As we approached Haymaker Bar, Olivia, a member of the Sideways team, mentioned that she often finds herself around Penn Station with time to kill, but nowhere to kill it. She does not know where to go, besides the chain stores and sports bars that populate the area. Her eyes lit up when we walked into Haymaker, a hip bar with an individual spirit, where the emphasis is not placed on sporting events, but rather the large selection of drinks and good food. The space emanated a sense of rustic hospitality and old-world charm, without seeming in the least old-fashioned.
There we met Tristan Colegrove, the bar manager, and David Smith, the owner. Tristan showed us a menu, telling us that instead of using a chalkboard, he uses a clever stamping system on the menu to show the “constantly rotating” beers. He was incredibly enthusiastic about Haymaker, which had only opened a few weeks prior to our visit in the fall of 2015. Tristan immediately began pouring samples. He started with a cider and mentioned a tasting that was slated for that evening with Kyle Sherrer from Millstone Cellars. We found the most interesting to be the Millstone Bonfire Cyser, where cider, mead, and smoked fish peppers blended together into a perfectly balanced spicy-sweet combination.
After being introduced to some interesting ciders, Tristan moved on to beer. Olivia and Tom eagerly tried Hop Showers from Other Half Brewing Co. in Brooklyn, which, true to the name, was hoppy and refreshing (“I try to bring in guys that are local,” Tristan said). That was followed by a sour from Crooked Stave, based in Denver, and Olivia’s favorite, the Kent Falls Shower Beer, with hints of lime, coriander, and sea salt. Tom’s favorite, the “Bomb!” from Prairie, was brewed with chili peppers, chocolate, and espresso beans. The beers come in a variety of sizes, including eight-ounce glasses that allow people to try more and still remain, in Tristan’s words, "productive at the office after lunch.”
As we sipped on the different drinks, David spoke about how the restaurant was formed. Originally from Northern Ireland, he moved to New York in 2006, where his career in the bar world started to kick off. He and his current business partner, Jeff Anszulewicz, met while working at Dempsey’s in the East Village. They wanted to open a bar/restaurant in an up-and-coming neighborhood. They looked in Brooklyn, but could not find exactly what they wanted. When the Haymaker’s current home became available, they grabbed it. Even though it is Manhattan, David and Jeff recognized it as a neighborhood that needed a bar with their vision. They wanted to be certain that the quality of the food matched the caliber of the drink, so they brought in Jim Takacs as executive chef and Tristan to run the bar.
While chatting, Tristan brought out some of Haymaker’s food specialties for us to try, and as we were sitting at the bar, a shipment arrived. Tristan turned his attention to the box and we were able to witness the sight of him opening the new case of beer. It was like watching a child on Christmas morning. We happily continued to snack on the creamy orange pimento cheese with crackers and fresh cut up veggies. “The wings people go crazy for,” David announced, as he put the plate down. Olivia and Tom wholeheartedly agreed, as did my husband and friends when we stopped in a few days later. I was quite pleased with the cabbage salad which was light, crisp and colorful.
Flavor is king at Haymaker, and David says that a devoted core of regulars has already started forming. People come by for a variety of reasons, whether it is to take advantage of $2 off select wine, beer, and house drinks during Happy Hour from 4-7, to grab a light lunch with coworkers, or because they are a “beer nerd” and treat Haymaker as a destination bar. The crew is eagerly anticipating the completion of the Hudson Yards project, as they know they are in a perfect location to attract this new clientele.
Manhattan has dozens of superb steak houses and Nick & Stef's certainly ranks up there with some of the better ones. Although I have not dined at this location, I recently had an excellent meal at their L.A. restaurant. Beginning with a great salad, as usual, I shared in the sides that everyone chose. I loved the cream spinach (sans bacon breadcrumbs), and I indulged in the numerous potato dishes. My husband was a happy guy having been served a perfectly prepared filet mignon, cooked exactly the way he likes it - charred on the outside and medium on the inside.
