As we peered behind the counter at Joe, we saw what looked like a machinist’s shop or a technological artist’s studio, and yet the rich aroma of coffee was unmistakable. Joe is a place for serious coffee, and they hope to make serious coffee-drinkers out of their customers. The front of the shop holds a regular coffee bar, with three stools, and a display with some useful coffee tools for at home brewing. The majority of the space, however, is filled by the coffee studio in back where customers can watch the machines whir and the experts work their magic. For those of us not as knowledgeable in the coffee arena, Joe offers regular classes on topics ranging from brewing technique to what they call “coffee theory. ” While they have several locations throughout Manhattan, Joe's on 21st street serves as the “pro shop” and headquarters.
This site, that now houses Starbucks, was the American novelist Edith Wharton's childhood home. 2012 was the 150th anniversary of her birth. Edith Wharton was one of the few New York writers whose feelings for the city were almost unambiguously negative. The author of classics such as The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth far preferred Paris, where she spent much of her adult life. However, her early years were spent here in a brownstone her family built.
Hanamizuki had an unexpected beginning in 2014: it grew out of a laser hair removal business. Jumi Fujiwara, who originally hails from Osaka, Japan, desired to combine beauty and health and open a healthy Japanese café adjacent to her hair-removal studio. Most things on the menu are traditional food items from her homeland, but with a twist. As she explained, “Rice balls are simple, but can have a lot of ingredients. ” Part of what lures the customers (and myself) in is the décor. Jumi shared that she teamed up with a “Green artist” from Japan who has expertly made the café look like the inside of someone’s lofty garden shed. Ivy and other plant life frame the space while dried herb and flower displays are nestled next to rusted accessories. The café is a little rustic watering hole in the center of the bustling city.
Somehow I can never get over the fact that on almost every side street of Manhattan, there is yet another fabulous coffee bar. Gregorys measures up to all of the rest. Located on the corner of Sixth Avenue, but with a side entrance, everyone raves about their cup of coffee. Like so many others, the environment is friendly, relaxed and filled with people on their laptops and just hanging out chatting. Upstairs I learned about "coffee cuppings. " Set up in the "traditional" way to taste coffee, five different coffees are lined up on the table with three bowls that have the same beans in each. Customers are invited to sample first by smelling, and then with a spoon once it is steeped and the grounds have moved to the bottom of the cup. According to one of the baristas who chimed in on my conversation with a fellow worker, Gregory Zamfotis first went down the road as an attorney before deciding that he wanted to open a coffee bar. His parents owned restaurants around the city, so he had grown up in this world and knew that he was ready to be a part of it, in his own way. He opened his first shop on Park and 23rd in 2006, and then several more followed. The home-baked goods are prepared for each of the locations at their shop on 46th Street and is overseen by Gregory's dad, George. And, in the not too distant future, there are several more coffee shops coming to the financial district.
