“I want to make Indian food accessible to New Yorkers,” Basu Ratnam announced to the Manhattan Sideways team as we were savoring a meal with him at his trendy, fast-casual restaurant. Inday's name derives from his goal: to make “India everyday.” Basu is one of the increasing number of people that our team has encountered on the side streets who have given up lucrative, fast-paced careers in finance to start small businesses close to their hearts.For Basu, it began in 2013, when he was seated next to Phil Suarez, a restaurateur and partner of celeb chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Impressed by Basu’s pitch, Suarez signed on as an investor for Basu's new venture, allowing him to open Inday in 2015, which he eloquently stated, “was a way of reconnecting with my past and understanding my culture through food."The cuisine at Inday reflects Basu’s own hybrid childhood. While he was growing up, his mother - who started living in the States after traveling here for grad school from the East Indian city of Calcutta - longed for authentic home food. Given that thirty years ago, in the 1980s, it was difficult to find exotic ingredients in supermarkets, his mother adapted to her environs, blending Indian recipes with the Californian emphasis on organic, local ingredients and cosmopolitan flavors. The result is not “authentic Indian,” but it stays true to the fundamental spirit of Indian food: healthy and nourishing, yet packed with flavor. It is a great alternative to today’s health food, which tends to be “about what’s not in your food,” according to Basu.This East-West fusion and emphasis on healthy food is readily apparent in Inday’s seasonal menu. It offers colorful make-your-own bowls that combine a variety of meats and proteins with vegetables including cabbage, roasted corn and shaved broccoli, as well as traditional Indian items like mint and coconut chutneys, banana chips, and dal (lentils). Some of the more innovative menu options include a gluten free “dosa waffle” - a South Indian crepe - and the amazing “shredded cauliflower rice,” which is cheekily referred to as “Not Rice” on the menu. Basu told me the wonderful story behind the latter item, which is truly emblematic of the restaurant’s spirit: When his sister became "carb-conscious" as a young adult, his mother came up with “cauliflower biryani,” which substituted shredded cauliflower for rice. Basu says that they included it on the menu initially as a joke, but was pleasantly surprised to see it become their most popular item. Also worth noting is the “cardamom yoghurt” with berry compote, a heavenly amalgam of the Indian dessert “shrikhand” and fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt.When asked if he was planning on expanding his business, perhaps developing a chain of restaurants, Basu responded - to my pleasant surprise - with a firm no. He is interested, instead, in engaging deeply with a particular kind of audience and forming a community around food. The Silicon Alley demographic that his NoMad location attracts is exactly the audience he wants: “culturally curious young people who are changing the world and are interested in the story behind their food.”While we were speaking, I noticed stacks of old, dog-eared National Geographic magazines on a wooden shelf nearby; Basu pointed out that even the store’s signage is made out of pages of the magazine that he grew up reading. “I like to have it here as a reminder that there is life outside these concrete walls, and we should be sensitive to that.”When I asked Basu if his mother is involved in the restaurant in any way, he told me that she occasionally stops by, tries everything, and gives the chefs valuable feedback. He then laughed as he remembered something Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten said about Basu’s mother: “She will forget more about Indian food than most people even know.” With Inday, Basu is trying to remember as much as he can, in his own, New-Yorker way.
While gazing at the menu, one of the members of the Sideways team giddily pronounced, "This is totally hippy food." It immediately took her back to her time spent in Oregon and she was thrilled. The tiny sandwich shop is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free serving incredible bowls, wraps, salads and smoothies of healthy, delicious food. With their success in Brooklyn at the now well known and loved Smorgsburg, brother and sister decided to open their own brick and mortar in the fall of 2013. The only issue that anyone could have with this tiny gem is deciding what to order, as everything is excellent.
Tourists from India and native New Yorkers, alike, are excited to meet executive chef, Vikas Khanna. He is well regarded in both places for his cookbooks and television appearances. Junoon is an upscale and elegant restaurant. Entering through a grand, statue-filled lobby and reflecting pool, the large main dining area feels almost regal. This makes sense, as the lounge connected to the restaurant is called Patiala — named for an Indian prince famous for his extravagant parties…and it is just as classy as the restaurant, with couch-like swings and a beautiful bar serving fiery cocktails made with spices from Junoon’s very own underground Spice Room. The open kitchen allows visitors to be closer to the chefs, and to whiff the exotic, impeccable dishes they put together. In the short amount of time that we spent at Junoon, we enjoyed piri-piri shrimp served over citrus salad with avocado foam, and paneer gnudi served with sauteed spinach. Both dishes were artfully presented, and were heaven to taste. Inside the kitchen, we observed the chef hand-flatten a roll of naan dough and press it to the inside of one of Junoon’s clay-pot tandoor — watching the dough rise and crisp up in just over a minute’s time was fascinating, almost as good as eating the fresh naan with a drizzle of oil and a dash of salt. The restaurant and bar at Junoon were conceived by restaurateur Rajesh Bhardwaj as a modern take on authentic Indian food from all over his country, and the outcome is certainly impressive.
