For Sammy, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, walking into the Overlook, and "being hit by the smell of burgers and beer, was a feast for the nose and an appropriate cologne for any watering hole worth its salt. " For me, I was initially intrigued by the back walls filled with what were clearly drawings by an accomplished cartoonist. In chatting with the owner, we learned of its storied past. Inspired by James Thurber who, in the 1940s and 50s, use to draw on the walls of a nearby bar in an effort to reduce his drinking tabs, the Daily News cartoonist, Bill Gallo continued this tradition and made his mark, decades ago, on the walls of what was then called Costello's. Years later, he was asked back to add more of his illustrations on the other side. Today, both walls are filled with entertainment, particularly to those of us who remember many of the characters being depicted. A bar's bar, ultimately named the Overlook offers ales galore and TVs aplenty, enough to serve as host of New York's Chicago Bears fan club. A rooftop deck offers a place to unwind during the warmer months. The Overlook is helped by the steady flow of customers from the hotel on one side and apartment building on the other.
As part of the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in the late '90s, Pershing Square Cafe opened under the Park Avenue viaduct. The fare is American and straightforward, with burgers and chicken pot pies, steaks and fish. The pancakes, served all day, are a big crowd pleaser. Up front, commuters sipping coffee, reading, and chatting while awaiting the next train, inhabit a more cafe-esque area. When speaking with the manager one day, he was proud to tell me that both Friends with Benefits and the Avengers were filmed at Pershing.
A traditional Irish bar, The Perfect Pint has an impressive variety of beers on tap - forty to be exact. Gold lettering and dark woods are reminiscent of British pubs and give the bar a warm and homey feeling. Inside, beer-themed decor reigns supreme, with the tap knobs as faucet handles and re-vamped kegs as the base for bar stools. Sandwiched between the two black-and-white pictures of the old Guinness wagon is a flat-screen TV, the perfect juxtaposition of the Irish bar culture with that of today. The hidden gem, however, is the rooftop bar. Going up the three flights of stairs, we found outdoor seating overlooking 45th Street. Bookended by exposed brick walls and a thatched roof, it can easily transport one back to a quaint Irish village. Below the cast-iron gas lamps, guests sit at tables made from old casks of beer that showcase international coins, beer memorabilia, and other odds and ends. Even the bathrooms are consistent with the theme.
Growing up in France, one cannot help but gain a thorough education about good food. Although she admitted to not having any formal culinary training, Sandrine, the warm and delightful woman behind Ratatouille, avidly observed her mother in the kitchen. Her passion for authenticity brought her to 39th Street where she prepares everything on the premises. In addition to the chickens that are well-seasoned with Herbes de Provence, and spin on a rotisserie that was delivered straight from her homeland, there are chicken meatballs, a pulled chicken honey Dijon coleslaw sandwich, homemade soups, healthy salads, an array of vegetarian options, including rice balls and their star dish: lentil loaf. Each of these seem to go beyond the restaurant's name. The desserts are baked fresh everyday, and the marble cake, vanilla tart, and chocolate carrot cake are the absolute standouts. The yellow and red decor captures a feeling of the south of France, and there are a few tables and chairs that are used by people in the community. Sandrine often sits down and strikes up a conversation with her neighbors. When I asked why she chose to be on 39th, Sandrine explained that she had been looking for six months and when the realtor showed her this space, she knew it fit the bill. She loves the area (she lives only two blocks away) and her survey of the surrounding community revealed no comparable food places. Having first met Sandrine while she was painting and preparing for her spring, 2014 opening, we left feeling confident that Ratatouille would receive an enthusiastic welcome. “This is our dream location, " Sandrine told us, ” and we keep hearing people say that “we need flavor in this neighborhood. ” Well now they have it.
I can attest to the immediate success of Carmine's on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the early nineties as my family and friends stood on the lines to get in on a number of occasions. Owner Artie Cutler's concept of serving large, family-style portions to guests, in a warm, friendly atmosphere connected with diners immediately. It did not take Mr. Cutler long to realize that he had a success on his hands and that it was time for expansion. In 1992, the theater district had another hit in Times Square, in the form of a grand, traditional Italian restaurant.
Teddy Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and Charles Lindberg are among the noteworthy clients that E. B. Meyorwitz & Dell has been crafting “made-to-measure” frames for since 1875. Today, be it in their New York, London or Paris shops, one can still be fitted for a pair of the same classy, high quality spectacles.
