Well-traveled Hell’s Kitchen friends are bringing global flavors and local passion to The Purple Tongue — a new West Side wine bar where they hope to spread the same communal, neighborhood ambiance that brought them together.
The restaurant, which opened recently under Manhattan Plaza in the space formerly occupied by Adella, is the creation of locals Otis Banks, Peter Cecere, Marni Halasa and manager Chloe Rizzo, previously of Boca di Bacco. The name comes from a cheeky reference to drinking a bit too much wine — though Peter promised, “You won’t get a purple tongue at The Purple Tongue, that only happens with cheap wine!” — and from the group’s love of the giraffe.
“My daughter was helping me come up with a name for the restaurant,” explained Peter, “and after I told her what I envisioned about creating a place centered around community, she came up with a giraffe — not only because it has a purple tongue, but because it’s a friendly, communal animal.”
The restaurant offers everything from freshly baked pastries for breakfast to slow-cooked short ribs for dinner and is focused on providing patrons with a rich palate of global flavors, stemming from Otis and Peter’s experiences living and traveling abroad in Berlin, London, Hong Kong and Vietnam. Their recipes are constantly evolving, and are “a roadmap of our experiences living and eating around the world,” said Peter, a regular traveler who used to have marketing offices in Hong Kong and throughout Southeast Asia. He recalled “a Chinese restaurant I always used to go to when I stayed there for business. One night I asked them, ‘Would you teach me how to make this dish?’ I got my first impromptu cooking lesson, and I started asking the same question at restaurants around the world.”
The wine program features varieties from small-batch global makers, offered by the glass, bottle and soon, curated wine flights for patrons to find their new favorite vino. For those who don’t know where to start, The Purple Tongue hosts regular “Sip and Learn” nights where guests can enjoy a laid-back evening of wine education from makers (a recent “Sip and Learn” event featured women winemakers and the group plans to shine a spotlight on underrepresented winemakers).
They’re also rolling out a daily happy hour from 4-7pm, a rice-wine shōchū cocktail program pioneered by Chloe and regular live jazz nights featuring performances from Manhattan Plaza musicians.
“We want to make this a home for Manhattan Plaza singers and jazz musicians,” said Marni. “We love having local artists play here and want to employ the artists that live in these buildings.” The local economic support also extends to the restaurant’s stylish dining room, where a gallery of paintings by local artist Ned Martin and a handcrafted purple giraffe by a Manhattan Plaza artist adorn the intimate, thoughtfully designed space intended to take hungry Hell’s Kitchen residents from a business breakfast meeting all the way to late-night wine and jazz.
If the team at The Purple Tongue know what locals want out of their neighborhood wine bar, it’s because they met at one very similar establishment. Otis, a global talent manager for CitiBank, and Peter, a marketer and proprietor of the late, great Red Eye Coffee on 9th Ave and W 34th Street, met 11 years ago at local haunt Wine Escape (405 W 44th Street bw 9/10th Ave). “We immediately hit it off as friends,” said Otis.
While both were busy traveling for their respective careers, they would regularly float the idea of one day going into business together. “I’ve always been involved in hospitality,” said Otis, who currently manages large-scale hospitality events for Citi talent from around the world. “I even used to work for the Spirit of New York in the 90s. I love people,” he added. “I’ve always wanted to run a wine and tapas bar, because I really believe in the idea of breaking bread with people that you want to get to know or already know. The beauty of having a meal with someone is that it’s a great connector.”
Peter, already enthused by the loyal community he and wife Marni had built at Red Eye Coffee, hoped to open a wine bar where he could also serve Red Eye Coffee before cocktail hour. “I initially got the idea for The Purple Tongue in 2017 — and filed paperwork for a space at W 33rd and 9th Avenue, but it fell through,” he said. He then decided to take the concept on the road and open in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam in early 2020, but the pandemic waylaid the project.
Meanwhile, Otis had decamped to Palm Springs after a long quarantine and was considering relocating and opening a restaurant out West, “but Peter said to me, ‘What the hell are you doing? You’re never going to leave New York!’ And he was right,” laughed Otis.
