The massive, open interior, high ceilings, white columns, and rows of long, pillow-strewn banquettes at this corner Mediterranean restaurant pay extensive, dramatic homage to what is really a tiny, unremarkable fish found in Greece. Since the restaurant opened in 2005, the barbounia has been elevated to what is most likely unprecedented fame. The sardine, for example, has yet to be honored with a white-feathered chandelier and twenty-foot long, soft cream-colored curtains. The airy space, which also comprises a large, inviting bar, semi-outdoor seating on 20th Street, and an open kitchen, is consistently packed and filled with raucous, lively conversation. Barbounia is certainly a scene worth partaking in, both socially and with its mostly Greek cuisine, especially the fresh, simply prepared fish and seafood. They also offer amazing bread and small pizzas and pasta.
Although this is not its original location, the 18th Street restaurant remains loyal to its traditional Mexican cuisine roots. Known for its signature guacamole and frozen pomegranate margaritas, the restaurant consistently offers excellent, authentic food. Rosa Mexicano roughly translates to “Mexican pink,” which is meant to embody the colors of the country's sunset. A beautiful waterfall divides the cavernous room into two sections to provide a pleasant barrier between dining patrons and those enjoying drinks before their meal. This elaborate piece of art in the middle of the restaurant, which was created by a designer from Dubai, adds to the overall experience of entering a world outside of New York City. The back room, referred to as the sky room, is illuminated by natural light that enters through the ceiling. The first location was established in 1984 on 1st Street, where Rosa herself could be found cooking behind the bar, sharing her infectious personality with everyone around her. To this day, Rosa Mexicano is proud to employ a majority of Mexicans on its staff and to present the beauty of Mexico through its cuisine.
Javelina opened in the middle of a snowstorm in 2015, and was suddenly inundated with over eighty customers. They are the ultimate restaurant success story, and Matt Post, the owner, says it is all thanks to the Texas network. While speaking to me at the bar of his seemingly always-full new space, he let me know that when Texans would get together before Javelina opened (“we always find each other,” he said), the conversation would steer towards how there was no good Tex Mex food in the city. Despite the fact that there were many places in the 1980s, there has been a noticeable dearth in recent decades. Matt suspects the reason is that people overdosed on cheap, badly-done Tex-Mex. “Any place with a frozen margarita machine called themselves Tex-Mex,” he explained.There was, however, one Mexican restaurant that Matt liked, called Los Dos Molinos in Gramercy, nearby his apartment. When that eatery closed in 2009, Tommy Lasagna took its place and Matt momentarily forgot about it. It was fate, therefore, when Matt started looking for a decently priced space in which to open his very first restaurant, and discovered that Los Dos Molinos’ old home was for rent. He embraced the good karma and opened Javelina.A lot of research and preparation went into Javelina. Matt found an excellent chef in Rich Caruso, who had fallen in love with Tex-Mex on a barbecue research trip to Austin. He grew up in South Brooklyn, however, and so he did not know what “queso” was. Matt informed me that queso is central to Tex-Mex, and the first thing a Texan would ask him when they heard of his plans for Javelina was “Will there be queso?” Rich therefore spent five days tasting forty different kinds of queso before developing four varieties for Javelina. We tried his “Bob Armstrong” queso, made with guacamole, pico de gallo, ground beef, and sour cream. The north easterners who make up a part of the Manhattan Sideways team were delighted by the perfect balance of creamy cheese and zingy spices – we became immediate converts.The décor was also carefully thought out, as Matt brought in a designer from Austin in order to ensure that the ambience would be authentic, without too many of the kitschy southwestern aspects that Tex-Mex restaurants often have. There are, however, many fun quirks that Matt specifically requested. For example, he told me he that he had to fight to get the taxidermy hog behind the bar, and that he was responsible for the “True Tex-Mex” sign. The restaurant also had the clever idea to put pictures of Texans on the bathroom doors. When we visited, we saw the faces of Beyonce and Matthew McConaughey. “We spent so much time on the restaurant design, but people end up instagramming the bathrooms,” Matt chuckled.Taking a seat at the bar, we met the bartender, Adam, who made us “the most contrasting colors on the menu:” The extremely refreshing avocado and prickly pear margarita became an instant hit with us, and, as Matt proclaimed, with his regular customers as well. Matt brought out some San Antonio-style puffy tacos, which were deliciously crispy and piled high with guacamole. With a broad smile, he declared, “I have all regions of Texas represented,” and pointed out the different dishes for each geographic area.When I asked Matt how his experience opening his first restaurant has been, he looked happily exhausted. “It’s been surreal so far.” He has been thankful for word of mouth and the positive press: He has already heard stories of Californians bonding over visiting his restaurant while in New York and a friend backpacking in South America who met a fan of Javelina on the trail. Though he explained that Murphy’s Law is the governing rule of the restaurant business, he said, “It’s been really fun.” He is pleased to have provided New Yorkers (and especially transplanted Texans) with a kind of cuisine that has been missing from the streets of Manhattan. As we were leaving, Matt said, “People keep thanking us for opening, which is bizarre…and wonderful.”
