We had one of our best culinary experiences at Graffiti but it was the communal dining that made the evening an absolute standout. The foursome at the table that was supposed to be ours lingered on for longer than anticipated, so we were seated at a table with three delightful women, recent mid-western transplants in their twenties, who take their food very seriously. Alex told us that she lives in the East Village and eats out often, but Graffiti is, without a doubt, her favorite. She was eager to make recommendations to us, which we listened to, and then engaged in conversation for the rest of the meal.
The first order of business was to select from their signature $25.00 bottles of wine, and then we focused on the food. Jehangir Mehta’s (former pastry chef of Jean Georges) Indian inspired dishes are served in precise perfection. Both the pork buns and the eggplant buns were little packages of deliciousness, as were the vegetable dumplings, zucchini hummus pizza, green mango paneer, mini burgers, portobello gratinee (one with duck and one without), a spicy chicken noodle dish, and pickled scallops. Every bite was a surprise, as we detected mint, cinnamon, fennel, cumin, chili, star anise, pepper, lemon grass, turmeric, coriander and ginger in dishes where we just would never expect to find them.
Graffiti takes coziness to new heights – yes, there is limited seating, and in order to use the bathroom, you must squeeze by the three cooks in the kitchen. There were only two others who greeted us and served the food on this particular night, but all five were polite and accommodating, making the quaint size of the restaurant all the more appealing. And the best news is that Mr. Mehta also has a restaurant next door that features a tasting menu serving his well-crafted and terribly creative dishes, the intimate Me and You.
Considering the multitude of rave reviews that Hearth has received since it opened in 2003, we were pleasantly surprised at the unpretentious and warm greeting we received. Although reservations for the dining room are recommended, especially during peak times, some of the best seats in the house are first come, first served. Pull up a stool at the bar and sample one of the artisanal cocktails made with New York produced spirits, or walk straight through the softly lit, exposed brick and red-walled dining room to the open kitchen and grab one of the four chairs right at the counter where the food is being cooked. During our visit, one of the sous chefs was cutting apart ribs right in front of us. When we visited, we learned that the menu changes slightly each day, always highlighting the freshest ingredients and trying to be as environmentally conscious as possible. However, a few favorites have remained on the menu since they opened over nine years ago, including the Grilled Quail and the Beef and Ricotta Meatballs. Many of the dishes are meant for sharing, like the Whole Roasted Fish of the Day. In 2016, chef Marco Canora upgraded the menu to focus on fewer processed flours, sugars, and oils. There are also many more dishes featuring offal, such as heart and liver. The purpose of the shift is to highlight food that is high in nutrients and does not contain growth hormones. If the resulting cuisine is anything like what we tasted when we visited, diners are in for a treat. Hearth’s extensive and well thought out beverage program is also intriguing, with a wine list focusing on certain grape regions, plus off the beaten path beers. With such an inviting and comfortable dining room, an exciting and ever-changing menu, and an impressively curated beverage list, Hearth presents the total package for a perfect night of dining.
In May 2006, Ten Degrees opened its doors under owner Moti Hasson. With a staff “so lovely” that he would have them at his own Thanksgiving dinner, Moti told us that he runs his business with “great” and “honest” service. In the ensuing years, he has worked to provide “high quality product without asking high prices. " Dark wood, warm lighting, and comfortable seating provide the perfect backdrop for those looking for a place that has a vast selection of wines or who want to try some great local beers -- all accompanied by a comforting meal from an eclectic menu. Ten Degrees also hosts private parties in its back room - an ideal space for an intimate gathering.
Craving a traditional hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut? Or perhaps something a bit more eccentric? Crif Dogs is known for its creativity when it comes to putting together a hot dog meal. How does avocado or pineapple sound, or perhaps a dog wrapped in bacon with cream cheese spread on top? Their sides have quite the reputation as well - be sure to try either or both the tater-tots and chili fries. Amazing. Be prepared to wait on line, as there is sure to be one at almost any hour of the day, including weekends at 3: 00am. Old-school video games such as Double Dragon, Spy Hunter, Galaga, or my favorite, Ms. Pacman, help pass the time.
