Oktoberfest is celebrated every day on 37th Street with German beers and a menu that replicates all the favorites found in this country. Dressed in blue and white-checkered shirts with lederhosen socks, the staff is vibrant and jovial, and the seating is partially communal with wood tables and stools scattered throughout the massive hall. The menu impressed us; beginning with the soft, warm pretzels that come in two sizes - with the bigger one filling a large pizza tray. There are several kinds of charcuterie, and with a bit of a twist, there is even a vegan tofu "wurst." Schnitzel can be prepared with chicken, turkey, veal or pork. Hearty sides including, of course, German potato salad, pair well with the Schnitzel but a favorite for us was the Spatzle simply prepared with butter, salt and pepper. And then there is the beer - fourteen taps, all German, served in half-liter or one-liter mugs, or two-liter boots. The German background music is upbeat as is the crowd that hangs out here. We witnessed a table participating in the "shot ski." Two waitresses came out ringing bells and presented a long piece of wood resembling a ski that had shot glasses attached. Four guys stood up to the cheers of their friends, and together on the count of three, downed the mixture of vanilla baileys, and honey whiskey. Opened in the spring of 2013 by two of the grandchildren of Willy and Gerda, who came to the U.S. in the mid 1900s, this bar is fantastic. As their families grew, they continued the custom of gathering to share good German food and drink in their home. By instilling the importance of tradition, Willy and Gerda's grandsons, Keith and Willy, were inspired to try to recreate the spirit of their home country. And we believe that they have honored them well.
Greeting guests with a small taste of their Spanish mulled house wine, we immediately knew that we had discovered a small wonder. Aytac and Zaf, both from Turkey, are the owners. They lived in New York for many years, working in other restaurants before the two friends decided to embark on their own adventure. They opened their doors in 2007 and have had a steady flow of customers, drawing from both the locals living in the neighborhood and the strong tourist population that surrounds them. Nothing is made from scratch on the premises, as the kitchen is minute, but what they bring out of there is absolutely scrumptious. We managed to eat every piece of chocolate made by either renowned Jacques Torres or Xocolatti. Small chunks are served on a wooden platter, similar to a cheese board. Delving into their signature dessert, "21 Layer Crepes Cake" was like indulging in a piece of heaven. Thin crepes and whipped cream, topped with burnt sugar. We watched as others shared the dark chocolate fondue, dipping into their melted land of wonder with bananas, strawberries, marshmallows and finger cookies as Frank Sinatra was singing in the background. Although we did not order anything else, there is a menu filled with savory treats - Angry Chicken Lollipops, White Truffle Pizza, Goat Cheese Brulee and, of course, a cocktail menu of Chocolate Martinis and wines from around the world.
After having eaten at Barbes, I was eager to check out Omar Balouma's other restaurant. Stopping to notice the beautiful, ornately carved front door, we learned that it was shipped directly from Morocco, and functions as a literal and figurative portal to North Africa. Inside, a vague smell of hookah smoke hangs in the air amidst beautifully crafted walls done in a soft pastel-hued Venetian plaster. The front of the restaurant is for dining where the menu offers smaller Mediterranean-style plates flavored with Moroccan spices. The back hookah room might be the real star. Benches line the large square room, along with colorful seat cushions while tapestry-esque sheets hang overhead. Saturday nights come alive with belly dancers and music is played by Rachid Halibal, a native of Morocco.
A giant rhomboid patterned installation hovers just below the ceiling, slithering enormously down the back wall and giving the impression of being inside a dimly lit, atmospheric basilisk. Browns, oranges, and tans, along with natural greens of bamboo lining the walls, make for an incredibly pleasant dining experience. The sushi and the crispy rice are well-regarded, and deservedly so. The chic restaurant first opened its doors in Los Angeles, and then found its way eastward into the Bryant Park Hotel with its latest location being Abu Dhabi.
