A North Carolina native, Suzanne Latapie moved to New York to make it as a dancer, and was introduced into the restaurant business by waiting tables in the Theater District between auditions. Working her way up in both fields, she became one of the first personal trainers in Manhattan, a maitre d’ in many fine French restaurants, and had a ten-year run as the manager at La Goulue, ultimately realizing a found dream of opening her own bistro, Chat Noir.
Grounded in Southern hospitality and French cooking, Chat Noir is named after a landmark café in Paris that held its own through the 1930s as a prime meeting spot for writers, artists and dancers alike. The essence of its namesake is captured with a collection of framed newspaper advertisements from 1930s France, original paintings by Louis Latapie, and Parisian-inspired, striped fabric walls. The space also incorporates a nice touch of nature with aged white oak floors, dainty floral centerpieces, outdoor seating below a flight of steps, and a large vase with seasonally changed branches.
On her visits to France, Suzanne likes to add to her collection of decor, and also notes tasteful dishes to try out with her competent chef, Mario Hernandez. The constantly evolving menu offers light dishes for everyday enjoyment, garnering steady lady’s lunch and date night crowds. “People want to see what they are eating,” Suzanne explained, “They do not need the heavy sauces.”
I could decipher each ingredient in the multi-colored tuna tartar she brought out to the Sideways team - raw yellowfin tuna complemented by sour apples, ripe avocado, cucumber, salmon roe, wasabi, jicama, a light chili oil drizzle, and a crisp, homemade chip. The seared wild salmon sat over a plate of beluga lentils, carrots, and Brussels sprout leaves, all in a pommery mustard dressing. And the cheese soufflé, sitting pretty on a delicate white doily, was comprised of egg whites, goat cheese, feta, and truffle oil. “But we do have some of the fattening stuff,” Suzanne added. The profiteroles, sweet vanilla ice cream-filled puffed pastries with a hot chocolate glaze, were well worth the calories.
The menu also features a list of specialty drinks, with refreshing and fruity derivations as the most popular picks. The cucumber cooler, lime vodka and muddled pearl cucumber vodka, is a standout, and the lychee martini, a combination of sour, lychee, and raspberry flavored alcohols and juices offers innovative flavors.
Just as impressive as the specialty drinks, the light dishes, and maybe even the profiteroles, was the adaptability of the menu. “I am not ever going to say no,” Suzanne stated, meaning she will reintroduce menu items upon request. “People should come in and get what they want.” Diners should also be sent off with the same friendly smile that greeted them. As I watched a contented group of lunch guests heading out, Suzanne referenced each by name.
When she opened Chat Noir in 2006, Suzanne was told, “They will never come down the stairs.” But they do. They come for the light French fare, the authentic 1930s Paris décor, and soft jazzy background music. They stay for the refreshing Southern hospitality emanating from a woman who once only designed to be a dancer. I am so happy she ventured down this path as well, sharing another side street gem with Manhattan.
Opened by Bruno and Thierry Gelormini in 1995, Le Charlot offers the tastes and sights of French-owned Corsica complemented by "French attitude." Light music plays, rattan chairs surround white-clothed tables, and a plethora of natural light consumes the outdoor seating, pushing inside through open windows. Locals and others strolling in from Central Park are happy to dine in this relaxed environment.Loyal to the French bistro image, Le Charlot offers fresh, colorful dishes. A favorite to many, the mussels sit in a white wine sauce, waiting to be ripped open for their concealed treasures. The artichoke special with champagne vinaigrette bares its petals, enticing one to savor every morsel while peeling away to the tender heart. Reds, whites, and greens share a plate for the Caprese salad.Adding to this calm, tasteful atmosphere, the international staff emanates with charm and good spirits, and the manager told me he was "a part of the furniture," having worked in this restaurant from the bottom to the top. It was clear the staff had become very close, as they laughed and put their arms around each other throughout my stay. "We are a family here," one explained, "And we are having fun serving people."When the aspirations of the staff align with the aspirations of the guests, a restaurant is immediately more invigorated, and with bites and an ambiance resembling that of a Mediterranean island, this is the perfect side street gem to evade the fast pace of Manhattan for a little while.
Match 65 was an unexpected find when walking along 65th Street, but a very welcome one. It was a beautiful spring day and the doors were thrown open wide. I found a few tables set up with friends sitting and chatting while sipping a glass of wine. The bar up front was inviting as was the classic French brasserie's menu. I sampled the artichokes, simply prepared with a lemon and tarragon dressing, while others insisted on ordering the classic onion soup, despite the warm weather outdoors. We decided that we had to share the profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with a luscious warm chocolate sauce. A perfect pick me up late in the day before heading across Central Park to the West Side.