This bright and colorful West Village thrift shop is just one of the many businesses run by Housing Works, one of New York's highly regarded non-profits. Housing Works was founded in 1990 by members of ACT UP, an AIDS activist group that is dedicated to fighting the joint issues of homelessness and the AIDS epidemic. Their first thrift shop opened in Chelsea in 1992 and thirteen more have opened throughout the city since then, as well as a bookstore café in SoHo. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, the social stigma associated with those living with the virus or simply being LGBTQ+ resulted in thousands of individuals being denied the foundation of a stable living: housing. Whether it was from familial rejection or housing discrimination, more and more HIV positive people found themselves on the streets, and poverty, queerness, and AIDS soon became intrinsically linked. Recognizing this often neglected connection, the founders of Housing Works sought to create an organization that addressed this crisis. The non-profit is committed to ending the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain their efforts. Luke, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, sat down with the 10th Street store manager, Lauren Guttenplan, to discuss the community atmosphere forged in their shop. She mentioned, “Community feels very central to the mission. We’re not too far from Christopher Street and Stonewall, so many of our customers and volunteers have lost someone or have a personal connection to the cause. They like to know that the money they’re spending is going to help towards something good. ” Guttenplan also noted that many of their regular customers come in as frequently as once or twice a day, and that the staff, the majority of whom are volunteers, often know customers’ names. Some patrons will even make a point to shop on a day where they know when a particular volunteer is working. Guttenplan credits much of the success of the operation to the devotion of the volunteers, whom she describes as “the face of the store. ” The shopping experience is truly unlike many other in that there are opportunities for customers to become volunteers or get involved in local activism and protests. With a retail background and a degree in social work, Lauren finds Housing Works to be a perfect blend of her passions. The organization provides the unique opportunity to run a business and actually make a difference. She appreciates that with programs like job training, it is particularly satisfying to witness the impact of her work first hand. Because all of the merchandise sold in the stores is donated, each of the Housing Works shops also serves as a reflection of the surrounding neighborhood. The West Village shop, with plenty of natural lighting and exposed brick, features not only fun and unique clothing selections, but also many household items, including kitchen items, home décor, and even furniture. The store hosts a number of events, the biggest of which are the Best of Fall and Best of Spring sales.
What started out as a couple of ice cream trucks in 2008, has since become a beloved collection of shops throughout Brooklyn and New York City. Van Leeuwen offers delicious fresh milk ice cream and vegan options made with only “coconut and cashew milk, raw cocoa butter, extra virgin olive oil, and organic sugar cane. ” These artisanal ice cream makers are extremely concerned with the quality of their product and the source of their ingredients - their vanilla flavor comes from organic bourban and Tahitian vanilla orchids, and their chocolate from a family-run French company concerned with quality and free trade practices, Michele Cluizel Chocolate. Van Leeuwen also offers sophisticated flavors like ginger, sweet sticky black rice, earl grey tea, Ceylon cinnamon, and salted caramel with buffalo trace bourbon. This is a must try ice cream spot for vegans, dairy-lovers, and everyone else.
When I walked into Clash City Tattoos, Baz was hunched over his station, completing a tattoo sketch. The space popped with bold red walls, brightly colored ink bottles, and large tattoo designs. One could not miss the almost human-sized bass in the corner if they tried – “some friends just like to come in and play the bass, ” Baz told me as he shrugged his shoulders. Music influences much more of this tattoo shop’s ideology than I could have anticipated. Named after Baz’s favorite band, the space encapsulates the idea that just as The Clash could play such a range of genres, so too could Baz’s tattoos encompass all kinds of people. “Lawyers and rockstars alike listen to The Clash, ” he elaborated, “and I want my tattoos to unite my customers, just as a single beat can unite different listeners. ”Baz first visited the United States in 1991 while working on a cruise ship and was immediately drawn to everything American – particularly the music, cars, and TV shows. Working in a comic bookstore, he was captivated by posters for Iron Man, Planet of the Apes, and an assortment of cartoon superheroes. He claimed it was the “solid black lines, bold colors, and clear forms” of comic art that lent it a unique and sophisticated artistic quality. Moreover, his mother’s admiration for surrealist painter Salvador Dali offered him an early penchant for the freedom of abstract art anchored in bold lines – the ideal forms for tattoo art. Clients coming into Clash City Tattoos have usually heard about the store and like to visit with an idea of what they want inked. While Baz and his team are exceptionally friendly, asserting that their store “is a place that you won’t have to be afraid to walk into, ” they are also honest with clients about which designs work and which simply do not. Equipped with a creative bent, the team mostly designs custom tattoos using clients’ ideas. However, when someone comes in asking for a "full bible verse on their little finger" or an arrangement of “a heart with four names in it, two wings on either side, and a crown on top in the size of a fist, ” the team knows when to say “this isn’t working; let’s fine-tune. ” What is more, they pay exceptionally close attention to each client’s pain tolerance. While some can manage three hours of inking in a go, others (like Baz’s wife, he laughs) only last ten minutes. I asked Baz about the most challenging tattoo he was tasked with designing. When the bass player of globally-renowned British band Muse, Chris, asked for a tattoo of his son’s name, Buster, in Disney font, Baz started thinking of ways to make the design more complex and unique. A few days later, Chris and Baz were hanging out with a group of friends, when Chris recounted a story about Buster. The young boy was playing with his toys at home when he ran straight into the corner of an table and cut his forehead. But he continued with his play as usual until Chris’ wife noticed a large gash on his head and rushed him to the hospital. Buster was unfazed. The story inspired Baz to draw up the tattoo that now decorates Chris’ right forearm – a smirking cartoon kid with boxing gloves over the name “Buster” in striking black font. Chris loved it. Looking at Baz’s journey thus far, it is easy to see how he has settled into a characteristic set of themes and motifs. Through space backgrounds, gypsy girls, cartoon superheroes, and more, Baz eventually reached a signature design – “pin-up girls with stuff in their hair, ” as he amusedly called it. I was thrilled to see his gorgeous side profiles of girls with complex forms – ships, octopuses, and more – wrapped in the locks of their hair. Baz’s artistic genius spans a wide range of imagery, fixed into his defining black lines and bold forms.