The two friends launched into finding a Hell’s Kitchen space, combing through their extensive knowledge of wine bars and meet up spots to eventually settle on the shuttered Adella. “It was a real synergy for us,” said Otis. “We have both been to Adella plenty of times, and even before I lived in New York, I used to come here when it was called Good and Plenty. I used to fly in from Norfolk, Virginia to see Broadway matinees and my first stop was always Good and Plenty to visit the owner Eileen and have a ham sandwich.”
Throughout the long development and opening process, they’ve looked forward to opening in Hell’s Kitchen, and the restaurant’s location between small, local spots and the bright lights of Broadway is meant to bring longtime New Yorkers and global visitors together. “It’s the beauty of being in New York,” said Peter. “You feel at times that you’re leaving the city just by meeting new people that are coming in from somewhere else — and you never have to leave your own establishment. One night we were sitting here at the bar and between everyone at the bar, tables and the staff working here, I think we had a combination of at least 11 different countries represented.”
Marni added that at a recent jazz night, not only did local musicians, previously strangers, spontaneously join in collaboration, but patrons started conversations with other tables with abandon. “That was the night where I realized The Purple Tongue had found its identity,” said Marni.
“The Purple Tongue is all about what we’ve come to love from around the world, and bringing that back to Hell’s Kitchen after COVID and people being in their cocoons for such a long time — it gives you something to look forward to,” said Otis. “We’re hearing great word of mouth already, and it’s because when you’re here for drinks or dinner or you’re here for the music — you’ll see that your senses are all being tapped into at once.”
The Purple Tongue is located at 410 W43rd Street between 9/10th Avenue and is open every day for breakfast and lunch from 8:30am-3pm and from 4pm for dinner.
This story originally appeared in W42ST.nyc
Beer Culture opened in the summer of 2013, offering beer, cider, whiskey, and bottled sodas. Customers can come in to pick up a bottle – or growler - of beer to take home, or grab a seat at the bar to chat with the friendly staff while noshing on some charcuterie. The record player behind the bar is usually going and if the owner, Matt Gebhard, and bar manager, Peter Malfatti, are around, they are bound to strike up a conversation and offer to guide patrons through their extensive beer selection. The beers are organized by region. The first door of their huge, glass-front fridge is full of beers from New York State, while the second is full of east coast beers, and the third and fourth is full of central and west coast beers. A bit further back into the room is their international fridge, proudly boasting selections from the UK, France, and three shelves worth of Belgian beers. For patrons who just want a nice, cold, familiar beer, grandpa's fridge is the place to go. Customers often mistake the old Kelvinator across from the bar as a prop and are always surprised when they open it up and realize that it works and that they recognize all of the brands inside of it. Matt included grandpa's fridge because he thinks that there is a place for all beers (except lite ones, which are not sold on the Beer Culture premises) and that some brands hold emotional value for customers. True to its name, the beers in the old Kelvinator are those that Matt had seen in his own grandfather's fridge growing up. Matt's first true exposure to beer and its culture was during a year he spent studying abroad in Belgium. When he came back home to upstate NY, Matt was nineteen and decided to pursue his newfound passion by working in a local Belgian brewery. He remained here for a few years until he met Peter, his future bar manager, who was living in Rochester, NY. Before opening their own place, Matt came to Manhattan and worked in a Belgian bar in Midtown. Although he enjoyed it, Matt told us that he wanted to do things his own way and fulfill his vision of what a bar should be. The bar that these two terrific guys opened is one that is dedicated to the simple, comfortable and unpretentious beverage that they adore. Nestled between Eighth and Ninth Avenue in a residential part of 45th Street, Beer Culture, is a hybrid bar and bottle shop offering its customers over 500 different types of beer. Although at the time of this write-up, Beer Culture had been around for less than a year, both Matt and Peter already feel like part of the block. As Matt stated, "We pride ourselves in being an establishment of beer nerds, not beer snobs. "
Located beneath a rental apartment building lies Gotham West Market, a space that is home to a variety of food vendors and a kitchen supply store. The restaurants offer a good variety ranging from American fare to Mexican, Spanish, Japanese, and, of course, a coffee shop. The interior is spacious with large windows flooding the concrete floors with light. Although only in their infant stages, crowds have already been seeking them out, where both on the weekends and after business hours the Market comes to life. I have enjoyed stopping by here both with friends on a bike ride, or while walking with the Manhattan Sideways interns. On one occasion, the students tried the albondigas (lamb meatballs) from El Colmado, a Spanish eatery, and watched, enthusiastically, as the chef prepared the bone marrow brulee at Cannibal for us to sample and photograph. This dish was certainly a first for Maria and Lauren, and they marveled at how the plate was so beautifully presented with the bone marrow served in the bone on a long plate with two pieces of toast and some greens on the side. They were giggling as they scooped the bone marrow onto the bread and topped it with the lettuce. And as we get ready to launch 45th Street, Choza Taqueria is getting ready to open. In 2017, we were able to return to sample their tacos and tamales. Gotham West Market has made Hell's Kitchen a dining destination, offering something suitable for every palette and time of day. The Market offers Hell's Kitchen residents – especially those living right upstairs – a great place to come together and enjoy some of New York's notable cuisine.
