Perhaps a bit confusing, but not to worry, Le Midi is in good hands now and all is well at this bistro that offers French comfort food. It seems that the past owners only lasted a short time, and now a trader who splits his time between Manhattan and London has taken over and has devoted his attention to every detail of his new endeavor. Andy Song's philosophy is if you offer customers "good value for good food, they will come back." The menu is classic French bistro including winners like onion soup, a variety of simple steaks served with pommes frites, and, of course, Coq au Vin. On our first visit we spent an hour sitting at the bar chatting with both Andy and the chef, David Farraro, who has worked in some of New York's well revered restaurants, including growing up in his dad's place, Mangoire, on 53rd and Second Avenue. When we spoke of the food served at Le Midi, David described it as "straight forward with a few twists." And about the atmosphere here, his comment was "bistros are diners for grownups." Thus the large screen on the wall above the long, white marble bar, that plays old French movies as well as an occasional contemporary film. Le Midi is new, but we are quite certain that it will take off quickly. The bar is stunning, the food hits the spot for every single occasion, and the people who work here are as accommodating as any place we have ventured, thus far. We wish Andy and his team the best of luck both in the restaurant and downstairs at his newly acquired Karaoke Cave.
Although this is not its original location, the 18th Street restaurant remains loyal to its traditional Mexican cuisine roots. Known for its signature guacamole and frozen pomegranate margaritas, the restaurant consistently offers excellent, authentic food. Rosa Mexicano roughly translates to “Mexican pink,” which is meant to embody the colors of the country's sunset. A beautiful waterfall divides the cavernous room into two sections to provide a pleasant barrier between dining patrons and those enjoying drinks before their meal. This elaborate piece of art in the middle of the restaurant, which was created by a designer from Dubai, adds to the overall experience of entering a world outside of New York City. The back room, referred to as the sky room, is illuminated by natural light that enters through the ceiling. The first location was established in 1984 on 1st Street, where Rosa herself could be found cooking behind the bar, sharing her infectious personality with everyone around her. To this day, Rosa Mexicano is proud to employ a majority of Mexicans on its staff and to present the beauty of Mexico through its cuisine.
When Union Square favorite for Latin American tapas, Pipa, closed its doors, locals were heartbroken. To appease the masses when moving into the former eatery’s space in the spring of 2013, the team behind ABC Cocina tried to incorporate what diners loved about Pipa into their own restaurant, as well as a few surprises.Attached to the name Jean-Georges Vongerichten, ABC Cocina needed no press when it opened its doors. Dan Kluger has continued his role as chef at both ABC restaurants, but the theme here is Latin inspired - a nod to Pipa. As we mentioned in our post for ABC Kitchen, we have never had a less than spectacular meal at any of Jean-Georges’ many establishments. The menu at ABC Cocina focuses heavily on seafood, spicy flavors, and rice and corn based entrees. When the Manhattan Sideways team visited, the menu listed various sharing plates, including tuna sashimi with avocado, steamed bouchot mussels and chorizo, peekytoe crab fritters and patatas bravas with rosemary aioli, spicy baby back ribs, and seared diver scallops with coconut. Additionally, there were a variety of tacos. An interesting take on traditional guacamole is made with fresh spring peas and comes with homemade warm tortillas.Cocina is located on the ground floor of ABC Carpet and Home and can be accessed from 19th Street. It flaunts a dark, “sexy” atmosphere, decorated with an array of lighting fixtures to promote the idea of “luminance as art,” explained Shari Garb, the restaurant’s public relations director. To keep with the restaurant’s dedication to sustainability, ABC Cocina makes use of LED lighting specifically to herald eco-consciousness. It also mirrors ABC Kitchen, in that it places considerable emphasis on local, organic, and otherwise sustainably grown ingredients. They source from “hyper local” venues like the Union Square Greenmarket, Hudson Valley farmers, and their own community supported agriculture program “ABCSA,” supported by the non-profit FarmOn. A five-page wine and cocktail list should ensure that any exhausted ABC shopper can enjoy an eclectic, high-spirited meal.
