Richard and Joanne Lam, the husband and wife duo that run the Bao, are self-declared foodies. They try to do as much research as possible, mainly by visiting other restaurants and ordering from their competitors’ menus. They have got their delicious Chinese cuisine down to a science. “I think we’ve perfected the sauce,” Richard said, referring to the chili pepper sauce in his favorite dish, the Mapo Doufu. “We went around the city and tasted everybody’s!” After sampling some myself, I had to agree with him: the sauce made the dish, with a well-balanced level of spiciness. The Manhattan Sideways team was treated to a few more of The Bao’s various dishes. The specialty, the soup dumplings, was met with delight. I watched as full, surprised smiles appeared on the faces of the Sideways members when their mouths filled with warm soup. Richard told us that some customers remark that the dumplings are not authentic, and that Chinese soup dumplings do not contain as much liquid. He has discovered, however, that American customers prefer the soupier version. “Have fun with it and don’t trust the critics,” he said of creating his recipes. Our team also tried the chili fried chicken, formed into glistening little puff balls, and a scallion and beef Cantonese dish. Richard tries to represent the best dishes from each region of China, therefore allowing him to have a mixture of different cuisines on the menu. He is originally from Hong Kong and Joanne is from Shanghai - together they are able to bring extensive knowledge from their two somewhat separate cultures into this mix. Both Joanne and Richard used to work in the Fashion district, and it is clear to see from the sleek, modern aesthetic of the restaurant that their eye for design has been put to good use in the culinary world. They decided to open their own restaurant after spending years being unable to find good quality modern Chinese food in an enjoyable environment. They opened their first store in Flushing in 2010 before expanding to the East Village in 2014. In the beginning they found that their customers were primarily students and Asian ex-pats, however, in time they have notice more locals frequenting the Bao. Even though their menu now has a fan base, the couple continues to do "their food research." When I visited, they had recently returned from a culinary trip to Taiwan with the hopes of someday opening another Bao in Midtown.
The only genre of music missing in Academy Records is classical....but not to worry, that is completely covered in their shop on 18th. Otherwise, this shop, here on 12th Street, has an impressive selection of rock, jazz, soul, funk, country, and folk. In chatting with one of the owners, he told us that they are always actively looking for "new" records and are constantly receiving inventory. In addition, they host DJ events.
I guess it would be quite obvious to those who have been reading my site since the beginning, that my particular passion, besides Manhattan itself, is books. I have been a frequent customer of the Strand since I was a little girl and my mom made this a destination on a New York City outing. Their stock has certainly increased from the few book shelves that they began with in 1927 on Fourth Avenue - to the 4,000 square feet that they moved to here on 12th Street, in 1956 - to today's space of 55,000 square feet. The "18 miles of books" consisting of old, new and rare books covers several floors. For years I just treated this shop like it a was museum, especially the Rare Book Room upstairs. I would step in and browse for hours, wanting everything, but not being able to justify purchasing it all. Then I opened my own book shop, inspired by the Strand. Despite their avenue address, the Strand has carts of books lining 12th Street rain or shine and a side street entrance. They also boast a Central Park kiosk open when weather permits and a pop-up location in the Club Monaco on 5th Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets.
Considering the multitude of rave reviews that Hearth has received since it opened in 2003, we were pleasantly surprised at the unpretentious and warm greeting we received. Although reservations for the dining room are recommended, especially during peak times, some of the best seats in the house are first come, first served. Pull up a stool at the bar and sample one of the artisanal cocktails made with New York produced spirits, or walk straight through the softly lit, exposed brick and red-walled dining room to the open kitchen and grab one of the four chairs right at the counter where the food is being cooked. During our visit, one of the sous chefs was cutting apart ribs right in front of us.When we visited, we learned that the menu changes slightly each day, always highlighting the freshest ingredients and trying to be as environmentally conscious as possible. However, a few favorites have remained on the menu since they opened over nine years ago, including the Grilled Quail and the Beef and Ricotta Meatballs. Many of the dishes are meant for sharing, like the Whole Roasted Fish of the Day.In 2016, chef Marco Canora upgraded the menu to focus on fewer processed flours, sugars, and oils. There are also many more dishes featuring offal, such as heart and liver. The purpose of the shift is to highlight food that is high in nutrients and does not contain growth hormones. If the resulting cuisine is anything like what we tasted when we visited, diners are in for a treat.Hearth’s extensive and well thought out beverage program is also intriguing, with a wine list focusing on certain grape regions, plus off the beaten path beers. With such an inviting and comfortable dining room, an exciting and ever-changing menu, and an impressively curated beverage list, Hearth presents the total package for a perfect night of dining.