Opened in the summer of 2012, Beer Authority has more layers than an overdressed child in winter. At street level, neon signs advertise the presence of beer inside, which frankly was enough to catch our team's attention at the end of a long day. Walking in, we found ourselves in a small bar with a sweet bartender chatting languidly with a few customers, slowly digesting their food along with the daily news trickling down from the TV. This was the quintessential local watering hole. But wait! Stairs in the corner led to a second level, and this was where the real fun began. Over one hundred craft beers are offered, or perhaps instead are celebrated, as colorful flags bearing the crests of various breweries slouch down from the ceilings atop walls likewise bearing the brands. TVs aplenty stand at the ready to convert the potential energy of beer connoisseurship into the kinetic energy of sports fanaticism. And the story (or storey, perhaps), doesn't end there. A third rooftop level opens to the sky so that beer drinkers can commune with the heavens as they sip their cherished brew. In the winter, the space is covered and has heat lamps while in the warmer months, customers can feel the city breathing. Chatting with one of the managers and the new chef, Rob Steffen, I learned that the "very" Irish owners, Joe Donagher and Eamon Donnelley have a simple concept of offering plenty of space, a vast selection of beer, and good food to accompany it. The guys explained to me that each of the three floors offers a diversity of draught beers with sixteen on the ground floor, sixty-six on the main and twenty-eight on the rooftop. The enthusiastic staff is well-educated in the world of beer, and able to speak about any of them, including the different craft beers brought in each week. Customers are invited to try up to three tastings before selecting the pint they would like, and they can always opt for a flight of beer. And, just in case one needs another incentive to check out Beer Authority, happy hour begins at 11am and continues until 7pm! The brand new menu that Chef Rob recently rolled out emphasizes the excellent selection of craft beers by infusing it into some of his recipes. There is an ale-battered fish and chip dish, house made IPA honey mustard, Porter barbecue sauce for their pulled pork sandwich and a Porter cheddar dip for their hand-rolled pretzels. In addition, there is the Authority Burger.
On a bright afternoon, I gazed through the windows and marveled at this fairly new restaurant. I was enchanted by the decor and had a sense that this was going to be special. I made reservations for four on a weekend evening and had not only a fabulous meal, but also an overall enjoyable experience. White brick, black chairs, and a glowing wooden bar make stepping into Bea feel a bit like going back in time. The dining room features an upright piano and a projector showing black-and-white movies on the wall. Ranging from spinach tagliatelle to pork dumplings, the menu has a variety of dishes, and our group tried many of them. Beginning with tomato soup and the house made ricotta served on toasted bread with rosemary honey and sea salt, we moved on to a pear salad, the spicy lamb meatballs, a mushroom pizza, the English muffin burger and the steak and tomatoes. Enough for everyone to indulge and to walk away feeling very satisfied and ready to be entertained by the outstanding performance, Satchmo, in the Westside Theatre next door. By the time we were leaving, the bar scene had picked up considerably, as many were ordering Bea's playfully named specialty cocktails, such as the "Lavender Monk” and the "Bitter Duchess. ” There is no doubt that this is a restaurant that I will tell many about and continue to frequent myself.
