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Casellula 1 American Bars Cheese Wine Bars Hells Kitchen Midtown West

After a long day of walking, the small sign advertising cheese and wine caught my eye. Upon entering the restaurant, I was greeted by Brian Keyser, Casellula's owner. Intrigued by the name, I asked Brian what it meant. "It's Latin slang for a small hut and it also has the same root as the Latin word for cheese," he explained. This could not be more apt, as Brian and his staff take cheese very seriously in their intimate restaurant. There are over forty varieties offered from around the world. While cheese certainly takes center stage – evidenced by the prominent glass cheese case – the restaurant's sommelier will gladly suggest the perfect wine to accompany a cheese platter or vice versa.

Brian has transformed the building, which was previously used as a storage facility for street food carts, into an aesthetically pleasing combination of exposed brick, distressed wood and large windows. Asked about what running a business on 52nd Street is like, Brian answered excitedly, "I deliberately chose to be on a side street...I wanted this to be a kind of escape from the city, away from the hustle and bustle of the avenue." Casellula is, indeed, a perfect retreat.

Learn about the reasons behind this wine bar's closing in the W42ST article, "Award-Winning Wine Bar Casellula Closes Amid Dispute Between New Owners and Staff."

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Casellula 1 American Bars Cheese Wine Bars Hells Kitchen Midtown West
Casellula 2 American Bars Cheese Wine Bars Hells Kitchen Midtown West
Casellula 3 American Bars Cheese Wine Bars Hells Kitchen Midtown West
Casellula 4 American Bars Cheese Wine Bars Hells Kitchen Midtown West

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Lost Gem
FLEX interior Gay Bars Bars undefined


FLEX is a new Hell’s Kitchen LGBTQ+ hotspot created in the former home of Posh — one of the original neighborhood gay bars back in the ’90s. Founders James Healy and Jason Wade Mann’s journey to open FLEX hasn’t been without its challenges. The process began with six months of paperwork to obtain a liquor license from the State Liquor Authority. Though they received approval from Manhattan Community Board 4’s Business Licenses and Permits Committee, lingering complaints about the previous establishment set the bar very high for proving FLEX would not fall into the same pattern. However, this meticulous attention to detail set the tone for what was to come. The bar’s design was a collaboration with two architects from Pratt Institute, who worked closely with students to ensure every aspect was carefully considered. James and Jason had the opportunity to shape FLEX exactly as they envisioned, with a focus on creating a visually stunning atmosphere. Local artist Jo Mar crafted the hand-sculpted mural that takes center stage. It is based on a photo shoot he did in the space with local friends who were more than happy to help bring his vision to life. The entire process took seven months to complete, with each of the four panels weighing approximately 250 lbs as the molds were being made. The attention to detail doesn’t stop at the artwork. The bar boasts original 120-year-old “Tiffany blue” glass windows salvaged from a Brooklyn warehouse, adding a touch of history to the contemporary design. The bar beams themselves come from a century-old Brooklyn townhouse, and the woodwork throughout the space is meticulously handcrafted. The dedication to preserving the legacy of the location is evident in the decision to keep FLEX as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. As James said: “It was a gay space for almost 30 years and that was one of the main reasons Jason and I decided to take over the space. We wanted to keep it as a safe space for the gay community, but very much welcome for all. Our theme is come alone and meet friends, come with friends and make more friends. ”But FLEX is not just about creating a visually appealing space; it also aims to be a hub for community events. With large screens and projectors installed, the bar can host gatherings, presentations and even screen major sporting events. This versatility ensures that FLEX will be a vibrant and dynamic addition to the neighborhood. Beyond the interior, the owners have also made significant efforts to enhance the building’s infrastructure and exterior. Extensive plumbing work was completed and the façade has been meticulously restored, with broken tiles fixed and a fresh coat of paint applied. A new awning, adorned with colorful PRIDE flags, further adds to the bar’s vibrant presence on the block. FLEX aims to be a highlight of the neighborhood, both inside and out. This story was adapted from the W42ST article, "Reviving PRIDE: New Bar FLEX Honors Posh’s Legacy with a Modern LGBTQ+ Twist. "

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The Palm 1 American Steakhouses undefined