Before Lilia, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, discovered ALT for Living, she said to me that she had never considered that shopping could be an “experience. ” In fact, she revealed, that "For me, life is life and shopping is shopping, quick and painless - I go in, find what I need, and get out. But as I walked into ALT for Living, I felt as though I had entered a time warp. "ALT contains two little worlds - a coffee bar and a showroom - and they work with miraculous synchronicity. The cozy coffee bar, A Little Taste, serves as the storefront, and it instantly recalled to Lilia the old-fashioned cafes of Paris and Rome. The coffee beans are one-of-a-kind, hand-roasted by ALT Roasting CO. “You have to try the iced coffee, ” suggested Victoria, ALT’s Marketing Coordinator. She was right. It was rich, full, and flavorful, with frozen coffee cubes instead of regular ice cubes. What a treat. With coffee in hand, we were ready to take in the pièce de résistance of ALT for Living, the showroom, which caters to high-end interior designers, design firms, and architects. The space is an aesthetic feast, somehow both immaculate and inviting, pristine and meditative. Sitting down with Analisse Taft-Gersten, ALT’s creator and owner, we learned that she would like her customers to view ALT for Living as a full-fledged lifestyle experience. “It’s a one stop shop to help amplify your home and get a great cup of coffee along the way. ”Analisse started out as a model at age seventeen, which provided her with the opportunity to travel all over the world. She fell in love with Europe, particularly Paris. “I think I was an old Frenchman in a past life, ” she said with a laugh. Analisse went on to say that she developed a passion for interior design, and left her native California to seek out a new challenge in Manhattan. While working for an interior design company, she found her calling in sales, and took a leap of faith. She began ALT as a small venture in a temporary office space, then a small showroom in Soho, and finally ALT’s current home in the Flower District. Since every item is unique, the shop attracts a vast array of customers, from hip up-and-comers to the most established designers in the industry. In an effort to maintain a stimulating space, Analisse constantly changes elements of the shop's layout. She loves repurposing old pieces and making them her own. Her current favorite piece at ALT is a vintage rosewood desk by furniture designer Joaquim Tenreiro. What sets ALT for Living apart from other businesses that cater to interior designers is that one can truly lose oneself in the shopping experience. Within the coffee bar-showroom, shopping is no longer just shopping, but also an opportunity to visit Europe without leaving Manhattan.
With all the centers we have discovered dedicated to children, pets, students, and shoppers, it was refreshing and intriguing to come upon Senior Planet – “the country’s first technology themed center for over-60s. ” The center offers courses, skill-shares, workshops, special events and lecture series that help senior citizens deal with the ever-changing technological world. 22 computers, 3 Skype stations, a gaming area, a projector, mobile devices and a lounge create a space that one might think is fit for a youngster, but is, in fact, the perfect space for the senior folks. “Aging with attitude” is their motto. Computer basics, advanced computing, introduction to the iPad, digital photography, social networking and more are all taught in a welcoming environment. What a brilliant concept!
A favorite of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Sarah Jessica Parker, New York Vintage is what co-founder Shannon Hoey describes as “a leader in fashion. ” Shannon has spent the past twenty-three years amassing an extensive collection of vintage clothing, which includes a downstairs retail space open to the public and an upstairs industry archive open by appointment only. Over the years, Shannon has dressed red carpet actresses and world-famous singers, and has worked closely with costume designers on a range of films and TV series, including Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men. In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama made a historic appearance in a New York Vintage Norman Norell dress, and since then, Shannon has dressed her on many occasions. When I first visited New York Vintage, I could not believe my eyes. The window display was stunning, as was the old-fashioned décor, complete with richly upholstered chairs, gilded mirrors, and ornate chandeliers. I was captivated by the wall of Vogue photographs, each one featuring a piece from Shannon’s collection, and of course, by the true treasure of New York Vintage: high-heeled shoes, flamboyant hats, and endless racks of beautiful dresses from designers around the world. Upstairs, the industry archive upstairs was filled with even more outrageous items, from a dress owned by Ulysses Grant’s wife to intricate McQueen headpieces. “Every piece here has historical significance, ” Shannon told me. “We’re an institution, a working museum archive. ” In fact, she added, many of the items at New York Vintage have been purchased from museums, and each piece is meticulously documented and entered into a database. Today, Shannon is one of New York’s foremost experts on fashion as an art form, so I was surprised to learn that she never set out to work with vintage clothing. “Fashion discovered me, ” she told me, explaining how her husband’s career in antiques first sparked her interest in vintage. It quickly became her passion, and within a few years, she and her husband co-founded New York Vintage. “He handles the business side of things, and