Blue Smoke has been one of the Manhattan Sideways team's favorite restaurants in the city for years. Indeed, we are certain that it places on many top-ten lists for anyone who has spent an evening at this rare Manhattan barbecue spot and jazz club. Though perhaps an unusual combination to many New Yorkers, pork spare ribs and live jazz really do go well together. Blue Smoke serves up all different takes on Southern dishes from Po' Boy sandwiches to barbecue baked beans. Catering to both classic and innovative preferences, the fried chicken can be served in a traditional manner, or spruced up with hot honey. The restaurant also features Crispy Hog’s Head Cheese Sliders, wings, salads, and killer Cornbread Madeleines. The space itself is open and lively, with exposed brick walls, high ceilings, skylights, red vinyl seating, corrugated metal star-shaped pendants, and an absolutely massive, dark-stained wood bar. There is a lofted seating area overlooking the main space, and the jazz club is downstairs.
Amid a sea of skyscrapers, this old townhouse has been made into a bar in three parts. The bottom floor sits amid darkly polished wood, sporting large TVs with the night’s games turned on. Above, a room of unfinished reclaimed wood from Pennsylvania sets a more rustic, rugged tone. And upstairs on the third floor, voila! A long-tabled, compact biergarten nestles between towering edifices to either side, creates a chasm in which to drink beer and be merry all year round. Opened in 2012, this bar is now playing a part in the transformation of the midtown area towards a more "hospitable atmosphere. " As manager, Cara, told us, "With so many hotels in the district, we draw from a "super dynamic" crowd of people. " In addition to the vast selection of beer, there is an excellent cocktail menu that changes by the season to stay up-to-date and fresh, and the American-style eats follow suit. A tale of three different worlds in one, it is a great place to come for a drink and to mingle.
In the race among Manhattan restaurants to attract customers, simplicity is sometimes lost. But not so in the Mason Jar, a restaurant and bar that keeps it old school with good vibes and great tastes. The southern, barbecue-heavy menu and extensive list of craft beers and bourbons speak for themselves, complete with suggested pairings. Each month, a new craft beer is featured in an effort to support small breweries. If these beers attract a following, they are added to the full-time roster. While visiting with some Sideways members, I had a lively conversation with chef about the different styles of barbecue - our North Carolinian team member swears by vinegar sauce and appreciated Mason Jar’s variety. The food is fresh and not overdone, but at the same time the Chef “puts love into it. ” The high quality meat is treated seriously - specialty ribs are coated with a dry rub, smoked using apple and hickory wood, braised, and mopped with a tomato-based Kansas City-style sauce. Then grilled. The brisket and boneless pork butts are given no less attention. Replete with wood, American Flags, and comfortable seating, Mason Jar also achieves a homey feel to match its Southern style. Many of the University of South Carolina alumni in Manhattan choose this spot as the venue to catch the Cocks football games, and Villanova basketball fans flock here for their games, as well. With the hearty food, good beers, and down-home feel, it is easy to understand why. To put it plainly and simply, Mason Jar was a good find.
Jam aficionados across the country will instantly recognize the award-winning glass jars lining the walls of Sarabeth Levine's eponymous restaurant. These scrumptious jars are filled with a variety of fruits – peach apricot and mixed berries are two favorites. Jared, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, grew up eating in their UES restaurant and told me that there has always been a jar of jam in his fridge since he was in grade school. I, too, remember coming here since Sarabeth’s first opened some twenty years ago. They were serving brunch long before brunch was a weekend habit for so many New Yorkers. No matter what the time of day is for me, whenever I eat at one of their restaurants, my go-to is the consistently delicious velvety cream of tomato soup - hands down, one of the best in the city. Today, there are Sarabeth's spread throughout Manhattan, each one in an elegant space, offering a more refined, though unfussy, dining experience.
I have dropped by Wine 30 on a numerous occasions and it has always been perfectly pleasant for a glass of wine, some scrumptious food and a nice conversation. Once a very tiny space, the restaurant has been cleverly expanded backward to include a heated, glass-enclosed garden. For nights when grabbing a beer at the local pub does not appeal, this great find offers refuge.
