While there are several Japanese themed shops in the area, Kyotoya was the first. In fact, the shop has been in this location for twelve years, and the owner believes that only the hardware store across the street has occupied this stretch of 19th Street longer. It makes sense that Kyotoya has survived, as the owner has created the perfect blend of soothing and whimsical. The smell of incense and the soft chiming of music by Japanese composers greeted us as we entered the store, immediately putting us at ease and creating a lovely atmosphere. The store is packed with a charming hodgepodge of Japanese goods - beautiful printed kimonos, children's toys, origami papers, fans, original block prints, tea sets, cards, and lanterns. Unlike many bigger chains where everything is made in China, all the merchandise in this store comes directly from Japan and is purchased by the owner bi-annually on shopping trips across the ocean. Aside from these big excursions, she is here almost every day of the week - completely devoted to the shop since the time she opened it after moving to the United States as a student years ago. While the customers are mostly avid Japan enthusiasts, passersby can also wander in and expect to be delighted by treasures such as vintage kimonos, one-of-a-kind Jaori jackets, elegant Zori sandals, and traditional delicate Kokeshi dolls.
I learned of Agnes B's clothing while in college and studying abroad back in the '70's. Somehow, even then, I knew to appreciate her simple French designs for women. It wasn't until I was much older, however, that I was able to purchase a few of her pieces for myself, and I truly treasure them. It seems that many of Agnes B's stores are closing around the country, but here's to hoping that she can continue here in New York.
Deborah Koenigsberger had no plans to start a non-profit. As the owner of Noir et Blanc, an upscale, French-themed, women’s clothing boutique on West 23rd Street, she had enough on her plate. On her way to work every day, she would cross Madison Square Park and encounter the same young homeless woman and her three-year-old daughter sleeping there. Deb learned that the woman had faced abuse in the shelter system and had decided to “take her chances outside.” Over time, she would bring them food, until suddenly, they were gone. Deb was so impacted by the experience, combined with the words of a Stevie Wonder song, “Take the Time Out,” that she felt compelled to “help homeless mothers and their children reimagine their lives.” Even though that young woman physically left, Deb says, “She motivates me every day to keep going.” Thus, Hearts of Gold (HoG) was born with a mission of enabling homeless mothers and their children to “reclaim their lives, transition out of the shelter system, and become self-sufficient.” In 2010, Deb opened the thrifty HoG on West 25th Street. A year later, she moved Noir et Blanc to a retail space a few doors down. The beautifully curated resale shop sells vintage, new, and gently used clothing for men and women, as well as small decor items, bric-a-brac, and home goods that are “consignment quality at thrift prices.” In Deb’s words, “If I wouldn’t buy it and wear it, I’m not selling it.”The mothers in need who work at the thrifty HoG earn a living wage, acquire job skills, and undergo training through HoG’s Earn As You Learn Program. All net proceeds from sales at the shop pay the moms and fund programs and services that support the women and children. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, while everyone was sheltering at home, Deb never stopped. She worked every day to fundraise, purchase, and deliver essential health supplies, food, and other necessities to the moms and kids in the shelters. Over the course of 2020, Deb distributed more than 2,000 meals and emergency care packages, proving her dedication to her non-profit’s overarching goal: “HoG exists to make these women’s and children’s lives the best they can be and to help them retake control over their own stories.”
When we walked into Noir et Blanc, we were lucky enough to meet its wonderful and charismatic store owner, Deborah Koenigsberger. In 1989, at the age of twenty-nine, after working as a model and stylist, Deborah opened her first storefront on 23rd street. Now on 25th, Noir et Blanc caters to the stylish woman. Repeat customers grace her presence everyday, therefore allowing Deborah to get to know them well. In addition to dressing women to feel confident, Deborah has also dedicated herself to helping homeless mothers and children. In 1996, she founded the organization Hearts of Gold. Her next door thrift store, The Thrifty HoG supports this effort, by acting as a hub for selling clothes whose proceeds go to the organization, and also as a job-training site for struggling women.
At times, living in New York City can become a bit chaotic - and it is this moment when Muji feels like a breath of fresh air. So different from our busy and cluttered apartments, Muji is the epitome of minimalist class. There is no rhyme or reason to what items are carried, and yet, while there are a million trinkets to browse through, the atmosphere remains effortlessly crisp and clean. Everything is made in neutral colors and simple materials, and labeled with clear descriptions. After wandering around I suddenly had the urge to go home and clean everything out of my closet and start fresh. The store has a definite calming and almost meditative effect on people. The vast variety of items includes furniture, clothing, home goods - and yet everything feels unified. Some of the hidden treasures can be found within the office supplies - pens that glide beautifully across the page and notebooks that rival Moleskine for utility and sophistication, but at a fraction of the price. Even the clothes are in soft, soothing colors, but made from fine fabrics and sold at very reasonable prices. Step inside to escape the bustle of the city, and do not be surprised if you leave with a new toothbrush or a pair of slippers.
