Somehow I can never get over the fact that on almost every side street of Manhattan, there is yet another fabulous coffee bar. Gregorys measures up to all of the rest. Located on the corner of Sixth Avenue, but with a side entrance, everyone raves about their cup of coffee. Like so many others, the environment is friendly, relaxed and filled with people on their laptops and just hanging out chatting. Upstairs I learned about "coffee cuppings." Set up in the "traditional" way to taste coffee, five different coffees are lined up on the table with three bowls that have the same beans in each. Customers are invited to sample first by smelling, and then with a spoon once it is steeped and the grounds have moved to the bottom of the cup. According to one of the baristas who chimed in on my conversation with a fellow worker, Gregory Zamfotis first went down the road as an attorney before deciding that he wanted to open a coffee bar. His parents owned restaurants around the city, so he had grown up in this world and knew that he was ready to be a part of it, in his own way. He opened his first shop on Park and 23rd in 2006, and then several more followed. The home-baked goods are prepared for each of the locations at their shop on 46th Street and is overseen by Gregory's dad, George. And, in the not too distant future, there are several more coffee shops coming to the financial district.
At Paris Baguette, the Manhattan Sideways team grabbed a tray and a set of tongs and indulged. We found each baked bread to be more desirable than the next, from the simple white loaf to the peanut crumb to the chocolate cream bread. The cakes are magnificent pieces of art. We were particularly drawn to the strawberry and fresh cream, and the chocolate and banana. A chain that originated in Korea, Paris Baguette now provides baked goods to almost three thousand stores. Although not everything is prepared in-house, the aroma alone makes it worth a visit, as does the show of people who come through Paris Baguette each day.
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. ”
“We wanted to be that diamond in the rough, ” explained Ashley, the co-owner of Blank Slate. When Ashley and Zach, spouses and co-owners, were searching for a location for their restaurant, they wanted to find a neighborhood with a large crowd but not a lot of quality spots to eat. Blank Slate is successfully that hidden gem located in NoMad, one of Manhattan’s up and coming neighborhoods. Blank Slate attracts a crowd full of young, creative professionals who are quickly changing the area. Ashley and Zach established Blank Slate, which opened in November of 2015, in an effort to create the first coffee-shop-restaurant hybrid in New York City. Ashley explains that they were tired of going to places that provided quality coffee but low quality food. She wanted a place that offered superb grab-n-go coffee as well as more formal dining where friends could meet for a long meal. Ashley and Zach’s vision has been realized. Blank Slate serves killer coffee as well as an impressive assortment of salads, sandwiches and even gourmet desserts. Their coffee is proudly served from farm to cup in close to 20 days. They have a sign at the cash register indicating the green date and roast date of the coffee being served that day. My intern, Emily, hesitantly tried their brussels sprout Caesar salad and only had positive things to say about it, even though she usually does not enjoy Brussels sprouts. Blank Slate also has a small but wonderfully curated market located inside the restaurant, which offers primarily locally sourced products such as cookie dough, yoghurts, pickles and a host of beverages. In addition to serving excellent coffee and food, Blank Slate has a fun, creative atmosphere. Ashley and Zach chose Blank Slate’s name because they wanted to convey the idea that people can make or create everything here. While customers wait in line for coffee, for example, there are etch-a-sketches on which to play. They even have Instagram competitions that reward one talented etch-a-sketcher with a free meal. Ashley hopes that Blank Slate can be a space for people to create. She explained that the etch-a-sketch sends a message: the “possibility of everything. "
In the frenetic center of Korea Town on 32nd, Grace Street is a quiet haven. Couches line one wall, and there are plenty of tables for folks who want a more upright experience. Smoky charcoal sketches and colorful photos enliven the walls. Wi-Fi is not in the usual coffee house mix, as people come to Grace Street to relax and chat. But enough about the space – what is style without content? The coffee is nice, and my Americano treated me exquisitely. But the homerun is the Ho-dduk, a traditional Korean filled pancake—reminiscent of a donut—that is a perfect companion to a cup of coffee.