There are many reasons to visit the environmentally conscious furniture and housewares store ABC Carpet & Home, as the selection in furnishings is diverse, interesting and fun, but many are also drawn here for the restaurants. ABC Kitchen, which can be accessed either through the store or directly on 18th Street was the first of celebrity chef and Alsatian native Jean-Georges Vongerichten's endeavors in this building - adding yet another new restaurant to his empire of critically acclaimed eateries. He reached out to his friend Paulette Cole, the CEO of the store, with his ideas for a new eatery several years back, and they both say that neither of them could have anticipated the overwhelming success of their collaboration, ABC Kitchen.Since 2010, ABC Kitchen has been churning out quality farm-to-table meals and continually receives rave reviews. When I asked their public relations director, Shari Garb, how ABC Kitchen enticed diners to return, without hesitation she replied "by being consistently excellent.” Using only the best local ingredients cooked by chefs with “feverish expertise,” ABC Kitchen serves high-end New American fare that is accessible and comforting without sacrificing artistry. The range of dishes spans from bow tie pasta with veal meatballs to Maine lobster and crispy pork confit.I happen to be a huge fan and have eaten in almost all of Jean-Georges’ restaurants in Manhattan, and have never had a disappointing meal. For me, the term flawless comes to mind. I celebrated a special occasion with friends at ABC one afternoon where we shared several courses – an absolute feast – but what continues to stand out in my mind was the fact that I tried my first bite of roasted brussel sprouts at one of Jean Georges' restaurants. I have been ordering them ever since, but none have equaled that first bite. Other members of the Manhattan Sideways team have also eaten here and are incredibly enthusiastic about the crab toast with lemon aioli, raw diver scallops with sea beans, green chiles and spring herbs, and the house made ricotta ravioli. They have also loved and salivated over the roast carrot and avocado salad and the whole wheat mushroom pizza.I was particularly impressed when Shari spoke of the restaurant’s humility in their daily drive for self-improvement, despite being one of the founders of the farm-to-table movement that has gained popularity nationwide. Shari relayed an anecdote to me about how in order to be environmentally responsible in the ornamentation of the dining room, designers chose to use only vegetable-based dyes in the furniture. However, this lead to the over-harvesting of plants in upstate New York, and upset vegetable production. Not shying from the blame, ABC Kitchen noted their liability and took action to seek a solution, rather than walking away and leaving the problem with the farmers. The restaurant's guiding principles are sustainability and locality, and the eco-friendly themes permeate all levels of the dining experience: many of the plates used to serve guests are vintage, the wooden tables are made from salvaged wood, and the menus are printed on 100% post-consumer fiber.While we chatted about the trendiness of the restaurant, Shari admitted she is continually gratified by ABC Kitchen’s achievements, being that it all started “before farm-to-table was a hashtag” and has therefore helped pave the way for the concept to become a tangible reality. Shari noted that the “cultural shift” pushing diners to become “conscious consumers” is really something to be excited about, as it can potentially have a great positive effect on the future of the planet.
Lillie’s somehow seamlessly combines the Victorian with the Modern in a way that’s both classy and fun. The décor - from red velvet couches to ornate glittering chandeliers - all comes from the ballroom of a nineteenth century estate in Northern Ireland, and is organized in the style of the classic Victorian gin palaces. One might think that this would create a bit of a stuffy atmosphere, but the pop music and the soccer game playing on television, together with a simple American menu and a vast selection of beers makes for a wonderfully relaxed and quirky ambiance.
Our senses all perked up as we experienced the exotic scents in this Mediterranean café where the Arabic name translates to welcome and peace. Bassam Omary came to New York thirty-five years ago as a student and worked at his cousin’s Greenwich Avenue Syrian restaurant. With his wife Joan, he bought and moved the restaurant to 13th street, where they have been cooking traditional Middle Eastern dishes and satisfying culinary cravings for fifteen years. The food is superb. After a long day of interviews, we stopped back at Salam for a late lunch. We were served a platter with an array of food: hummus with a lemon flair, babaganouj with fresh pita, grape leaves stuffed with cheese, crispy falafel, a filo dough spinach pie, and a cup of sweet Arabic coffee to perk us up. Bassam, Joan explained, has a stake in the restaurant both as owner and chef. He is constantly experimenting, returning to the traditional dishes his mother taught him how to cook, and using the freedom he has as owner to explore the spices, ingredients, and flavors he is passionate about. Thank you, Joan and Bassam, for genuinely welcoming us into this lovely restaurant.
When we first visited the Walker Hotel, it was known as the Jade. The 1920's speakeasy theme became obvious to us immediately as we entered the hotel and walked through the lobby, but it was quite fun to see that it was carried through to the guest rooms with their antique-looking rotary telephones by the side of the bed. The comment from the young people with me that day was that it immediately reminded them of "Boardwalk Empire." This pleased the woman showing us around tremendously. Built from the ground up - the land was a vacant lot when Gemini Hospitality bought it in the early 2010s - the goal for the hotel is for guests to feel welcomed from the moment they step inside. There is a warm and embracing atmosphere with a fireplace and library as the focal points. We appreciated that the collection of books on the shelves will be by well-known favorite authors who once lived in the vicinity. This boutique hotel has 113 rooms on eighteen floors. We had the pleasure of previewing some of them all the way up. Besides the standard queen being perfectly lovely with all of the amenities one would need, it also sports an amazing view - with no obstructions. From the north, we could see the Empire State Building, and from the South we looked downtown to the Freedom Towers. Just spectacular.We certainly applaud the concept of the hotel, which is to introduce guests to the wonderful places, people and atmosphere that surrounds 13th Street. Rather than encouraging visitors to leave the area to explore the popular tourist spots around the city, they are providing guests with lists of things to do right in Greenwich Village and Union Square. A philosophy that matches ours completely. In 2016, the Jade became the Walker Hotel Greenwich Village. We were happy to hear that it is still spearheaded by the same management.
