“I’ve always been a fan of music,” Paul Devitt told me as I sat down at the bar surrounding the piano in the back room of Sid Gold’s. He co-owns this amazing concept alongside Joe McGinty, a composer, arranger, and pianist, also known for having started the Loser’s Lounge, a group of talented performers who breathe new life into pop classics. Despite the fact that Joe is the more musical of the two, it was Paul’s idea to open Sid Gold’s Request Room, which is fittingly named after a Broadway talent agent.
Paul is a lover of themed bars. He started in Philadelphia and opened his first bar, Silk City, in a vintage diner car where names such as the Roots and Diplo performed. Upon his move to New York, he opened Beauty Bar, which combines a classic bar with a retro salon. He has since opened Beauty Bars in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Denver, and Dallas. “I’ve never had the drive to open ‘just a bar,’” Paul emphasized. There is something to delight and astonish in every bar that he imagines. For example, when he ran Coral Room in Chelsea, there was a ten thousand liter fish tank, complete with “mermaids” swimming behind the glass. Paul smiled and said, “I always want to do something interesting.”
Paul met Joe a few times through a karaoke night that Joe hosted. When he came up with the idea to open a piano bar centering around pop songs, he knew that Joe was the man to ask. When I visited in August of 2015, just four months after they first opened, it was clear that his latest brainchild was already a hit. As Paul explained, “The reaction Beauty Bar got twenty years ago is what Sid Gold’s has now – so I know it is a success.” Sid Gold’s classy karaoke-esque request hour begins at 9pm every night, and even “Monday nights are mobbed,” he explained, both shell-shocked and pleased. The bar already has amassed a faithful crew of regulars. Paul partially credits the location with Sid Gold’s success, since the Request Room is a unique gem among a row of sports bars. He also pointed out that Sid Gold’s is different from similar establishments because of the lack of Broadway songs being sung. “Joe doesn’t know a lot of show tunes. Occasionally people come in wanting them, and he’ll play a couple, but it’s not his thing.” I asked Paul what his own go-to song was. He laughed and responded, “Righteous Brothers, Loving Feeling. It’s always good to do a sing-a-long, here.”
Joe is at the piano most nights, but when I visited, it was his night off and a young man named Julian was impressively mastering the keys. Some members of the Manhattan Sideways team stayed to witness the singing and to request their own tunes. The highlight of the night, however, was when Paul himself took the mic and started crooning.
There is a lot of space to have fun and be funny at Pioneer's, formerly named Comedy Bar. Well that makes sense, as it is owned by Ali Farahnakian, the man behind the PIT (People's Improv Theater) on 24th Street, which opened a new location just down the street in 2015. We found this place to have a little bit of everything. A fan of pinball? There are several machines; Love playing Jenga with giant size blocks? They have them; Want to dance? The music is playing and there are others who will join in; Like comedy? There are open mic nights; Want to simply drink? The selection is fine, with a variety of beers on tap... and the bartenders are ready to chat; Hungry? There is a menu to choose from and lots of popcorn to go around.
“Liquor-wise, whiskey is the greatest expression of America. ” So said Jessica, bar manager at American Whiskey at the time that I visited. Opened in September 2013, the bar immediately attracted a large industry following with its nearly two hundred varieties of bourbons and rye. The bar is more versatile than that, however, with a southern, French-inspired food menu and full bar to complement, because, as Jessica says, “even us cocktail nerds want a beer and a shot sometimes. ” Here, highbrow meets reality. Tans and grays line the space, with rough distressed wood showing through. Numerous flat screens are generously located throughout the bar, between giant busts of beasts. Following our conversation with Jessica, we spoke with Casey, an owner of American Whiskey. As simple as the story is, we found it fascinating and truly applaud the dedication that it took for a bunch of friends to follow their dream. Between the five managing partners, they have trained behind the bar, managed a restaurant, cooked and even washed dishes – “you name it, we have done it, ” Casey, told us. “We always knew that our end goal would be to open our own place. Once we graduated college and began to mature a bit, we got out of the beer mode and moved into the more refined and sophisticated world of alcohol. ” Their vision from the beginning was to find a space large enough to accommodate their sport-themed