I had heard about these baths for years, believe it or not, from my grandmother who lived nearby on Avenue A as a child. Needless to say, I was eager to have a look inside this spa that has been around since 1892. Upon entering, clients are given a key to the locker room, then told to take some towels and select a sauna... be it a Russian one that has a rock filled oven or an electrically heated redwood sauna. In addition, there is an aromatherapy room, a steam room and a Turkish room complete with cold showers. Other amenities include an ice-cold pool, a Swedish shower with cold-water jets, a sun deck, and a small cafe that serves an authentic Russian menu. Some on the list of treatments include a Swedish/Russian massage, Thai/Sports massage, the Platza Oak Leaf Treatment that involves being whacked with a bundle of soapy oak leaves and oil, or a Dead Sea Salt Scrub. Although I did not chose to venture past my guided tour of the baths, I did experience an old world, warm community with many foreign speaking clients.
With its sharp corner spine, perpendicular window displays, and eye-catching red accents, the façade of Three Lives and Co. resembles an enticing book cover. Inside, caramel-colored shelves, a cozy patterned carpet, and warm lamps surround an assortment of handpicked reads. As the current owner, Toby Cox, put it, “just open the door and it’s a jewel box. ”Three Lives, which takes its name from the Gertrude Stein novel, was opened in 1978 by Jill Dunbar, Jenny Feder, and Helene Webb. Originally located on Seventh Avenue, the shop moved to the corner of 10th Street and Waverly in 1983. It has since remained a “small neighborhood bookstore, ” while the neighborhood has grown “to sort of become the world. ”Toby first stumbled upon the store on a visit from his home state of Rhode Island, where he sold books for ten years after graduating from Brown University. He was so in awe of the little shop that he sung its praises in the local Providence newsletter. Nine months later, he moved to New York to work as a book publisher, and for the next three years, he frequented Three Lives to “revel in the store. ”Then, “it all came together in a magical way. ” Toby asked Jill if she was interested in having him as an additional partner; Jill countered by offering Toby the business. In early 2001, Toby took over the store. Toby sees Three Lives as much more than a store selling books. To him, it is a vibrant community center — a place to “step off what’s going on outside those red doors, relax, unwind, have an easy chat with a staff member, and let go of all the pressure. ”
European cheese dishes have long been staples in American cuisine, from fondue to burrata. But as Edgar Villongco noticed, raclette - a Swiss cheese that is melted and scraped fresh from a cheese wheel onto a dish - never caught on in the United States. When the Manhattan Sideways Team met with Edgar, he told us about his wonderful journey with raclette, the cheese that eventually became synonymous with his widely popular East Village restaurant. Edgar was working in Europe in the aerospace industry when he was introduced to raclette by a former French girlfriend. He fell in love with the dish, quit his job in Europe, and decided to work for a year under a French-trained chef, who taught him the ins and outs of French cooking and dining. Along the way, Edgar refined the menu for his future restaurant. Edgar knew that his idea would be a success from the start. “I always knew it would work. I never had a doubt in my mind. People are crazy here in New York for really good cheese. ”After cooking by himself for a year, navigating the New York City permit process, and running a bike shop on 12th Street to support himself, Edgar opened Raclette in 2015. Immediately, Edgar became famous through a series of videos uploaded by users to social media outlets, as well as coverage by major New York food reviewers and bloggers. Raclette opened right as social media hit a critical point in the restaurant business, Edgar said. “We were in the right place at the right time. ” Customers uploaded shots of cheese being scraped fresh from the wheel - “instagrammable” moments. After noticing Raclette’s virality online, Facebook partnered with the restaurant for its new video platform, which should debut by the end of 2017. A short episode will feature Raclette’s signature cheese dishes, as well as some other wonderful shots of the space. While we spoke with Edgar, we tried Raclette’s classic dish, a plate of bread, potatoes, small pickles, pearl onions, various cold cuts, and salad covered in delicious, gooey cheese. Raclette’s cheese come from a farm in the Alps, and is from free-roaming cows. The cheese is warmed immediately prior to serving, and is best eaten directly after it is scraped from the wheel. That way, we learned, the flavors from the cheese are strongest and the cheese has the best consistency. While this dish is Raclette’s most popular, the restaurant also offers a wonderful variety of croques, a French grilled cheese, and tartines. Edgar has brought a classic Swiss dish to the United States, and as a result, the food has spread outside of his restaurant as well. After starting the restaurant with just himself and a cashier, Edgar now has a full team working for him and hopes to expand to other locations in the city. “I put it all together, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. You have to be a crazy to start a restaurant in the city, yet I never had a doubt this would work. ”
