It was certainly a first for me when I walked into Old Town and began a conversation about Manhattan Sideways with the bartender who instructed me to head straight to the back and check out the urinals in the men's bathroom. One can feel the years in the 55-foot worn wood and marble bar, sense the history in the great silver bar mirrors and the 16-foot high pressed tin ceiling, hear it in the ring of the antique registers, and watch it as the food is transported up and down the oldest dumbwaiters in the city, but it was the towering porcelain urinals - monuments really - that resonated with me. Two of the few changes instituted since the 1890s when Old Town first opened its doors is the relaxed policy on women at the bar and the light fixtures, which are still the original, just electrically wired now. Old Town does not just look like old New York, “we are old New York,” owner Gerard Meagher told us.
In 1892 the bar opened as Viemeisters, a German restaurant in a predominantly German neighborhood. In the 1920s, the owners renamed the spot Craig’s Restaurant and served alcohol for the duration of Prohibition – a speakeasy complete with hollow booths fitted to conceal bottles of alcohol - booths that people continue to occupy today. Around 1933, Henry and Claus Loden, a German-American father and son, christened the place “Old Town” and began to serve up German food once again. Gerard’s father purchased the establishment from the Lodens in the 1960s, and the rest, as they say, is history. Old Town is a thinker’s tavern, a conversationalist’s dream. “It’s a place you can talk about ideas. The atmosphere attracts people who want to discuss things,” Gerard said. The food and drinks stay moderately priced, contributing to Old Town’s reputation as a favorite hangout for patrons from all levels of the economic strata. “New York bars and restaurants have become segmented – gay bars, working man’s bars, hipster bars,” says Gerard. “Anyone can walk in here and feel welcome. Nobody feels out of place.” Their policy is simple -- no TVs, no cell phones, and no loud music to disrupt the customers. Simple is good here, as good as a chilled beer from the wooden icebox behind the bar. It is a philosophy that everyone can get behind.
As of March 2022, Eataly's rooftop bar Birreria has been turned into the pop-up SERRA.The rooftop of Eataly changes its concept each season. In 2016, for example, the sky-high spot transitioned from the beer-centric Birreria to a sea-side-themed rooftop bar called Sabbia. Each reincarnation of the bar is equally impressive, which comes as no surprise after visiting Eataly downstairs.Birreria was a sky-high brewery where Fred Avila, the head brewer, created beer in-house for three or four days out of every week. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Fred and talking to him about his experience brewing above Eataly’s impressive food palace.Fred has been working for Eataly since 2011, but he started home-brewing in 2007. He has become a master at blending different flavors together and was proud to tell me about Birreria’s two seasonal beers. Vera is a summery beer with hints of lavender and blood orange, whereas the Wanda is a dark, mild beer for the fall and winter, with a lightly roasted flavor. Fred is very attuned to the weather when he drinks beer. When I asked if he has a favorite, he said that it changes with the seasons and the forecast, though he did admit, “I love to drink Oktoberfest beers.” He featured obscure sours and saisons (pale ales specifically brewed for warm weather) in the summertime and interesting stouts in the fall. “People used to just drink IPAs or Pilsners,” he explained to me. It is clear that working in the beer world has become considerably more exciting.Birreria collaborated with a collection of external breweries, including Dogfish Head, a microbrewery based out of Delaware. Because Birreria was part of Eataly, the list of collaborators also included two Italian companies, Birra del Borgo and Baladin. The founder of Baladin, Teo Musso, is considered the “godfather of the Italian brewing movement,” Fred informed me. He also let me know that he always liked to have one or two New York beers available.The food menu was no less impressive, especially since it was made entirely using produce from downstairs. Unlike other parts of Eataly, however, Birreria often strayed from Italian cuisine. For example, Fred told me about a mozzarella-stuffed quail, which sounds more Northern European than Italian. Everything on the menu was designed to pair well with the bar’s unique selection of beers, creating a perfect culinary balance.I visited Sabbia shortly after it opened in 2016. It was like a taste of the tropical seaside in the middle of Manhattan: Imagine listening to the Beach Boys and sipping on one of their signature summer cocktails while lounging on a beach chair in the cabanas. The menu is filled with seafood specials that continue the seaside resort theme. It is the perfect summer spot for those who cannot leave town, and there is a retractable roof for rainy nights.
