“We are beer nerds, not beer snobs.” That is how Bo Bogle, the general manager of Gebhard’s Beer Culture, and Peter Malfatti, its beverage director, would describe the wood-furnished, cozy bar and restaurant that they opened in the summer of 2016, featuring various local and foreign artisanal beers on tap. The people behind Gebhard’s Beer Culture - the sister restaurant to Beer Culture on 45th Street - are as enthusiastic about beer as they are about educating customers.Because many of the beers that they offer are unknown to the general public, Gebhard’s will always work to find the draught that best suits each customer’s palate. If one feels like tasting several selections, the beer flight - a tray of four small glasses - is a good choice. Along with the continuously changing list of beers, the kitchen offers an ample menu of munchies, many from Belgium, as this is where owner Matt Gebhard spent time as a foreign exchange student.I was enchanted to discover how playful the space is: Upstairs, there is a games room, complete with a dartboard, shuffleboard, Hacky Sacks, and BulziBucket. The decorations throughout the bar and restaurant are eclectic, with various beer signs and novelty items covering the walls. At the front, I discovered a nook full of records, as well as a well-loved bicycle helmet. Bo and Ryan, the bartenders on duty, matched the vibe of the restaurant with their jovial nature as they poured beers for the Manhattan Sideways team. They set out glasses of citrusy TarTan Ale, a Central Waters Brewing Co beer, and a fresh, hoppy Southern Tier 2x Tangier. The two men knew exactly what to select for a hot day in the city and enjoyed tag-teaming descriptions of each beer and brand.Bo explained to us that the motivation behind Gebhard's Beer Culture is essentially a “passion for the local beer market.” With the recent proliferation of local breweries around the city and in the rest of the country, Bo feels that “individuals are making great beers and that should be acknowledged.” However, he believes it is not enough to simply have them on tap, but rather, the bartenders should teach customers about the local beer scene. Beer Culture’s objective is as much educational as it is to host many good nights with friends. When asked about the one thing that he would like customers to know about their new bar, Bo grinned and said: “the second beer always tastes better than the first.”
With its prime 72nd Street location, I have passed by Malachy's Donegal Inn almost daily, but had never stepped inside. I was always waiting for the day when I would be working on this street, so that I could go in with the Manhattan Sideways team and have a good time. And that is exactly what happened. "Looks can be deceiving, believe me," owner Bill Raftery immediately said when we popped in during the lunch hour in the middle of the week. He continued to speak lovingly and confidently of his pub, which has been in business since 1989. "This bar has the best pub food of any like it in the area," Bill stated. Looking around, we were pleased to find the old wooden bar packed from end to end. According to Bill, most of his lunch customers are crew guys from local theaters like The Beacon and Lincoln Center, and "they are loyal." Engaging in conversation with more than a dozen men and women, we learned a lot about Bill, and the warm environment that he has built.As Bill continued to serve people from behind the bar, he spoke of how much the neighborhood has changed since he purchased Malachy's. On Saint Patrick's Day, the area used to be blanketed in green bar-goers. "You could not move in this neighborhood the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. There's nothing like seeing them blow up those balloons." Hikes in parking and travel costs have drastically reduced business on both of those days, he lamented. Still, he brightened up when pointing to the crowded bar, and said how his regulars are certainly devoted customers. Quite busy, he told us to stop by for a drink sometime soon, and headed into the kitchen.
"We open every day at 9 a.m. I don't know why. I guess it's an old Irish way. It lets people know that we care about them. As a matter of fact, it used to be 8 a.m,” shared Nicola Cusack, who has been working behind the bar at Dublin House since 2014. She added, “We don’t close until 4 a.m.”A gentleman named Caraway rented the space in 1921 and ran Dublin House as a restaurant upstairs and a speakeasy downstairs. It never drew attention as a bar, making it ideal during Prohibition. When the need for secrecy ended in 1933, Caraway purchased the building and hung a large neon bar sign outside.To this day, the green harp continues to light up the neighborhood while the original iron gates framing the entrance welcome guests. Nothing has changed. “We even have the payphone and the mirrors in their original spots, and the wooden bar — with the holes in it from people putting out their cigarettes — remains untouched,” noted Nicola. And, it has now been immortalized by a scene filmed there for the 2020 season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.Caraway handed over the bar to his nephew, Chris Waters, who continued to run it for decades. Chris still lives upstairs but passed the baton to Mike Cormican in 2006, who had been a trusted bartender at Dublin House for some twenty-five years.“Chris still pops down to have a cup of tea and visit with all the old-timers,” Nicola said. Many are from the neighborhood and have been stopping in for a daily pint of Guinness for years, but there are also the tourists who have read about the bar and come check it out after exploring the Museum of Natural History or catching a show at the Beacon Theater. The Dublin House’s long, narrow bar has always been a place to celebrate and commiserate, as exemplified when used as a setting for The Force, a 2017 gritty police action novel by Don Winslow.What resonates most with Nicola is that “women feel comfortable coming in, even on their own.” She also appreciates watching the younger generation interact with the older folks, even outside the bar. “We are one big happy family.”