Nicknamed “The Batcave” for the emblem painted on the floor on the walkway inside, this particular fire station has been an active part of the FDNY’s network since 1865. Previously, it had been a Metropolitan Fire station starting in 1861, and before that it was run by volunteer firefighters. Firefighter Alex Laird was kind enough to give the Manhattan Sideways team a full tour of the historic building. The establishment is so old that it used to house horse drawn engines. Some of the original architecture still remains, most notably the spiral staircase that now sits alongside the modern fireman’s pole. Sadly, this firehouse lost five members in the attacks on 9/11. The station still has the original flag and radio from that day and has them on display out of respect for their fallen brothers.
The location was renamed in 2023 as The Flatiron Room Murray Hill. This feature was first published in September 2017. Fine & Rare, shorthand for “fine food and rare spirits” is the latest creation of Tommy Tardie, restaurateur and owner of the Flatiron Room on West 26th Street. In contrast to the more common restaurant theme of the 1920s and 30s, which Tommy considers to have “played out, ” Fine & Rare aims to be an aristocratic parlor straight out of the 1950s, modeled after classic Manhattan hideaways such as The Explorers Club. “The challenge was getting it to look like the Flatiron Room - old world, almost like we discovered it, ” Tommy told the Manhattan Sideways team. The space has had other lives as a Japanese restaurant and a photocopy center - Tommy said that when he first saw the space, it was raw, with concrete floors that had holes them and wires hanging from the ceiling. In 2016, it became a little slice of vintage Manhattan, complete with a repurposed teller booth from Grand Central Station serving as the hosts’ stand. The wallpaper is finely textured with glass and sand, and the stainless steel ceilings are reclaimed parts from a former distillery. Descending into the restaurant, we walked on 125-year-old floorboards from Connecticut that have the names of the restaurant’s investors carved into it. Two of these investors are Tommy’s young sons, River and Sawyer, who each made a $1 investment in the establishment in order to garner a place on the floor. Hanging above the booths are pieces of taxidermy that Tommy believes “bring in some more old world charm. ”The room is large, but because the tables are isolated from one another, each setting is intimate and unique. “Wherever you are in the restaurant, you feel like you’re in your own area. ” Each side of the dining room features a fireplace: one has hand carved marble from Italy, and the other is repurposed from the door of a country schoolhouse. The jazz stage provides a theatrical ambience to the space without overpowering it. “We want the performance to enhance, but not be, the experience. There’s always a show going on even if nothing is onstage. ” The walls are decked out with the restaurant’s inventory of over 1000 bottles, which Tommy noted are, “part of the architecture. ” Some sit atop high shelves and can only be reached by ladders, which members of the staff will climb throughout the night. Others sit in the caged bottle keep, with personalized labels that can be bought. “New York is all about showmanship - people love to put their name on something. ” The back elevated room holds up to thirty-five people and is used for tastings and private events. It has a few hidden elements of its own, including a chandelier and leather and steel door from a masonic hall. While speaking with Tommy, the Manhattan Sideways team sampled a few of the restaurant's scrumptious items, including the burrata served with arugula and an assortment of fruits, the short rib burger, the seafood Cobb salad, and the Greek grain bowl with quinoa, mint, and beet humus. While the Flatrion Room focuses largely on whiskey, Fine & Rare features cocktails with tequila, rum, and brandy. This does not mean that they do not still have some amazing whiskey options, such as the breathtaking smoked Old Fashioned that was presented to us to photograph and then sip. Tommy began his professional career as a creative director in advertising on Madison Avenue, but realized after a dozen years that he was craving something more exciting. “The higher I got on the corporate ladder, the less creative it got. It lost that cool factor. ” He resolved to go the route of the entrepreneur, initially with a few clubs, and later with the Flatiron Room and eventually Fine & Rare in 2017. “With this one, I decided to make the demographic and design a place I’d like to go, as opposed to previous projects that centered on reaching a specific consumer base. " Tommy also remarked on how Fine & Rare is the result of the trial and error from past ventures: “This is as if I got to do it again and I could do it better. I think entrepreneurs are genetically coded to forget how difficult it can be starting out, but a new project is fun. It makes your heart pump and your adrenaline go. ”
Despite his Irish background, having grown up in Dublin and owning a few bars and restaurants there, Nick's bars and lounges in Manhattan are all about America. I am certain that his training abroad did him well, as he has been quite successful in New York for over twenty years. He began with a club in Tribeca and then moved uptown where he now runs four pubs. Nick admits that Stitch is showing its age as it has been around for quite some time, but he continues to try to" keep it fresh. " And Nick went on to say, "we are a user friendly venue. " We found it to be a warm welcoming place to come by for a drink and some solid American food - the hamburgers and wings are the specialty. We shared the Lingerie (the cocktails are each cleverly named for something represented in the fashion district... thus the name Stitch, the main event. ) Filled with vanilla vodka, amaretto, coco lopez, honey, pineapple juice and a touch of cranberry, our drink went down smoothly and was an interesting twist on a pina colada.
