Anything olive oil sounds enticing to me. We decided to take advantage of a special gift of warmth and sunshine well before we should have had it this season, and we ate brunch outside with tons of others. We all applauded our choices from the menu, and had fun sampling the variety of tasty olive oils that our server was kind enough to bring to our table when we asked.
Since its opening in the summer of 2011, Empellon has been welcomed by just about every food critic in the New York area - and all to rave reviews. We finally had to try this for ourselves... and we were not disappointed. The team of highly regarded young chefs and the renowned head chef/owner produce a truly outstanding Mexican-inspired menu and pay homage to the taco and tortilla. The mezcal margarita with a tincture of seranno pepper was a great way to start the meal. Then we moved on to guacamole, several different tasty salsas, and a refreshing watercress salad with apples, pineapples and a mole dressing. Next up were shishito peppers and melted cheese served on warm tortillas, a healthy chicken taco, yucca fries and sweet plantains. Empellon definitely lived up to our expectations.
“We are one of the oldest gay bars in the city, ” said Helen Burford. The owner of Julius’ considers it an honor to be a part of this history and to allow others to share in it. Many who stop by are keen to dip their toes into an earlier, more troublesome period. “We are a good reminder of the struggles people went through for those of us today. ”What better way for young men and women to learn about landmark events like the renowned “Sip-In, ” where gay activists challenged New York’s prohibitions on gay bars? The patrons who have been frequenting Julius’ for decades are happy to provide a history lesson. Every day around 4 p. m., they sit in a corner and share stories of what it was like back in the day. “This is their home. To them, Julius’ is not a bar — rain or shine, they need to be here. ” The old group, now in their seventies and eighties, enjoy having a drink and chatting with one another, but they also invite “guests” into the conversation — passing the baton, as this is their legacy. “They are always trying to bring young people into the fold, ” Helen commented.
Chef and owner Kurt Gutenbrunner grew up in a suburb of Vienna called Wallse. His West Village restaurant brings his native style and cuisine to New York. Wallse gave us the feeling that the people who dine here are absolute regulars. Everyone seemed comfortable with the staff as they settled in for a traditional meal with a contemporary flair, filled with Austrian favorites in a setting made for fine dining. Of course we had to order wiener schnitzel and a side of spatzle - everything that we tried was cooked to perfection. Gutenbrunner, who also happens to be an art aficionado, embodies the saying that every chef is an artist first. The artwork that can be found around every corner and on every wall of his restaurant space is made personally for him – one large painting is even a portrait of the chef himself. When we came back for a second visit, we found the restaurant newly expanded. A vacancy next door presented Wallse with the opportunity to add a second, more relaxed space with its own bar and small kitchen. It is meant to appeal to wider audiences, particularly the younger generation, but still offers up Chef Gutenbrunner’s delicious Austrian cuisine.
As Hamlet would say, “This is one of the places you come to the village for. ” Walking through the door, a small white pooch runs up to greet you, then leads you back through the racks of coats, pants, hats, and other accessories. As the owner, Hamlet, emphasizes, the inventory here is vintage clothing (not a second-hand shop), that dates from the 1940s to the 80s. The selection is sourced through various vintage collectors from all over the world. Hamlet credits his eye for fashion to his mother, who, he says, was a fashion designer in his home country of Dominican Republic. He is very proud of his collection and iterates that the store is not for “80s party” accoutrement, rather it is a resource for historic elegance and style. And if you stop in, you may even get your picture taken, as Hamlet will often have his customers model his new acquisitions.
Every nook and cranny of this tiny storefront's space is full of an extensive and eclectic collection of musical instruments from around the world. Instruments hang from the ceiling just as haphazardly as they are stacked on top of one another from the floor. Located at this same address for over fifty years, Music Inn has an impressive sitar selection from the 1960's, a rare 100 year old sarinda from Afghanistan, as well as adorable little child guitars and mini pianos. I had a quick throwback moment when I spied an autoharp. Do you remember music class in elementary school back in the 60's?
62 East 4th Street has had a fascinating history. At its inception in 1889, it served as a social hall housing a musician's union known as Astoria Hall, as well as hosting meetings of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In the 1930's, the ballroom was revamped as a theater and television studio and renamed Fortune Theater until Andy Warhol discovered it and left his legendary stamp here. In 1969, he rented it out to showcase a series of infamous porn films and called it Andy Warhol's Theater: Boys to Adore Galore. Over the years, the Yiddish theater had performances here, and many well known television shows used the space to film. Since 1987, the Duo Center has been here having raised the funds for renovations, and then remaining throughout construction to become home to what is now Duo Multicultural Arts Center and Rod Rogers Dance Company and Studio. Today the building is part of Fourth Arts Block (FAB) and operates as a center for film, dance, art, theater and music and is among New York's designated cultural districts.
