A great shave, haircut and good company abound at family-owned and operated The Midtown Shave on E49th Street — where father-daughter duo Boris and Luda Mirzakandova draw on decades of barber experience that loyal clients call unparalleled.
“I’ve been going to Boris and Luda for twenty years,” said client Steve Elvin, in the chair on a sunny Monday morning for a quick haircut when we stopped by. “I wasn’t grey when I started going to them, but I don’t blame them for that!” he laughed. “I’ve followed them to every shop and I’m so thrilled Luda’s gotten to open her own place.”
Luda and Boris, who immigrated from Uzbekistan to the US in 1992, told Manhattan Sideways that it “only took us 30 years or so” to found their own storefront. Boris, a lifelong barber who originally learned the craft as an apprentice back in Uzbekistan — “there were no barber schools,” he explained — taught Luda the ways around a shaving kit before their family moved to New York.
Once there, Boris, and eventually Luda both worked at barbershops around town, where their reputations as thoughtful, precise barbers kept loyal customers coming back. One of the first employees hired by the Art of Shaving, Boris was deemed their first-ever Master Barber — something that Luda adds is due to his careful technique. “People come in and say, ‘your father has the lightest touch — like a feather,” she told us. “Clients are very loyal to him because once they’re found him, they stay — men don’t like change!”
When COVID-19 hit and many barber shops closed, Luda considered leaving the business altogether. “I would come home and call my dad and say, ‘I think it’s time to change my career,’” added Luda. “He said, ‘No, you can't — you’re too deep in it. You love it too much. Why don’t you start something on your own — I can help you!’ — and here I am today.”
Boris and Luda brought on one of their fellow barbers, Gabriel, and took over the space at New York Shave in East Midtown, a barbershop where Luda had worked previously before it shut down in the pandemic. “It took us about a year to get everything ready, but we’ve now been open since June 2022,” she told us, adding that a grateful flock of longtime customers had migrated with them. Gabriel agreed, recounting a recent day where a client wistfully mentioned their favorite barber. “He said to me, ‘You’re so good, and it reminds me of a guy I used to see on 46th Street and Lexington named Boris…’” said Gabriel, “And I said, ‘He’s right behind you!’”
After over 50 years in the game, Boris said he was happy to maintain these kinds of cherished relationships — and perhaps, along the way, change the culture of beard shaving in America. “In my country, everybody went out to get a shave,” he told us. “When I got here, nobody shaved!”
Opened in 1992 and originally located on the Upper East Side, Oceana moved to 49th Street in 2009. The Livanos family sowed the seeds for the glorious Oceana long ago when they ran a diner and realized their ambitions to develop it into something more. Having worked hard to make their dreams a reality, Oceana continues to pride itself on the freshness of its food and makes a point to have direct relationships with the fish mongers and farmers. Although some have called Oceana the Mecca of seafood, the restaurant's menu is notably diverse. The executive chef, Ben Pollinger, takes to the broad reaches of American cuisine and mixes elements of different dishes together, often in an unexpected way. The Manhattan Sideways team eagerly sampled a few of the marvelous dishes, including the Copper River Sockeye Salmon Crudo, featuring pickled ramps, parsley oil, and Amagansett sea salt, and the Sea Scallops Ceviche that is topped with peaches, ginger, and cinnamon basil. I was pleasantly surprised by the incredible vegetarian dish that the chef also prepared - Summer Squash & Cranberry Bean Salad, consisting of zucchini, gold bar and pattypan squash, pignoli, purslane and drizzled in lemon vinaigrette. Absolutely delicious. The last member of the Oceana team that we were introduced to was their wine director, Pedro Goncalves. Pedro, who began working at Oceana in 2001, makes a concerted effort to develop drink pairings to accompany the delectable food menu. Standing near the white marble bar, he proudly told us that Oceana has 1100 wine listings and 600 spirits. He went on to report that with forty-seven different gins, Oceana has one of the largest selections of in the city. "There is something to fit every personality, " Pedro said.
If the sight of a regular lunch rush doesn’t convince you to try La Bellezza Pizzeria, then their pitch-perfect, classic New York slices will. After a trip in to try their signature pepperoni and tomato slices (a well-seasoned combination of cheesy, crunchy and savory, the Bellezza team has mastered the elusive sauce-to-cheese ratio), we got a chance to check in with the Dedvukaj family who have operated the East Midtown pizza joint for the past 23 years. Founded by Bronx-based Marko Dedvukaj, son Frank Dedvukaj — who started slinging slices in the shop at just 20 years old — took over the business so that, as Marko put it, “I can focus on the most important job of all — spoiling my grandkids, ” he told us, surrounded by visiting family members, some of whom also used to work at La Bellezza. As groups of grateful office workers filed in and out of the intimate storefront for a slice of pizza or La Bellezza’s famous chicken parmigiano hero — “at one point we were voted the #1 Chicken Parm on Yelp” Frank told us, he added that the biggest change he’s seen in business is a post-COVID slowdown of daytime visitors to the block. “The area is quieter, ” said Frank, noting that they still maintain a set of loyal regulars. “We’re still here! ”