With marble counter tops and slick metal stools, this Mexican cantina serves up, as its name claims, five tacos. There are a variety of fillings to choose from to be cradled in a warm tortilla – pulled chicken, pulled pork, ground beef, spicy chorizo, or veggie. And to enhance the flavor of the meat, the store offers different sauces ranging from a spicy coconut masala sauce, to a devil’s sauce, to a jicama and corn salsa. Our photographer lives on this street and this is his go to place for a quick Mexican fix.
Replacing the recently relocated Mace, and owned by the same company, the Cabinet - opened in May 2019 - serves a carefully prepared array of mezcals, tequilas, and ryes in a cozy and unique location in Alphabet City. The Manhattan Sideways team was immediately astonished by the attention to detail displayed by head bartender Christine Helmer in creating the atmosphere, as she busily prepared candles before presenting us with cocktails and telling us about the business. It did not take me long to realize that this attention to detail extends to almost every aspect of the bar, from its well-crafted, variously flavored cocktails to its idiosyncratically romantic, home-like interior energies curated by a decor reminiscent of a hybrid Victorian and US Western cultural era.Originally from Germany, Christine easily contextualized her bar’s specialty, mezcals, as often misperceived as too “smoky” or “aggressive” by less open-minded New York bargoers. She resists this misclassification. She notes that mezcal’s flavor potentials are almost endless and are underappreciated by many United States bars, and her cocktails proved her point; after trying the sweet, foamy, lime and watermelon flavored Primer Beso, I realized that mezcal was not relegated to the smoky aftertastes I remembered from the first time I drank it. It was true: “the more you learn about it the more you realize you didn’t know anything,” as Christine reflectively mentioned. While the Romero and the Caminante were more harsh, they were not devoid of their own individually intricate flavors that I suspect become more complex as one’s mezcal palette develops. The Caminante was served in an Oaxacan gourd, which Christine noted was the traditional vessel for mezcal consumption among Oaxacan indigenous farmers.These liquors are a passion for Christine, who enthusiastically added that the Cabinet offers free educational seminars for its customers who want to learn more about the world of mezcal. Although she recognized that mezcal was indeed “in,” she emphasized that the public’s affinity to liquor fluctuates dynamically with time, and that she has seen certain liquors rise and fall quickly in popularity during her career. Her knowledge of the industry was fascinating, as she described her ascendance to the Cabinet as built upon a combination of reading quality cocktail books and talking to bartenders and mentors. If anything was clear from the interview, it was that mezcal was much more than a job for Christine.She traveled down to Oaxaca, Mexico earlier in 2019, dancing in agave fields as she directly worked with mezcal farmers. She identified a number of differences between the production of mezcal in these regions of Mexico and the production of other types of liquor by large corporations in the US. Mezcal’s versatility and diversity is a product of its resistance to corporatization in the US, and it is subsequently relatively unpopular in US markets (in contrast to the “industrial” tequila); it is not only sustainably and locally developed, but is also often reflective of the other types of crops grown in the region and their flavors. The bar put its money where its mouth was: all of its liquors come from small producers, many with eye-popping approaches to graphic design that added to the stimulating decor behind the bar. The variety of these liquors “grouped by species” was notable, and they sure make you feel alive.For Christine, a constant struggle is making sure that the world of cocktails is something accessible, simple, and easily understood, rather than pretentious, arcane, and elitist, something she carries with her from her trip to Oaxaca. Cocktails do not have to be scientifically produced, and as she recognizes, sometimes it is just about finding what works along more “spiritual” lines. Her balanced approach to bartending was relieving; the overall vibe of the bar felt both renewing and healing, not overwhelming. After finishing the cocktails, we were served some delectable chicharrines with a chili-lime salt, and some soft, warm tamales from Lupita’s in East Harlem.
What a find...down a flight of stairs from street level on 8th Street, Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor is the "antithesis of a sports bar." Artisan and craft beer are brought together in a friendly environment that certainly had us feeling like we were right at home. The Parlor is also named for the Arts and Crafts movement, “a cultural revolt against the ideals of industrialization.”When we visited, we spoke to Robert, one of the two owners, with whom we thoroughly enjoyed chatting. Robert is an internationally recognized speaker and writer on dining out and traveling with special diets (he co-authored the series Let’s Eat Out!), and he also has a background in acting and producing on Broadway. He told us that the other owner, Don, has an impressive resume working with the FBI and counterterrorism efforts both in New York and around the world - which left us wondering what brought this dynamic duo together as friends and eventually co-owners. Robert informed us it was a love of American Craft Beer and the visual and performing arts...and that they actually met enjoying a pint of beer in Manhattan.Just as intriguing as its owners, the interior of Arts and Crafts is beautifully designed; the sophisticated wallpaper is custom made by Bradbury and Bradbury, and the soft green and beige pattern was Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite, supposedly. The constantly changing art is displayed along the wall opposite the bar, and an exposed brick wall and fireplace give the parlor a true “extension of your living room” feel. Described by Robert, as the “Bugatti of beer systems,” the twenty plus beers the Parlor keeps on tap rotate monthly and are kept by this state of the art system at a refreshing 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Robert also astounded us with how small the carbon footprint of the Parlor is — he told us they are very conscious of keeping things compostable and earth-friendly. In addition to their rotating display of art from both established and up-and-coming artists, the Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor also hosts a monthly lecture series on the subjects of art as well as culinary topics. We could not get enough of how interesting this place is — both the concept of art and beer coming together and the two fascinating minds behind it.
Warhammer is the retail branch of an online British company that has been providing its unique gaming service for thirty years. The 8th Street location is New York's hotspot for miniature table-top war gaming. Eager workers will walk customers through every step - how to assemble the models, paint the pieces, and how to play the game itself. It takes a certain kind of patience and skill set to contract one's army and may appeal to a customer who enjoys strategy games such as chess. While it is recommended that kids begin learning the game at age twelve, we met a half a dozen men from ages eighteen to fifty who were sitting around the large table, chatting and toiling away on their magnificently detailed pieces.
Over many months, we had the pleasure of observing the construction of Amelie through each stage of its creation. To experience the ambience of this spectacular bar and restaurant alone is worth the visit...but then there is also the impressive wine list and a full French menu. The award-winning team behind Amelie in San Francisco opened their east coast wine bar in early 2012 and all we can say is tres delicieux.
Coffee tends to be a grab-and-go phenomenon here in Manhattan – the coffee break does not generally get its due respect. Here to change that completely, Stumptown’s 8th Street location elevates the coffee shop experience to a level unseen by most caffeine-addicted New Yorkers. I only know this because Jared, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, is one of them. The double-height ceilings, large windows, and carved wood façade of the corner store actually used to house the historic 8th Street Books. The interior of the building has been meticulously and beautifully renovated to include an enormous wooden bar, coffered ceiling, warm herringbone floors, exposed brick walls and numerous small clusters of tables, chairs and benches. The store is divided between the intimate café area and a brew bar - a coffee exposition/educational space where baristas can engage customers in learning about different methods of making coffee and the various types of coffee beans. The brew bar has at least five different types of machines and manual brewers running at the same time with a lovely, knowledgable staff orchestrating all of it. Stumptown endeavors to build a community out of our many, rushed coffee drinkers, creating a perfect setting for relaxing and reading, or for someone to simply become better educated about coffee.