Jennifer Klein lived on 72nd Street for several decades before debuting her latest restaurant and bar. Since Dakota Bar opened in 2013, it has become a hotspot, attracting Upper West Siders with its chic, unpretentious vibes. The bar features seasonal cocktails, an eclectic menu, and an extensive wine and beer list, all curated by Jennifer.
From the conversations that I have had with others on the Upper West Side over the last few years, I have determined that almost anyone who lives or works nearby can tell you about Dive 75. It has been the neighborhood watering hole since 1998 when Lee Seinfeld and Jim Peterson first opened it. Prior to going into business together, they were both bartenders at Broadway Dive on 101st Street and had been friends for many years before that. As Lee puts it, “Our relationship is longer than either of our marriages.” Each of their three Dive Bars has a subtle, aquatic theme, with fish tanks occupying a central location in the room. Though this feature is primarily a play on words, Lee did mention to me that Jim is a diver and owns a successful diving store.Despite the name, the bar is very clean. Despite the oxymoron, it truly is an “upscale” dive bar. “I can’t keep it as dive-y as I want to,” Lee laughed. He keeps the venue in top shape and offers an extensive scotch, wine, and craft beer list that drinkers usually would not see in a true dive bar, since that seems to be what his customers prefer. He also pointed out that he has an impressive selection of ciders. “I love ciders,” he said simply, telling me about a reasonably new cider provider called Aaron Burr from the Hudson Valley that uses foragers to collect their apples. Lee was then pleased to share that his son, Nicholas, now does a lot of the buying, having recently joined the business.When I stopped in late one afternoon, Shira Levine, one of the bartenders, was getting ready to open for the evening. Originally from Israel, Shira told me that she moved to New York in 2011 and essentially got a job at Dive 75 the very next day. She enjoys letting friends at home know where she works: “I tell them, ‘You know Cheers?’ That’s where I work.” She then added, “It’s Halloween here every day,” since the bar always has candy on hand. When I asked what customers usually come in for, she answered, “The beer selection, the board games...basically, the great ambience. They just come to have fun.” She added that people also come to be part of a group.In my conversations with Lee, he elaborated on this group vibe, saying that he did not realize how important the bar was to the community until 9/11. Shortly after the tragedy, people started showing up to the bar in droves, not to drink so much as to simply be together. “The bar became a hub where people went to console each other.” Similarly, after Hurricane Sandy, when many were left without power, men and women visited Dive 75 so that they could eat a hot meal. Lee was happy to provide a service to those in need. “I’m proud to be able to serve the neighborhood.” And it is evident that the neighborhood is happy to have him.
J.D. Merget, the owner of Oslo Coffee Roasters, a company that began in Williamsburg in 2003, noticed a dearth of independent coffee shops on the Upper East Side and decided to fix the problem. Fortunately, J.D. had a friend who owned a garden store that he was looking to sell. Thus, Oslo Coffee Roasters moved into the cozy space in 2011 in order to provide high quality coffee to the neighborhood.After speaking with J.D., it became clear that he knows a lot about coffee. Originally from Seattle, he had his first introduction into the world of coffee at the age of twenty-one, while working for Starbucks. He explained that the company “got [him] very excited about coffee” and that it fueled his need to find out more about the product and introduce people to better brews. He has been in the coffee business ever since, working for different companies from Seattle to Dallas to New York. It was his wife, Kathy, whom he met while working in New York, who encouraged him to venture out on his own, saying, “You know so much about coffee – you’ve got to open your own store.” And so he did.The name comes from the fact that Kathy's family is from Norway, where they are still known for drinking more coffee per capita than most other countries in the world. J.D. wanted to steer his customers away from the idea that Italian coffee is the only good coffee and highlighting the Northern European coffee tradition seemed to be the best way to do that. They do not specifically feature Scandinavian coffee, preferring to focus on farmers who use sustainable and fair practices, rather than a specific geographic location. The result is a high quality coffee that can be sipped guilt-free.When I asked if there were plans for more locations, JD says he is happy where he is and that he prefers to focus on connecting with customers and selling a better quality product, rather than expanding. He loves the Upper East Side and is so happy to have been embraced by the neighborhood. “The support from the community is outstanding.” He is very proud of his staff, and is glad that they have received love and recognition from a community that has been waiting for an independent coffee shop. “You become a rockstar,” he said, telling a story of how he was recognized by customers as far south as China Town. His general manager, Liz Pasqualo, echoed his sentiments. She even added that some people double-park in order to get their coffee. For many of the children that live in the area, they are often on autopilot as they enter Oslo, assuming that their parents will follow for one of their frequent visits. Liz told me, “I am really proud of the sense of community,” and how comfortable the place has become. “Strangers sit down and chat together about current events." I was able to witness this sense of camaraderie when a gentleman named Hugh Fremantle, who has been coming to Oslo for the last four years, sat next to Liz while sipping on his coffee to ask how she was doing. “I’m being interviewed!” she said gleefully. Hugh turned his attention to me and said with a big smile, “In that case, you are talking to a very happy customer.”
