Manhattan Sideways made one of the most wonderful discoveries, nestled amongst the brownstones on West 21st Street and almost unnoticeable to the typical passerby. “I’m the princess that lives behind the castle gate,” Andra Gabrielle, the eponymous founder of the hidden clothing shop exclaimed as we stepped inside her secluded workspace. This introduction merely hinted at her passion for fashion, her one-of-a-kind exquisite pieces of clothing and, most importantly, what an extraordinary human being she is.
As a self-taught woman, Andra credits her success to her ancestral knowledge, which allowed her to pick up the trade of printing through books and teachers that lent themselves to her cause along the way. Andra shared with us that she had done some research about her past and found that she had an aunt who lived in Chelsea in 1849. She was known for her needlework and beautiful christening gowns. This discovery sparked a fashion revelation for Andra. Today, she gives credit to her nineteenth century family member for passing on the skills of the trade.
Inspiration constantly surrounds Andra, specifically in the forms of Japanese art and kimonos. During a visit to England's Victoria and Albert Museum, an exhibit kindled a deep reverence for Japanese culture within Andra. She continues to draw heavily from the power of Japanese symbolism. “The Japanese art swept away the Victorian era. That’s the emergence of modern image,” Andra said.
As a young child, Andra told us that she was quite shy. She would play under a rhododendron bush and dress her twig dolls in flowers. Many years later, she made her mark in the fashion industry while working for the lingerie department at Barney’s. "They didn’t have a women’s store before, so there was no standard that I had to fit into." Her lingerie was featured in Vogue and in many movies.
The walls of her quaint shop are lined with Andra’s creations, “I never stop making things - that’s my nature," Andra admitted. While these pieces were not completed with a particular individual in mind, Andra cherishes the story that each one symbolizes. When one of the Manhattan team members inquired about purchasing an astoundingly beautiful top and scarf combination, Andra politely informed her that she was not yet ready to part with them.
Other inspiration for her designs comes from working directly with her customers, as she believes that clothing should be created for the individual. “We already know who we are and what works on us. I can give five women the same shirt and they’ll all like it for five different reasons.” Andra elaborated, “Colors change because we change. Everything about the garment says something.” For example, pine needles on a kimono would represent an old, happily married person, because pine needles always fall in twos. Andra told us that she made a dress for a woman who was getting married to the love of her life, so Andra put her “love dedication” to the woman’s husband in the hemline of the wedding dress. “I am this anomaly. I want to make clothes with respect. It’s a privilege to be able to do this with my life, as I continue to meet people who can teach me.”
Merakia occupies the space that housed Kat & Theo from 2015-2017 - and while the restaurant maintains the same ownership as before, it also has a different mission. The modern Greek steakhouse prides itself on its meats and classic seafood items, while maintaining a classy, hip atmosphere in its cavernous space on 21st Street. “We built a new team… and a new vision,” managing partner James Paloumbis shared with the Manhattan Sideways team when he spoke of the switch from Kat & Theo. He then went on to highlight Merakia’s differences from other Greek restaurants. “It’s not white and blue like every other place in New York City. Our menu is not the copy paste of any other place.” The menu is heavy on steaks and seafood, boasting their signature lamb on the spit ("the only restaurant in the city to do so") while, surprisingly, offering some robust meat-free options as well. “Everything is farm to table, we use fresh ingredients, [and] we make everything from scratch on a daily basis.” James told us that part of his mission is to bring back the adventure of going out to eat, a phenomenon he has noticed declining over the years. “People don’t like to go out anymore just to eat. You can eat at home, you can eat down the street, you can order your meal online. But to get an experience of nice service, some nice flavors, nice music, nice drinks - it’s worth your while to go out again.” Husband and wife team behind Kat & Theo - Renee and Andreas Typaldos - seem to have orchestrated a smooth transition from their previous restaurant. As their past executive chef, Paras Shah, believed, "there should be a movie written about the couple's romantic backstory and that he “couldn’t have worked for better folks.” Andy is originally from Greece, and the restaurant was named after his parents, Katerina and Theodosios. Andy came to New York on a scholarship from Columbia and met Renee, who is from the Bronx. He took her out on a first date “with holes in his shoes and with no winter jacket,” according to Renee. She added, “The romantic, poetic way people get together.” Today, they are paying homage to Andy's Greek heritage and according to James, “People have to trust their stomachs and their palates with a restaurant, so that’s what we’re trying to do here. Trust us - our food is fresh, our food is made with care, and we love what we do.”
Calvary-St George’s church moved to Gramercy Park in 1832. It has a strong history of influential members and it was here that Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence was set. In addition to movie nights and summer programs for children, we witnessed a small, delightful concert performance along the sidewalk while walking one day.
Perhaps the attitude of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” works well at Society Billiards. They seem to know that sometimes a classic pool hall is just what people need. Extremely spacious and stocked with countless pool tables, anyone looking to get lost in the game will be sure to love this dimly lit, relaxed, yet classy spot.
As we peered behind the counter at Joe, we saw what looked like a machinist’s shop or a technological artist’s studio, and yet the rich aroma of coffee was unmistakable. Joe is a place for serious coffee, and they hope to make serious coffee-drinkers out of their customers. The front of the shop holds a regular coffee bar, with three stools, and a display with some useful coffee tools for at home brewing. The majority of the space, however, is filled by the coffee studio in back where customers can watch the machines whir and the experts work their magic. For those of us not as knowledgeable in the coffee arena, Joe offers regular classes on topics ranging from brewing technique to what they call “coffee theory.” While they have several locations throughout Manhattan, Joe's on 21st street serves as the “pro shop” and headquarters.
In the way that so many Flatiron restaurants are, Hardings is situated in a large and imposing building, yet manages to appear out of nowhere providing a perfectly comfortable oasis for dining. A large, impressive bar dominates front and center, creating a comfortable area to grab a drink or wait for friends. We ate here on a Sunday evening, but have stopped by at various hours during the day to discover Hardings to be a popular lunch or after-work spot for Flatiron professionals. One cannot help but feel patriotic when walking through the doors. Rather than naming this American-themed restaurant after Washington or Lincoln, the owners chose the 29th president of the United States, Warren G. Harding. The entire space -- bathrooms included -- are a tribute to American history. An American flag, that dates back to the late 1800s, hangs impressively from the exposed white brick side wall, and a trip to the restroom leaves one lost in old, authentic newspaper clippings. The entire cocktail, bar, and restaurant menu is domestically sourced, and it showcases a variety of cuisines. The fluke crudo was delicate with citrus, the house salad of mesclun greens, shaved raw artichokes, fennel, radishes, lemon and olive oil dressing was unique and the grilled romaine was perfectly crusted with lemon, garlic, and shaved grana. A vegetarian dish of sauteed baby artichokes, peas, shallots, chickpeas was presented in a simple white wine broth and slices of grilled bread to dip. The flourless chocolate cake was good, but it was the Griddle Cake that was the show stopper. We all agreed that it was reminiscent of a heavenly breakfast. A warm pancake was served with raw maple syrup, lemon and vanilla ice cream melting on top. For creative American food and the ability to brush up on American history at the same time, we found Hardings to provide an entertaining evening.