I’m the creative director, ” Shannon explained. “So I get to do the fun part. ”But the vintage business can be difficult, too, and it took years of hard work for Shannon to build her collection. “The kind of fashion we seek is not easily found, ” she said. “It takes patience and capital, and you need to know what you’re looking for. ” In the early days, Shannon spent a lot of time searching for new pieces in Europe, but nowadays, with three young daughters, she travels much less. When I asked about her children, she said with a smile, “They spend a lot of time here with me, and they love playing dress-up. ”Shannon, unsurprisingly, also loves dressing up, and she told me that she has a lot of opportunities to wear items from her collection. “Halloween is my favorite holiday, ” she explained, “And last year I went to Allison Sarofim’s Italian futurism-themed party in a pink Mohawk and mod clothing. ” But Shannon’s favorite era is the 1920s. “I’m obsessed with all of it, ” she said. “The mindset, the freedom, the departure from women being bound and put in corsets. ”Still marveling over Shannon’s list of celebrity clients, which includes Julia Roberts and Beyonce, I asked if she ever gets starstruck. When celebrities first started flocking to the store, she told me, it was totally overwhelming, “like running from a tidal wave. ” But since then, the only time she has really been starstruck was her visit to the White House with the First Lady. “Some celebrities still catch me off-guard, ” she said, “Like the time Nicole Kidman showed up unannounced. But otherwise, I’m used to it. ”When I asked Shannon about the future of New York Vintage, she told me that they are hoping to expand overseas. “We want to open our doors to global clients, ” she told me, “maybe by opening an outpost in Europe. ” But until then, she told me, she will continue to do what she loves here in New York, working with designers, inspiring them and feeling inspired. For Shannon, the truly fulfilling part of her job is working with designers and models, creating with them and helping to communicate their vision. “I’m always inspired, ” she said with a smile. “I have the best job in the world. ”
While gazing at the menu, one of the members of the Sideways team giddily pronounced, "This is totally hippy food. " It immediately took her back to her time spent in Oregon and she was thrilled. The tiny sandwich shop owned by chef Nisha Patel, is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, serving incredible bowls, wraps, salads and smoothies of healthy, delicious food. With their success in Brooklyn at the now well known and loved Smorgasburg, Shiv Puri and Shikha Jain decided to open their own brick and mortar in the fall of 2013. The only issue that anyone could have with this tiny gem is deciding what to order, as everything is excellent.
“Probably, it is too big, ” says Vincenzo, a solemn expression on his face. This is Pisillo, purveyors of fine panini sandwiches, in its second petite location. Pisillo is Italian from back to front, importing everything - including the handsome young men and women assembling the paninis - from the old country. The weighty sandwiches are studies in the perfection of simplicity, a perfection which begins and ends in the ingredients: bufala mozzarella, parmacotto, prosciutto, speck, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and bright-tasting olive oil. “Everything comes from Italy, ” says Vincenzo. “It tastes better... I don’t know what it is, maybe what the animals eat. ”Indeed, Pisillo, itself, is a story of Italian transplantation. Vincenzo, who oversees the new Chelsea shop, was born in NYC, but went to live in Italy with his parents at age seven. When he returned as a grown man, things had changed: “The first thing I noticed [when I came back to America] is nobody playing in the streets in the nighttime. There were no kids outside anymore. ” The Italian community, on the other hand, is good-naturedly stuck in the past. “[Italians] remain with tradition... when they came here in the 50s, they stopped time. ” Having worked in tile flooring, then restaurants, coming to own his own pizzeria back in Italy for a period, Vincenzo exudes fulfillment. “I did my little steps. ”Thanks to a Juventus Jersey, a chance meeting between Carmelo and Antonella - Pisillo’s founders - and Vincenzo developed into a business venture and lifelong friendship. “We are not like friends, we are like family, ” he stated, adding: “But this is their story. ”Vincenzo also worked in construction, and still carries a contractor’s keen sense of what makes a good location: “We feel good about our side street location... there’s a lot of people on the avenue. ” A tall boxy storefront opening onto the street, Pisillo is little more than a counter, a couple of high-chairs, and a blown-up photo of Montesarchio, Italy. Soft blues, yellows and whites provide a welcome respite from the outside grey. The sandwiches are each named after an Italian city, with the “New York” (roasted chicken breast, fresh mozzarella, hot peppers, arugula, lemon dressing) being half an exception. Pick your city, pick your bread - the soft focaccia is a favorite of both diners and employees - and the sandwich is assembled. Unadorned and un-grilled, the paninis allow the fresh ingredients to charm the palate individually. They are also weighty enough to challenge anyone with a Manhattan-length lunch break to finish them in one sitting, but there are no plans to scale back the grandeur. “If you reduce it, you’re gonna become a regular sandwich, ” says Vincenzo, “This is what makes you special. Everybody says, this is really big, and this is really good. ”
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.