Perhaps the attitude of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” works well at Society Billiards. They seem to know that sometimes a classic pool hall is just what people need. Extremely spacious and stocked with countless pool tables, anyone looking to get lost in the game will be sure to love this dimly lit, relaxed, yet classy spot.
Enter through the looming stone archway and immense wooden doors and walk inside the Horseman, where the gloomy interior is an aesthetic rather than dreary. The exposed brick, recycled wood from new England barns, and flickering natural gas lamps conjure a communal vibe. In the dark warmth, one can almost imagine a massive stone fireplace roaring with pots of stew simmering over open flames, or moors lying in wait just on the other side of the smoked windows. This rustic, colonial gastropub is one of the latest additions to 15th street. When we asked the bartender why the pub was named after Ichabod Crane’s spooky pursuer, he gestured toward the door and asked us what street we were adjacent to: Irving Place - and local legend claims Washington Irving lived at 122 East 17th Street. His famed character’s namesake bar is anything but sinister. The rotating seasonal beers and atypical comfort food could warm anyone's bones.
Many months ago, I gathered a group of friends and family to celebrate my husband's birthday. No one had ever been to Spin, so it was the perfect opportunity for everyone to have a terrific night taking turns playing a sport most of us adore, and sharing in conversation, drinks and appetizers. As we walked down the steps into the dimly lit lobby we were greeted by a friendly hostess in a chic black outfit, and it felt as though we had entered any other swanky Manhattan club. And yet, as we turned the corner we saw immediately that this was not the case. Instead of the usual dance-filled floor, at this club we were presented with rows of ping-pong tables and couples in heated competition. The diversity of the crowd was vast and only became more so as the night went on. Businessmen off from work, their white collared shirts glowing in the black light, rallied next to serious athletes there for a workout in gym shorts and sweatbands. Young couples looking for a quirky date played next to groups of older friends there to enjoy the nostalgia of this classic game. Everyone is welcome at Spin. Serious ping pong players make the circuits, challenging worthy opponents to games while casual paddlers compete in a more leisurely game. It has never been easier to enjoy ping pong, as Spin has eliminated the frustrating need for constantly picking up stray balls - staff with fascinating contraptions collect all the balls and reload the buckets regularly. Perhaps even more exciting, servers come by to the tables with what could be described as high-class bar food - some of our favorites were the alcoholic mango slushies, the fried rice balls, and the truffle mac and cheese. The delicious food and drink are honestly worth a visit on their own, and as the club often hosts championship ping pong games, even those who do not want to grab a paddle themselves can fill up a plate and watch the action. Originally opened by ping pong enthusiasts Franck Raharinosy, Andrew Gordon, Jonathan Bricklin and Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon, Spin has quickly become a hot spot both in other parts of the US and abroad.
"Daily Provisions followed a long trajectory," Max Rockoff announced as we sat down to chat about the neighborhood hot spot, an offshoot of the newly opened Union Square Cafe. I met Max, the warm and enthusiastic general manager, in late August of 2017, a few months after the Union Square Hospitality Group debuted their latest restaurant venture."As Union Square Cafe's space grew, ours continued to get smaller and smaller," Max told me. "We weren't quite sure where we were headed, but the space dictated the concept," he continued. When Danny Meyer and his team found this location, a few blocks north of the original Union Square Cafe, they knew that they wished to utilize every inch of it in the most sensible way, but they were always thinking of the community surrounding them. "We had to make an unbelievable place in a tiny footprint," Max explained. They kept asking themselves, "What can we do with this jewel box on Park Avenue and 19th Street?" They were eager to give a "gift" to those who lived nearby.When the group sat down to discuss their ideas, foremost in their minds was, "What are the daily things people want?" They hoped to provide the best versions of what their customers know and love. Max said it had to start with fantastic coffee first thing in the morning, together with some smashing breakfast treats. This would then be followed by salads and interesting sandwiches on freshly baked bread. At the end of the day, the space could provide an outstanding roast chicken that could be picked up on the way home.The final innovation by the team was “cross-utilization.” Within the downstairs kitchen - accessible from both restaurants - there is a shared bakeshop facility. It is here that they make the incredible "house loaf" - a