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.
“Liquor-wise, whiskey is the greatest expression of America.” So said Jessica, bar manager at American Whiskey at the time that I visited. Opened in September 2013, the bar immediately attracted a large industry following with its nearly two hundred varieties of bourbons and rye. The bar is more versatile than that, however, with a southern, French-inspired food menu and full bar to complement, because, as Jessica says, “even us cocktail nerds want a beer and a shot sometimes.” Here, highbrow meets reality. Tans and grays line the space, with rough distressed wood showing through. Numerous flat screens are generously located throughout the bar, between giant busts of beasts.Following our conversation with Jessica, we spoke with Casey, an owner of American Whiskey. As simple as the story is, we found it fascinating and truly applaud the dedication that it took for a bunch of friends to follow their dream. Between the five managing partners, they have trained behind the bar, managed a restaurant, cooked and even washed dishes – “you name it, we have done it,” Casey, told us. “We always knew that our end goal would be to open our own place. Once we graduated college and began to mature a bit, we got out of the beer mode and moved into the more refined and sophisticated world of alcohol.” Their vision from the beginning was to find a space large enough to accommodate their sport-themed bar, as they are avid fans of multiple games. One of the partners is a University of Georgia graduate, and managed to bring in several hundred Georgia football enthusiasts on a recent weekend. Casey said the place was electric.Mimicking the theme of a vodka service, the guys came up with “barrel service.” Served right at the table are buckets of ice, glasses and one or three liter barrels, which are whiskey-based with a variety of mixers, ready to drink. Duane, one of the several in-house whiskey experts, spent time with us sharing his passion for Bourbon. It was quite interesting to hear him speak of his experience in Kentucky, this past spring, when a few of the partners went on a trip to gain further knowledge. “What better place to go than right to the state that is famous for this,” Duane said. However, he did go on to tell us that there are a number of states that manufacture their own whiskies – Iowa, Oregon and Montana were a few mentioned.Duane chatted about the surrounding landscape where the whiskey is produced, saying “it breathes into the barrels” and emphasized the importance of the water source – “all combined, it makes for an outstanding whiskey.” The enthusiasm for the drink was contagious. Having only had tiny tastes over the years, I broke down and took a few sips of Duane’s signature “Strike Me Dead.” Templeton Rye (dating from the Prohibition), black pepper, maple syrup and maple bitters were combined and finished off with some orange zest and cloves. The result was powerful and flavorful. Following that, I tried Duane's other favorite drink, “Floral Collins,” consisting of Fords gin, cucumber juice, lavender syrup, fresh squeezed lime juice, maraschino liqueur and a slice of cucumber. Esteban, our photographer, was asked which concoction he preferred and answered that they had, “Equal goodness.” Duane has spent the last three years living and breathing whiskey. Although incredibly conversant on the subject, he describes himself as being “humble” and said that he is simply dedicated to delivering the message of our country’s whiskey, “the voice of reason.”
Stout NYC has the magic ability of seeming both like a large fortress and like a cozy cavern. It claims to be New York's largest Irish pub, and yet comfortable seating and cobblestone floors give the bar a warm, friendly atmosphere. With two other locations in the Financial District and near Grand Central, Stout NYC has set itself up as a neighborhood hangout three times over.