Le Petit Parisien alludes to a nineteenth-century French newspaper. Started by Jean Dupuy in 1884, the paper achieved the largest media circulation of its time before retiring in 1944. The sandwich shop under the same name, which opened in 2015, is owned by Jean’s great-great-grandson, also named Jean Dupuy, in partnership with his nephew, Paul. Its narrow storefront is outfitted in copies of its namesake paper, and the menu offers a total of nine entrée sandwiches, including the deliciously simple "Parisien" - a ham and cheese sandwich. Others are named for historical French figures. The Brigitte Bardot contains artichoke, goat cheese, kale, and tomatoes atop a French baguette from Orwashers, while the Louis XIV, befitting the royal name, gets foie gras and fig confit. Other menu members include the Gainsbourg, the Charle de Gaulle, and the Marie Antoinette, which contains decadent, sixteen-month cured ham.
Au Za’atar is an Arabian-French bistro at the edge of Alphabet City that serves everything from Mediterranean cheeses to couscous to mezze, a variety of small plates meant to accompany drinks — which can be paired with Au Za’atar’s extensive wine and craft beer offerings. The chef is Lebanese, but there are plenty of recipes originating from Morocco and Tunisia as well. The restaurant’s interior is simple and inviting, with brick walls, rich wooden tables, and red leather booths, making it a great place to sample some exotic dishes or just grab a drink at the bar.
Journey along St Mark's Place and discover David's Cafe, a cozy neighborhood spot serving up classic French-American fare. With large windows overlooking the street, David's is a cheerful respite from the hustle and bustle of the East Village. The minimalist decor and relaxed vibe contrast with the meticulous execution coming from the kitchen. What catches the eye from outside are the colorful murals flanking the cafe — one a vibrant wall proclaiming "Punk is Not Dead, " the other a triumphant boxer celebrating victory. At the helm is chef David Malbequi, a Daniel and BLT Market alum renowned for his precise technique. Dishes like the steak frites spotlight Malbequi's mastery, with a flawlessly seared hanger steak and crispy frites, joined by velvety shallot confit and fresh watercress. Even humble dishes like the burger are elevated under Malbequi's watch. The double patty stack with American cheese and special sauce achieves the perfect balance of flavors and textures. Ultimately, David's Cafe triumphs in delivering sophistication without pretense. Diners can enjoy fab renditions of bistro classics in a warm, unfussy environment. It's the kind of neighborhood jewel that makes the East Village such a captivating place to explore. Whether you opt for the eggs benedict or pancakes, a meal at David's is sure to satisfy.
I had been nibbling my way across Curry Row on East 6th Street, trying out each of the restaurants with my husband - a huge fan of Indian food, when we learned that a new place would be coming shortly. Having dined in Shiva Natarajan's other restaurants further uptown, we looked forward to trying Malai Marke. Because we eat Indian food quite often, we are always looking for a restaurant that offers a few out of the ordinary Indian choices. We certainly found several new palate pleasers here: Kurkuri Bindi (okra tossed with onions, lime, and chaat), Imli Baigan (eggplant layered with tamarind chutney), and Madurai Melagu Curry (available with vegetable, chicken, lamb, or shrimp). This last one raised the bar on spicy for my husband who, until this point, had thought the Phall at Brick Lane Curry House represented the ultimate challenge. This curry, however, proved to be an equally worthy and tasty adversary. When chatting with the manager we learned that this is their own creation - "we experimented and wanted to come up with something that went beyond Phall. " Not only was the food outstanding at Malai Marke, but so was the entire experience. From the moment we arrived, we knew that we were in a special place. The contemporary decor is a welcome change from other Indian restaurants, the people who served us were helpful in explaining the menu and cheered my husband on as he finished off his intensely hot meal. As we were leaving, we stopped to gaze through the glass at the open kitchen and were invited to meet the chef who had been given a Michelin star at another favorite restaurant of ours, Junoon.