brown sour dough bread that is served in the restaurant and used to make many of the specialty sandwiches all day long at Daily Provisions."There is no redundancy here," Max asserted, "We can feed families all day long. Our breakfast is nothing crazy, it is just the best." In fact, the bacon, eggs and cheese sandwich is one of the most requested items at almost any hour. Therefore, they offer it until 4:00 p.m. every afternoon. "The people demand it, so we provide it. We listen to them." The roast beef sandwich is a classic lunchtime treat, "but it is our version." I also learned about a special sandwich that is not on the menu, but which is proving to be the real "go-to" - herbed ricotta and arugula served on their house-made English muffin. Then there is the Patty Melt - the meat is blended with grilled onions and served on housemade rye bread with melted cheese. Max shared that the team tried all kinds of cheese for their melt, and when they did a blind tasting, it was the classic American that won.The Daily Provisions team also wanted the small cafe to be a place where people could stop by and unwind, sip on some wine, work on their computer, or simply meet up with friends for relaxing conversation. Somehow, although not surprisingly, this talented and well-loved restaurant group has managed to accomplish it all. I had the pleasure of meeting a woman who came by for a glass of wine around 5:00 p.m. She worked upstairs in the building and told me that she makes a habit of coming to Daily Provisions at the end of her day. It was so nice to watch her settle in comfortably, acknowledging members of the staff, as well as other patrons sitting around the white marble counters. When I commented to Max on how extraordinary this was, he said, "She is a microcosm of what we've become."Max was genuinely pleased to tell me that many guests who initially visited when Daily Provisions first opened continue to gravitate back on a regular basis. "They're comfortable here." Gushing, Max said that the best time of day is when everyone gathers on weekend mornings. He loves how the neighborhood utilizes the shop, be it for a cup of good coffee or a full breakfast. It is a place for all ages that has become a routine stop for many. "Everyone uses it in their own way." He has found it fascinating to see how the area denizens have embraced them. "They have made us their own." It was also quite apparent to me how Max and his staff have effortlessly enveloped the community.
A city landmark and a slice of Old New York, Pete's Tavern has been serving food and draft beer uninterrupted since 1864. It does not take much to envision Pete's as it was a century and a half ago. The scarred, carved bar, the high-backed booths, tin ceiling and functional 1950's register are reminders that this was once the favorite haunt of writer O. Henry, a speakeasy, and a pre-Civil War "grocery & grog." Walking through the rooms, one can also discover hundreds of photos of people from our past - James Cagney, Mickey Mantle, and celebrities of today, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Adam Sandler. To drink here is to drink half in the past and half in the present.
New York has more than its fair share of yakitori houses and sushi bars, but this Japanese transplant is concerned with presenting its American diners with Teishoku, or home-style cooking. This chain, which opened in Japan in 1958, features nourishing, traditional fare, where a "healthy body and mind" are top priority. Throughout Asia there are over three hundred restaurants, and as of 2012, New Yorkers can dine in the light, airy interior of their elegant US flagship restaurant.
Ken Giddon likes to say that he went “from riches to rags” by leaving a career as a bond trader to reopen his grandfather’s men’s clothing store. Harry Rothman used to peddle his wares from a pushcart on Delancey Street in the 1920s before moving into a retail space. “He kind of created the concept of a discount clothing store,” Ken remarked. Rothman's closed for a time after Harry’s death in 1985, but Ken revived the business a year later in a stunning, 11,000-square-foot storefront on the corner of 18th Street in Union Square. “I love being on a side street. It gives us the ability to afford a bigger space while watching the movable feast that is New York walk by every day.” Five years after the shop’s reopening, Ken invited his brother, Jim, to join him. “This is one of the true family businesses in Manhattan.” The store, which carries both casual and formal attire from top designers, aims to make the shopping experience for men “as efficient and rewarding as possible.” To this end, Ken and Jim scour the market, travel abroad, and attend numerous trade shows to find the best brands. “We try to provide our customers with that personal, small-town feel in the middle of the city,” Jim said. Despite Rothman's more modern look and merchandise, the brothers strive to keep some core elements of their grandfather’s business alive, particularly by preserving his humble approach to owning a men’s retail store. As Harry used to say, “It’s not so serious what we do. We just sell pants for a living.”