Coppy Holzman moved to New York in 1976, and in the years since has undertaken multiple entrepreneurial projects. Most recently, alongside his daughter-slash-business-partner Logan Mikhly (who used to manage an animal rescue in New Orleans), Coppy opened Boris and Horton, a dog friendly café off of 12th street in the East Village. During our conversation, Coppy said, “I’ve moved away from New York here and there, but New York’s the best city on the planet, so why live any place else?” (Relatable!) But he and Logan had one issue: while walking around the city together, they found that there was nowhere they could stop in to eat or even grab a coffee with their dogs, Boris and Horton. They decided to solve this problem, and Boris and Horton opened its doors in February of 2018, offering great food and coffee, wine and beer in the evenings, and, of course, the opportunity for customers to spend quality time with their dogs, others’ dogs, and fellow dog-lovers. The vegetarian café sources its products from more than 20 local suppliers, including products from NYC staples such as pastries by Balthazar, cheese from Murray’s, Tea Pigs teas, and homemade syrups. The menu boasts both comfort foods and lighter options, and the wine and beer list rotates monthly - so there is always something new to try. But it’s not just humans who can get treats at Boris and Horton. For the pups, there are pupcakes, doggie doughnuts, french fries, beefcheek and other delicious delicacies made fresh by Maison de Paul. And when your furry friend is tired out from all the socializing and snacking, there are Casper dog beds available to fulfill all his napping-dreams.Logan and Coppy realized very quickly that Boris and Horton had become a community space. While half of their visitors are tourists, many of whom learn of Boris and Horton through social media or other news coverage, half of the customers at the café are neighbors of the business who have made Boris and Horton a “stop on their daily routine.” In response to the café’s important role in locals’ daily lives, the father-daughter duo decided to expand their space, doubling it in size. In October of 2018 they opened the renovated extension, which includes an expanded seating area in the front, a colorful bespoke mural on the wall, and, notably, a party room in the back which is perfect for corporate events, human-birthday parties, dog-birthday parties, or any other kind of event you can imagine. Though the small fraction of the café’s space that includes the kitchen and main serving counter is not open to dogs due to health code requirements, the other 75% of Boris and Horton, including the entirety of the new extension, is completely dog friendly. Coppy assured me that New York is “a wonderful place for a dog,” though before Boris and Horton New Yorkers might have struggled to find somewhere they could take their dogs along for Friday-night drinks. In fact, if you’re considering bringing a dog into your own routine, you can attend a weekend rescue event at Boris and Horton, where — just maybe — you’ll meet your new best friend. In collaboration with Muddy Paws Rescue, Boris and Horton has helped to find forever homes for up to twenty dogs in a weekend: pretty doggone amazing. If it’s human relationships that you seek, Boris and Horton may still be the place to go. With weekly events like trivia and bingo, Coppy and Logan are helping to “build up the community DNA.” As Coppy told me, “Dogs are a great way to engage . . . it’s a catalyst for easy conversation.” If customers meet at Boris and Hortonand end up dating, “then that’s even better!” Coppy said. He even admitted that sometimes he’ll do a little matchmaking in the shop. And yes, there have been success stories. Then, of course, any weddings following such successes can be booked for the event space, and can even be ordained by Coppy himself, who is not only a matchmaker but also a minister. “I think people are wonderful, and they’re even better when they have a dog by their side,” Coppy said, smiling. At Boris and Horton you’ll find the best of the best, from comfort food to good company — human or otherwise. On this little corner of 12th street, at least, Manhattan Sideways is happy to report that New York has officially gone to the dogs