The street outside Pure Yoga was deafening, filled with construction sites and traffic, but as soon as I stepped inside Pure Yoga, I felt an immediate calm. Any tension fell away as I descended into the subterranean yoga complex, which smelled like a luxurious spa and was decorated with Buddha sculptures and mandalas. I met Jack Cleary, the studio’s yoga advisor, who told me that, according to one Pure Yoga member who followed the teachings of feng shui, the mandalas are the reason why the basement space feels open and healthy, rather than claustrophobic.Either way, I barely noticed that I was underground. Instead, I simply appreciated the relaxed, wide, warmly lit hallways, ornamented with cozy, bench- and pillow-filled enclaves painted in different colors.As we walked through the 19,000 square foot space, Jack shared the story of Pure Yoga. It began in Hong Kong in 2002 as a studio that offered a wide range of yoga instruction before coming to New York six years later. The studio on the East Side was first to open, followed by the 77th Street location in 2009. The New York locations are owned by Equinox and there are special benefits offered to Equinox gym members. There is also an Equinox spa attached to Pure Yoga on the lowest level.Whereas only yoga that was taught, initially, Figure 4 Barre classes and PXT sessions are now available. There are also meditation classes and workshops specifically devoted to different stages of life, including pregnancy and infancy. Jack, who is now in his forties, got into yoga early on in college after hurting his back playing lacrosse. Yoga helped him significantly, and now he enjoys speaking with others who have been injured or simply those who are unsure of what kind of yoga would be best for their needs. He seems to fully appreciate the opportunity to guide men and women of all ages in the right form of exercise.Jack showed me the schedules for each of the six studios, which included everything from advanced Hot Yoga to gentle beginner classes. “We run the whole gamut,” Jack stated. He led me around to the different rooms, pointing out the natural anti-bacterial cork floors that designated the Hot Yoga rooms. In every room, mats are already provided and are laid down prior to class. These mats are then immediately put into their washing machines, a practice, Jack informed me, that is not found in many studios. Pure Yoga went above and beyond in many other ways, too, such as providing cool Eucalyptus-infused towels.As we continued to walk, Jack said that occasionally members will take a break from Pure Yoga to try other studios, but they almost always return. Jack noted that very few other places offer the facilities that they do, including the impeccably clean showers and changing rooms (stocked with Kiehl’s products).Pure Yoga is perfect for those who like to mix up their routine and try different schools of yoga. Benefits offered by Pure Yoga include a one-time beginner drop-in fee of $21 as well as access to various workshops and trips. When I visited in 2015, there were signs for a workshop with Diamond Dallas, a pro-wrestler-turned-yogi, as well as advertisements for a group retreat to Nicaragua. At the back of the space, I took note of the private yoga studios for both members and non-members, including a Hot Yoga room. Jack then mentioned that he sees a lot of members, especially those who are free-lancers or moms, using the hallway spaces as a quiet place to work. “It’s a little getaway,” he said. “Many people think we’re a normal yoga studio when they pass by on the street.” After exploring the many different facilities, I was convinced that Pure Yoga is far more than a “normal yoga studio.”“Pure is a place where people who are passionate about yoga can find a place where they can grow,” Jack said, before introducing me to Alexandra Seijo, the studio's General Manager. She agreed, adding that both members and instructors can find new forms of yoga to experiment with and embrace. With such a wide breadth of scheduling, there is always something for someone to take at any time of the day. Alexandra went on to say that many yogis end up falling in love with a new form of yoga, thanks to Pure: “They may not even know what they’re looking for, but they’ll find it here.”
The inside of Nice Matin is like a bright carnival ground with three central pillars decorated with lights, wide spaces between tables, and colorful art on the walls. Above the doorway, there is an arrangement of baskets and fruit with handwritten signs and prices in euros, emulating European markets. At any hour of the day or evening, the restaurant is filled with people both from the surrounding neighborhood as well as from the Lucerne, the connecting hotel.The chef and owner of Nice Matin is Andy D'Amico, who has since gone on to develop other restaurants around the city, including 5 Napkin Burger. After attending the Culinary Institute of America, Andy worked at Parker House in Boston and at the Sign of the Dove on the Upper East Side, where he was promoted to head chef. In 2003, he partnered with Simon Oren to open Nice Matin, a venture that earned him the title of "Best Chef 2003" from New York Magazine.I met with Danny, the General Manager, who shared their elaborate cocktail list that had classics with a twist. He brought out a San Tropez, Nice Matin's take on the mojito. It had summery passion fruit foam that complemented the mint and dark rum. The restaurant has seasonal cocktails, such as hot toddies in the winter and Campari cocktails in the spring. My favorite time to dine at Nice Matin, however, is on a warm weekend morning when their elaborate brunch menu is offered, and I can sit outside.