bar, as they are avid fans of multiple games. One of the partners is a University of Georgia graduate, and managed to bring in several hundred Georgia football enthusiasts on a recent weekend. Casey said the place was electric. Mimicking the theme of a vodka service, the guys came up with “barrel service. ” Served right at the table are buckets of ice, glasses and one or three liter barrels, which are whiskey-based with a variety of mixers, ready to drink. Duane, one of the several in-house whiskey experts, spent time with us sharing his passion for Bourbon. It was quite interesting to hear him speak of his experience in Kentucky, this past spring, when a few of the partners went on a trip to gain further knowledge. “What better place to go than right to the state that is famous for this, ” Duane said. However, he did go on to tell us that there are a number of states that manufacture their own whiskies – Iowa, Oregon and Montana were a few mentioned. Duane chatted about the surrounding landscape where the whiskey is produced, saying “it breathes into the barrels” and emphasized the importance of the water source – “all combined, it makes for an outstanding whiskey. ” The enthusiasm for the drink was contagious. Having only had tiny tastes over the years, I broke down and took a few sips of Duane’s signature “Strike Me Dead. ” Templeton Rye (dating from the Prohibition), black pepper, maple syrup and maple bitters were combined and finished off with some orange zest and cloves. The result was powerful and flavorful. Following that, I tried Duane's other favorite drink, “Floral Collins, ” consisting of Fords gin, cucumber juice, lavender syrup, fresh squeezed lime juice, maraschino liqueur and a slice of cucumber. Esteban, our photographer, was asked which concoction he preferred and answered that they had, “Equal goodness. ” Duane has spent the last three years living and breathing whiskey. Although incredibly conversant on the subject, he describes himself as being “humble” and said that he is simply dedicated to delivering the message of our country’s whiskey, “the voice of reason. ”
Home to more than 750 whiskeys, the Flatiron Room is an enthusiast's delight... but it is also a nice place for a change of pace for the whiskey amateurs among us. After spending some time in the more typical Manhattan bar scene, this more low-key, conversational venue can be just what the doctor ordered (all things in moderation, of course). Walking in, we were immediately struck by the colored lighting, adjusted throughout the night, and the beautiful stage hung with lush velvety curtains. The main room is candlelit and brings to mind a theater, caf̩e, bar and library all rolled into one. Each evening, a band takes the stage to play live music, typically jazz. Thursdays, however, are devoted to Cuban music for those who crave a bit more rhythm, while Sundays are bluegrass and bourbon night. Among the deluge of whiskeys, ryes, bourbons and scotches, it can be hard to hone in on favorites. For those who do decide what suits their fancy, the Flatiron Room offers a bottle key program, whereby bottles are available to be opened one night, and stored for future visits. A sommelier schools old hands and the uninitiated alike on Tuesdays. Although the emphasis is on the alcohol and music, the food is also worth mentioning. The menu is eclectic with a charcuterie or cheese plate, an interesting variety of flat breads, salads, spicy broccoli (a favorite), and an array of main dishes. For those looking for a bit more privacy or some shelter from the musical stylings, there is a mezzanine sporting tables and additional private rooms in the back. These seats, and most of the house, are by reservation only, with a few spaces for walk-ins. Calling ahead is a good idea. Coming at all is an even better one.
We stumbled into BXL on a blisteringly hot day and were met by their refreshing air conditioning -- reason enough to stay. But even more, BXL is a splendid space, with warm wooden floors, banquette seating indoors and tables set up outside when the weather cooperates... and a very kind European owner. We spoke to Klaas about his restaurant and learned that having grown up in Belgium, and completing his training, he became the private chef for their ambassador. He was disarmingly charismatic and kind as he told us about BXL’s menu – he emphasized the "all you can eat" mussel pots that come with a cold Stella for $22. 00 and the array of different sauces to choose from: white wine shallot broth, white wine and cream, endive and cream, wheat beer, cream with bacon and onions, coconut milk with lemon grass and curry. Mussels are not the only food choice. There are other great Belgian dishes, plus simple burgers, pasta and salads. Without a doubt, stopping by BXL for a cold beer and some friendly conversation was exactly what our team needed.
