"You are now in Bedford Falls," a sign read in this 67th Street bar, named after a location referenced in the classic movie, "It's a Wonderful Life." With a bounty of liquor, an arcade golf game, and sports on all the televisions, this bar is the ultimate man cave. A food menu is also offered, including the ever-popular Bedford burger and a nice brunch assortment for the weekend. When I ventured in on a Wednesday night, men in good spirits, many of whom were regulars, occupied the main bar. A more private room featured cushy leather for quieter comfort, and the backroom was complete with high-legged seating and a wooden-booth. Tables appeared to be repurposed beer boxes, and the place was otherwise furnished with whiskey barrels, brick walls, and light alternative music. And through an intriguing walkway, I found myself in the splendid beer garden.
Olivia, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, was in a state of fevered anticipation when she realized we were inching closer to 64th Street, where the southernmost Alice's Tea Cup is located. The whimsical tea shop has three different "Chapters, " and this is the second in the series. Unlike the original location, which sits on the ground floor, this chapter has two floors, decorated with Wonderland characters and Lewis Carroll's cryptic text. The tearoom is owned by Lauren and Haley Fox, sisters who have loved tea for as long as they can remember. And, they have always been passionate about everything Alice in Wonderland: they grew up on the Upper West Side, just a short distance from the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park, and both adored Lewis Carroll's books. It made perfect sense, therefore, to open an Alice in Wonderland-themed teahouse in 2001. The eatery has become an enormous success, and has attracted many different groups of people: like the book, the tea house, though full of curlicues, bright purple hues, and fairy dust, is not geared towards children. Children are frequent and enthusiastic visitors, but it is just as likely that one might see a business meeting between two creative types, an exuberant reunion between friends, or a solitary adult diner nursing a pot of tea. The tea list is extensive and scrumptious. "List" is a misnomer – it is more of a booklet. Olivia has tried at least fifteen of their teas so far and has not made even a dent in their selection. Each tea is brought out in a personal pastel pot, to be poured into one of the eclectic mismatched cups and saucers that decorate the repurposed sewing machine tables. The tea also makes its way into the food menu: Olivia raves about the smoky Lapsang Souchong chicken breast, made using a Chinese black tea that smells and tastes like a bonfire. Despite the brilliant concept, the adorable decor and the excellent selection of teas, it is the afternoon tea service that steals the show. Diners can choose between "The Nibble, " "The Mad Hatter, " and "The Jabberwocky, " depending on how hungry they are, and servers will bring them a heavenly three-tiered stand layered with finger sandwiches, desserts, and scones - without a doubt, the most popular being the pumpkin scone, drizzled with caramel syrup. So as to have the full Alice in Wonderland experience, there is a mini shop up front where Haley and Lauren's cookbook, Alice's Tea Cup, is on display alongside many other trinkets such as fairy wings, picture books, and anything one might need to reproduce their own magical tea party at home.
If it were not for the diners sunning themselves in the outdoor seats, I might have walked straight past this restaurant. The townhouse is completely unmarked, I learned, because businesses in historic buildings are not allowed to add outdoor signage. I settled down inside with a few of the Manhattan Sideways team and we treated ourselves to a relaxing hour, thoroughly enjoying a fresh, light meal that was as delicious as it was beautifully presented. An interesting take on the traditional bread and butter was put down before us - radishes with olive tapenade on a freshly cut loaf. I was in cheese heaven as I cut into the oozing, warm, perfect burrata with beets, and Olivia ordered the house-made falafel salad with yoghurt sauce, which she said was "marvelous. " Erika was pleased with her choice of the Kale Caesar salad. Everything tasted like a fresh spring day, and left us feeling energized. The atmosphere also added to the sense of rejuvenation, with simple whitewashed tables, cherry blossom bouquets, and a perfectly placed skylight. The restaurant is a big player in the farm-to-table movement. We spoke with Chef Sammy Diaz, who explained that he goes to the farmer's market four times a week in order to find the freshest ingredients for the menu. He works closely with executive chef Joseph Capozzi as they establish relationships with local foragers. The restaurant tries to get most of its ingredients from no farther than Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Sammy entertained us for quite some time with his stories, and his commitment to the food he cooks with every day, but I believe the best was when he elaborated on "Goatober. " Each week for the entire month of October, a whole goat is delivered to East Pole, and Sammy gets to be creative with as many dishes as he can for 31 days. Sammy showed us the impressive upstairs room, which can be used for private parties. It has a second bar, and a long wooden table with fresh sprigs of herbs for decoration. The feel is more of a lovely cottage, rather than a metropolitan New York restaurant. The walls are decorated in maps and sea charts, in keeping with the vague nautical and travel theme suggested by the restaurant's name. Everything about the eatery offered a sunny, fresh escape from city life into a culinary garden.