The Palm

Upon entering the Palm, one can tell it lives and breathes New York. Whether it is the famous caricatures on the walls, the rich mahogany leather high chairs, the sizzling steaks or the unmistakable din of a successful New York City restaurant, the Palm has each and every trait of a staple. It is a restaurant where tradition is paramount and regulars are treated like family. Opened by Italian immigrants Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi on the east side in 1926, the restaurant has been family-owned from its inception. Surprisingly, the Palm began as somewhat of an accident. Bozzi and Ganzi intended to call their traditional Italian restaurant La Parma but, with their thick Italian accents, the city licensing clerk misunderstood. And so, the restaurant's name – and trademark – was born. The original location, on Second Avenue at 45th Street, served as a lunch and dinner club for members of the city's newspapers, whose offices were located within a few blocks of the restaurant. It was here that my husband first discovered the Palm some forty years ago with his college roommate. He recalls how the mustachioed maître d' took no names but remembered everyone in order, and being excited by seeing the fight promoter, Don King, at the very next table. Ever since, my husband has revered the Palm, particularly the softball-sized juicy filet mignons served charred on the outside and perfect-to-order on the inside. Four generations after Bozzi and Ganzi opened their restaurant, most of the Palm's traditions remain intact. The West 50th Street setting is true to the Palm's roots. Hospitality and consistency of service and quality of food is the mantra the Palm lives by, according to General Manager Richard Hammel. And while the city, and especially the neighborhood surrounding the restaurant, rapidly changes, the Palm serves as a reminder that tradition still sells. As Hammel said, "Hospitality knows no age. "When Lucy and Casey, two members of the Manhattan Sideways team, visited The Palm in November 2016, they had the pleasure of taking a tour with Robert, the restaurant’s hospitable and enthusiastic sales manager. He explained that the crowd is a mix of businesspeople, theatergoers, and families. Celebrities, politicians, and sports figures, many of whom are featured in The Palm’s constantly expanding collection of wall caricatures, can also regularly be spotted in one of The Palm’s dining rooms. (In the past, there was a "sing for your supper" policy - an artist could enjoy a free meal by drawing a portrait for the wall). When Robert first started working at the Palm three years ago, nobody wanted their faces on the back wall. Then, Robert added Hugh Jackman, who was performing in “The River” across the street, and the back wall suddenly became the spot to be for Broadway actors. Now, “Robert’s Wall” is filled with the caricatures of Broadway’s stars and their autographs. The Palm’s walls feature famous people alongside lesser-known faces and, in Robert’s words, “people we just love. ” If there’s a signature under a caricature, you know that person has visited The Palm. The Palm is all about loyalty. An estimated forty percent of its customers are return guests, according to Hammel, in part because of the 837 Club, the loyalty club that provides guests with points for dining there. But while regulars provide a large chunk of its business, there has been a surge of younger guests and tourists in the past few years. This is partly due to the new specialty drink and cocktail menu, intended to shake things up and diversify the clientele. Even Hammel admitted: "the Palm is still a men's club at times. " But the Palm is not afraid to adapt to changing times and, as Hammel said, "consistency and staying the same are different. "While the photographer was taking shots of the restaurant and the food, I also struck up an endearing conversation with Armando, a waiter who has been working at the Palm since this location's opening in 1989. He was standing below a caricature of Sarah Jessica Parker. A swirly cursive note next to her face read: "Just simply the only place for 'the folks. ' Much love and luck. SJP. "

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Lost Gem
Briciola 1 Italian Bars Wine Bars undefined


