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300 West 22nd Street
Foragers 1 American Breakfast Buffets Chelsea

In 2005, when Anna Castellani realized that there was no place to purchase food in her DUMBO neighborhood in Brooklyn, she decided to do something about it. “It was very simple. There was no business plan. It was pure desperation,​” she told me.

As we chatted in the intimate, dark steel and wood-lined restaurant space in her newer location in Chelsea, Anna elaborated on her philosophy about food. Forager’s has now expanded beyond being ​just a grocery store. The location in Chelsea perfectly combines a small, sustainable produce market, a buffet of high quality takeout items, artisanal cooked and baked goods, an espresso station, and a restaurant serving local, organic salads, roasted and grilled meats, and desserts.

“Local” and “organic” we​re the operative words behind​ Anna’s decision-making process for the quality​ of food that ​she wanted Forager’s to carry. ​“I thought if I wanted to eat this kind of food, maybe others did, too.”

In 2005, during the inception of the store, she was thinking mainly about “perimeter products” – industry lingo for perishables, such as meat, dairy and cheeses, which in the food world are ​no​t always very clean. She decided to source meat and dairy from local farms in the Hudson Valley. Until recently, there was no infrastructure to get produce into the city, and farmers did not grow organically for stores. Anna’s solution? To have her​ own egg and vegetable farm upstate and run their Forager’s food delivery truck back and forth to the city​.

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Anna proudly told me that she started her own farm “out of need, more than anything else.” She went on to say, “We picked up dairy from co-ops upstate, which have been instrumental in saving farmland and keeping people in the dairy business.” While organic is all the rage these days, Anna believes that labels can be very misleading – people will buy anything that is labeled organic, and they often are not aware of the hidden ingredients in their food. "It goes down to the sugar in cookies: it’s bleached, it has bone meal in it,” Anna informed me. Forager’s is committed to food that is “clean,” above all else - the produce may not all be ‘certified’ organic, but it is grown using the most organic and healthy methods. “What I like about this business is that you get to learn what the industry sneaks into the food system, and I find it fun to try and work around that.”

Anna’s goal is to provide these products at an affordable price, but the efforts that go into sourcing locally and ensuring high quality are not cheap. She acknowledged that Forager’s is known as an expensive store, but she dislikes labels such as “bougie,​” explaining, “Yes, it’s more expensive to have pasture-raised meat than industrial, b​ut I think we should fight to eat better, because it keeps you healthy and living longer. It’s important.”

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More American nearby

Lost Gem
Peter McManus Café 1 American Bars Beer Bars Pubs Irish Family Owned undefined

Peter McManus Café

Four generations of the McManus clan have operated this jovial Irish tavern, making it among the oldest family-run bars in the city. Its originator, Peter McManus, left his quaint Irish hometown and disembarked in Ellis Island with “basically five dollars and a potato in his pocket, ” as the story goes. He opened the first McManus as a longshoreman’s bar in 1911 on West 55th Street, which he then converted into a thriving general store during Prohibition while migrating his liquor business into a number of speakeasies. Once the restrictions ended in 1933, the shop was so successful that Peter kept it going and found a new spot on 19th Street in which to revive his bar. Peter’s son, James Sr., spent close to fifty years working in and later running the pub. It then passed into the hands of James Jr., who now stands beside his own son, Justin, serving beer and cracking jokes over a century later. Knowing that they will find pleasant conversation and an intriguing cast of characters at McManus, people often come alone to see what the night holds for them. The atmosphere at McManus is merry, but patrons still respect the history and charm that suffuse every corner of the space. Much of the bar is original, including the stunning Tiffany stained glass windows, the hand carved woodwork and crown molding, and the terrazzo floor that can no longer be made today. “We try to preserve it and are pretty protective of it. This bar was built to last, ” Justin said.

Lost Gem
Smithfield Hall 1 Sports Bars Bars American undefined

Smithfield Hall

Smithfield first opened on 28th Street in 2012, but has since moved to this 25th Street location. When I stopped by to check out the new spot, I was greeted by the owner Kieron, who had been chatting with other customers at the bar. He told me that meeting people was his favorite part of the job, and as he greeted yet another regular by name, I felt right at home at the friendly sports bar. It is the perfect place to watch a soccer game, with television screens visible from every angle, and an FC Barcelona flag proudly displayed on the wall. Kieron was quick to point out, however, that one wall is free of screens, so that drinkers and diners can choose to turn away from the constant flurry of color and activity. Many of the patrons were dressed appropriately in team jerseys, enjoying a drink or a bite to eat from the pub-style menu. Kieron told me that they only serve Pat LaFrieda beef, and I noted that they also have an intriguing vegetarian option on their burger list: a miso-glazed tofu creation. Kieron and his partners are all from Ireland, and so it seems appropriate that the bar is named after an old market in Dublin that was also home to the Jameson Distillery. Whiskey is not the only thing Smithfield's is known for – when I stopped by, they had 29 craft beers on tap, soon to be 39. Besides expanding their beer list, Kieron told me that Smithfield Hall will be expanding their square footage soon, adding a private room for special events. Having met many Irishmen who came from a long line of pub-owners, I asked Kieron if running a bar was in his blood. He answered with a sly grin, "No - but I've spent plenty of time inside one. " The research has clearly paid off.

More places on 22nd Street

Lost Gem
The Pen and Brush 1 Art and Photography Galleries Founded Before 1930 undefined

The Pen and Brush

“We come together on the common ground of arts, letters, and women owning their own destinies, ” stated Executive Director Dawn Delikat. For well over a century, Pen and Brush has been dedicated to supporting women in the visual arts and literature. The organization was founded by two sisters and painters, Janet and Mimi Lewis, who were frustrated with being barred from art societies solely on the basis of their gender. Knowing of so many talented women suffering a similar fate, the siblings decided to create Pen and Brush to “stop asking for permission and forge their own way in the city. ”Though the group was nomadic for thirty years, it was able to purchase its first location in 1923. Decades later in the early 1960s, the ladies celebrated paying off their mortgage by dressing in their finest ballgowns and burning the contract in the fireplace. “Women persevering is as much of our understory as anything else. ” The organization carries the torch passed down by these remarkable women, whose members include First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and a number of Nobel laureates. Today, Pen and Brush’s goal remains the same, albeit adapted to twenty-first-century circumstances. As such, it makes space for both women and non-binary voices — better reflecting our evolving conceptions of the gender spectrum — and works to bring in the diversity that has been kept out of the canon “not for lack of talent, but for lack of access. ” To this end, Pen and Brush functions as an art gallery and a book publisher, where visual artists and writers from across the world can submit their work. The group evaluates submissions, seeking pieces “that need to be supported, ” either for expressing something that has not been said before or for demonstrating an incredibly high skill level. This has meant giving career-making opportunities to veteran artists looking to break the glass ceiling of their field, gifted students just out of an MFA program, and self-taught artists who received no formal introduction to the art world. Achieving true equality in the arts and letters may seem a daunting task, but Pen and Brush is tireless in its mission to give a platform to brilliant women and non-binary creators. “We can’t give up on them. We have to build into the future so that we can keep passing that torch, so maybe someday, it won’t be needed. ”