When Union Square favorite for Latin American tapas, Pipa, closed its doors, locals were heartbroken. To appease the masses when moving into the former eatery’s space in the spring of 2013, the team behind ABC Cocina tried to incorporate what diners loved about Pipa into their own restaurant, as well as a few surprises.Attached to the name Jean-Georges Vongerichten, ABC Cocina needed no press when it opened its doors. Dan Kluger has continued his role as chef at both ABC restaurants, but the theme here is Latin inspired - a nod to Pipa. As we mentioned in our post for ABC Kitchen, we have never had a less than spectacular meal at any of Jean-Georges’ many establishments. The menu at ABC Cocina focuses heavily on seafood, spicy flavors, and rice and corn based entrees. When the Manhattan Sideways team visited, the menu listed various sharing plates, including tuna sashimi with avocado, steamed bouchot mussels and chorizo, peekytoe crab fritters and patatas bravas with rosemary aioli, spicy baby back ribs, and seared diver scallops with coconut. Additionally, there were a variety of tacos. An interesting take on traditional guacamole is made with fresh spring peas and comes with homemade warm tortillas.Cocina is located on the ground floor of ABC Carpet and Home and can be accessed from 19th Street. It flaunts a dark, “sexy” atmosphere, decorated with an array of lighting fixtures to promote the idea of “luminance as art,” explained Shari Garb, the restaurant’s public relations director. To keep with the restaurant’s dedication to sustainability, ABC Cocina makes use of LED lighting specifically to herald eco-consciousness. It also mirrors ABC Kitchen, in that it places considerable emphasis on local, organic, and otherwise sustainably grown ingredients. They source from “hyper local” venues like the Union Square Greenmarket, Hudson Valley farmers, and their own community supported agriculture program “ABCSA,” supported by the non-profit FarmOn. A five-page wine and cocktail list should ensure that any exhausted ABC shopper can enjoy an eclectic, high-spirited meal.
There are many reasons to visit the environmentally conscious furniture and housewares store ABC Carpet & Home, as the selection in furnishings is diverse, interesting and fun, but many are also drawn here for the restaurants. ABC Kitchen, which can be accessed either through the store or directly on 18th Street was the first of celebrity chef and Alsatian native Jean-Georges Vongerichten's endeavors in this building - adding yet another new restaurant to his empire of critically acclaimed eateries. He reached out to his friend Paulette Cole, the CEO of the store, with his ideas for a new eatery several years back, and they both say that neither of them could have anticipated the overwhelming success of their collaboration, ABC Kitchen.Since 2010, ABC Kitchen has been churning out quality farm-to-table meals and continually receives rave reviews. When I asked their public relations director, Shari Garb, how ABC Kitchen enticed diners to return, without hesitation she replied "by being consistently excellent.” Using only the best local ingredients cooked by chefs with “feverish expertise,” ABC Kitchen serves high-end New American fare that is accessible and comforting without sacrificing artistry. The range of dishes spans from bow tie pasta with veal meatballs to Maine lobster and crispy pork confit.I happen to be a huge fan and have eaten in almost all of Jean-Georges’ restaurants in Manhattan, and have never had a disappointing meal. For me, the term flawless comes to mind. I celebrated a special occasion with friends at ABC one afternoon where we shared several courses – an absolute feast – but what continues to stand out in my mind was the fact that I tried my first bite of roasted brussel sprouts at one of Jean Georges' restaurants. I have been ordering them ever since, but none have equaled that first bite. Other members of the Manhattan Sideways team have also eaten here and are incredibly enthusiastic about the crab toast with lemon aioli, raw diver scallops with sea beans, green chiles and spring herbs, and the house made ricotta ravioli. They have also loved and salivated over the roast carrot and avocado salad and the whole wheat mushroom pizza.I was particularly impressed when Shari spoke of the restaurant’s humility in their daily drive for self-improvement, despite being one of the founders of the farm-to-table movement that has gained popularity nationwide. Shari relayed an anecdote to me about how in order to be environmentally responsible in the ornamentation of the dining room, designers chose to use only vegetable-based dyes in the furniture. However, this lead to the over-harvesting of plants in upstate New York, and upset vegetable production. Not shying from the blame, ABC Kitchen noted their liability and took action to seek a solution, rather than walking away and leaving the problem with the farmers. The restaurant's guiding principles are sustainability and locality, and the eco-friendly themes permeate all levels of the dining experience: many of the plates used to serve guests are vintage, the wooden tables are made from salvaged wood, and the menus are printed on 100% post-consumer fiber.While we chatted about the trendiness of the restaurant, Shari admitted she is continually gratified by ABC Kitchen’s achievements, being that it all started “before farm-to-table was a hashtag” and has therefore helped pave the way for the concept to become a tangible reality. Shari noted that the “cultural shift” pushing diners to become “conscious consumers” is really something to be excited about, as it can potentially have a great positive effect on the future of the planet.
