A favorite of the neighborhood since 2004, Elite Food Bar serves as a cozy breakfast nook for its steady flow of customers, and continues to serve them all day. Thanks to Stan Church and Charlie Rothschild, who live directly across the street, I knew to spend some quality time inside this Greek coffee shop. As I chatted with owner, Teddy Demos, and his staff, I also met some of the locals who told me that they "hangout" here everyday. These patrons can be found either sitting by the front window so that they can wave to neighbors walking past or, on a pleasant day, soaking up the sun on the backyard patio.
After sampling their Greek salad and spinach pie, I became a personal fan. Elite also serves scrumptious muffins and other pastries, delivered fresh daily by the owner's uncle from Queens. The devotion and rave reviews of their daily customers impressed me enough to want to feature Elite Food Bar on Manhattan Sideways. This restaurant epitomizes the side street ethos that we love to find: unassuming excellence from a family business, a little off the beaten path.
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.
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.
Patroon is filled with leather-backed chairs, wood-paneled walls, and pictures of cowboys, boxers, and hunters. Although it initially appears to be a well-preserved vestige of an older civilization, with a sense of refined masculinity, we were told by members of the staff that the restaurant is not merely an updated version of its neighbor, Sparks Steakhouse, but rather a place of innovation and growth, bringing a youthful sensibility to a neighborhood frequently determined by old-school finance. However, our first impression was not completely errant as we went on to learn that the three-story building, which is owned by Ken Aretsky, was built as a steakhouse and cigar parlor. Since its beginning, in 1999, Aretsky has adapted the townhouse building to fit more modern needs, but some of that original clubby atmosphere still lingers in the architecture. After touring their event spaces and conference rooms upstairs- filled with stuffed birds, old books, and other regalia of a past age - we visited the rooftop terrace and bar, a modern garden space overlooking central Manhattan that seems to be a hip and growing hotspot in Midtown. While we left before happy hour, we passed by several groups of twenty-something's heading up to the rooftop. We stopped by the bar downstairs before heading out, and while observing the bartender flitting around the room refilling tall glasses of iced tea, we overheard a casual discussion on the problems of inequality in modern capitalism, alongside conversations on the day's trading. This convergence of old business and new leisure makes Aretsky's Patroon into something of a quintessential New York restaurant - adeptly bringing together the traditional and the innovative, the corporate and the social into a single space.
When legendary bartender Doug Quinn parted ways with his longtime employer P. J. Clark's a few blocks north, he marched right over to 53rd Street and began creating what he describes as "an iconic New York saloon restaurant. " Doug's goal is to make Hudson Malone, named after his two young boys, the kind of neighborhood spot where people can feel at home. Whether the customer is twenty-one or ninety, "I like people to mingle with one another, " Doug told me. His hope is to build something that he believes New York lacks at the moment. A big part of this is Doug himself, as I witnessed while visiting. His warm greeting to familiar faces and new customers was genuine and charming as he quickly ran behind the bar to fix them their favorite drinks. It is also in the small details of Hudson Malone, particularly the decor, where Doug has collected photographs of New York sports legends including the 1938 Yankees, a twinkling jukebox by the front of the bar, and a chalkboard displaying Quinn's Laws - "They're all things your Grandma should have taught you, " Doug demurs. I was particularly drawn to the upstairs room, which has its own private entrance and features an intricately carved nineteenth-century center-piece serving as the backdrop to the bar. This is just one more example of the classic saloon decor. In addition to a wide selection of beers and cocktails, Hudson Malone offers a traditional American menu held to Doug's high standards. "I like putting on a show every night, " Doug excitedly told me. "I want the food coming out of my kitchen to cause people to turn their heads. "
Initially serving as a resting stop for Scandinavian sailors when they disembarked in lower Manhattan, the Swedish Seaman's Church opened its doors on Water Street in 1873. The neo-Gothic building in which the Church currently resides was constructed in 1921 for "The Bible House" before being sold to the Church of Sweden in 1978. The Church's nautical past is evidenced in the model boats placed among the large collection of Swedish books. With a chapel, a library, and a coffee shop, the Church's doors are always open to Swedes. While tasting their delicious Swedish buns, I chatted with the staff who spoke enthusiastically about the function that the center plays in people's lives. For families, it provides a "wind" of Sweden whenever they miss their homeland. There are also multiple weddings conducted in the chapel each week, and people come from all over to celebrate holidays and shop at their Christmas Bazaar.
Clinton Garden is a striking testament to the power of residential communities in New York. One of the earliest examples of urban agricultural reclamation, the garden was created in 1979 in a lot that had been abandoned for twenty-eight years. Seeing potential in the space and hoping to improve the area around the neighborhood, residents (with the help of Operation Green Thumb, which leased the lot from the city) transformed the VACANT property into a garden using reclaimed and salvaged bricks, concrete, and slate. Finding the gates open on a beautiful spring Saturday, I wandered in and strolled down the paths filled with magnificent flowers and shrubs. I also met committed people tending to their small plots of land, of which there are now over one hundred. I have since been back many times, as I think this is a magnificent retreat on those days that I am in a need of a place to rest while walking the side streets of Manhattan.
Tucked between a Swiss and an Italian restaurant, Scent Elate brings Eastern spirituality to the neighborhood. With the doors swung open, the aromas were an enticing trail that led me into this tiny boutique packed with an array of incense, candles, soaps, oils and lotions. Scent Elate also has books on meditation and yoga scattered among crystals, jewelry, chimes and hanging ornaments. In fact, it might just be "the" place to go when searching for sticks of incense - not only is there a vast selection, but Mo, the owner, makes a special effort to find the perfect scent to enhance each individual customer's environment.
Named after Bible verses in Isaiah (the wolf and the lamb shall feed together), this restaurant opened in Manhattan in 1998, and expanded to Brooklyn the following year. Initially a traditional kosher deli, it later reinvented itself as a steakhouse. The extensive menu ranges from matzo ball soup to salmon burgers, veal Bolognese gnocchi and, of course, includes a variety of steaks and chops. Drawing on influences as diverse as Vietnamese, Tex-Mex, and French-country, Wolf and Lamb adapts its more customary function to a cosmopolitan venue. "Just because you're keeping kosher doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on quality, " shared a waitress. And while we were told that the majority of customers keep kosher regularly, the crowded space was testament to Wolf and Lamb's broad culinary appeal.