“If you’re going to the theater, you go to Tony’s, ” said Dreni Kyqykaliu, the restaurant’s general manager. Those en route to a Broadway show are a good portion of their clientele, nearby office workers make up the lunch rush, and tourists pop in during breaks between sightseeing. “The blessing of being in Times Square is having all these groups come in. ”Anyone who has visited Tony’s will be familiar with their signature, massive portions of food that are meant to be shared family-style. This adherence to simple but hearty cooking is a trademark of the people that started Tony’s: the Wetansons. (They founded the now-dissolved 1950s burger chain, Wetson’s, which later merged with iconic hot dog vendor, Nathan’s Famous. ) Four generations of Wetansons have run this network of casual dining establishments that also includes Dallas BBQ. Unlike other large companies, however, Greg Wetanson, his father, Herb, and his son, Stuart, remain closely involved in the day-to-day operations and run things as a family business. Thanks to this amiable atmosphere, “Most of the management and the chefs have been here for twenty plus years, ” said Dreni, who joined Tony’s shortly after it opened in the 1990s.
When the City of New York acquired this lot to house Engine 65 in 1895, clubs and residents around the area feared it would disturb the peace. Having calls since their very first night on the job, and as the first responder to Times Square, it became clear that the service was needed and soon became wildly appreciated. One of the firemen, Chris, told me this was something he had always wanted to do. “I love the camaraderie between the guys, ” he said, a theme that seems to reoccur throughout all Manhattan fire stations.
Notorious bikini bar Tobacco Road will finally get a new lease of life as a four-story venue for the Queer community when Red Eye NYC opens on W41st Street. The once-gritty dive bar at 355 W41st Street between 8th and 9th Avenue was shuttered in 2017 for failing to pay its rent, but five years on, a round-the-clock space offering coffee, bagels, shared workspaces and rehearsal rooms by day and high-end entertainment and cocktails at night is to rise from Tobacco Road's ashes in spectacular style. Red Eye NYC is the brainchild of Taylor Shubert, Daniel Nardicio, Samuel Benedict and Adam Klesh, who were determined to bring a "whole new concept" to Hell's Kitchen for the Queer community. Their work is nearing completion and they hope to have permissions from the city in place within weeks, allowing them to open by the end of the year. The venue has a long history — including as a concert venue that played host to luminaries including Thelonius Monk and Etta James — and that history has inspired the Red Eye NYC team. By day, the theater will offer rehearsal space, with Queer performers a priority. When not rented, it will be open for everything from piano playing to ballet practice. Red Eye NYC will also host streamed events, and plans to have its own podcast, recording on-site. By night it will be a raucous venue for burlesque and boylesque personalities, DJs, drag royalty and stars of Broadway and television. They will have a happy hour and promise to have some sort of event every night somewhere between 7 and 9pm. The four founders have spent the past few months on a massive program of renovations, detailing their work on the Red Eye NYC Instagram feed, including stripping the building back to the studs, pouring concrete and installing up-to-date appliances. They even helped out with the caulking. The team has deep Hell's Kitchen roots. Klesh opened W52nd Street's Industry Bar and Shubert has been a bartender at 9th Avenue's Flaming Saddles for almost eight years. He has also represented Hell’s Kitchen as a Democratic Party judicial delegate and a member of its New York county committee. The foursome say they want the "pink dollar" to stay in the gay community, and plan to champion Queer-owned suppliers for every part of the business, including wine-makers and other drink suppliers. This story originally appeared on W42ST. nyc in October, 2022 as "Red Eye NYC will Revive Bikini Bar Site with a Coffee-to-Cocktails Queer Venue. "