Having grown up in Manhattan, Jeffrey Lefcourt knew the area well. Having been around restaurants since his summers as a busboy in high school, he also knew the industry well. Therefore, when he decided to open The Smith in 2007, a venture preceded by his founding of the restaurant Jane in 2001, he knew what he wanted. “It had to be accessible with high-quality food, ” Jeff reasoned. Nine years later he was onto his fourth location, this time in Nomad, on Broadway with an entrance on a side street. When I visited on a casual Wednesday afternoon in the summer of 2016, just months after its opening, the three-hundred-seat restaurant was nearly at capacity. “It’s really become an amenity for the neighborhood, ” Jeff explained, comparing the timelessness of his establishments to a favorite pair of blue jeans. He later showed me that the new location was already the eighth most-booked New York City restaurant on Open Table. Numbers one and two? The Smith - Lincoln Center and The Smith - Midtown. The Nomad crowd was embracing a comfortable and classic ambience set by the wooden-slabbed ceiling, black-and-white mosaic patterned floor, and sunlight pouring through the wide-opened doors, accented to peak brightness by custom light fixtures. There is a massive bar shelving one of the largest alcohol collections I have seen, with another one intimately situated in a private room reserved for special festivities. Downstairs, there is a photo booth awaiting guests wanting to document their experience with friends or family. In the kitchen, the fires burned high, tantalizing scents fumed, and the large staff was motivated by a booming voice that reverberated orders as they came through. “Fish sandwich at the bar with French fries, ” said the man behind the voice as the cooks kept to their rhythm, each invested in the plates that would soon walk out the door. “It takes a lot of people, ” Jeff smiled. Nearly everything on the menu is made from scratch, and the French fries alone require hours and hours of peeling, cutting and frying to have them just right. Admittedly Jeff’s favorite item on the menu, this crispy side accompanies the Burger Royale, a double patty burger so beloved in Nomad that it was introduced to all locations. The facial expression of our photographer, Tom, once he took his first bite said it all. The vegetarian Vegetable Bibimbap, the vibrant Seared Tuna Salad, and The Royale, an illustrious triple-tiered raw bar platter, each stand on their own. Plated on a bed of charred corn with summer greens, the Mahi Mahi offers refreshing seasonality in the summertime, and the spoonable, skillet roasted Mac and Cheese starter garners the most circulation on Instagram. A standout from the bar was the Moscow Mule on tap. The successes of The Smith restaurants lie not only in their inviting environments, complimentary purified water, drinks on tap, or comforting cuisine sourced from local farmers and fishermen, but also in their commitment to authentic service. “The Smith is a maker. We are making experiences, ” Jeff reinforced, “…It is all about giving people what they are looking for and connecting with them. ” When guests were upset that the winter salad did not make it onto the springtime menu, a slightly tweaked seasonal version was added. The adjustment became so popular that Jeff was afraid to take it off the menu. It is exactly that adaptability that enables the affable owner to perform his favorite part of the job each day - “making people smile. ”
“By accident, ” answered Olga Blanco when I asked her how she got her start in the printing business. Her husband started Nobel Printing in 1979, and Olga took over a short while later when he became ill. “I learned and I kept going, ” she smiled, remembering a time when the business was new to her. She, in turn, has taught her son, who works for a printing company in Florida. Olga shared with me that when her son's business decided to use the traditional printing press in an effort to distinguish themselves from others, his knowledge of the machine lead to a promotion. “No one else knows how to use these, ” she gushed, “so they increased his pay. ”Originally from Columbia, Olga journeyed to the States in 1969 at the age of seventeen. Since living here, she has seen a lot of changes, many of which have had an negative impact on her custom printing company. “Everything is digital these days, ” she rationalized, "And everyone thinks they are a designer. ” With so many people in possession of a computer and the means to make their own digital copies, her fears are not unwarranted. Topped off with rising rents, Olga is not sure her business will operate for longer than a few more years. Indeed, she has seen many others pushed out of the neighborhood for similar reasons. “The real estate business is hungry for money, ” she said, shaking her head. Despite the obstacles, Olga remains quite confident in the product, itself. She happily deals solely in custom printing, taking on any job no matter the size and “creating something beautiful. ” When I visited in the summer of 2016, Olga was working on a wedding order of 2000 invites and could not conceal her passion for the project. She showed me her early drafts, pulling out the quality card stock and brushing her fingertips over a soft design that depicted a tree just in bloom. There is no replacement for “that human touch. ”
Co-founded in 1994 by former number one middleweight boxer, Michael Olajide, and Leila Fazel, a former ballerina, Aerospace claims to offer “a revolutionary new fitness that engages body, mind, and spirit. ” Leila explained that the Aerospace workout is “revolutionary” in two ways: first, it does not involve any machines, and second, it has its foundation in athlete-level boxing to engage cardio, muscle endurance, and core strength. The company has its own boxing ring and jump rope line. We had the pleasure of seeing Michael, who lost vision in one of his eyes in the early 1990s, guide a student through some boxing combinations as part of the Aerospace workout. Although Michael and Leila intend to maintain the “authenticity of boxing” in their program, Aerospace is open to everyone, with or without boxing experience. While some learn to hit bags on the second floor, others in a more advanced program spar in the boxing ring on the first floor. Leila also runs a workout that combines shadow boxing with ballet.
