As I have witnessed over and over again while walking the side streets of Manhattan, everyone is looking for a hook - a way to bring the customers in, make them happy and keep them coming back. Irish owners, Tony Doyle and Brian Connell believe that their concept is a winner. On my first visit, accompanied by my husband, I found him totally absorbed in the vast beer selection (he tried the Boulder Shake Chocolate Porter and the Bell's Amber Ale), as well as the twitter feed scrolling across giving sports news and scores. It was the Wall Street style ticker, however, spouting out the prices of beers that caught both of our attention. Depending on demand during the course of an evening among the bar patrons for certain pre-selected beers, the purchase price of these beers will rise and fall. Time the market right, and bargains can be had.
I was also intrigued by the special "draft table" that was made for New York Beer Company where patrons can reserve in advance and pour their own beers directly from the tap in the table's center. A computer calculates what people are drinking and a bill is presented when guests are ready to depart. The focus of the beer selection is from New York State though other domestic beers are introduced each week along with a few from abroad. The space is massive, capable of accommodating some 300 hundred customers and it was one busy bar the day we were there, which happened to be the Kentucky Derby.
Beer Culture opened in the summer of 2013, offering beer, cider, whiskey, and bottled sodas. Customers can come in to pick up a bottle – or growler - of beer to take home, or grab a seat at the bar to chat with the friendly staff while noshing on some charcuterie. The record player behind the bar is usually going and if the owner, Matt Gebhard, and bar manager, Peter Malfatti, are around, they are bound to strike up a conversation and offer to guide patrons through their extensive beer selection. The beers are organized by region. The first door of their huge, glass-front fridge is full of beers from New York State, while the second is full of east coast beers, and the third and fourth is full of central and west coast beers. A bit further back into the room is their international fridge, proudly boasting selections from the UK, France, and three shelves worth of Belgian beers. For patrons who just want a nice, cold, familiar beer, grandpa's fridge is the place to go. Customers often mistake the old Kelvinator across from the bar as a prop and are always surprised when they open it up and realize that it works and that they recognize all of the brands inside of it. Matt included grandpa's fridge because he thinks that there is a place for all beers (except lite ones, which are not sold on the Beer Culture premises) and that some brands hold emotional value for customers. True to its name, the beers in the old Kelvinator are those that Matt had seen in his own grandfather's fridge growing up. Matt's first true exposure to beer and its culture was during a year he spent studying abroad in Belgium. When he came back home to upstate NY, Matt was nineteen and decided to pursue his newfound passion by working in a local Belgian brewery. He remained here for a few years until he met Peter, his future bar manager, who was living in Rochester, NY. Before opening their own place, Matt came to Manhattan and worked in a Belgian bar in Midtown. Although he enjoyed it, Matt told us that he wanted to do things his own way and fulfill his vision of what a bar should be. The bar that these two terrific guys opened is one that is dedicated to the simple, comfortable and unpretentious beverage that they adore. Nestled between Eighth and Ninth Avenue in a residential part of 45th Street, Beer Culture, is a hybrid bar and bottle shop offering its customers over 500 different types of beer. Although at the time of this write-up, Beer Culture had been around for less than a year, both Matt and Peter already feel like part of the block. As Matt stated, "We pride ourselves in being an establishment of beer nerds, not beer snobs. "
Velvet the color of cranberries glides across the chairs and banquettes, and a red carpet leads to a prodigious portrait of the illustrious Lillie Langtry. A tribute to this quintessential celebrity, Lillie's Victorian Establishment is a restaurant and bar that rewinds time. Genuine photos, antiques, and political cartoons line the walls highlighted by stained glass from Milan, a four-hundred-year-old clock, and decorative carvings from Ireland. This historic collection commemorates the life of Lillie, an actress from the British Isle of Jersey who came to New York in the late nineteenth century to become a Broadway star.
Opened in the summer of 2012, Beer Authority has more layers than an overdressed child in winter. At street level, neon signs advertise the presence of beer inside, which frankly was enough to catch our team's attention at the end of a long day. Walking in, we found ourselves in a small bar with a sweet bartender chatting languidly with a few customers, slowly digesting their food along with the daily news trickling down from the TV. This was the quintessential local watering hole. But wait! Stairs in the corner led to a second level, and this was where the real fun began. Over one hundred craft beers are offered, or perhaps instead are celebrated, as colorful flags bearing the crests of various breweries slouch down from the ceilings atop walls likewise bearing the brands. TVs aplenty stand at the ready to convert the potential energy of beer connoisseurship into the kinetic energy of sports fanaticism. And the story (or storey, perhaps), doesn't end there. A third rooftop level opens to the sky so that beer drinkers can commune with the heavens as they sip their cherished brew. In the winter, the space is covered and has heat lamps while in the warmer months, customers can feel the city breathing. Chatting with one of the managers and the new chef, Rob Steffen, I learned that the "very" Irish owners, Joe Donagher and Eamon Donnelley have a simple concept of offering plenty of space, a vast selection of beer, and good food to accompany it. The guys explained to me that each of the three floors offers a diversity of draught beers with sixteen on the ground floor, sixty-six on the main and twenty-eight on the rooftop. The enthusiastic staff is well-educated in the world of beer, and able to speak about any of them, including the different craft beers brought in each week. Customers are invited to try up to three tastings before selecting the pint they would like, and they can always opt for a flight of beer. And, just in case one needs another incentive to check out Beer Authority, happy hour begins at 11am and continues until 7pm! The brand new menu that Chef Rob recently rolled out emphasizes the excellent selection of craft beers by infusing it into some of his recipes. There is an ale-battered fish and chip dish, house made IPA honey mustard, Porter barbecue sauce for their pulled pork sandwich and a Porter cheddar dip for their hand-rolled pretzels. In addition, there is the Authority Burger.
