Growing up in France, one cannot help but gain a thorough education about good food. Although she admitted to not having any formal culinary training, Sandrine, the warm and delightful woman behind Ratatouille, avidly observed her mother in the kitchen. Her passion for authenticity brought her to 39th Street where she prepares everything on the premises. In addition to the chickens that are well-seasoned with Herbes de Provence, and spin on a rotisserie that was delivered straight from her homeland, there are chicken meatballs, a pulled chicken honey Dijon coleslaw sandwich, homemade soups, healthy salads, an array of vegetarian options, including rice balls and their star dish: lentil loaf. Each of these seem to go beyond the restaurant's name. The desserts are baked fresh everyday, and the marble cake, vanilla tart, and chocolate carrot cake are the absolute standouts.
The yellow and red decor captures a feeling of the south of France, and there are a few tables and chairs that are used by people in the community. Sandrine often sits down and strikes up a conversation with her neighbors. When I asked why she chose to be on 39th, Sandrine explained that she had been looking for six months and when the realtor showed her this space, she knew it fit the bill. She loves the area (she lives only two blocks away) and her survey of the surrounding community revealed no comparable food places. Having first met Sandrine while she was painting and preparing for her spring, 2014 opening, we left feeling confident that Ratatouille would receive an enthusiastic welcome. “This is our dream location," Sandrine told us,” and we keep hearing people say that “we need flavor in this neighborhood.” Well now they have it.
For Sammy, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, walking into the Overlook, and "being hit by the smell of burgers and beer, was a feast for the nose and an appropriate cologne for any watering hole worth its salt. " For me, I was initially intrigued by the back walls filled with what were clearly drawings by an accomplished cartoonist. In chatting with the owner, we learned of its storied past. Inspired by James Thurber who, in the 1940s and 50s, use to draw on the walls of a nearby bar in an effort to reduce his drinking tabs, the Daily News cartoonist, Bill Gallo continued this tradition and made his mark, decades ago, on the walls of what was then called Costello's. Years later, he was asked back to add more of his illustrations on the other side. Today, both walls are filled with entertainment, particularly to those of us who remember many of the characters being depicted. A bar's bar, ultimately named the Overlook offers ales galore and TVs aplenty, enough to serve as host of New York's Chicago Bears fan club. A rooftop deck offers a place to unwind during the warmer months. The Overlook is helped by the steady flow of customers from the hotel on one side and apartment building on the other.
As part of the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in the late '90s, Pershing Square Cafe opened under the Park Avenue viaduct. The fare is American and straightforward, with burgers and chicken pot pies, steaks and fish. The pancakes, served all day, are a big crowd pleaser. Up front, commuters sipping coffee, reading, and chatting while awaiting the next train, inhabit a more cafe-esque area. When speaking with the manager one day, he was proud to tell me that both Friends with Benefits and the Avengers were filmed at Pershing.
To spend time inside the Wheeltapper is to take a trip back in time to Ireland, as the pub pays homage to their locomotive system. Numerous pieces of railway equipment adorn the walls and every other possible inch of available space. Even the metal bar stools and wood tables are reminiscent of a long gone Irish era. There are several rooms to meander through and grab a mug of beer. In the back, is a pleasant garden, with heat lamps during the colder months, which is connected to the Fitzpatrick Hotel next door.
Jonathan Boyarsky, fourth generation owner, has found himself a terrific niche on 39th by being one of the only menswear shops to remain on the ground floor. Over the years, he watched as companies moved upstairs into offices in the garment district, or even overseas, but he chose to remain where people could easily spot him. Although he feels that he has remained "under the radar, " at times, when people come in they are "ecstatic" with what he has to offer. His family began their men's clothing business on the Lower East side back in 1919. Over the years, members of the family spread out and opened related businesses offering either custom made shirts, suits or fabrics. At No. 257, Jonathan has combined it all. He describes it as "double dipping. " They used to sell only the fabric and then send people elsewhere to have their clothing made. Today, within the three floors of space at Fabric Czar, customers can select from some of the finest cloths, and then meet first class tailor, Steven Tabak, of Beckenstein Bespoke, where their clothing is designed... and, everything is constructed on the premises. "We are one stop shopping, whatever a customer needs, we can make it for them. " And for Jonathan, it is only about quality craftsmanship.
There are intriguing spaces sprinkled throughout the city that invite corporations to utilize their facilities, but stepping inside Offsite is a unique experience designed specifically for the business meeting clientele. The brainchild of Patrick Everett and Shawn Kessler, they have created a stunning turnkey facility where all day conferences can be held. Companies are invited to bring their employees together for a productive 9am-5pm meeting in the three levels of fully equipped space, which can then be flipped effortlessly into an appropriate venue for an evening event. The rooms are configured so that some forty people are able to sit around one gigantic table or be rearranged into smaller units. Attendees never have to feel confined to one space, as they can move around freely on each floor, dividing up into smaller breakout sessions, when necessary. The rooms are versatile and technology oriented, fully outfitted with AV equipment - as Patrick referred to it, "plug and play. " Endless pens and pads, drinks and snacks, including large jars of enticing candy, are provided throughout the day. The partners have paid attention to every detail, taking into consideration exactly what they believe their clients will require, including a small executive office that allows for a private phone conversation and a myriad of white walls that are actually whiteboards. Offsite works with some of the terrific catering facilities in the area to provide top lunches and dinners for groups, and everything is served on their attractive dishes. While being given a tour, Patrick told me that he had been an event planner. When he discovered that there was something important missing in the corporate world, he found his niche. As he began to imagine the possibilities, he worked diligently on his concept with Shawn. Basically all one has to do is book the space, and the rock star team at Offsite will handle the rest.