Hell's Kitchen has gained two world-class specialty shops in one with the arrival of Rubber N' Road — an establishment that's bringing global coffee and cycling gear to the neighborhood.
When Gil Lavi arrived in New York from Tel Aviv in 2010, the first thing that struck him was how bad Starbucks coffee was. "I landed here 11 years ago and I walked into Starbucks. I was immediately taken aback by the flavor — I found it just shocking. I never tasted anything like that. It was just completely strange to me. Then I was also looking for something that tasted more close to what I was used to. And so I started to research," he told us while meticulously making a coffee.
Over the years, his research transformed into a desire to open a coffee shop — and along the way, he gathered a second obsession, cycling. "I got obsessed with coffee and cycling at pretty much the same time," Gil said.
Now he has joined forces with his friend Max Davis to merge those passions at Rubber N' Road on W51st Street between 9/10th Avenue (in the store that used to be Cakes 'N' Shapes). "It's pretty easy to geek out on bikes and coffee. There's a lot of equipment and gear — people can really immerse themselves," says Max.
Gil and Max founded Rubber N' Road in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. They had both spent years working with large brands in the cycling industry but wanted to create a new way to serve the New York cycling community. Gil offers the global perspective in the partnership, while Max, who was born just steps from Central Park, gives the local knowledge of New York road cycling.
In the venture they see lots of synergies between cycling and coffee. They want to "bring a fresh alternative to the cycling industry's habit of using glittery paint jobs to cover up less-than-ideal supply chains and products" as well as being a unique alternative to branded coffee that "is like having one vineyard serve the same cup of wine to 200 million people year after year."
They are promoting emerging, independent cycling brands in the store — and for their beans, they have selected single-origin coffees curated by the legendary Berlin coffee roasters, The Barn.
Max recalls first meeting Gil at industry events around the city four years ago. They struck up a friendship and in 2019 Gil asked him to join his consultancy business. "For the first six months, it was insanely busy and then the pandemic hit. The whole world kind of hit the pause button," Max recalls. They started to look at options and identified that New York's cycling community "with all the diversity in the New York cycling community, the offering of cycling brands and products was extremely limited."
Their business started online with a range of independent products from around the world. "We started to send out emails and make calls to brands in June, July of last year. We got in touch with Rob Gitelis, who's the owner of Factor — a bike brand. He really loved the idea and agreed to support us. Rob is an American based in Taiwan — everything he produces is built and engineered in his own factory. And then we started reaching out to the apparel brands," Max told us.
They soon added jerseys from MAAP in Australia, Kask helmets, KOO sunglasses and Q36.5 apparel from Italy, Isadore clothing from Slovakia, Festka bicycles from the Czech Republic and cycling fashion from FINGERSCROSSED in Germany.
"We launched the website in August of 2020," said Max. "We always remember MAAP shipped us our first shipment of apparel and it was in this tiny box — three feet by two feet. So we started selling the apparel through the website."
Their move to meeting customers in person came when they wanted to do a photo shoot up in Vermont. "We couldn't afford anything — and car hire was $200 a day. So we asked Volvo if they could help. They liked what we were doing and helped with a car — and offered for us to create a popup at their dealership on 11th Avenue," said Gil. "That's when Rubber N' Road actually came to life. Customers actually showed up in real life."
They did more popups and one day when Gil was delivering locally from his Hell's Kitchen apartment he spotted the empty storefront on W51st Street. "We wanted a place with proximity to Central Park and the West Side Bike Patch — so geographically it felt right," he recalls.
They took on the lease in March and are in soft launch for the rest of August — opening Thursday to Sunday from 9am-5pm for cycling talk and coffee.
"I mean, cycling and coffee are pretty related. I think most cyclists enjoy coffee — we're always going on coffee rides. There's always a coffee stop," said Max.
They've already connected with their neighbors. Specialist beer bar, AS IS, around the corner on 10th Avenue is already their after-work favorite and they've made friends with Lino at Il Melograno across the road. They're also facing a challenge from Bobby next door at Totto Ramen. "We need for Bobby to approve our Japanese-style hand brew. It's a Japanese-style ice pour-over. Gil's been working for some time on that," said Max.