The Crompton Ale House is the perfect example of a bar that has embraced its surroundings. Right in the middle of the fashion district, the bar is named for Samuel Crompton, the man who invented the sewing machine. The spacious bar is decorated with bobbins and gears to make it seem like visitors are socializing inside a giant sewing machine. Jimmy, one of the owners of the bar, explained that he and his partners brought in a designer to create the unique atmosphere. “We even had threads up on the spools,” he said, pointing at the wall ornaments, “But they were gathering dust – perhaps we’ll put them back up for Halloween.”I was speaking with him only a short time after the bar had opened in 2015. Jimmy, who also owns the bars O’Donoghue’s and Genesis, was not quite sure what the bar would become, but he was already excited by the crowds that had arrived. He sees the area as an up-and-coming neighborhood, and has been delighted to meet a lot of locals, which is a change from the tourist-heavy crowds that he experiences in Times Square. With a happy hour from 4pm-7pm on weekdays, the bar draws in a solid after-work crowd.It is not surprising that people are gravitating to the Ale House, with people like Jimmy at the helm. Like many other Irishmen, Jimmy grew up working in a bar. He had his first job filling pints at the age of seventeen. He went on to reminisce how “There were no cocktails – just pints," but then stated, "It’s changing all the time.” He told me how at Crompton he is serving local and seasonal beers, in order to keep up with what people are drinking. He was especially proud of the special beer of the house, Crompton Ale, an IPA from upstate New York. According to Jimmy, however, the real reason for the bar’s early success is “the standard of service and the quality of food.”
Approaching almost fifty years, the American Bartending School has been teaching mixologists the ‘ology of mixing. Having moved in the ‘80s from their original location on Madison Avenue, the school offers forty-hour courses, with students leaving as certified bartenders with a license issued by the New York State Board of Education. Combining lectures and a “lab” portion, we witnessed students attentively toiling over drinks for phantom customers in a room designed to look like one giant bar. The difference, however, is that unlike a culinary school where one might sample their own creations, students do not imbibe here. In fact, there is no alcohol to be found at this bar. Everything is in the correct bottles and the colors all match their potent potable equivalent. What was explained to us is that everything is about measurements. Students are given a recipe to follow, and provided they do it correctly, they can rest assured that it will taste exactly right in the real world. We left wondering whether phantom customers are good tippers.
There is a lot of space to have fun and be funny at Pioneer's, formerly named Comedy Bar. Well that makes sense, as it is owned by Ali Farahnakian, the man behind the PIT (People's Improv Theater) on 24th Street, which opened a new location just down the street in 2015. We found this place to have a little bit of everything. A fan of pinball? There are several machines; Love playing Jenga with giant size blocks? They have them; Want to dance? The music is playing and there are others who will join in; Like comedy? There are open mic nights; Want to simply drink? The selection is fine, with a variety of beers on tap... and the bartenders are ready to chat; Hungry? There is a menu to choose from and lots of popcorn to go around.
This tiny shop tucked away in Kips Bay has been the go-to spot for any and all of one’s footwear-related troubles since it opened in 2014. Manuel Muicela, the owner, came to New York from Nicaragua in 1987 and quickly joined the trade of shoe repair, enduring grueling six-day workweeks. After gaining thirty years of experience in the field, he was finally able to open his own business. “I learned how to repair shoes, and now I work for me,” he remarked proudly. In this residential area, most of his regulars live in the neighborhood. On the loyalty of his customers, Manuel noted, “If you do a good job, people come back.” A few things about Manuel’s shop set him apart from the rest. One of the first things that grabs the eye upon entering is the set of old-fashioned shoeshine chairs, where one can get a shoeshine for $5, cash only. He also has a unique machine in the back of the shop that stitches both the inside and the outside of the shoe. With a chuckle, Manuel warned our team, “You can stitch your finger if you’re not careful.” This machine is so rare that many other shoe repair shop owners throughout the city come to Manuel to use it.
An oasis in a concrete cityscape, this little church doubles as a place of worship and a serene garden in which to rest. The Episcopalian church was founded in 1848 by George Houghton to welcome any and all of the tired masses, in the spirit of inclusivity. Today, the church maintains that inclusive spirit by keeping its gates open all day to parishioners and non-parishioners alike. On any given day, one can find anyone from actors to businessmen seated among the bushes and fountains, chatting, eating or simply sitting in peace. “A lot of people just come in and meditate or chill,” parish administrator Bill Nave shared with us. “It is one of the most welcoming churches I have ever been to.” What a charming discovery in the midst of bustling Manhattan.