Husband-and-wife duo Roberto and Tanya Passon's symbiotic relationship is evident at their Hell's Kitchen wine bar, Briciola, where Roberto runs the kitchen and Tanya is responsible for the wine. The evolution of their professional and personal relationships has always been a parallel journey. Both long-time restaurateurs, the couple met while Roberto was running his now-defunct eponymous restaurant and Tanya was managing wine bar Xai Xai, just across the street from Briciola. They married several years later, and Briciola opened just as the couple was expecting their first child in 2011. Three years on, the Italian wine bar has gained a following throughout Hell's Kitchen and beyond on the strength of its intimate atmosphere, excellent cuisine, and top-notch imported wine. Even after expanding into the storefront next door, which doubled Briciola's square footage, the restaurant is tiny, but the close quarters only add to the ambience. This is not the place to go if one does not want to interact with fellow diners: the seating is communal, with high counters made of subway tile for a clean, polished look. The design is simple, befitting the restaurant's tight quarters. Low-hanging light fixtures and candles on each of the tables give the restaurant a cozy feeling, and the walls function as an aesthetically fitting storage space, with hundreds of wine bottles set side by side in wine racks. Rather than competing for attention, Briciola's food and wine complement each other perfectly, thanks to Roberto and Tanya's ability to work together. Marina, a server, explained to us that Tanya is largely responsible for the elegant layout of the restaurant; she added her "feminine touch" with everything from the candles at each setting to miniature chalkboards detailing the day's wine specials. The kitchen, Roberto's domain, is miniscule, folded into the back of one half of the restaurant; because there is absolutely no storage space, all of the ingredients arrive fresh daily. Briciola serves mainly ciccheti (small plates) of charcuterie, salads, oysters, and every type of pasta imaginable. There is also a dessert menu; a gentleman sitting at the bar told us that the tiramisu is especially incredible. Particularly clever is the menu where the prices are all the same in each category. Roberto explained that he did not want the dollar amount to influence someone's choices. After having enjoyed a pleasant conversation with Roberto one afternoon when riding by on my bike, as I was leaving, he called out to me, "Finally someone appreciates the side streets. " I rode off smiling.

Lost Gem
Ted and Shaun Red Stache Wine Bars undefined

The Red Stache

West Side wine lovers can raise a glass at the opening of The Red Stache tonight (Thursday) — the newest Hell’s Kitchen hospitality venture from proprietors Ted Arenas and Shaun Dunn. The W52nd Street wine bar — one of several new watering holes on the busy block — will serve a wide-ranging selection of vino, curated by Shaun, a former bartender at the late luxury hotel The NoMad. The 80 to 90 bottle list is “all over the place, ” said Shaun, who told W42ST that he’s built a beverage program with both Old World and more contemporary wines from vineyards in Oregon and Washington. “Everything’s at different price points, ” said Shaun. “There are entry-level wines for people who just want to have a casual glass of wine after work, and if we have people come in who want to be more of a big spender, we have some hidden gems in there too. ” The Red Stache will also serve wine-based cocktails with homemade purees in combinations that Shaun declared would be pleasing and “familiar” to new patrons. As for food, “the primary menu is kind of designed around things you want to eat with wine, ” added Shaun. In addition to entree items like a housemade mac and cheese, pork belly sandwiches and French dip, the menu will feature “a lot of meat and charcuterie, a lot of cold appetizers and easy finger food, ” said Shaun, noting the addition of a hummus plate as well as housemade bread with herb-infused butter and spices. The Red Stache was born of a long-running collaboration between Shaun and Ted, who also operates popular Hell’s Kitchen LGBTQ bars Rise and The Spot. “Shaun’s been working with me for I don't know how many years, ” Ted told W42ST. “We started talking about opening up a wine bar — because I wanted to do something that was more inclusive of everybody, not just the LGBTQ community, ” he added. “Shaun has a background in food and he was passionate about doing it, so we decided that we would do a wine bar. ”The new bar takes over the space that previously housed wine and cheese specialty cafe Casellula, which closed in February after its new ownership terminated the staff. Casellula workers protested against the actions of Vin Sur Vingt, petitioned the Community Board and set up a #SaveCasellula campaign on social media, without success. As for bringing in new patrons, “I think that the followers that we have at Rise and Spot, ” will be willing to try The Red Stache, said Ted, adding: “Some of the more sophisticated and older clientele we have that don't necessarily want to be around the younger people want to be in a quieter atmosphere and have a conversation at more of a date night spot. ” He also hopes that an additional client base will come from Spot and Rise’s many drag brunchers who will look to The Red Stache for their evening plans. “We also have a lot of people coming that work in corporate jobs that have been booking parties at Rise and Spot, who don’t necessarily want to be going out for nightlife but are more looking for a date night type of place that they'd want to go to, ” added Ted. For other Hell’s Kitchen wine enthusiasts, The Red Stache’s later closing hours could usher in a new chapter for those desperately looking for an after-theater late-night bite, added Ted. “If we can keep the tradition of people coming in after theater here — which I think is in line with what a lot of wine bars get — I'm sure that we'll also get that crowd as well! ” The Red Stache is located at 401 W52nd Street (between 9/10th Avenue) and will be open from 4pm to midnight Sunday through Wednesday, until 1am on Thursday and 2am on Friday and Saturday. This story originally was published on W42ST in August 2023.