Sojourn calls itself the Upper East Side’s “sexiest restaurant,” and it is hard to argue: the color scheme, in coppers browns and reds, gives the restaurant a warm, intimate feeling. The name, which means “a temporary stay,” hints at the fact that visitors can expect a full dining experience. Olivia, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, was excited to return to Sojourn. She and her family had discovered the restaurant, tucked behind a residential-looking doorway, right before Thanksgiving and had visited two more times by the New Year. Along with the friendly staff, warm ambience, and delectable, seasonal food, what makes Sojourn stand out is its approach to courses: all menu items can be ordered as sharable tapas, with just the right number for the table. For example, when Olivia went with a group of seven family members and ordered the chorizo croquettes, the waiter said he would bring out two orders at three to a plate...plus one extra. Using this innovative way of ordering, each party can essentially create their own tasting menu. As for beverages, the cocktail menu is sophisticated and diverse. The restaurant not only has a large selection of wine, but also keeps some of their grapes in barrels rather than bottles, a more environmentally friendly method of storing and serving it. Among the many menu items that Olivia’s family tasted were the zesty arugula salad, crispy fish tacos, and Kobe beef sliders. Despite being thoroughly full, they made sure to have enough room for the warm, fluffy churros served with Mexican chocolate dipping sauce. We spoke to Johnny Musovic, who owns Sojourn with his father, Sami. They originally opened a Mexican restaurant called Santa Fe in the same location, but discovered that the neighborhood did not have a strong need for casual Mexican food. Instead, the father and son duo reopened with a higher-end concept which has been wholly embraced. Johnny proudly told me that his father is no newcomer to the restaurant world, having been the Head Maitre D’ at Sparks Steakhouse and Mr. Chow’s. He also has two other restaurants nearby. As for Johnny himself, he told me “In this industry, you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty,” referencing his time spent as everything from dishwasher to delivery boy to co-owner. He is clearly very proud of Sojourn for a variety of reasons, beginning with the food. “Most chefs are into fresh, local ingredients, but these chefs really are.” He is also happy to have cultivated a chic, relaxing space, which includes live music on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Though he proclaims that the Upper East Side is his favorite part of the city, Johnny’s dream is to open up a Sojourn in Midtown one day. Until then, his goal is to integrate his bar crowd and his dining crowd. One night, he held a two hour open bar as his way of “giving back” to the neighborhood. Along with drinks, he offered his customers a series of hors d’oeuvres. He was surprised by how many of his bar regulars approached him and said, “I didn’t realize you had such great food!”
Shaaray Tefila has a very special place in my heart. For well over twenty years, beginning in the early 1970's, this was a home away from home for my grandparents. Reaching 79th Street and having the opportunity to write about this synagogue has brought tears to my eyes again and again. Rabbi Tattelbaum played an important role not only in my grandparent's lives, but in mine as well, when I was a young, impressionable teenager.It was Chip Schrager, the Communications Coordinator for the temple in 2015, who kindly guided the Manhattan Sideways team through the space, beginning with the main sanctuary. The room is expansive, seating 400 people downstairs and 200 in the balcony, and Chip was proud to say that it was filled to the rafters during the recent Hanukkah services.Something that I did not know was that the building used to be a movie theater until the temple took over in 1958. The old projector room is now used as an office for the parenting programs. Founded in 1845 as a strict Orthodox temple, Shaaray Tefila has shifted locations throughout the city, becoming Reform along the way. Stepping into the chapel, where smaller services are held, I saw bold stained glass ornaments on one side of the room with the names and symbols of characters from Jewish lore. In the meeting room nearby, well-polished Judaic pieces, along with artifacts dating back to the temple's founding were displayed. In addition, we took note of photographs of the old temple on West 82nd Street, the Seal of the Congregation, and even the trowel that the rabbi used to lay the cornerstone of the Temple. Leaving the room, Chip gestured to photographs of six men who were senior rabbis at Temple Shaaray Tefila.The temple has a strong children's program, including a nursery school, kindergarten, and religious school that extends through high school. We appreciated getting to observe the room used for art class. A giant paint pallet decorated the wall and colorful supplies lined the room. We then ventured up to the roof where the playground is located, surrounded by a fence that still allowed for a beautiful view of the winter sunset. It was here that Chip continued to speak of the various programs offered to every age group, including senior citizens. This is what my grandparents took advantage of so many years ago, and it warmed my heart to know that people are still participating in the various classes that Shaaray Tefila has to offer. As Chip beautifully stated, "Whatever your Jewish journey is, we want to be a part of it."