After visiting many century-old synagogues, it was a refreshing change of pace to tour the modern facilities of Temple Israel of the City of New York. Sun shone through the colorful stained glass throughout the 1960s building and a winding spiral staircase occupied the front hall.The Manhattan Sideways team and I were met by Michele Amaro, the Communications Manager, who took the time to guide us through the eight floors. She led us into the sanctuary, which, as she explained, has “that mod curvy look like the Metropolitan Opera.” The space is enormous, seating 330 people on the first floor and 500 more in the balcony.The congregation was started in Harlem in 1870 and has since been providing a place of worship for many. Today, on East 75th, it is Rabbi David Gelfand - who joined in 2006 - who continues to keep the traditions alive. According to Michelle, it is he who has helped to revitalize the Temple. Cantor Irena Altshul, Rabbi Melissa Buyer, and Rabbi Jim Stoloff round out the clergy team. Michele mentioned some of the more modern programs that Temple Israel offers, including a “Rockin’ Shabbat” (an interactive worship using modern methodologies and technologies) with Sheldon Low, artist-in-residence, , and a Lunch & Learn talk on “kosher-style sex” by Logan Levkoff, a sex therapist and clergy.on Fridays, which uses multimedia screens in worship, and a talk on “kosher-style sex” by Logan Levkoff, a sex therapist. “This is an extremely, extremely active synagogue. We have things going on all the time.”Michele continued showing us around, taking us by multiple display cases full of Judaica, including an exquisite menorah donated by Herbert G. Lane, who was one of the chairman of the board of directors for the temple. We also passed multiple pieces of art, photos of smiling congregants, and teaching tools. On one wall, there is a Visual Torah with cartoon-like drawings so that children can better understand the stories. Michele emphasized that education is deeply important to the Temple before taking us to see the religious school, run by Rabbi Melissa Buyer. I was most impressed by the amount of space dedicated to teaching children, including a lounge for the older ones, and “Mitzvah Gardens” where students can plant food that will later be donated to those in need. The preschool rooms, which are color coded, also sport two terraces with playgrounds. We were impressed by their use of the latest technology complete with Macs and smart boards. Though the school plays a significant role in preparing children for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah, Michele stressed that the school is K-12 and covers every stage of religious instruction, creating a foundation of lifelong Jewish learning.Located underneath the sanctuary, we were amazed by the ballroom, an enormous space, that is in continuous use for various celebrations, including Hanukkah concerts, and Passover seders. When we visited, we observed an early childhood program, headed by director Lisa Samick. The space was filled with toys, and very young children were being rocked to sleep by mothers and nannies in an adjoining room. When I commented to Michele that there was no doubt this is a warm and welcoming community, she beamed, and let me know how proud she was to be a part of Temple Israel.