Just a few doors down from its original location in the Gershwin Hotel, Birch Coffee continues to draw quite the crowd. Depending on the time of day, people can order breakfast, lunch, a drink at the bar, or a classic cup of coffee. The homey space features exposed brick and unfinished wood. With a delicious selection of iced teas, multiple spots at the window-facing bar, and titles from the corner bookshelf, anyone could pass a lovely afternoon here.
Naturopathica is a one-stop shop for healing and wellness. The modern, uncluttered storefront on 26th Street contains a vitality bar where customers can purchase tonics, elixirs, tinctures, teas, and cold-pressed juices – as well as simple coffee and specialty hot drinks including spiced hot chocolate, matcha lattes, and coconut kava lattes. Each blend serves a purpose, whether it is to aid with healthy, clear skin, balance natural immunity, or ease stress or joint pain. And there is a lot of room for customization: for instance, kombucha, coconut water, and any juice can be combined with a herbal tincture and a vitality shot. On the other side of the store, there are shelves of Naturopathica’s various skin care products and remedies. The back wall, the “Remedy Bar, ” has jars of loose tea for visitors who wish to continue their road to wellness at home. As Heather Neufeld, the spa director of the Chelsea location, pointed out, Naturopathica has a “360 degree approach to wellness. ”As we were walking through the space, Heather shared a bit of background on Barbara Close, the founder and CEO. After being trained in aromatherapy, Barbara decided to create skincare and herbal remedies to reduce inflammation in the body and skin. She got her start in the mid-1990s and has since gained a reputation in the wellness and lifestyle world, thanks in part to attention from celebrities, notably Martha Stewart. Her methods involve products that work with the body’s natural processes rather than against them. She opened her first Healing Arts Center in East Hampton and has had her products carried in over 450 renowned resort and day spas in North America. Heather spoke about the East Hampton center, mentioning that it “speaks to the heritage of the brand. ” Enter the Manhattan store, which opened in December 2015: the new, twenty-first century base for Naturopathica. The Vitality Bar is one of their new features, and Heather says that it has been a wonder for introducing people to the brand. “There’s a discovery point for everyone, no matter where you are on your wellness journey. ” Even those who just come in for a coffee and decide to try dandelion root tea instead have been aided by Naturopathica. After all, “Your gut has so much to do with your overall health. ” What many people do not realize upon their initial visit, myself included, is that Naturopathica is much larger than it appears. Walking through a door in the back, I discovered numerous treatment rooms. Each one was decorated with their signature blue, with some rooms containing "seperatory funnels" filled with colorful oils. In addition to the six rooms, there is a consultation area where therapists can have private conversations and share their thoughtful cards that give clients a step-by-step list of instructions. Around the corner, a calming meditation center was situated, with a peaceful projection of a night sky in the woods. The projected photography evolves, but the softly glowing candles and variety of mats and low seats remain constant. As Heather led me back to the front, she assured me, “We practice what we preach. ” Her enthusiasm for the culture that Barbara has created was apparent. “Everything is mindfully created. ”
For the busy worker on a short lunch break in the area, Café Deli-Cious may be the best deli option for a quick, healthy, reasonably priced midday meal. Like its surrounding counterparts, Café Deli-Cious serves the requisite brewed coffees and teas, and sells a wide variety of energy bars, chips, soft drinks, and other snacks. The main difference here is the café’s unusually large, diverse, and superbly clean salad bar and buffet. Fresh greens and vegetables, grilled chicken and roasted meats, rice dishes and multiple soup options provide even finicky eaters with many options for an on-the-go lunch.