Just off of Ninth Avenue is a small cookie shop called Schmackary's, and wow, what a crowd it continues to attract at almost any hour or day of the week. Stepping inside feels like being transported into a Norman Rockwell painting – familiarly and authentically American. The shop is neatly decorated with baby blue pinstripes and a wall of colored glass that separates the kitchen from the eating area. The vibe is calm, warm, and welcoming, just as owner Zachary Schmall intended it to be when he opened his first brick-and-mortar in 2012. Zach came to the city as an aspiring Broadway actor but began his career in marketing. In order to de-stress, Zach would come home to his apartment and bake cookies, often experimenting with different flavor combinations. His friends would try his creations and after a while, they began encouraging him to sell them. Zach took a risk, and eventually, what he had seen as a modest pipe dream became his livelihood. Hailing from the Midwest, when it came time to start his own business, Zach made sure that customers were his top priority. While I was chatting with him, he told me that his approach was first and foremost based on providing the customer with warm and personable service. On a daily basis, he makes certain that his staff is not "anonymous and apathetic, but rather people who others strolling in might want to have as friends. " Since his success stems from word of mouth and social media, Zach has shown that prioritizing the customer pays off. Zach credits part of Schmackary's reputation as a "hidden gem in the heart of Broadway" to the store's location a couple of steps away from the main drag. He loves his 45th Street address, especially because of his strong connection to the theater community, and wants to keep that same side street feeling as he makes plans to expand. He further explained, "Being slightly removed from the avenue bustle gives Schmackary's a more intimate vibe, whereas a main street location would feel more exposed and less familial. "Schmackary's, called "the unofficial cookie of Broadway, " offers a rotating menu of 45 different flavors of cookies. On one visit, I bit into the moist, but crunchy around the edges, Caramel Apple Crisp and was hooked. A coffee-crazy friend of mine, who had tagged along with me that day, said their coffee was top-notch – yet another reason to come back to visit Schmackary's. On a subsequent visit with members of the Manhattan Sideways team, they sampled several other amazing cookies, including The Monster filled with peanut butter, M& Ms, and raisins. And on yet another day when we were stopping by to take photos, it happened to be when Broadway Bakes was taking place - the annual fundraiser that Schmackary's holds for Broadway Cares, the nation's top AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. During this week, some of the theater district's biggest stars volunteer their time to stand behind the counter and serve customers. When we showed up, the line was down the block. Little did we know that everyone was waiting to have their picture taken with Audra McDonald in exchange for a donation. A serendipitous moment as Zach brought us to the front of the line to meet her. Needless to say, everyone was quite pleased that I had taken them to this sweet oasis. Learn about Schmackary's vision to franchise throughout the US in the W42ST article, “After 11 Tasty Years in Hell’s Kitchen, Schmackary’s Broadway Bakery Sets Stage for Nationwide Expansion. ”
Walking past the window of what was once an ice cream shop, I spotted a gentleman atop a ladder and decided to step inside to find out what was happening next. As Murat Yimaz descended the steps to greet me, he revealed that he was readying the space for the imminent unveiling of what was now going to be The Jolly Goat, a coffee shop that would also still be serving ice cream. Though he was born in Germany, Murat has been stateside for a good part of his life. He originally worked in a PR firm, but when the recession hit in 2008, the company closed and he took on freelance jobs. Since he no longer had an office, Murat often found himself camping out at coffee shops while he worked. After countless hours spent sitting at various cafés and sipping on cups of coffee, he decided to drop his PR work altogether and open his own place. Encouraged and advised by a friend who has a coffee spot in Brooklyn, Murat traveled throughout the city talking to vendors and becoming well-educated in the world of the coffee business. When the time came to name his store, Murat decided to embrace the genesis of coffee – the story of Kaldi, the Ethiopian goat herder. "As the legend goes, " Murat explained in a short version, "Kaldi realized that his goats would often become very excited and jolly after eating the coffee beans. The goat herder then decided to try and make a drink from the beans and, thus, coffee was born. "Now open - in the summer of 2014 - The Jolly Goat is serving Stumptown Coffee, Melt and Blue Marble's ice creams, freshly baked pastries and Davidovich's artisan bagels. On a Sunday afternoon, there was a line out the door with enthusiastic neighbors who told me that they are thrilled to have Murat and his excellent coffee shop nearby. When I was able to grab a moment to speak to Murat, he told me that the most popular item that he offers has been his cold-brewed coffee. He explained to me that this method uses cold water instead of hot and that the coffee is allowed to brew for up to eighteen hours. He went on to say that cold-brewing yields a highly caffeinated beverage, and at the Jolly Goat, they like to serve it on tap.