Originally opened in 1932 only a few blocks away, Pietro’s has changed owners and locations but continues to thrive. Serving well-aged steaks and Italian classics, the restaurant remains a favorite with locals and those who continue to travel from Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey to savor the incredible meals that are consistently delectable. As Bill Bruckman, the present owner, described it to me, ninety-five percent of the clientele are regulars and have been coming to Pietro's for generations. "People drive in from all over on a regular basis, " he said. He laughed and added, "You would think that there aren't any good Italian restaurants anywhere else. " To honor the regulars, there is a "wall of fame" that allows people to add their family tree, and there are gold plaques scattered throughout the space recognizing Pietro's most loyal customers. Having had some marvelous meals at Pietro's over the years, I was eager to sit down with Bill and learn more about the restaurant's history. I found it fascinating that there was no explanation as to how two Italian brothers, the original owners, decided on its name. They arrived in New York from Italy in the early 1930s and opened their restaurant on 45th Street and Third Avenue - Natala was the chef, while Pietro handled the front of the room, yet only Pietro had his name inscribed on the door. According to Bill, by 1970 the two brothers decided to retire, and it was their head waiter who took over for a number of years, followed by his son. Beginning in the 1960s, Bill's father-in-law worked at Pietro's, and when they needed a busboy in 1984 (when they moved to their present address) he recommended his son-in-law. Bill worked himself up to being a waiter and in 1994, together with three partners, had the opportunity to acquire this Manhattan staple. In addition to the fantastic food, I am certain that it is the old fashioned waitstaff that drive people to return. Bill believes that one must have excellent service to back up the food. There are many men who have been with Pietro's for decades. For instance, Bruno, who I have met on several occasions, is a wonderful example of a loyal and genuine Italian waiter. If one insists, he will give them a menu, but he prefers to recite the list of specials and then continue on with the rest of the menu, without missing a beat. At some point during the recitation, he is certain to announce, "You don't eat better than this! "In 2016, on the day that we returned to update our feature article on Pietro's Bruno ready to greet us. Prior to Pietro's, he had been a waiter at the original Palm for some forty years. He told me that he began his career in 1968, and then quickly added, "But this is the best restaurant to work for. " Bruno told me that his father had worked at Pietro's in the 1960s and he was pleased to say he believes that he has the "closest relationship to the restaurant's past. " There is a warm camaraderie among the men who serve the guests. They take their job very seriously, but also know how to joke with the customers and each other. I found myself laughing the entire time I was there. Stepping inside the kitchen, we met Chef Luis who has been cooking at Pietro's for five years. Bill said that the kitchen staff is an amazing team with five guys on the line working cohesively with the chef as they turn out dish after dish. Witnessing this amazing team at work was a treat. When I commented to Bill on how everyone cooked in perfect harmony, he smiled from ear to ear and said, "These guys can turn out 125 dinners at a time on any busy night. They are so in tune with one another. "Everything is cooked to order and Tom, our photographer, was in classic Italian heaven as he sat down with a plate of meatballs and spaghetti and Pietro's chopped salad. The Chicken Parmesan, considered one of the best in the city, was the show stopper, pounded as thin as can be with an equally thin layer of their secret tomato sauce recipe and then perfectly crusted Parmesan melted across the top. Bill is proud of the fact that the restaurant remains "old school, " and stated, "we refuse to change. " He went on to say that "the decor is not exciting, " but he believes that this "isn't why people come here. " They come for the food, and they return time and again for the people who make their meals memorable.
With locations scattered through the country and, in particular, Manhattan, 42nd Street was my first encounter with Capital Grille while walking north on the side streets. My family is a fan of the restaurants, and we have dined at several of them over the years. So, it was with great anticipation that I entered. Built as an annex to the Chrysler Building, and designed by the renowned Philip Johnson, the dining room is surrounded by tall glass windows with light pouring in during the daytime hours. It is a stunning setting for a glorious steak dinner with all the trimmings.
Sparks has been a consistent iconic landmark in the New York steak tradition. With a dark-wood paneled interior, white tablecloths, and tuxedo-clad waiters, the restaurant remains a testament to the enduring power of Old New York luxury in dining. Since brothers, Pasquale and Mike Cetta, opened its doors on 18th Street in 1966, the restaurant, having moved to 46th in 1977, has continued to serve as one of the classic New York steakhouses. Having worked for a time directly across the street, I had the pleasure of dining at Sparks on a few occasions. I must say that I remember the day, vividly, when two members of the Gambino family were shot outside the restaurant in 1985. It definitely gave me pause, but then as all New Yorkers must do, I moved on.