Nestled among the charming area that is Korea Town, is an eatery with a dual-personality. By day, the business exists as Cup & Cup, an artsy cafe that serves affordable fusion lunch dishes, artistically inserted into giant teacups, and smooth, rich coffee. At night, the same area morphs into Take 31, a dimly lit lounge area, with live music, succulent dinner dishes and a cool, hip vibe. The menu is made of classic Korean dishes with a twist. The dishes are inspired by Japanese, Italian and Mexican cuisine and cater to vegetarians, meat-lovers and those in between. South Korean owner, Kihyun Lee, studied fashion design at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in NYC, and merged his love of authentic Asian food and passion for modern art into each dish. He revived this space in 2011 with the help of his friends. On our afternoon visit, we tried their classic bowl artfully filled with mushrooms, minced beef, rice, chopped egg and carrotsCup & Cup, its daytime persona, was introduced a year and a half after opening Take31. The airy rooms feel clean, with minimal lines. The shelves along the walls are carefully decorated with quirky, vintage memorabilia, but do not feel cluttered. A table with an ice-water cooler is stationed in the middle, for easy access. One statement wall is entirely dedicated to a blueprint of the space, delicately and organically painted by the architects at work. While much of the design is fresh, brightly colored Lego pieces are playfully juxtaposed throughout. Some of those Lego pieces are even inserted within the wall's low-hanging light fixtures and plastered near the giant window at the entrance. During the day, Cup & Cup offers patrons with a few hours dedicated to "Study Time, " as business professionals and students quietly sip green tea lattes and munch on noodles, while using the Wi-Fi connection. At night, locals flock in when the sun goes down, as dinner, drinks and music serves a different, yet equally, artsy crowd.
Greeting guests with a small taste of their Spanish mulled house wine, we immediately knew that we had discovered a small wonder. Aytac and Zaf, both from Turkey, are the owners. They lived in New York for many years, working in other restaurants before the two friends decided to embark on their own adventure. They opened their doors in 2007 and have had a steady flow of customers, drawing from both the locals living in the neighborhood and the strong tourist population that surrounds them. Nothing is made from scratch on the premises, as the kitchen is minute, but what they bring out of there is absolutely scrumptious. We managed to eat every piece of chocolate made by either renowned Jacques Torres or Xocolatti. Small chunks are served on a wooden platter, similar to a cheese board. Delving into their signature dessert, "21 Layer Crepes Cake" was like indulging in a piece of heaven. Thin crepes and whipped cream, topped with burnt sugar. We watched as others shared the dark chocolate fondue, dipping into their melted land of wonder with bananas, strawberries, marshmallows and finger cookies as Frank Sinatra was singing in the background. Although we did not order anything else, there is a menu filled with savory treats - Angry Chicken Lollipops, White Truffle Pizza, Goat Cheese Brulee and, of course, a cocktail menu of Chocolate Martinis and wines from around the world.
All my assumptions about the Hyatt Herald Square were dashed upon entering the lobby. I assumed that the Hyatt Herald Square, as part of such a well-known, far reaching hotel brand, would be a reasonably generic, glamorous hotel like one would find in any other major city. I could not have been more wrong. As soon as I stepped inside and saw the fascinating art pieces, chic espresso bar, and unique layout, I realized that this was something special. The concierge is hidden at the back of the lobby, rather than the front, which invited me to explore the lobby’s many treasures before speaking to the staff. A series of clocks on the wall, inspired by Salvador Dali and echoing the shape and color of gourds, displayed the time zones of all the major fashion capitals. Plug ports were located by every seat so that guests could easily rejuice phones or work on laptops. Winding my way to the back, I met Nina Jones, the director of sales and marketing. She explained that all the main Hyatt hotels try to draw inspiration in their décor from the surrounding area’s history and culture. For the Hyatt Herald Square, that means drawing on the publishing and fashion worlds. Nina pointed out that the front desk was made from layers of old newspaper, and the brightly colored books creating a rainbow on the back wall were influenced by media and fashion. Nina went on to say that “Herald Heart, ” the spiraling mobile at the entrance, is made up of 151 sentences, carved from wood, representing the past and present of Herald Square. Having spoken with executive chef Gunnar Steden at Up on 20, I knew that the cuisine at the Hyatt uses local ingredients as much as possible and that even the snack counter around the corner stocks mostly treats from the Tri-State area. As I sipped on a Double Standard Sour in a classy pink hue at the lobby bar, Nina wowed me with the fact that most of the surfaces in the lobby are made from repurposed water tower wood. I left the Hyatt that day feeling like I had received a lesson in the history and culture of New York, as well as having been given a dose of highly-honed hospitality.