Today, Shareen Mitchell is a bicoastal business owner, a sought-after entrepreneur with fourteen employees and a celebrity following. But no one would have guessed it eleven years ago, when Shareen was, in her own words, “broke, in debt, and selling at a flea market.” That flea market booth soon grew into a 7,000 square foot vintage warehouse in LA, and within a few years, Shareen had expanded to New York City.In spite of her success, Shareen’s location on West 17th Street is one of the best-kept secrets in Manhattan. Hidden away on the second floor of an old walk-up, the only sign of its existence is a red dress hanging from the fire escape, and sometimes—like the day I visited—not even that. Fortunately, a friendly employee from the salon next door pointed me in the right direction, but if I had not been in the know, I would have missed Shareen entirely.This secret location may seem like a bad business decision, but it is actually one of the keys to Shareen’s success. Her stores have always fostered a sense of exclusivity, and Shareen told me that her warehouse, especially in the early days, was not only the hottest vintage store in LA, but also a gathering place for a society of hip young women. “It was a crazy, fun secret,” she told me. “No one knew where they were getting their vintage.”Because there are no dressing rooms at Shareen—women change out in the open—both store locations have the same “no boys allowed” policy. But the resemblance between Shareen’s two stores ends there. While the LA warehouse is constantly buzzing with youthful energy, the New York location has a quiet, sophisticated feel that caters to a slightly older crowd.The reason for the difference, Shareen explained, is that by 2009, many of her original customers at the LA warehouse were now young professionals living in New York City. “They told me there was nothing like Shareen in the city,” she said, “so I decided to test the waters.” She opened a shop in a train station parking lot on Long Island, above an auto shop. “People like Ivanka Trump would get off the train,” she told me, laughing, “and walk into this auto shop with their dogs and babies and everything.” But after a while, the trip to Long Island became exhausting, and Shareen decided to open a location in the city. “It was kind of a secret,” she said. “I had no money for a sign, so I put the red dress out on the fire escape.”Though she did not put much effort into the store’s exterior, Shareen transformed the inside. The former apartment is now an elegant retail space, filled with ornate mirrors and old-fashioned couches, and yet it still manages to feel warm and welcoming. One large room is devoted entirely to wedding dresses, while another two rooms are filled with vintage clothing of all kinds, from evening gowns to 1950s prom dresses.When I asked Shareen about the bridal section, she told me that the store is in the process of transitioning. “A lot of my clients are starting to get married,” she told me, “but they don’t want to look like traditional brides.” These young women, many of whom get married in unorthodox venues—upstate farms, Brooklyn lofts, and Manhattan rooftops—are looking for unique dresses that will express their personalities. Over the past few years, the demand for these “indie wedding dresses” has grown so much that Shareen predicts that the store may soon be entirely bridal. “A year ago, we were half bridal and half vintage, and now it’s more like seventy-thirty,” Shareen told me. “We’re double-booked on the weekends with brides.”The New York location may be transitioning into bridal wear, but Shareen insisted that the store will not abandon its vintage roots. Along with her bridal collection, which is all under $2,000, many of the wedding dresses for sale in the store are reworked vintage. Shareen added that her collection is designed to flatter all kinds of body types, to celebrate women rather than inhibit them. She always tells her brides, “I want to see you looking beautiful, not you in a beautiful dress.”
Yes, there are numerous choices in the Union Square area for lunch, and Rainbow, since it is takeout only, might not be the best choice for anyone who wants to have a sit-down meal. However, the falafel sandwiches are so well prepared that we might have to say they are the best we have ever had. On a nice day, it was the perfect spot to grab some lunch, sit outdoors, and enjoy the sunshine, the passersby, and some delicious falafel.
This little urban oasis provides families and individuals acupuncture treatment for a wide range of ailments – infertility, stress, and muscular and skeletal pain. Husband and wife founding team Jill Blakeway and Noah Rubinstein have been a functional medical and media presence in the world of acupuncture for years, publishing a number of books, appearing on Bravo, CBS, The Today Show, and lecturing on the benefits of Chinese medicine.