Through a large window, I noticed a group of people in white aprons chopping, stirring, and measuring. When I looked at the sign, I realized that I had discovered a west side location of a favorite kitchen shop, Sur La Table - and what was going on inside was a cooking class. In speaking with Nathan, the district manager, I learned that the company offers one of the largest amateur culinary programs in the country. Their classes set it apart from other kitchenware stores. They are open to anyone, from beginners to advanced chefs, and during the summer there are also options for children and teens. Nathan went on to tell me that the nationwide chain aims to cultivate "a sense of fun and discovery." The first Sur La Table opened in 1972 in Seattle and today there are more than 100 stores around the country. Each one has well-trained staff, who I learned are experts in any variety of subjects. I had a lengthy conversation with a member whose expertise was kitchen knives. He was able to demonstrate several of them for me and then recommended that I try cutting a sweet potato while he educated me on the proper technique to use.
The legendary Neary’s has been a staple of New York City dining since its opening on St. Patrick’s Day in 1967. Its founder, Jim Neary, continues to grace his customers with the same, unique dining experience - in 2019 - that they have enjoyed since the beginning.The classy dress code, classic red booth seats, walls filled with an assortment of beautiful and often historically significant pictures, and knickknacks around the restaurant such as two Super Bowl rings, are only a small part of why Neary’s is so special. Neary’s is embodied and defined by its founder, Jimmy Neary, whose compassion and famous “Jimmy Neary smile” has made Neary’s the kind of place where there are “no strangers... no matter if it’s their first time walking in, everyone talks to everyone.”Jimmy was born on a farm in Ireland, and his first job coming into America was at a swimming pool. He eventually moved on to become a bar tender at P.J. Moriarity’s, another Irish-American restaurant, where he met his eventual business partner Brian Mulligan. When Jimmy found his 57th street location - 57th street being the two-way street in the city that runs river to river - he “knew it was the place for him and never looked back.” Over the years he has slowly added to the décor, and stated that “every picture has a story behind it.” With the care that Jimmy has put into every aspect of Neary’s - along with the presence of Jimmy himself - he has managed to make his restaurant an important fixture in the lives of many for generations. Offered the opportunity to expand over the years, it is no surprise that Jimmy has refused, for in his words “it would never be the same.”Jimmy considers Neary’s a family-oriented place, with many of his staff having worked with him for over forty years. Essentially, they have all grown up together. His daughter Una, who works on Wall Street during the day, has worked at Neary’s part time for close to forty years and ascertained that “the food is wonderful, the staff is amazing, but people come for my father.”Jimmy works seven days a week, and in Una’s words, “to get him to take a day off is a major, major feat.” While every day at Neary’s is a special day, its devoted following especially looks forward to St. Patrick’s Day, which for fifty plus years was counted down to by a special clock, and the celebration of Jimmy’s annual surprise birthday party. As a place where everyone is not just welcomed, but also family, it is no surprise that when asked what he liked to do to relax, Jimmy responded that he is “relaxed right here. I come through the door and I’m at home and I walk out happy.”
There are many reasons to dine at BLT Steak, tucked discreetly between The Dorchester and an antique jeweler. Having dined here on varied occasions over the years, I knew visiting with Manhattan Sideways, that we were headed towards something special. As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted warmly by the affable staff and took a seat at one of the dark wood tables. We spoke with John, the Venezuelan maître d', who told us about BLT's secrets for success. "The company feels like family," he said by way of opening, "I've been here for nine years, which is an eternity in the restaurant business." BLT has built a following of regulars who come back repeatedly because they are "infallibly made to feel like they're the only ones in the restaurant." In addition to this impeccable service, the food at BLT is consistently top notch. It is, therefore, not difficult to understand why people keep returning for more. While chatting, the chef prepared a succulent variety of meats, perhaps most famously the enormous Porterhouse steak – a dry-aged masterpiece served with maître d'hOtel butter and a side of roasted garlic. Although meat certainly takes center stage, the restaurant also offers a "sublime" Dover Sole and a Tuna Tartar that, according to John, is the best in the city; "I dare someone to find me a better one," he said. My favorite moment, however, was when the chef presented Yelena, from our team, her first popover. Hailing from Swaziland, she had never encountered this doughy puff of goodness before. I, on the other hand, have had popovers on the top of my list of favorites since I first tried them as a little girl on Long Island. And I can attest to the fact that the ones served at BLT are perfectly prepared.
Drawn in by the video art wall visible through the enormous glass windows, I strolled into The Quin. Previously known as the Buckingham, the hotel reopened its doors in November, 2013. In a city filled with luxury hotels, The Quin stands out thanks to its unique arts program. Building on its legacy as the hotel of choice for painters, musicians, and writers, Quin Arts offers a rotating series of exhibitions, films, and lectures.