Merakia occupies the space that housed Kat & Theo from 2015-2017 - and while the restaurant maintains the same ownership as before, it also has a different mission. The modern Greek steakhouse prides itself on its meats and classic seafood items, while maintaining a classy, hip atmosphere in its cavernous space on 21st Street. “We built a new team… and a new vision,” managing partner James Paloumbis shared with the Manhattan Sideways team when he spoke of the switch from Kat & Theo. He then went on to highlight Merakia’s differences from other Greek restaurants. “It’s not white and blue like every other place in New York City. Our menu is not the copy paste of any other place.” The menu is heavy on steaks and seafood, boasting their signature lamb on the spit ("the only restaurant in the city to do so") while, surprisingly, offering some robust meat-free options as well. “Everything is farm to table, we use fresh ingredients, [and] we make everything from scratch on a daily basis.” James told us that part of his mission is to bring back the adventure of going out to eat, a phenomenon he has noticed declining over the years. “People don’t like to go out anymore just to eat. You can eat at home, you can eat down the street, you can order your meal online. But to get an experience of nice service, some nice flavors, nice music, nice drinks - it’s worth your while to go out again.” Husband and wife team behind Kat & Theo - Renee and Andreas Typaldos - seem to have orchestrated a smooth transition from their previous restaurant. As their past executive chef, Paras Shah, believed, "there should be a movie written about the couple's romantic backstory and that he “couldn’t have worked for better folks.” Andy is originally from Greece, and the restaurant was named after his parents, Katerina and Theodosios. Andy came to New York on a scholarship from Columbia and met Renee, who is from the Bronx. He took her out on a first date “with holes in his shoes and with no winter jacket,” according to Renee. She added, “The romantic, poetic way people get together.” Today, they are paying homage to Andy's Greek heritage and according to James, “People have to trust their stomachs and their palates with a restaurant, so that’s what we’re trying to do here. Trust us - our food is fresh, our food is made with care, and we love what we do.”
Calvary-St George’s church moved to Gramercy Park in 1832. It has a strong history of influential members and it was here that Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence was set. In addition to movie nights and summer programs for children, we witnessed a small, delightful concert performance along the sidewalk while walking one day.
Perhaps the attitude of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” works well at Society Billiards. They seem to know that sometimes a classic pool hall is just what people need. Extremely spacious and stocked with countless pool tables, anyone looking to get lost in the game will be sure to love this dimly lit, relaxed, yet classy spot.
As we peered behind the counter at Joe, we saw what looked like a machinist’s shop or a technological artist’s studio, and yet the rich aroma of coffee was unmistakable. Joe is a place for serious coffee, and they hope to make serious coffee-drinkers out of their customers. The front of the shop holds a regular coffee bar, with three stools, and a display with some useful coffee tools for at home brewing. The majority of the space, however, is filled by the coffee studio in back where customers can watch the machines whir and the experts work their magic. For those of us not as knowledgeable in the coffee arena, Joe offers regular classes on topics ranging from brewing technique to what they call “coffee theory.” While they have several locations throughout Manhattan, Joe's on 21st street serves as the “pro shop” and headquarters.
In the way that so many Flatiron restaurants are, Hardings is situated in a large and imposing building, yet manages to appear out of nowhere providing a perfectly comfortable oasis for dining. A large, impressive bar dominates front and center, creating a comfortable area to grab a drink or wait for friends. We ate here on a Sunday evening, but have stopped by at various hours during the day to discover Hardings to be a popular lunch or after-work spot for Flatiron professionals. One cannot help but feel patriotic when walking through the doors. Rather than naming this American-themed restaurant after Washington or Lincoln, the owners chose the 29th president of the United States, Warren G. Harding. The entire space -- bathrooms included -- are a tribute to American history. An American flag, that dates back to the late 1800s, hangs impressively from the exposed white brick side wall, and a trip to the restroom leaves one lost in old, authentic newspaper clippings. The entire cocktail, bar, and restaurant menu is domestically sourced, and it showcases a variety of cuisines. The fluke crudo was delicate with citrus, the house salad of mesclun greens, shaved raw artichokes, fennel, radishes, lemon and olive oil dressing was unique and the grilled romaine was perfectly crusted with lemon, garlic, and shaved grana. A vegetarian dish of sauteed baby artichokes, peas, shallots, chickpeas was presented in a simple white wine broth and slices of grilled bread to dip. The flourless chocolate cake was good, but it was the Griddle Cake that was the show stopper. We all agreed that it was reminiscent of a heavenly breakfast. A warm pancake was served with raw maple syrup, lemon and vanilla ice cream melting on top. For creative American food and the ability to brush up on American history at the same time, we found Hardings to provide an entertaining evening.