Strikingly elegant and all at once charming, what a splendid find....yes, a hidden gem on the side streets of Manhattan. The menu is designed with wine in mind and an emphasis on cheeses. Everyone that we encountered was knowledgeable and passionate on the subject of wine. The lounge area in the front is set up in a deliberate fashion to have people feel like they are in their own living room and the communal tables in the back welcome guests to share in their wine experience ..."like being at grandma's house" is how it was described to us. We met friends here one night and requested to be seated in the lounge area. Despite the fact that it was quite crowded further in, we had the couches to ourselves, which made for a delightful place to sample wine and to share some appetizers. I cannot describe how delicious their brussel sprouts are. I had to savor every bite as I did not want it to end, but then I moved on to tasting the shishito peppers (sans pigs' ears) that were cooked perfectly and served with a dijon mustard, and burrata sitting atop eggplant and pinenuts. All three dishes, as well as the glasses of wine that we ordered were heavenly. For the wine enthusiast, there are education classes offered on a regular basis. Either way, what a great idea for a unique night out with friends or someone special.
What a find... down a flight of stairs from street level on 8th Street, Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor is the "antithesis of a sports bar. " Artisan and craft beer are brought together in a friendly environment that certainly had us feeling like we were right at home. The Parlor is also named for the Arts and Crafts movement, “a cultural revolt against the ideals of industrialization. ”When we visited, we spoke to Robert, one of the two owners, with whom we thoroughly enjoyed chatting. Robert is an internationally recognized speaker and writer on dining out and traveling with special diets (he co-authored the series Let’s Eat Out! ), and he also has a background in acting and producing on Broadway. He told us that the other owner, Don, has an impressive resume working with the FBI and counterterrorism efforts both in New York and around the world - which left us wondering what brought this dynamic duo together as friends and eventually co-owners. Robert informed us it was a love of American Craft Beer and the visual and performing arts... and that they actually met enjoying a pint of beer in Manhattan. Just as intriguing as its owners, the interior of Arts and Crafts is beautifully designed; the sophisticated wallpaper is custom made by Bradbury and Bradbury, and the soft green and beige pattern was Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite, supposedly. The constantly changing art is displayed along the wall opposite the bar, and an exposed brick wall and fireplace give the parlor a true “extension of your living room” feel. Described by Robert, as the “Bugatti of beer systems, ” the twenty plus beers the Parlor keeps on tap rotate monthly and are kept by this state of the art system at a refreshing 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Robert also astounded us with how small the carbon footprint of the Parlor is — he told us they are very conscious of keeping things compostable and earth-friendly. In addition to their rotating display of art from both established and up-and-coming artists, the Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor also hosts a monthly lecture series on the subjects of art as well as culinary topics. We could not get enough of how interesting this place is — both the concept of art and beer coming together and the two fascinating minds behind it.
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.
Enter through the looming stone archway and immense wooden doors and walk inside the Horseman, where the gloomy interior is an aesthetic rather than dreary. The exposed brick, recycled wood from new England barns, and flickering natural gas lamps conjure a communal vibe. In the dark warmth, one can almost imagine a massive stone fireplace roaring with pots of stew simmering over open flames, or moors lying in wait just on the other side of the smoked windows. This rustic, colonial gastropub is one of the latest additions to 15th street. When we asked the bartender why the pub was named after Ichabod Crane’s spooky pursuer, he gestured toward the door and asked us what street we were adjacent to: Irving Place - and local legend claims Washington Irving lived at 122 East 17th Street. His famed character’s namesake bar is anything but sinister. The rotating seasonal beers and atypical comfort food could warm anyone's bones.
The first time I walked by and saw a black awning with virtually no signage I thought that perhaps the space was vacant, but when I returned later in the day, I realized that I was onto something, as there were people lined up outside eagerly awaiting entry to Raines Law Room. On busy nights, they will have one host standing outside the nondescript doorway, who takes your number and calls if and when a table opens up. The basement bar is classy all-around, consisting of four parts: a front with elegant couches and chairs, semi-private areas clothed in sheer curtains for those fortunate groups, a gorgeous bar in back where the bartenders chat away, and finally, a garden where one can sit amongst many of the herbs and spices that Raines grows for their drinks. Raines provides a beautiful, simple and classy respite from many of the incredibly noisy bars and its quality drinks can stand up to any in the city. The alcohol menu is helpfully grouped by descriptors -- "Bright and Crisp, " "Stirred and Strong, " and the ever-changing list of "What We're Drinking" from the staff. Sure, it is another neo-mixologist haven, but it is just different enough to make a night's conversation with friends that much better. A helpful note: reservations can be made on line Sunday - Tuesday, but it is first come the rest of the week.
It was certainly a first for me when I walked into Old Town and began a conversation about Manhattan Sideways with the bartender who instructed me to head straight to the back and check out the urinals in the men's bathroom. One can feel the years in the 55-foot worn wood and marble bar, sense the history in the great silver bar mirrors and the 16-foot high pressed tin ceiling, hear it in the ring of the antique registers, and watch it as the food is transported up and down the oldest dumbwaiters in the city, but it was the towering porcelain urinals - monuments really - that resonated with me. Two of the few changes instituted since the 1890s when Old Town first opened its doors is the relaxed policy on women at the bar and the light fixtures, which are still the original, just electrically wired now. Old Town does not just look like old New York, “we are old New York, ” owner Gerard Meagher told us. In 1892 the bar opened as Viemeisters, a German restaurant in a predominantly German neighborhood. In the 1920s, the owners renamed the spot Craig’s Restaurant and served alcohol for the duration of Prohibition – a speakeasy complete with hollow booths fitted to conceal bottles of alcohol - booths that people continue to occupy today. Around 1933, Henry and Claus Loden, a German-American father and son, christened the place “Old Town” and began to serve up German food once again. Gerard’s father purchased the establishment from the Lodens in the 1960s, and the rest, as they say, is history. Old Town is a thinker’s tavern, a conversationalist’s dream. “It’s a place you can talk about ideas. The atmosphere attracts people who want to discuss things, ” Gerard said. The food and drinks stay moderately priced, contributing to Old Town’s reputation as a favorite hangout for patrons from all levels of the economic strata. “New York bars and restaurants have become segmented – gay bars, working man’s bars, hipster bars, ” says Gerard. “Anyone can walk in here and feel welcome. Nobody feels out of place. ” Their policy is simple -- no TVs, no cell phones, and no loud music to disrupt the customers. Simple is good here, as good as a chilled beer from the wooden icebox behind the bar. It is a philosophy that everyone can get behind.
The Arabic name of this Mediterranean cafe translates to welcome and peace, and its colorful, wordly decor effectively brings this atmosphere to life. Its owner, Bassam Omary, left his home of Damascus in the 1980s and came to New York, where he worked at his cousin’s Greenwich Avenue Syrian restaurant. When his relative was ready to hand over the reins, Bassam bought the business with his wife, Joan, and relocated to 13th Street. “We always had a good feeling about this place, ” Joan explained. The space is adorned with pillows, pictures, and tapestries from Syria and mosaic-patterned Moroccan tables. A small, private dining area allows groups to experience the Middle Eastern custom of sitting on cushions on the floor. Loyal patrons visit time and again for the succulent tagines, grilled kebabs, and what Joan says is the undisputed customer favorite: uzis — crispy phyllo dough stuffed with rice, raisins, and the protein of one’s choice. As the only chef, Bassam is constantly experimenting, returning to the traditional dishes his mother taught him how to prepare while freely exploring the spices, ingredients, and flavors he is passionate about.
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.