Pageant Print Shop’s entirely glass storefront bordered by light blue is instantly eye-catching and proudly displays the treasure within. Inside its bright, buttercream interior, an immense assortment of old prints and maps line every wall and fill neatly-labeled display racks. This sanctuary of beautiful historical pieces was created by Sidney Solomon and Henry Chafetz in 1946. It was originally one of the many second-hand book stores on Fourth Avenue, an area that was then known as “Book Row. ” Now under the leadership of Sidney’s daughters, Shirley and Rebecca, Pageant Print Shop primarily sells old prints and is thriving at its current 4th Street location. Having worked with historic pieces her whole life, Shirley knows how to get the best prints. She has amassed her impressive collection from antique book auctions as well as other various sources that she has built up over the years. Roger, who has been working at Pageant Print Shop for over a decade, told Manhattan Sideways that “what we are looking for are old books with the bindings broken that are really not in very good shape on the outside, but still have good quality prints, maps, or illustrations on the inside. ” Although they search for old books based on the contents within, the shop also sells the old bindings for creatives looking to make decoupage and other fun art projects. Pageant Print Shop is definitely a fixture in the East Village, and in the words of Roger, is “one of those neighborhood jams. ” They enjoy “a loyal group of people that have been coming here for eons, " tourists looking for something authentically New York City, and neighborhood people walking by. He told us that newcomers are often “surprised that they are able to buy a piece of history, ” and return for more of their authentic, beautiful, and historic prints. Pageant Print Shop is unique in its extensive, high quality, and affordable selection. Roger affirmed that “It’s going to be hard for you to find someone who has this kind of a collection at these kinds of prices — it’s just true. ”
After moving to her current location from East 7th Street, Lalita Kumut is pleased with her new address for selling aromatherapy products. On one of our recent visits, we stood by while a delighted group of girls were creating their own fragrances. From the variety of custom blends, soaps, oils and other smell-good body products, to the lovely women who have been in this business for over twenty years, the Fragrance Shop offers a memorable experience for the senses.
The Arabic name of this Mediterranean cafe translates to welcome and peace, and its colorful, wordly decor effectively brings this atmosphere to life. Its owner, Bassam Omary, left his home of Damascus in the 1980s and came to New York, where he worked at his cousin’s Greenwich Avenue Syrian restaurant. When his relative was ready to hand over the reins, Bassam bought the business with his wife, Joan, and relocated to 13th Street. “We always had a good feeling about this place, ” Joan explained. The space is adorned with pillows, pictures, and tapestries from Syria and mosaic-patterned Moroccan tables. A small, private dining area allows groups to experience the Middle Eastern custom of sitting on cushions on the floor. Loyal patrons visit time and again for the succulent tagines, grilled kebabs, and what Joan says is the undisputed customer favorite: uzis — crispy phyllo dough stuffed with rice, raisins, and the protein of one’s choice. As the only chef, Bassam is constantly experimenting, returning to the traditional dishes his mother taught him how to prepare while freely exploring the spices, ingredients, and flavors he is passionate about.
A totally different experience awaited me at Alta from down the block at Piadina, but both were wonderful. The energy level at Alta was high from the moment I walked through the door. There are two floors in which to dine, with the upstairs decibel level a bit more comfortable. The menu is all about small plates, and wow are there a lot of choices. There is definitely something here to please anyone’s palette. It took myself and company quite some time just to peruse the menu and the very extensive wine list. Just a quick sampler of what we tasted and devoured quickly: the fried goat cheese balls in lavender infused honey came four on a skewer and were excellent; the lamb meatballs had spiced butternut squash foam, toasted sesame seeds and lebne, and were amazing; the pulled pork empanadas came with a tasty sweet and spicy cilantro dipping sauce; the bruschetta of spinach and mascarpone had dried Turkish figs, pine nuts, parmesan and balsamic was good, but gone too quickly; the crispy brussels sprouts with Fuji apples, crème fraiche and pistachio nuts was a favorite of mine. When everyone decided that we still could eat a bit more, the waiter recommended the house-made pizza with porcini cream, fontina, crimini mushrooms, fried garlic and aleppo (pepper). Though we had no room for dessert, we assured one another that we would try it out one day soon.