restaurant practically gleams (at the time of writing, it is just about seven weeks old). Even the painted sign advertising “Frutos Naturales” above the juice bar looks as if it was finished that morning. We sampled a variety of tacos and other Mexican staples (including their remarkably flavorful rice and beans), as well as some of their fresh-squeezed juices. Although all of it was delicious and satisfying, we were particularly taken with a few of the dishes we tried. Their El Pastor tacos, prepared with pork roasted and marinated with pineapple for two days before serving, were tender and savory. For our vegetarian readers, the Quesadilla Maiz Azul, prepared with dried chili sauce, Chihuahua cheese, and corn on a blue tortilla, and the Black Ben Y Sweet Potatoes taco, are must-haves. And, for the scorching summer days to come, their pineapple juice with ginger and mint takes refreshment to another level. Our food came with sides of salsa verde, salsa roja, escabeche (a mix of pickled vegetables), and radish and mint, as well as an optional extra-hot habanero sauce for the adventurous — all fresh and prepared in-house. Fresh, in-house, and local is the name of the game for Tacombi’s executive chef Jason DeBriere. Everything from the tortillas — which, if you come at the right time of day, you can watch them make in their tortilleria — to the guacamole, to the meat used in their tacos, is prepared fresh every day. DeBriere even goes personally to markets around New York City to select the vegetables for the escabeche. Alan, a chef at Tacombi with whom we had the privilege of speaking, described DeBriere as a mago de comer, which roughly translates to “food wizard. ” “He never cuts corners, ” he added. He also emphasized the dedication of every chef in the kitchen to making everything fresh every day, as well as making locally sourced ingredients a major priority. “We’re just trying to produce traditional Mexican food, ” Alan told us. “We’re not trying to do a fusion with American food. ” This philosophy extends to their breakfast menu, which is full of traditional Mexican breakfast dishes like their huevos rancheros and fresh-baked breakfast pastries, like their fruit-filled empanadas. With its open, relaxing atmosphere and exceptional Mexican cuisine, Tacombi is a great place to stop by for any meal. “We want to create a space that does more than welcomes you, ” Alan said. “It transports you. ”
Although small, this family-owned café is inviting. The sandwiches are interesting and tasty, as are the soups and salads…and then there is the cappuccino and sweets. Consistently busy, the staff is always smiling, the food is healthy and hearty, and the vibe is positive, even during rush hours.
Johny Pilatos started his luncheonette when he was only twenty years old. His father, Larry, had a restaurant down the street, and when the space nearby became available, Johny leaped at the chance to open a business of his own. Though Larry stopped in regularly to help Johny manage the lunch rush or cook specials, this bustling spot known for its breakfast and subs is largely Johny’s brainchild. He began with a simple menu consisting of a handful of American dishes. Yet as inspiration for new recipes came to him, he was quick to expand his offerings. “After a long day, I’d put stuff together at home, and if it was good, I’d sell it at the restaurant. ” All of his sandwich creations are named after his loved ones and pets; luckily, he has a surplus of names to choose from, as he is the doting father of eight children. Of course, he used his own name for his personal favorite — the Sloppy Johny — though he is pleased to say that visitors latch onto any and all of his inventions with equal eagerness.