Ask those who are determined to travel all the way east why coming here is worth the trek and they will tout the tasty cocktails, the delectable food, the live music and the warm, relaxed atmosphere. This of course is true, but we think what makes The Wayland worth the trip is its character, beginning with the old piano in the corner, the farm table seating and the bar bursting with wildflowers in glass bottle vases. The bar's attraction is in the details, apparent with the fresh kale garnish in their Garden Variety Margarita and the egg whites and cumin in their Cumin My Cocktail. After the drinks, we went on to savor the scrumptious hot nuts that were rubbed with peppers and rosemary, the Brussels sprouts that came raw, shaved, and mixed with green apples and spiced walnuts, and an entree of pulled chicken. Needless to say, our time at The Wayland was quite pleasurable.
We had the pleasure of spending time at Joe's Bar in 2011 before Joe passed away and it closed down. Continuously operated for over one hundred years, Joe's even had a bowling alley down stairs in the early 1900's. Now, renamed to Josies, the bar is owned by the guy who also runs Sophie's. This was his favorite place to hang out years ago, and he has every intention of keeping the bar's "small town" feeling exactly the same. "The theme of this bar will be just that - a bar where people can play pool and listen to the juke box," the contractor of Josies told us. Hopefully, the bar still remains as the neighborhood hangout that it was before Joe passed away - a place where moms came in the late afternoon for coffee with friends and babies and the locals drank at night.
The Tiki bar theme at Otto's begins with the windows that are decorated with Hawaiian statues and little hula girls. Moving inside, it is dark with big lit flowers and beach girl designs. Continuing on to the back there is a cool photo booth and a surf board hanging from the ceiling...oh, and some pretty good rum drinks served in Tiki mugs. As Esteban, our photographer, commented, "It feels like a dive bar that just swam over here from Hawaii and surfaced in Alphabet City."
The vintage games and décor at Ace add a nostalgic twist to what might otherwise be a run-of-the-mill bar, and it is a great place to spend the night with a group of friends. When entering the bar’s two spacious rooms, you cannot miss the notable collection of old-school lunch boxes and thermoses that are displayed in a glass case by the bar (if you are from my generation, take a moment and try to remember what character was on your lunchbox!) Further inside, there are plenty of activities to choose from, including darts, pool tables, pinball machines, Big Buck Hunter, arcade games and, of course, the skee ball machine. I just had to duck my head, hoping people would not pay attention to someone my age playing skee ball, and go for it. I love this game! I have been back on several occasions and spent time with the owner, who says that many people outside of Manhattan frequent the bar and that he considers his regulars a “part of a big happy family.”
What could be wrong with sitting in a classic barber shop chair and having a beer - or two - while getting a quality hair cut by personable and talented barbers? According to my son, absolutely nothing. This is his go to place. And that is just for day time fun. Come by in the evening, as we have done on several occasions, and walk through the sliding doors of the barber shop (that closes at 9:00pm), and stroll through into a living room atmosphere with cozy chairs and small alcoves to sip your well-concocted drinks. Bottom line is that this is a terrific find at any hour of the day.
You might recognize this classic, horseshoe-shaped bar, that was built in the 1920’s, from such hit movies as The Godfather Part II, The Verdict, Crocodile Dundee, Serpico or TV favorites like "Sex and the City" and, most recently, "Person of Interest." Despite their fame, they are just a friendly and inexpensive watering hole with screens in every direction – a safe bet for a classic New York sports bar experience that many of us have had. And yes, there is a side entrance.
In 1954, a Ukrainian refugee began Veselka as a shop that sold cigarettes, candy, and newspapers with a few tables for some tasty homemade Eastern European food. Over the years, it slowly evolved into a coffee shop, and then to a casual restaurant. Almost fifty-nine years later, it continues to thrive as a neighborhood destination when one is in need of comfort food, or as my own kids have told me, it is a great late night spot too. Open twenty-four hours a day, the restaurant’s menu is a mix of Ukrainian and typical American diner fare. More than a diner, though, Veselka is a family-friendly establishment that serves up Ukrainian "peasant" food - known to many as "Ukrainian soul food."
Shahrzad Ghajar, founder of the gift shop Spooksvilla + friends, takes curation to another level. She meets with each of the artists represented in the store and personally chooses every piece showcased on the walls and shelves.Shahrzad, herself, is a talented artist, and many of her designs are featured in the shop. By focusing on the artists, Spooksvilla ensures that everything for sale - from apparel to wall art - is one-of-a-kind. “We like to be representative of original people doing original things— be it art, products, charms or any other kind of cool item," said Ethan Velez, manager of Spooksvilla.Despite the fact that multiple artists contribute to Spooksvilla, the store is not a hodgepodge of styles. Rather, the art is united in its bold, whimsical designs. A favorite is the label on the bottle of the rose bath salts - a piece of art in itself. A woman with purple skin and purple hair rides a pink dragon, holding, of course, roses.