Jon Eisen is not only one of the partners of Between the Bread and its director of strategic growth, but he is also heir to one of the pioneers of the venture, which has delivered sandwiches to office workers since 1979. Ricky Eisen, Jon’s mother and the company’s president - who was born on the outskirts of Tel Aviv - decided to use large-scale catering to bring healthy meals to her clients in a more efficient way. Jon claims that the result was the first catering company in New York City. Ricky’s idea to use only healthy and local ingredients proved to be a pivotal moment in the way catering to corporate clients is done today. In 2013, Ricky put her son in charge of the retail and café side of the business, which up until that point had been secondary to catering. Recognizing the recent popular trend of eating healthy and local, Jon quickly began streamlining the production process, including installing digital cash registers to track customer orders. This lead to a doubling of revenue. His success prompted Ricky to name him partner in 2015. Despite these changes, the core of the business is still the same: using organic, fresh, and seasonal to serve “high quality meals. ” And to hear it from Jon and the head of brand strategy, Victoria Rolandelli, this core seems to resonate well with customers. Between the Bread opened two more locations in October 2015 and has plans to have a total of twelve locations throughout the city. Located in the Chelsea Terminal Warehouse, the 27th Street Between the Bread is in a massive space that was previously an unloading station for trains. In the not-too-distant future, once Hudson Yards is complete, it is Jon's hope that they will become the "new Chelsea Market. "
Originally constructed in 1905, this building became the home of the beloved Gershwin Hotel in 1992. In 2014, Triumph Hotels took over the space and invested a good deal in renovations, renaming it The Evelyn. As an homage to building’s artful and musical past, the guest rooms feature music note-tiled bathrooms, trombone-shaped chandeliers, and decorations inspired by the Art Nouveau style of the 1900s.
Nestled among the charming area that is Korea Town, is an eatery with a dual-personality. By day, the business exists as Cup & Cup, an artsy cafe that serves affordable fusion lunch dishes, artistically inserted into giant teacups, and smooth, rich coffee. At night, the same area morphs into Take 31, a dimly lit lounge area, with live music, succulent dinner dishes and a cool, hip vibe. The menu is made of classic Korean dishes with a twist. The dishes are inspired by Japanese, Italian and Mexican cuisine and cater to vegetarians, meat-lovers and those in between. South Korean owner, Kihyun Lee, studied fashion design at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in NYC, and merged his love of authentic Asian food and passion for modern art into each dish. He revived this space in 2011 with the help of his friends. On our afternoon visit, we tried their classic bowl artfully filled with mushrooms, minced beef, rice, chopped egg and carrotsCup & Cup, its daytime persona, was introduced a year and a half after opening Take31. The airy rooms feel clean, with minimal lines. The shelves along the walls are carefully decorated with quirky, vintage memorabilia, but do not feel cluttered. A table with an ice-water cooler is stationed in the middle, for easy access. One statement wall is entirely dedicated to a blueprint of the space, delicately and organically painted by the architects at work. While much of the design is fresh, brightly colored Lego pieces are playfully juxtaposed throughout. Some of those Lego pieces are even inserted within the wall's low-hanging light fixtures and plastered near the giant window at the entrance. During the day, Cup & Cup offers patrons with a few hours dedicated to "Study Time, " as business professionals and students quietly sip green tea lattes and munch on noodles, while using the Wi-Fi connection. At night, locals flock in when the sun goes down, as dinner, drinks and music serves a different, yet equally, artsy crowd.
The owner of this amazing piece of property, Malina, has endless energy and is incredibly knowledgeable about all things related to Chinese culture and tradition. She is very involved in the arts in her native land, and travels back and forth between China and New York on somewhat of a regular basis. If fortunate enough to catch her in, striking up a conversation is well worth anyone's time. The concept behind her latest venture is great, and as soon as the red paint on the walls is dry - believed by the Chinese to keep the evil spirits away - and the menu set, the Yung family will open their doors. Once a part of the Chinese Cultural Society, the imperial loft is marked by its striking entrance, a pagoda of violet with a red iron door, followed inside by prominent murals - each sharing a piece of Chinese history. While the same family has owned the whole building for decades, the purpose of the space has changed over time. What was originally a teashop is now a community space for the arts. Upstairs, a grand room with beautifully embroidered chairs will be the site for comedy shows, live music, and birthday parties. Downstairs, where rows of tabletops display magnificent Chinese paintings, each with its own story, the owners envision an Asian restaurant. Further back, doors open to a garden. Decorative tiles cover the wall and a ring of brick outlines the entrance to a hidden Buddhist temple - simply awe-inspiring. The convertible and advantageous nature of the Imperial Loft makes it, as Malina's son-in-law, Kahli, expressed, "something you hold on to. "