The moment I walked into Burger and Lobster, I knew that it was not a typical seafood restaurant. Huge lobsters swam in tanks by the door, and a whimsical chalkboard announced the restaurant’s grand total of three menu items: the burger, the lobster, and the lobster roll. When Burger and Lobster opened in January of 2015, no one knew whether its limited menu would appeal to New Yorkers. Vanessa, the general manager, was especially skeptical. “But after just a few weeks,” she told me, “the restaurant was a huge success! I couldn’t believe it.” Since then, Burger and Lobster’s reputation has continued to grow, and the wait on weekends can be up to an hour. When I stopped by on a sweltering July afternoon, I could see why the restaurant has become so popular. Housed in a former tae kwon do studio, Burger and Lobster feels both casual and upscale, with high ceilings and simple décor (I especially liked the lobster trap light fixtures). With seating for up to 300 people at a time, the restaurant can easily accommodate large groups, and the downstairs space is available for private events. Even better, every item on the menu is $20 and comes with generous portions of salad and fries. Burger and Lobster has a distinctively American feel, so I was surprised to learn that the company is based in the UK. According to Vanessa, it all started out with four friends who had known each other since high school. They already owned several high-end London restaurants, and when they decided to do something fun and different, Burger and Lobster was born. The first restaurant was so successful that the business multiplied, and now has eight locations in London and several others in Manchester, Wales, and Dubai. All of Burger and Lobster’s locations have the same laid-back atmosphere, but Vanessa told me that the New York restaurant is the most fun. “A lot of our servers are actors and actresses,” she explained, “and they’re always having a good time. Last week, two of them performed a scene from Dirty Dancing, and everyone loved it!”In spite of its relaxed environment, Burger and Lobster is very serious about the quality of its food. Vanessa explained that they buy all of their lobsters from the same group of lobstermen in Nova Scotia, while their beef comes from carefully selected Nebraskan ranchers. “We work really closely with them to make sure all of our food is of the highest possible quality,” Vanessa added.We had the opportunity to try the food for ourselves just a few minutes later, when the server presented us with all three of Burger and Lobster’s menu items. The lobster paired perfectly with the lemon garlic butter (as did the fries), and once we managed to bite into the towering ten-ounce burger, we found that it was juicy and filling. The Manhattan Sideways team especially enjoyed the creamy lobster roll on soft butter brioche, a choice that felt refreshing and summery. Though we did not sample the drink menu, Vanessa told us about the signature cocktails and wines that Burger and Lobster has on tap, as well as its many beer options.When we had eaten as much burger and lobster as we could—the portions were quite large—Vanessa took us on a tour of the restaurant’s lobster lab. This area, which was designed by a marine biologist and is regulated by a complex computer system, can hold up to 4000 pounds of lobster at any given time. “We go through a lot of lobster,” Vanessa told us. “On weekends, sometimes we use as many as a thousand per day.” While the smaller lobsters are kept downstairs in the lab, the “big boys,” as they’re affectionately known, are kept on the main floor for customers to admire. Between six and eighteen pounds, some of these lobsters are estimated to be eighty or ninety years old, and they are quite an impressive sight. We even got a chance to hold one of the big boys, a six-pounder who remained surprisingly calm as we lifted him by the claws. Burger and Lobster’s Manhattan location has received rave reviews, and Vanessa told us that the company will soon bring its high-quality food and impressive service to other locations in New York and the United States. But until then, anyone hoping to experience Burger and Lobster will have to make their way to this cool, casual spot on West 19th Street.
Many bars and restaurants are open every day of the week, but how many are open every single day of the year? McManus was founded in 1911 and moved to this location in 1936, and four generations of the family have operated this warm and welcoming Irish tavern since. Today it is Peter McManus’s grandson and great-grandson who stand side by side serving beer. The bar has a real neighborhood feel, with regulars stopping in at all hours to watch sports on one of the several TVs, listen to music on the jukebox, or play video games. A room with shiny vinyl booths and red and white checked table cloths is available for anyone who would like to grab a bite from McManus’ simple American menu. We were taken with the original features of the building, especially the Tiffany stained glass windows and the two classic wooden telephone booths.
Tom Geniesse is in love with the Flatiron District and he believes he has chosen the perfect location to house his cleverly laid out wine shop. As he explained, there are two ways to shop for wine - first - the old fashioned way with the wines alphabetized by country. Thus, along the walls at the front of the store, multiple wine regions from around the world are represented alphabetically, beginning with Argentina. It is down the center of the shop, however, that Tom'sother idea for displaying wines comes to fruition: The same wines that line the sides are now separated by category - Meat, Seafood, Take-out, Treats, Gifts, Value, Events. Get the idea? The fun doesn't stop here, though, for next to each bottle Tom has a "resume" of each wine, providing tools to make wise choices. Collectors with deep pockets can find a fine selection as can university students who prefer not to spend a great deal. Bottlerocket is designed to build a bridge for consumers to make the right decision. When asked what drew him into the wine business, Tom said that he was a "crazy entrepreneur" who had lots of different jobs but continuously found himself disappointed in wine shops. "I always wanted to know more, and this is a result of that effort."