Serving an interesting but decadent assortment of coffees, hot cakes, desserts, Japanese tapas, sandwiches, pasta, and more, Hi-Collar functions as many things. In the morning the atmosphere is subdued and relaxed like a coffee shop, as customers come to enjoy “kissaten” – a term to describe Japanese-style coffee shops. The lady we spoke to at Hi-Collar told us their coffee selection is extensive and that there are a variety of beans to choose from. Not only is there the opportunity to select the bean varietal, but one can also choose how the coffee is made as well: pour over, aeropress, or siphon—each method drawing out a distinct flavor. For the non-coffee drinker, there are teas and even a fruit milkshake.As the afternoon wears on and evening approaches, Hi-Collar becomes a bar complete with wine, sake, and beer. Inquiring about the name, we found that Hi-Collar is in fact a term that came to be during the Japanese Jazz Age, when Western culture infiltrated Japan and many men were seen wearing Western style high collars. The only seating available is at the long bar, and the beautiful flowers and lamps that hang from the ceiling add to the allure of this multifaceted nook on 10th.
“My parents were definitely not thrilled when I opened the restaurant,” said Thomas Chen, executive chef and founder of Tuome. It didn’t matter that he had taken classes at the International Culinary Center or worked at restaurants as renowned as Jean-Georges, Commerce, and Eleven Madison Park. His parents, Chinese immigrants who had opened a restaurant to survive, believed that working as a chef was not the way to a better life.Since Tuome opened in 2014 to great critical acclaim, Thomas’ parents have started to come around. But no matter what they think of the restaurant, there is no denying the huge influence they have had on Tuome. According to Thomas, many of the menu items—including his personal favorite, chicken with gem lettuce—are modeled on the foods he ate as a child. Even the restaurant’s name is a tribute to his mother, who called him “Tommy” as a child, but pronounced it “Toe-me.”Thomas has also taken culinary cues from the high-end New York restaurants where he started his career, and he describes Tuome as “American with Asian influences.” A trip to Asia played an important role in his cooking style as well—he was especially inspired by the made-to-order dim sum in Hong Kong and the unique flavors of Thai food.I was eager to ask Thomas about his entrees, many of which require hours of preparation. The “Pig Out for Two,” one of Tuome’s best-selling dishes, is cooked for fifteen hours in duck fat, while the veal and the egg tartare both take three hours to prepare. “We do sell out at a certain point,” Thomas explained, “because we only have one convection oven and the amount of food we can produce is limited.” But the restaurant has never had any catastrophes; a former accountant, Thomas has a system in place to predict how much food he will need on any given night.With its hip décor and intimate atmosphere, Tuome is perfect for a weekend date night. But Tuesdays may, in fact, be the best day to stop by, as Thomas tends to showcase off-menu dinner and dessert items at the beginning of the week. I asked him for a few examples and immediately regretted it—for the rest of the afternoon, I daydreamed about duck dumplings, summer sundaes, and Chinese beignets with goat’s milk caramel, fig jam, and red bean glazed ice cream.When I asked Thomas what he cooks at home, he smiled sheepishly. “I don’t really cook at home,” he said. “Water bottles are the only thing in my fridge.” Instead, he often goes out to eat at restaurants near his house, finding inspiration in their unique flavors and ingredients. Though he doesn’t live in the East Village, he decided to open a restaurant there because he was attracted to the atmosphere. “It’s a melting pot for different cuisines,” he told me, “and the locals really appreciate good food in a casual setting.” Tuome is also a favorite among foreigners—particularly tourists from France, Switzerland, and Hong Kong—who discover the restaurant online.On my way out the door, I asked Thomas about the challenges of owning a restaurant. The hardest part, he told me, is the lack of sleep—on a normal day, he arrives at Tuome around 1pm and doesn’t leave until 1am. But he loves experimenting with new ingredients and creating his own menu, and he is constantly searching for ways to improve the restaurant. And that is what he plans on doing in the near future: changing Tuome’s menu seasonally, mixing things up, evolving.
We stumbled upon Maiden Lane on a quiet, foggy afternoon in mid-June. The weather was fitting: this is a bar and restaurant that takes its name, design, and menu from the concept of the port city and the long-past days when men sailed and fished the high seas. Niles, the owner, explained to me that “Maiden Lane” was a common street name in port cities of old. The wives and daughters of sailors and fishermen lived on these streets – cooking, doing their washing, and waiting for the return of their husbands, fathers, and sons.Indeed, the entire restaurant revolves around this seafaring theme. It is predominantly a beer and wine bar, serving everything from Narragansett to more specialized craft beer, as well as a variety of wines, and a few cocktails. The food menu focuses on seafood, especially cured and smoked items from the local farmers’ market. It’s not a full menu, but the offerings pair nicely with the different beverages and can be used as upscale bar food or a small meal.The restaurant itself is tiny, folded into a small, square space at the corner of 10th Street and Avenue B. Its simple interior is further evocative of the port-city theme: brick walls, wooden tables, large side windows, and even a stone slab for a bar. The place feels spare, but lovely, and is doubtless appealing to its hip East Village neighbors.
Jeremy Spector, both the owner and chef, came out to greet us early one afternoon. He is a remarkable gentleman with a warm personality and an impressive knowledge of the area. It was nice to chat and to witness his enthusiasm for the East Village. The menu appears to grow when one is looking for beer selections or wine choices and even sangria. One of us had a dish called “three herb chicken,” and there were several salads and great vegetarian side dishes to appease the rest of us.The Brindle Room has been featured on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show and has subsequently enjoyed a massive uptick in business since its early opening months. The Brindle Room is surrounded by tea shops on what is locally known as the “healthiest block in the city,” and it is doing its part to uphold the superlative - about 70 percent of the menu items include kale in some form. For those who prefer something less green, the restaurant is also known for its fabulous doughnuts.