As I was approaching the corner of Madison Avenue, an unexpected breathtaking building stood in front of me. Built in the early 1900s Beaux-Arts style, and designed by C. P. H. Gilbert, this mansion was originally owned by Dutchman, Joseph Raphael De Lamar. Considered to be one of the wealthiest men of his time, he made his fortune several times over in the 1800s as a ship contractor, investing in the mining industry in Colorado and later on Wall Street. After his death, the American Bible Society purchased the De Lamar Mansion for one year and then, for the next fifty years, it was home to the National Democratic Club. Unfortunately, in 1973 when the Polish government purchased the house, it was in a terrible state of disrepair. Working meticulously on both the exterior and interior, Polish conservators were able to restore the mansion to its original splendor. Today, it is considered to be one of the most magnificent houses in Manhattan. Thanks to the deputy counsel general, we gained entry inside the five-story mansion to take photos, and to experience firsthand, how conscientious the Polish preservationists were in conserving the carved stone, gold crests, marble ornaments, murals on the ceiling and original Tiffany glass windows. With the Morgan Library directly across the street, these two masterpieces allow people to recall the days of grandeur over a century ago.
After having eaten at Barbes, I was eager to check out Omar Balouma's other restaurant. Stopping to notice the beautiful, ornately carved front door, we learned that it was shipped directly from Morocco, and functions as a literal and figurative portal to North Africa. Inside, a vague smell of hookah smoke hangs in the air amidst beautifully crafted walls done in a soft pastel-hued Venetian plaster. The front of the restaurant is for dining where the menu offers smaller Mediterranean-style plates flavored with Moroccan spices. The back hookah room might be the real star. Benches line the large square room, along with colorful seat cushions while tapestry-esque sheets hang overhead. Saturday nights come alive with belly dancers and music is played by Rachid Halibal, a native of Morocco.
Neon lights, on the back wall, greeted us as we entered Trademark Grind, the “boutique coffee bar” serving Sweetleaf Coffee Roasters from Brooklyn. In this quaint space, we were treated to excellent cups of hot chocolate, perfect on this winter day. A few minutes later, the PR manager, Matt, greeted us and invited the Manhattan Sideways team to follow him through a small entryway where we discovered Trademark Taste, a cozy, dimly lit restaurant... a safe little hideaway in the middle of bustling Midtown Manhattan. Opened in the spring of 2016, by In Good Company Hospitality, Trademark Taste & Grind serves a mixed clientele, from guests at the attached hotel and the pre-show crowd from Madison Square Garden to those looking for a unique weekend bar scene. The menu is impeccably curated by culinary director, Jeff Haskell, to featured favorites like Burrata and Knots and Tuna Poke. However, with its dark, mellow colors, graffiti motifs and hints of industrial flair, Trademark is all about the space. The walls are white and black with accents of red. Intimate hidden booths circle a large center bar, the anchor of the room. As soon as I took a look around, I wanted to settle into one of these booths for the evening. When I repeated this to Matt, he replied, “People tend to not want to leave. ”
Built originally in the mid-1800s, Sniffen Court encompasses a small alleyway running between two quaint rows of brick buildings. With vegetation lending further tranquility to the scene, a wrought-iron gate protects it from the public. The buildings, which were once stables, have now been repurposed into commercial, residential and artistic spaces. Next door, the historic and private Amateur Comedy Club hosts shows performed by, and for, members. Sniffen Court now appears on the National Register of Historic Places.