The Crompton Ale House is the perfect example of a bar that has embraced its surroundings. Right in the middle of the fashion district, the bar is named for Samuel Crompton, the man who invented the sewing machine. The spacious bar is decorated with bobbins and gears to make it seem like visitors are socializing inside a giant sewing machine. Jimmy, one of the owners of the bar, explained that he and his partners brought in a designer to create the unique atmosphere. “We even had threads up on the spools, ” he said, pointing at the wall ornaments, “But they were gathering dust – perhaps we’ll put them back up for Halloween. ”I was speaking with him only a short time after the bar had opened in 2015. Jimmy, who also owns the bars O’Donoghue’s and Genesis, was not quite sure what the bar would become, but he was already excited by the crowds that had arrived. He sees the area as an up-and-coming neighborhood, and has been delighted to meet a lot of locals, which is a change from the tourist-heavy crowds that he experiences in Times Square. With a happy hour from 4pm-7pm on weekdays, the bar draws in a solid after-work crowd. It is not surprising that people are gravitating to the Ale House, with people like Jimmy at the helm. Like many other Irishmen, Jimmy grew up working in a bar. He had his first job filling pints at the age of seventeen. He went on to reminisce how “There were no cocktails – just pints, " but then stated, "It’s changing all the time. ” He told me how at Crompton he is serving local and seasonal beers, in order to keep up with what people are drinking. He was especially proud of the special beer of the house, Crompton Ale, an IPA from upstate New York. According to Jimmy, however, the real reason for the bar’s early success is “the standard of service and the quality of food. ”
Alessandra and Mario De Benedetti had never been in the restaurant business. She was a law professor and he was in finance - both living in Italy. When a passion burns inside you, however, and a desire to live in NYC is so strong, why not change careers and pursue your dream? This is exactly what the dynamic duo chose to do. Working alongside Elizabeth Roberts, architect extraordinaire, the team created a space built for dramatic floral arrangements and an enchanting atmosphere for dining. Alessandra combined her love of flowers by integrating them into the restaurant's splendid cocktails, specialty dishes and magnificent displays. In 2019, their dream finally became a reality as they opened the doors of Il Florista on West 26th Street.
Crossroads Trading Company now has almost thirty locations around the United States, but even in Manhattan they keep their original relaxed Bay Area vibe. The company began in Berkeley in 1991 and has since become a hub for recycling both men and women's clothing with the goal of helping the environment and working to eliminate waste. Locals are welcome to come in and sell their gently used garments for cash or credit... and while there, hopefully browse for something
If one were to close their eyes and walk into Hill Country, there is no doubt that in an instant they would know what kind of food was being prepared. At Hill Country, they take their barbecue very seriously. The food is prepared in their very own custom meat-smoking room, and everything is done in the style of Central Texas barbecue. The atmosphere is kitschy and relaxed, with live American music most nights of the week.
When Ashley Van Goehring, Hotel Giraffe’s director of sales and marketing, led me up to the rooftop bar as part of a tour of the entire building, I did not expect to find such a quiet nook. Despite being in the middle of the busy Flatiron district, the patio’s height and warm red brick border meant that the sky-high courtyard is reasonably silent. It is also beautiful: every inch appeared to be carefully designed with hanging plants, potted shrubs, and striped deck furniture that hinted at the hotel’s name. There is even a metallic giraffe statue in the corner, named after owner, Henry Kallan's granddaughter, Jesse. The seasonal rooftop does not remain quiet at night. Though the garden is only open to guests during the day, at night it turns into a cocktail bar, run by Bread and Tulips, the restaurant attached to Hotel Giraffe. The tucked-away space is also attached to the hotel’s private event room, which has a little roof terrace of its own. Ashley told us that the room had been used as Big’s apartment in the Sex and the City movie, and pointed out the little details that can be seen in some of the film scenes. The small attached patio shows just as much care and attention to detail as the larger rooftop bar, with potted flowers and warm, giraffe-inspired colors. Staring out at the sunny view, Ashley turned to me and said, “It’s nice to be reminded that this city is not just the place where I live. It’s a magical place. ”
Whenever Rebecca, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, asked her glamorous college roommate from Arizona where she had bought whatever fabulous item of clothing she was wearing, the answer was always the same... Buffalo Exchange. Founded in 1974 by Kerstin Block in Arizona, it was one of the first used clothing shops to open in the country. The store offers its patrons a place to buy, sell, or trade second-hand garments so that they can find a new life in someone else's wardrobe. Today, Kerstin continues to run her company with the help of her daughter, Rebecca, and they have expanded to forty-seven stores nationwide. The company has maintained its funky, fun vibe and reasonable prices even as it has grown so large.