This story originally appeared in W42ST.nyc in August 2021as: Heaven has Arrived in Hell's Kitchen for Bike and Coffee Geek
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, which opened in the late summer of 2014, pairs ease with elegance as a welcome addition to 51st Street. “We live in a very fast-paced world. ” In midtown Manhattan, these words resonate. But spoken by Aldo Sohm, seated at a table in his eponymous wine bar, they seem incongruous. “The idea is basically that when you walk in here, you walk into my living room. To me, it’s always important that you be in a place where you feel comfortable. ”Sohm continues his role as wine director at Le Bernardin, the four-star restaurant located across the 6½ Avenue pedestrian plaza. At the wine bar, however, he and Le Bernardin’s co-owners, Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert, have created a setting distinct from the formal restaurants in Manhattan, in its simplicity and lack of pretense. To be clear, it shares the elegance and attention to quality of its neighbors. But upon entering, an open arrangement of sofas beckons patrons to sit down. Sohm has noticed guests who arrived separately conversing across tables - sometimes even discussing their choice in wine. And wine is the focus at Aldo Sohm. Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin’s acclaimed chef, oversees the food menu; so, whether wine accompanies lunch, dinner, or a snack, it promises to impress. Guests can order bites to complement a glass of wine, like a grilled foie gras “lollipop” or a warm skewer of baby beets. Shareables include a whole baked cauliflower and a plate of Murray’s cheese with a Maison Kayser baguette. Sohm emphasizes the flexibility of the experience. If not in the lounge area, there are tall square tables for seating. The thick oak “sommelier table” incorporated into the bar seats guests on both sides, ensuring that no one is excluded from conversation. Sohm chose these arrangements intentionally. The wine bar endeavors to be unpretentious, relaxing and fun. Evoking this sensation, the architectural firm Bentel & Bentel incorporated clean lines and bold color in designing the interior. Sohm and his co-owners deliberated considerably in choosing the art in their “living room. ” Ample shelves extend to the double height ceiling, featuring artifacts meaningful to Sohm. Having grown up in Austria, Sohm points out, “I like things very very clean, very European. I like colors on top of it. ” A stack of Interior Design magazines becomes a design object itself as a cube of rainbow spines. The curves of miniature Panton S-chairs, each a different color, mirror the charred wood molds of the delicately hand-blown Zalto glasses in which each wine is served. Sohm is the brand ambassador for Zalto, an Austrian-based glassware manufacturer. To learn more about the varied wine offerings, visitors can reserve the tasting room. Aerial photographs of wine growing regions flank the eight-person table, allowing the sommelier to incorporate a visual element and story of provenance to the tasting. Sohm - once designated the “Best World Sommelier” by the Worldwide Sommelier Association - maintains humility despite his accomplishments. He wants the wine bar to be just as down to earth; an antidote to a demanding day, it exudes precision and sophistication.
While the lineups at Radio City Music Hall have changed dramatically over the years, the "Showplace of the Nation" has long been at the center of the city's entertainment scene. Opened to the public in 1932, the Art Deco building, with almost six thousand seats, was initially intended to "house high-class variety entertainment. " However, the space was later converted to a movie hall, with films accompanied by stage shows. This lasted until 1979 when, for a variety of reasons, Radio City began transitioning into a concert hall. Besides consistently booking some of music's hottest stars, Radio City has also hosted numerous award shows, including The Grammys and The Tony Awards and is the home to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes, a tradition that commenced in 1933.
Saar, which translates to “the essence of something, ” has a double meaning for Pastry Chef Surbhi Sahni. It represents the essence of Indian food, as well as the essence of her relationship with her husband, Chef Hemant Mathur. Although Surbhi has been in the industry with Hemant for years, the two have not worked together on a daily basis since their days at their Michelin-starred restaurants, Devi and Tulsi, both of which are now closed. Saar represents their fresh start while also staying true to their culture and roots. When Surbhi and Hemant met in 2000, Hemant was teaching Indian cooking classes at New York University as he was getting ready to open Tamarind on Park Avenue. Surbhi joined the opening team at Tamarind, designing the tearoom and promoting quick lunches. He went on to operate five different spaces, including Sahib, Haldi, Chote Nawab, Malai Marke, and Chola, while Surbhi helped manage events. During that time, she also launched Bittersweet NYC, a pastry business focusing on wedding cakes and Indian style desserts for larger corporate events. Surbhi’s relationship with cooking is unlike the typical love story of most chefs. Her experience in the kitchen started at the age of ten in New Delhi as more of a responsibility and chore when her mother’s health declined. She explained to members of the Manhattan Sideways team, “It was not something I could ever imagine myself doing for the rest of my life. I wanted to do art and write and paint or sing and dance - every other activity in the world but cook. ” Notwithstanding these sentiments, Surbhi was encouraged by her father to take a job in hotel management in New Delhi. She was part of the Sheraton Group’s revolutionary all-female kitchen and restaurant at a time when there were only approximately twenty female chefs in all of New Delhi. At age twenty-five, however, Surbhi chose to move to the United States to pursue her Masters in Anthropology and Food at New York University. Despite never getting to study writing and painting at university, these endeavors have always been an integral part of Surbhi’s life. Her father is an accomplished artist exhibiting in both India and the US. Today, she is proud of her own teenage daughter, Soumyaa. "She is the true artist of the family. " When entering the dining room on 51st Street, Surbhi’s artistic aptitude is obvious. The modern space is both clean and dramatic, with natural light and bright pops of color. Saar was a particularly exciting project for her, as she was given free rein in its design. In a mere five months, she turned what she described as a dingy, confused room into an open, tasteful dining space. Saar has also allowed Surbhi and Hemant to completely reinvent their menu. They focus on regional food, staying authentic to the specific flavors of each area. For example, Surbhi told us that the Turbuj Pachadi - a tomato and watermelon salad with a fennel and ginger dressing - is a Rajasthani staple, as watermelon is a fruit that is readily available there, and is usually consumed with freshly baked bread. She has also made an effort to challenge conventional conceptions of Indian cuisine. The Mango Coconut Soup is a light and sweet palate opener, proving that Indian food is not always too spicy or a combination of too many flavors. She believes that Indian food is actually very demarcated in the way flavors are put together. “Just how in Japanese food they have many different layers of flavors they add as they’re cooking, we do the same with Indian food. ” While cooking can serve as a creative outlet, Surbhi still tries to write and paint whenever she can. In ending our conversation, Surbhi emphasized the importance of food’s role in building a community - something she looks forward to creating on West 51st Street.