While traffic is streaming in and out from the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority, a striking structure emerges on the west side of 41st between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. This imposing Roman Catholic church serves as New York's Croatian-American parish. It was built in 1902 to serve the Irish Catholics of Hell's Kitchen, and 1974 saw a merging of nearby parishes to create the current configuration. In this sparser side of the city, the church emerges as a breathtaking find, casting quite the shadow with its powerful twin spires and gray stone. It is a beauty to behold and an ideal way to end my walk.
In 1984, the Metro Baptist Church of Manhattan settled into a building on West 40th Street that had previously been St. Clemens Polish-Catholic Church and a drug rehabilitation center. At the time of purchase, the church pastor prayed, “Lord, don’t give us this building if we can’t put it to use for people who need it 24/7. ” That call has been answered in many ways. “There is always so much going on, ” explained Rev. Tiffany Triplett, pastor of the church and executive director to Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries, “but it is exactly the way we want it to be. ”Stained glass windows and ceiling murals, both relics of the Polish-Catholic church, adorn the airy multiuse sanctuary. Without pews, this place of worship doubles as a space for the arts. Housed in what used to be the balcony, the educational space serves as a classroom and after school library. “We are blurring the lines between sacred and secular, ” Tiffany clarified, “Dance is sacred, and tutoring is sacred. ”The downstairs space is equally multi-functional. During the summer of 2015, it served as a cafeteria to the children of the day camp as well as a food pantry and clothing storage area for items to be divvied out during the harsh months of the winter. These efforts are largely aided by Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries, a nonprofit founded by the church in 1995 and named after the “father of social gospel, ” a radical during his time who preached that the physical being should be emphasized alongside the spiritual being. And, up a long, steep staircase is one of the most innovative structures the church has to offer. Standing in the middle of the fairly flat roof, I was surrounded by fifty-two space-efficient, plant-filled kiddy pools, as well as several bags hanging on the rails with more vegetation. To my left was the bustling rumble of the Port Authority, presenting a dichotomy of progress that opened my eyes to the capabilities of urban agricultures: even in one of the most urban areas of Manhattan, rural growth could exist. The rooftop garden is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also practical, with vegetation like bush beans, rhubarb, tomatoes, and apples that are maintained by volunteers and distributed to those in need. Starting with only about sixty hands on deck in 2011, this previously unutilized rooftop has garnered a consistent supply of hundreds of working hands, and now also serves as an educational tool for the followers and children of the church, and the surrounding community. It does not stop there. “While we are proud of the amount we grow, ” Tiffany informed me, “we are more importantly showing how people can grow a lot of food inexpensively. We want to be invited into the conversation on food security and food justice. ” Considering how many vacant roofs exist in Manhattan, I understand how impactful this larger message can be.
Paul Stuart's flagship location commands the southwest corner of Madison Avenue, a 60, 000 square foot retail space dedicated to fine menswear. Established in 1938 by haberdasher Ralph Ostrove - and named after his son - Paul Stuart is committed to revitalizing and updating the classic American style. Continuing on with the family tradition, CEO, Michael Ostrove, explains that Paul Stuart is "an American interpretation of its Anglo roots, " those that stretch to London's famous Savile Row.
Beer Culture opened in the summer of 2013, offering beer, cider, whiskey, and bottled sodas. Customers can come in to pick up a bottle – or growler - of beer to take home, or grab a seat at the bar to chat with the friendly staff while noshing on some charcuterie. The record player behind the bar is usually going and if the owner, Matt Gebhard, and bar manager, Peter Malfatti, are around, they are bound to strike up a conversation and offer to guide patrons through their extensive beer selection. The beers are organized by region. The first door of their huge, glass-front fridge is full of beers from New York State, while the second is full of east coast beers, and the third and fourth is full of central and west coast beers. A bit further back into the room is their international fridge, proudly boasting selections from the UK, France, and three shelves worth of Belgian beers. For patrons who just want a nice, cold, familiar beer, grandpa's fridge is the place to go. Customers often mistake the old Kelvinator across from the bar as a prop and are always surprised when they open it up and realize that it works and that they recognize all of the brands inside of it. Matt included grandpa's fridge because he thinks that there is a place for all beers (except lite ones, which are not sold on the Beer Culture premises) and that some brands hold emotional value for customers. True to its name, the beers in the old Kelvinator are those that Matt had seen in his own grandfather's fridge growing up. Matt's first true exposure to beer and its culture was during a year he spent studying abroad in Belgium. When he came back home to upstate NY, Matt was nineteen and decided to pursue his newfound passion by working in a local Belgian brewery. He remained here for a few years until he met Peter, his future bar manager, who was living in Rochester, NY. Before opening their own place, Matt came to Manhattan and worked in a Belgian bar in Midtown. Although he enjoyed it, Matt told us that he wanted to do things his own way and fulfill his vision of what a bar should be. The bar that these two terrific guys opened is one that is dedicated to the simple, comfortable and unpretentious beverage that they adore. Nestled between Eighth and Ninth Avenue in a residential part of 45th Street, Beer Culture, is a hybrid bar and bottle shop offering its customers over 500 different types of beer. Although at the time of this write-up, Beer Culture had been around for less than a year, both Matt and Peter already feel like part of the block. As Matt stated, "We pride ourselves in being an establishment of beer nerds, not beer snobs. "
After eleven years in her Noho location, Executive Chef and Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli opened Butter in the Cassa Hotel, a Midtown twin to her well-known restaurant. Shaped by Guarnaschelli's own travels and time spent working abroad, the attractive dark wood restaurant with comfortable booth seating, is American but with the requisite global touches and ingredients expected of fine dining. When Chef Guarnaschelli isn't filming, she is in the kitchen, on the line, adding her fine touch into every aspect of the cooking. As members of her staff shared with us, Alex is dedicated to bringing fresh and simple ingredients together in beautifully crafted dishes. On a rare and special night out with just my husband and daughter, I could not pass up the opportunity to bring my butter-loving girl to this dining experience. Since she has always considered the dairy treat to be its own food group, I had the highest hopes for the meal - particularly the bread basket - which did not disappoint. The warm Pullman-style rolls with the house-made butters (a plain with a hint of sour cream for richness, and an herb that was light and lovely) were out of this world. All three of us agreed we could leave satisfied just from that - and a spicy cocktail, of course (the Ghost Margarita) But we powered ahead sharing the burrata salad. The creamy burrata with garden-fresh tomatoes was divine and the ribeye steaks that my husband and daughter ordered were cooked perfectly and sat atop smashed purple potatoes. And, as a vegetarian, I always keep an eye out for restaurants working to develop unique, hearty main courses. The charred coconut milk-soaked cauliflower was much appreciated. We finished things off, in case one thought we had already indulged ourselves sufficiently, with the raspberry beignets accompanied by a vanilla dipping sauce. If the name of this restaurant alone does not have one's mouth watering, I am sure that it is now!