I was impressed with Arabelle's versatility when I visited the award-winning restaurant. For drinks or an intimate meal, there is a dark lounge area next to an ornate bar; and for a traditional dining experience, guests can continue on to a brighter room filled with white-clothed tables. Besides its breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, Arabelle also serves a classic Afternoon Tea complete with homemade scones and clotted cream. At all times, the restaurant exudes a luxury that complements the Plaza Athenee Hotel
“You get to see the first piece of my pepper mill chess board, ” announced world-renowned chef David Burke as he strode into his restaurant holding a three-foot tall, matte black pepper mill. It journeyed with him from Chicago to New York and landed atop the counter of Tavern62 for us to behold. Whereas each of his restaurants is near and dear to his heart, we were told that this one is Burke’s baby. And indeed, he does baby it. From walls adorned with an eclectic array of art and eye-catching collector’s items (like the miniature Bugatti that hangs mounted above the bar) to a heavily draped room upstairs made solely of Himalayan salt bricks, it was clear to us that he had applied an artist’s attention to detail throughout this truly spectacular restaurant... and we hadn’t even tasted the food yet. Directing us toward the kitchen, David began discussing culinary economics, his affinity for collecting art, and the projects he and his brother are working on. We watched as he flitted effortlessly from ingredient to ingredient, chopping, seasoning, and sautéing. “It’s very comforting being in the kitchen, ” he noted. “It’s like a Nascar guy sitting in his car, you know? You’re alone, doing your thing. ”Before we knew it, our taste buds were on an exotic vacation, delighting in Angry Lobster Dumplings, Spanish grilled octopus, and fire-torched candied bacon served on a line of clothespins with a pair of scissors for portioning. Outside of the kitchen, Burke shares his passion and expertise with up-and-coming chefs and fresh-out-of-culinary-school graduates. He has made it his mission to “create an environment where the restaurant becomes the classroom, ” since so many aspiring chefs struggle to navigate the challenging terrain that is the culinary business world. “These schools, ” he said, “are not putting out cooks. They’re putting out young professionals with a lot of debt and big dreams. Teaching is key. The action part is still fun; but at this stage, the teaching part is actually the most fulfilling. ”According to Burke, two days in his kitchen is like six months in culinary school, “You get your degree in real time. ” While we did not earn our masters degree in the hour we spent with him, we gained an expedited education of the industry as a whole, a glimpse into what makes a successful chef and restaurateur, and an enlightened palate.
An inviting gourmet deli for both to-go bites and sit-down fare, Cafe Fresco offers a salad bar, an omelet station, sandwich fixings, "legendary bagels, " and many other options for all sorts of cravings. One of their featured dishes, the eggplant Milanese, is made with oven-roasted eggplants, pesto ricotta and fresh mozzarella. Open windows give each seat a full view of either First Avenue or St. Catherine's Park. When I stopped in with a fellow Sideways member on a brutally humid summer day, we watched the children swinging higher and higher outside at the park as we hid inside from the heat, refueled ourselves, and recharged our cell phones.
Tavern on the Green, a restaurant that opened in 1934, has not forgotten its origins as a home to the ewes and rams that grazed in Sheep Meadow. Images of sheep are everywhere - carved into the fireplace, decorating the menu, holding up the table in the lobby. In 2010, the building ceased to be a restaurant for a brief stint, serving instead as a visitor's center and gift shop. After being taken over by partners, Jim Caiola and David Salama, and a lengthy renovation, the Tavern made a culinary return with a rustic and seasonal menu. I have eaten here on a number of occasions since its debut in the spring of 2014, but strolling in and out of the various rooms with members of the Manhattan Sideways team was a whole different experience. None had ever been, and I was amused and pleased with their reactions to this iconic Central Park locale. The Tavern contains three main areas. In the front dining room, the vast space resembles a summer hunting lodge. A large, circular bar takes up the center with a rotating carousel of gilded horses above it, and mammoth roof beams run along the ceiling like an old mead hall. Separated from the outdoors by a large glass wall, the second dining area is far more modern with creams, ivories and a collection of glass chandeliers. And though it was a hot day, a few brave souls ate outside in the exterior dining space, under umbrellas and large, mid-century street-lamps. The other side of the building features a beer garden with its own menu of simple bar fare. Finally, for the thousands of people who jog, bike or are simply wandering in the park, there is now a delightful little take-away window called "Green-to-Go. " It offers both a breakfast and lunch menu, and tables to sit down, relax and enjoy either a cup of coffee, a bowl of oatmeal, or a variety of wraps and salads in the afternoon. If nothing else, it is a terrific spot to watch both tourists and New Yorkers passing by.
Delle Celle features many respected brands of Italian-fabricated women's clothing, as well as its own line of garments. The pieces are full of color and pattern, with an abundance of styles - there are very few repeats. Walking in, one is greeted by a friendly salesperson, happy to answer any questions. Face-to-face shopping is a vital component of this business, void of an online site. And the integrity and authenticity of the pieces certainly warrants this tactile form of transaction.
In an effort to bring Zen to the West, the first branch of The Zen Studies Society was established in 1956. New York Zendo was opened in 1968. This temple offers multiple facets of practice including zen meditation, chanting, and Dharma talks, with the mission to awaken all to "inner freedom and true happiness. " The Zendo is one among a limited number of places where authentic Rinzai, one of three main sects of Zen, is practiced. Today, Giun Stefan Streit is the resident minister and Shinge Sherry Chayat, whose name means “heartmind flowering, ” is the abbot. The pair underscore the authenticity of what the temple offers, as NYZ is among the few places where Rinzai — one of the three main sects of Zen — is practiced. Shinge, who encountered the Society in the 1960s when many were “hungry for spiritual experience, ” has applied herself to adjusting the ancient traditions of Zen for contemporary times. To her, “NYZ has always been a hothouse for spiritual maturation. People have gained insight here into what it means to be human, what it means to dedicate oneself to a purpose that goes beyond one’s own small self. ”