Bel Ami perfectly combines the best parts of New York and Paris. The food is authentically French: shelves are lined with glistening pastries and tiny French bread sandwiches. Macarons behind glass are mirrored by fun macaron key chains at the register. The walls are decorated with bookshelves filled with antique books and expressionist art. Springtime flower arrangements live between the windowpane and the grate. The spirit of New York creeps in, however, through the exposed brick walls and the service; though I arrived during lunchtime, the small cafe was cranking through orders at record speed to match the pace of the busy Manhattanites coming in for coffee and sandwiches.I admired the assortment of cookies, iced to look like bumble bees and smiling piglets, but decided to try one of their small zucchini and goat cheese French bread rolls. The ingredients were fresh and ingeniously simple, and it was exactly the right serving size for lunch, another aspect of French culture that Bel Ami has cleverly brought to the Upper East Side.
Daniel is the eponymous restaurant and flagship of Daniel Boulud, the mastermind behind a wide array of New York restaurants including Cafe Boulud, Bar Boulud, and DBGB Kitchen and Bar. The restaurateur and chef also has restaurants in Florida, Canada, DC, Boston, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Daniel comes originally from a family farm near Lyon, France, and his menus are firmly rooted in French tradition. The restaurant Daniel is a Michelin starred masterpiece, with neo classical architecture, seasonal menus, and lavish private dining spaces.
Walking into Java Girl feels like coming home. In addition to the cafe being host to a friendly assortment of mismatched cushions, a cuckoo clock, an antique mirror, and other objects of curiosity, this was my go-to shop when I lived on East 67th Street. My friends and family members knew that I did not own a coffee pot and therefore we always had to stop by this neighborhood favorite. I was thrilled to be revisiting an old haunt, and on this particular day, I chose a seat in the window nook, settling in for a chat with Java Girl herself.In the mid-nineties, Linda Rizutto was working for a major retailer, wondering what it was that she wanted to do next. She would sit in a coffee shop with her journal and contemplate her options. "And then the opportunity came," Linda told me. In 1998, the west half of Java Girl became available for rent. Linda decided to take her own journey as inspiration, and create a coffee shop that would give other people the space and time to think about their lives. In 2001, Linda expanded into the second half of the cafe. "It created what I was dreaming of, and that was a place to let people come and decompress, whether it's for twenty minutes or two hours."Linda truly is the "Java Girl." She has crafted an amazingly diverse selection of coffee offerings, each 100% Arabica and hand-picked, from the volcanic soil of Mount Kilimanjaro to the fertile Costa Rican rainforest. Java Girl's exotic beans are all roasted locally by third generation roasters in Long Island City and the flavored coffees are done so by hand without any chemical processing.Not only does Linda know coffee, she also has a well-curated and enticing selection of gourmet loose-leaf teas, some of which are blended in-house. In the mornings, her oatmeal smoothie is a popular choice and hearty kickstart to the day.Over the years, Linda's customers have become regulars, allowing her to develop strong relationships with many of them. On the day that I stopped by, Linda had purchased flowers for someone who had recently lost a family member. "We've also celebrated marriages and babies," Linda proudly shared. Clearly more than just a coffee shop - Java Girl is a community. And a community is really what Linda set out to create. "I didn't have a business plan, I just had this idea... and it worked."
Lovely classical music plays in the background of The Juilliard Store, home to official apparel, recordings, and books on all things drama, dance, and music. A children’s section is dedicated to recognizing the potential of young artists with baby bibs reading “little soprano” or “little tenor.” The fun and whimsy continues with bags of music note-shaped pasta surrounded by an array of notebooks and coffee mugs. However, the gift shop is most recognized as being one of largest brick and mortar sheet music stores in the world. It is frequented by tourists, music-appreciators, and, of course, students of the Juilliard School.
In 1895, Slovakian immigrants originally founded the St. John Church on East 4th Street to be both a community center and a place of worship. However, as its congregation continued to grow and move uptown, it made sense for the Roman Catholic church to do the same. Since 1925, the Church of St. John Nepomucene has taken residence on 66th Street.
A Roman Catholic parish dedicated in May of 1918, the Church of St. Vincent is considered to be one of the most spectacular architectural buildings in Manhattan. In 1867, the first Cardinal in America, John McCloskey, requested that the Dominican Fathers and Brothers find a home in Manhattan. Mass was held in a small building on East 66th Street in that same year. A few months later, work began on the Gothic church that was completed in 1879. In 1914, however, it was decided to construct a new building, which stands here today. Above the main entrance is a magnificent carving of a crucifixion scene by Lee O. Lawrie. Guastivino acoustic tiling allows the preacher’s voice to project, and each glass window was placed opposite one of complementary colors so as to be highlighted fully in the sunlight. In August of 2015, the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena was established, forming a connection between this church and the Church of St. Catherine of Siena on East 68th Street.