A newcomer to 31st in late 2013, I was happy to discover Friedman's Lunch. Having eaten at their restaurant in Chelsea Market on many occasions, I was quite familiar with them. Glancing quickly at the menu, I knew that I would, once again, have options as a vegetarian. Two of us shared the "House-Made Veggie Burger" with spicy tomato fennel jam, avocado and sprouts, and the "Veggie Bowl" with quinoa, sauteed vegetables, tofu and a delicious sesame lime dressing. Both were excellent. At the end of our meal, we struck up a conversation with one of the owners, Justin, who told us that he gave up being a real estate broker to pursue his passion for food. He helped turn Chelsea Market into the success that it is, and then came to open up this second location. Not via classical training in the kitchen, but rather through his love of food and hospitality, "traveling down a long road, " he has finally been able to open up his dream. Working with a young design couple from Tribeca, they created something simple using distressed wood and antique mirrors. "The decor is kick ass, " Justin exclaimed. With good music, a great neighborhood vibe, lots of gluten free options, and the most amazing signature potato chips, Manhattan Sideways has no doubt that Friedman's reputation will take off.
St. Francis of Assisi is a parish church named for the patron saint of peacemakers. In response to a temporary closing of the Church of St. John the Baptist, a Franciscan priest founded the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in 1844. Beginning with only a small congregation, the Church soon grew to house a school in the 1860s, assembled by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. The beautiful building of Gothic Revival design that stands today was erected in 1892. Upon walking inside, focus is drawn to the phenomenal mosaic behind the altar. This incredible artwork, Rudolph Margreiter’s The Glorification of the Mother of Jesus, has been with the Church of St. Francis of Assisi since 1928. Observant of the changes that have taken place in the neighborhood and the lives of the surrounding population, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi holds a “Nightworkers Mass” at midnight along with a midday mass for those who work in the day time. The Church was renowned for its vast provision of food to the hungry during the Great Depression, and continues to this day to notably demonstrate Franciscan compassion, as they maintain an ongoing tradition of a daily breadline.
It appears that only a few short weeks after opening Osamil in the early fall of 2016, the three partners of Nomad Izakaya have another hit on their hands. At 5: 00pm when Tom, the photographer for Manhattan Sideways, and I walked in, there were a few people milling about at the impressive white marble bar. By the time we left, about an hour and a half later, there was not a seat to be had upfront, and the tables for dinner were rapidly being filled. Both Nathan, the manager, and Moku, one of the owners, greeted us with big smiles, enthusiastically showing off the beautiful decor. Staring at the front mural - with 5th Avenue and 31st Street signs painted on it - Nathan enlightened us that O-sam-il means 5, 3, 1 in Korean. From their doorway, one can see the real signs outside. The numbers have added significance, because in addition to being on 5th and 31st, the restaurant's address is 5 West 31st. When the team first found this space, they had to strip everything down. When they came upon the brick wall on one side, they decided to sand it and leave it exposed. The end result is a checker board design that is strikingly different than other spaces I have seen. A Korean friend of Moku's did the mural on the rest of the wall. "We told him to do whatever he wanted - to use his imagination. " Moonsub Shin did just that, creating a soft gray design that is soothing and beautiful. The wood tables and short stools are spread down the middle of the restaurant with a few booths along the edges. Liquor lockers span the entire opposite wall, filled with customer's personal alcohol. Be it a fine bottle of Scotch or a vintage wine or bourbon, customers are welcome to store whatever they would like in their secured cubby - for a small corkage fee. Straight in the back lies the open kitchen where Chef David Lee performs his magic. Osamil is different from more traditional Korean eateries found just a few blocks away. Here they are striving to be more "modern and upscale" while still being reminiscent of a typical Korean barbecue restaurant. After showing us around and chatting about Osamil, Nathan and Moku invited Tom and I to take a seat at the bar to await some dishes that we could photograph. Little did we realize that the presentation of these dishes would last for a delightful forty-five minutes. The first to arrive was a sizzling plate of cured shrimp, sauteed shishito peppers with broccoli rabe, and beef tartar. Each dish was presented on a unique plate as a culinary work of art. It was not long before a medley of grilled mushrooms and a large marinated lamb chop covered in a mix of herb and pine nuts were placed in front of us. While we watched Gelo, the bartender, whip up several intriguing cocktails, a 100-year-old oak board was put before us with a very large, crispy port shank. A knife and fork stuck out from the top and the shank was surrounded by a shaved apple salad, lettuce leaves, and three small bowls with an array of pickled relishes. Once Tom had finished taking photos of this impressive meal for two, he was instructed to grab a lettuce leaf and fill it with meat, salad, and a relish of his choice. It was great fun and, he assured me, very tasty. There is no doubt that Osamil is off to a fine beginning.