A line out the door at lunchtime certainly caught my attention. When I inquired, I was told that the food is fresh, the sandwiches are terrific, and that their Mediterranean menu is worth the wait. Thus, the Manhattan Sideways team queued up along side everyone else, as who would not trust the word on the street? Meeting the two animated Israeli owners, David and Yariv, was an added bonus, as we secured one of the few tables to sit and eat our freshly made dishes. We eagerly delved into the bowl of hummus, the hot pressed mozzarella sandwich and the strips of zucchini with lemon, olive oil and toasted almonds. We left with a full understanding of why people are willing to stand on line. Although, we also learned that Picnic Basket is expanding their kitchen in an effort to accommodate more people at a faster pace.
Below the luxurious William Hotel sits the more meat-and-potatoes Shakespeare, an ode to English pubs. The focus is on the Brits beer and food. The owners, Yves Jadot and Jason Hicks of Jones Wood Foundry uptown, opened this space simultaneously with the more luxuriant library bar and Peacock Restaurant upstairs. Divided into two rooms, the Abingdon's low wood beamed ceilings make for a perfect setting to share a pint of Old Speckled Hen, a cask ale served at 55 degrees - obviously an unexpected surprise for those that have come across the pond. Although served warm, it is "quite popular even with the Americans, " according to Joelle, the bartender. The other favored beer is Wells Bombardier - a classic English bitter. As described by Joelle, it is a lighter flavor, but still has the bitter notes, just not as prominent as some of the others she, personally, has sampled. We had a real feast while sitting in The Snag, located across the hallway. This tiny room for two to four people is modeled after the time when British women were not allowed to drink with the men, and therefore snuck into this enclosed space and were able to order their drinks through a little window that opened up to the bar. It was inside this precious area that we photographed and devoured Bangers and Mash, a perfect butter lettuce salad, a hamburger dripping with melted cheese served with hand cut fries, and then a rich, decadent, incredible sticky toffee pudding.
At 5th & Mad, a long curved bar snakes from the entrance to the back of the bar beneath TVs and New York sports paraphernalia. In a room off of the main area, we found a pool table and dart boards. Most of the beer on tap is American. A comfortable upstairs area opens to accommodate the expanded weekend crowd on Thursday (or as we at Manhattan Sideways like to call it "Friday's Friday"), through Saturday nights.
Despite the fact that the definition of a blaggard is a scoundrel, this Irish bar had none to be found. It is as relaxed and down-to-earth as one could hope, with the kindest owners and staff. The menu features Irish classics. In addition, for the American palette, there are eleven different burgers to choose from, and of course, lots of beer choices to wash it all down. When we asked owners Don and Liam to chat about their pub, they summed it up in a nutshell: it's a great place to "meet, eat, and certainly, to drink. "