When we were walking by the firehouse of the Fighting Forty Four, founded in 1881, we were thrilled to find the door wide open. Children on their way home from school were gaping wide-mouthed at the fire engines while smiling firefighters looked on. We joined the ogling children and met the men, Wayne, Kenny, and Bobby, who showed us around the house and spoke about the history of the New York Fire Fighters. Over the course of our conversation, an occasional call would come in to the men. Not knowing what it meant, I asked, “Do you need to run?” “Oh no,” Wayne replied, “We don’t need to run. If we’re running, it means you should be running, too.”One of my first questions was about the number “44.” I learned that it is essentially arbitrary. It refers to when the squad was formed, long before the Brooklyn and Metropolitan fire departments merged. 44, however, is a designated specialty unit, meaning that only men who have a certain level of experience are assigned. This is because they are a Hazmat division. The men showed us the Hazmat truck, which has a big sticker that says “Zombie Outbreak Response Team.” It matches a sticker on the main truck that imitates the “Ebola Emergency Outbreak Response Team” symbol, only with zombies. Smiling they said that little children often ask, “Is that for real? Do you really fight zombies?”Although full of good humor, the men became somber when I commented on a memorial for Michael Lyons, a firefighter who was killed while responding during 9/11. Wayne and Bobby began sharing stories about several of their friends who were present at the World Trade Center that day. One survived by diving under a truck, while The 9th Battalion lost all of its men. Many of the firefighters from 6 Truck in Chinatown also responded that day, but not everyone came back. Men who turned one way coming down the stairs lived, and the men who turned the other way did not. As Bobby said, “If they had yin-ed when they had yang-ed, they would've have made it.”We continued our tour of the house: There is the old hose tower, painted red, as well as the cubbies where the men keep their uniform. I was like a child, gazing at the two traditional firemen’s poles stretching to the upper floor. When I asked if they still slide down them, the answer was a definitive "yes." I appreciated the fact that they had photos of men who have retired. I never realized that even though there are about thirty men assigned to 44, they are frequently traded around to different houses. As a rule, this firehouse usually has six men present at any given time, and never fewer than five. Another interesting fact that I never stopped to think about, of which Bobby informed us as he showed us a map, is that on the East Side, there is a firehouse right by every subway stop.Irish history is still deeply woven into the culture of the fire department. I noticed that along with the Leprechaun in the logo for the “Fighting Forty Four,” there were many other references to Irish heritage scattered around the firehouse, including little Irish flags on the fire engine. Historically, there is a huge Irish connection to many service jobs in the city, including police work. As Bobby explained, “No one else would take the shit jobs. So they’d send in the Irish.” There are no longer any Irish accents in this firehouse - as Wayne stated, “We’re all Bronx guys.” Coming from uptown, the men told us that they respect the fact that they can keep their firehouse open and wave to smiling children of the Upper East Side. As if to demonstrate this, Wayne’s daughter ran into the firehouse and skipped upstairs to do her homework before heading to a hockey game with her dad. “It’s a good neighborhood,” Wayne continued, “So we can keep the door open.”
When we visited Irving Farm late one morning, almost every seat was taken and there was a constant stream of people ordering cappuccinos and breakfast sandwiches. "This is one of our busiest locations," Liz Dean, the manager, said, explaining that it functions as a flagship store. There was a wide demographic, from mothers and young children to groups of out of towners. "This neighborhood is very interesting - we get a nice mix of regulars and tourists," Liz pointed out. Liz was a regular for a while before becoming a member of the team. Now that she does the hiring, she looks out for people like herself, people who understand what Irving Farms is about and are already invested in its product. "I prefer to hire people who love our coffee," she admitted.Two former college friends, David Elwell and Steve Leven, founded the company in 1996. The roasting is done in a carriage house in Millerton, New York, and there are now five cafes scattered throughout the city, as well as a training "Loft" in Chelsea. Though the cafe on Irving Place is the original, as the name would imply, it was recently renovated to look more like the Upper West Side spot, which opened in 2012, making the 79th street store the model for future expansion. In addition, Irving Farms has wholesale clients throughout the country and there are two more cafes set to open - one on the Upper East Side and another at the Fulton Street station. Liz is particularly excited for the Upper East Side location, since many of her customers live or work on the other side of the park.While the coffee menu is the same at each of the Irving Farms locations, the food offerings change slightly. 79th offers a wide range of food, thanks to the size of its kitchen.Demba, the barista, appeared to be both a master of foam art and a friendly face to many. He greeted people by name, effortlessly remembering their regular orders. My daughter, Joelle, who was visiting on the day that we were walking on 79th, declared that her decaf latte was "Rich and oh so good," and elaborated by saying it was a "real cup of coffee," not what she was use to being served in the Boston area. She was also thrilled with her scrambled eggs on a homemade flaky cheddar cheese biscuit with avocado. Liz was pleased with Joelle's reaction, commenting, "The breakfast sandwiches are huge here." Liz went on to say that the lattes and pour overs are also popular, but that coffee lovers equally enjoy trying the single origin coffees, which are rotated throughout the year.Irving Farm is part of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, but they try to go above and beyond the definition of "specialty" by not buying coffee that is graded less than 85 in the 100-point system. They consistently try to give back to the farmers as much as possible, including featuring profiles of the farmers on their website. "In the city, it's so easy for there to be a disconnect between you and what you consume," Liz said after speaking to us about her trip to El Salvador, where the ethics behind coffee were really driven home. People often ask Liz if she feels threatened by Starbucks, and her simple answer is "Absolutely not." Liz and her co-workers know that Irving Farms is targeting customers who can taste and appreciate the difference. "We are, after all, a coffee roasting company first and foremost."Yes, they are known for their coffee, and people are constantly stopping in for a fresh cup. However, I also appreciate that later in the afternoon, Irving Farm has a different vibe. Wine and beer alongside cheese boards are brought out, and people are given the opportunity to relax and participate in pleasant, quiet conversation while unwinding from the day.