Originally, an offshoot of David Chang’s award-winning restaurant group Momofuku, 13th is one of the fortunate streets to have one of his well-loved milk bars open. Today, acclaimed pastry chef Christina Tosi takes the combination of baked goods and milk to a whole new level at each of her locations – yes, I have had many a treat. Soft serve “cereal milk” or jugs of this tasty milk to go, the infamous crack pie, cornflake or compost cookies...and then there are the packages of cake truffles – these are slices of cake that are condensed into supremely dense balls of sugary goodness. Definitely worth a bite or two...or three. Milk Bar also donates a portion of every dairy sale to various independent and family dairy farmers in need. All in all, Milk Bar is a dessert lover’s heaven.
Peridance Capezio Center is a mecca for dance in NYC, fostering the arts in the local and international dance communities, for over 30 years. Peridance offers multiple platforms for dancers and non-dancers alike, including more than 250 weekly open classes, a Professional Training Programs, an F-1 Visa Program for International Students, and The School at Peridance - a comprehensive children and teen program. Their adult open classes are offered in all styles and levels, from Absolute Beginner to Advanced. Peridance Capezio Center is also home to the professional dance company, Peridance Contemporary Dance Company and its affiliated Peridance Youth Ensemble. In conjunction with their renowned faculty and partners (Capezio, Djoniba Dance Centre, Limón Dance Company, Baila Society, and Dance Informa), Peridance has gained an international reputation for the programs it offers. The Center is housed in a beautiful landmark building featuring six spacious studios, The Salvatore Capezio Theater, the Peridance Coffee Shop, and the Capezio dance-wear Boutique.One afternoon, I had the privilege of stopping by the Peridance Capezio Center to observe their students training. I witnessed the explosive athleticism and technical discipline at play in Shannon Gillen’s Advanced Contemporary class, as students tested the strength of their bodies in an array of conditioning and floor exercises. Later, in the large upstairs Studio 1, bathed in the sun’s rays from the skylights above, I watched as dancers chasséd and pirouetted across the room in Breton Tyner-Bryan’s Advanced-Intermediate Ballet class. I would not be surprised to find any one of these talented performers on stage someday.
Over many months, we had the pleasure of observing the construction of Amelie through each stage of its creation. To experience the ambience of this spectacular bar and restaurant alone is worth the visit...but then there is also the impressive wine list and a full French menu. The award-winning team behind Amelie in San Francisco opened their east coast wine bar in early 2012 and all we can say is tres delicieux.
A dining spot where the noise level is low, the ambience is urbane, the staff delightful, and the food unparalleled, Tocqueville came highly recommended by critics and friends alike. The restaurant, known for its local and seasonal ingredients with ties to the Union Square Green Market, was the first of five venues owned by husband and wife Marco Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitzky, which includes 15 East. Along with a grand main dining room, Tocqueville offers a private dining space, a bar with house mixes, and an award-winning wine list by Master Sommelier and Sake Samurai Roger Dagorn.On my first visit, I joined a friend for a ladies' lunch with uninterrupted conversation. We started out with Sunchoke Soup, moved to the House Made Tofu, and ended with Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto - all flawless in taste and presentation. The European charm of the high ceilings, elegant tableware, and spectacular chandelier was certainly not lost on us. But behind the scenes of this tranquil atmosphere, a vivacious chef breathes passion into the edible creations.“I like to eat and I like to travel,” Chef Julien Wargnies told me. “That is why I cook.” Once an elite soccer player in France, Chef Julien fell into cooking organically, without any premonition of talent or joy for the art. Since attending a prestigious, four-year culinary school, he has been the executive chef in many impressive restaurants. While the meal I shared confirms the chef’s gastronomic expertise, it is his good wit, childlike curiosity, and affability that animate the underbelly of Tocqueville.Fumes of fresh-baked dough filled the kitchen as the chef told me of his latest endeavor - a promising savory, French-inspired take on panna cotta with a horseradish base. He enjoys concocting new things, never getting too stuck on any one dish. When I asked him what his favorite thing to cook was he curled up his lips and answered, “You,” sending the kitchen staff and myself into fits of laughter. When it was almost time to part, I asked the chef to have his picture taken, and before I knew it all the moving parts of the operation came together in their white and black aprons with big, toothy smiles. Only a backstage crew so cohesive and lively could put on such a seamless dinning room show.