I can attest to the immediate success of Carmine's on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the early nineties as my family and friends stood on the lines to get in on a number of occasions. Owner Artie Cutler's concept of serving large, family-style portions to guests, in a warm, friendly atmosphere connected with diners immediately. It did not take Mr. Cutler long to realize that he had a success on his hands and that it was time for expansion. In 1992, the theater district had another hit in Times Square, in the form of a grand, traditional Italian restaurant.
Teddy Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and Charles Lindberg are among the noteworthy clients that E. B. Meyorwitz & Dell has been crafting “made-to-measure” frames for since 1875. Today, be it in their New York, London or Paris shops, one can still be fitted for a pair of the same classy, high quality spectacles.
When I mentioned to a friend that I was up to 33rd Street, she reacted immediately, "You know that this is the street that Wolfgang's is on, don't you? " I loved the description that she and her husband shared with me. "It is an old world man-cave that has incredible charm and certainly appeals to the serious eater. " Situated in the former historic Vanderbilt Hotel with magnificently tiled low vaulted ceilings, my husband and I agree that this is a splendid restaurant to dine. Wolfgang's, located in the sleek New York Times building on West 41st Street, is equally pleasant, but offers an entirely different ambiance. During the daytime, the sunlight streams in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing the steaks to glisten even more as they are being brought to the tables. The businessmen in their suits still dominate during the lunch hour; however, theatergoers and tourists fill the restaurant in the evening. Wolfgang Zwiener spent some forty years digesting the world of steak by working in the iconic restaurant, Peter Luger's. Think of it this way, Wolfgang received a veritable master's degree in meats in Brooklyn, and now has earned his doctorate in his own restaurant, where he has written a top-notch thesis. When others might have chosen to slow down a bit or even to retire, he began opening his own restaurants. Over the years, I have been to the four in Manhattan, with the 33rd Street flagship location being the one where we have chosen to celebrate many special occasions. As noted, it is a favorite of friends of ours, and when I asked them to speak to me further about Wolfgang's, the immediate response was, "Personally, of all the steak houses in New York, this is the one to go to. " They went on to describe the menu as not only having excellent steaks, but they also always look forward to ordering seafood, and then brace themselves as the kitchen presents them with a seafood platter appetizer that is "utterly outrageous. " There are jumbo shrimp (my number one oxymoron) and lobster with huge pieces to devour, and thrown in for good measure, some oysters and clams. "Even if you leave the steak out of the equation, it makes for an incredible meal. " But, who can leave the steak out? According to my husband, a man who is passionate about his meat, Wolfgang gets it right every time whether he decides on a filet or a porterhouse. And I, of course, am all about the side dishes and salads, which Wolfgang continues to deliver.
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. "
Joe Allen, founded in 1965, is the archetypal post-theater restaurant. With one of the longer histories on Restaurant Row, Joe Allen has been serving classic American cuisine in a brasserie setting since I was a little girl. I was always happy to come here with my parents and be able to order a hamburger rather than having to go out for a fancy meal. Mr. Allen - who also owns Orso, an Italian restaurant next door – had an initial concept to provide a comfortable, dynamic atmosphere with good food. And while the restaurant continues to serve some of the best comfort food around, spending time at night in the bar area, shows Joe Allen's real appeal. The high energy level from the post-theater crowd is contagious. The manager explained to us on one visit that they are the first phone call that people make after they have secured their seats for the next Broadway show. And, while he remained hesitant to divulge names, he shared how many actors and actresses have continued over the years to head immediately to Joe Allen after they perform - "here, " he elaborated "you're surrounded by theater, and we do all we can to promote that culture. " I can attest to the numerous actors who grace their tables, as I have had the pleasure of meeting a few over the years, as well as a highlight one evening when Barbara Walters sat right next to me. It is hard to say something new about Joe Allen, so long has it been a staple for theater goers. While the menu remains updated and contemporary, Joe Allen does not take any risks. Rather, it thrives on its reputation among patrons based on its long tradition of casual dining. Seeing the last of the pre-theater crowd during our visit, we were struck by how Joe Allen seemed appropriate equally for a quick burger and glass of wine in half an hour before a show, or a long, late into the night dinner where no one wants to head home.
A restaurant with a history to rival that of its surrounding District, Sardi's first opened its doors in 1927. In an effort to attract customers to their new location, Italian owners Vincent Sardi and wife Eugenia Pallera recalled a favorite Parisian jazz club that hung movie star caricatures as wall decor. The couple imitated the gimmick, hiring Russian artist Alex Gard to depict Broadway stars in exchange for a meal each day, a deal that was honored until Alex died in 1948. The tradition established, Sardi's became known for the drawings of Broadway's elite that peppered its walls. In the 1930's a group of great Broadway figures and newspapermen who called themselves the "Cheese Club" met at Sardi's regularly and helped catapult the restaurant into the middle of the Broadway community. Sardi's became a haven for theatrical folks and stayed open late to welcome actors, and host after-show and opening night parties. Notably, Antoinette Perry's partner, Brock Pemberton, invented the Tony Award while dining at Sardi's, an award that continues to be given in her honor each year. Though owner Vincent Sardi was born in northern Italy, the food itself is not Italian, but rather continental – a decision rumored to have been intended to disassociate the restaurant from the Italian mafia. Over the years, both the elder and younger Vincent Sardi attempted to open other locations in Manhattan and on Long Island, but they ultimately failed. Sardi's is exclusively a Theater District institution, having evolved with the area for nearly a century, and consequently becoming a major player in its development - a fixture in Broadway's world of constant change.