As part of the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in the late '90s, Pershing Square Cafe opened under the Park Avenue viaduct. The fare is American and straightforward, with burgers and chicken pot pies, steaks and fish. The pancakes, served all day, are a big crowd pleaser. Up front, commuters sipping coffee, reading, and chatting while awaiting the next train, inhabit a more cafe-esque area. When speaking with the manager one day, he was proud to tell me that both Friends with Benefits and the Avengers were filmed at Pershing.
After eleven years in her Noho location, Executive Chef and Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli opened Butter in the Cassa Hotel, a Midtown twin to her well-known restaurant. Shaped by Guarnaschelli's own travels and time spent working abroad, the attractive dark wood restaurant with comfortable booth seating, is American but with the requisite global touches and ingredients expected of fine dining. When Chef Guarnaschelli isn't filming, she is in the kitchen, on the line, adding her fine touch into every aspect of the cooking. As members of her staff shared with us, Alex is dedicated to bringing fresh and simple ingredients together in beautifully crafted dishes.On a rare and special night out with just my husband and daughter, I could not pass up the opportunity to bring my butter-loving girl to this dining experience. Since she has always considered the dairy treat to be its own food group, I had the highest hopes for the meal - particularly the bread basket - which did not disappoint. The warm Pullman-style rolls with the house-made butters (a plain with a hint of sour cream for richness, and an herb that was light and lovely) were out of this world. All three of us agreed we could leave satisfied just from that - and a spicy cocktail, of course (the Ghost Margarita) But we powered ahead sharing the burrata salad. The creamy burrata with garden-fresh tomatoes was divine and the ribeye steaks that my husband and daughter ordered were cooked perfectly and sat atop smashed purple potatoes. And, as a vegetarian, I always keep an eye out for restaurants working to develop unique, hearty main courses. The charred coconut milk-soaked cauliflower was much appreciated. We finished things off, in case one thought we had already indulged ourselves sufficiently, with the raspberry beignets accompanied by a vanilla dipping sauce. If the name of this restaurant alone does not have one's mouth watering, I am sure that it is now!
Named after Bible verses in Isaiah (the wolf and the lamb shall feed together), this restaurant opened in Manhattan in 1998, and expanded to Brooklyn the following year. Initially a traditional kosher deli, it later reinvented itself as a steakhouse. The extensive menu ranges from matzo ball soup to salmon burgers, veal Bolognese gnocchi and, of course, includes a variety of steaks and chops. Drawing on influences as diverse as Vietnamese, Tex-Mex, and French-country, Wolf and Lamb adapts its more customary function to a cosmopolitan venue. "Just because you're keeping kosher doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on quality," shared a waitress. And while we were told that the majority of customers keep kosher regularly, the crowded space was testament to Wolf and Lamb's broad culinary appeal.
Flitting the boundary between fine and casual dining, Vitae brings a new creativity to Midtown that appears to have caught on quickly. Edwin Bellanco, hands on chef and owner, began his culinary career some twenty years ago at Gramercy Tavern, and then moved out to California to work at the French Laundry. He came back to Manhattan to be the executive sous chef, guided by Daniel Boulud, and then as he tells it, with a few additional experiences under his belt, he finally opened his own restaurant in 2012.Edwin speaks of his opportunity to work for Thomas Keller as incredibly influential on his own culinary conceptions, particularly on using only the freshest ingredients. "They're the building blocks of the dish, you can't ignore them" said Bellanco. "We have some highly-technical preparation here; we can't risk diminishing that with poor ingredients." He went on to explain, that although the food takes top priority, "I want people to be able to approach this place on their own terms."This accessibility is evident in their location. Vitae seems to attract the younger crowd during the week and the neighborhood folks on weekends. "We wanted to build a community here first, and then build outwards into a destination" Bellanco told us.The strength of Vitae derives from this approachability, without sacrificing the quality or inventiveness of the top restaurants in New York. Looking around, we felt this sense of welcome hospitality from the staff. The bartender, a friendly twenty-something from Kentucky, shared some of his signature drinks with us: a strong old-fashioned made with demerara syrup, and "crystal green persuasion" - a cucumber, vodka and honey-infused drink perfect for the summer weather.The Manhattan Sideways team sampled some dishes and agreed that the food is exceptional: crispy pork belly with watermelon and green papaya, cod with razor clams, and a strawberry and pear salad. Each offered strong, rich flavors, while remaining light enough for a hot summer day.
There was no question that Ellie Mendelsohn would stand behind the glass booth with her father, Hank, on 47th Street once she completed her college education. Her grandfather, who had introduced his son and granddaughter to the world of gold and jewelry, had retired to Florida, and now it was Ellie’s time to join the family trade. “The jewelry is my favorite part of the business, so I said, ‘Why not start my own line?’” The first piece Ellie ever made was a pair of earrings, based on a necklace that her father had made for her mom. “I loved it so much, I decided to create earrings.” Indeed, for those who work in the Diamond District, jewelry is much more than an accessory — it is a time-honored link to one’s heritage and family.
Ezrath Israel was originally established as a Jewish Community Center in 1917 by the West Side Hebrew Relief Association, a group of Orthodox Jewish shop owners. The area was known for its busy steamship ports, however, the entertainment business eventually became one of the biggest industries in this part of town. As show business grew, so did the number of congregants, and it became the place of worship for many prominent actors and performers, including Sophie Tucker and Shelley Winters. The Actors Temple continued to thrive until shortly after WWII when people in the industry began journeying across the country to Hollywood. The synagogue then found its membership slowly decreasing. By 2005, there were only twelve members left in the congregation. A year later, when Jill Hausman became the rabbi, she found herself resuscitating what had once been a proud shul. Rabbi Hausman was pleased to report to us that in the eight years that she has been there, membership has increased to about 150, a marked improvement. Still, she has hope that the Actor's Temple will continue to grow. "We are a well-kept secret," she says, "but we don't need to be." To help maintain the synagogue, the sanctuary is shared with an Off Broadway theater company that performs on their "stage," just a few feet in front of their sacred arc and collection of eleven torahs. Today, Rabbi Hausman welcomes all denominations of Judaism, even those who are "on the fringes of society." She is a warm, sweet, bright woman who not only has her door open to everyone, but her heart as well. She emphasizes the importance of love and acceptance in her sermons and is adamant that the Actors Temple is a "no-guilt synagogue." People should come if they feel compelled to pray – Rabbi Hausman's only goal is to have them leave with a desire to return.
For the first seven years, Phil Podemski had his shop on Park Row across from City Hall, but in 1973, with the help of his son, Sam, they came uptown and have resided on 47th Street ever since. "It was a good move on our part," Sam admitted. "It has allowed us to weather each of the storms that have come our way."Because Phil's Stationery is in the Jewelry District, there have always been customers in need of memorandum books, special jewelry bags for shipping, and other necessary items that Sam and his dad never allowed to run out of stock. "This has kept us alive." That and the warm customer service that he strongly believes in. "Yes, I could close up shop and sell my goods solely on the internet, but I would miss the people — the human connection." Sam's best connection, however, was with his dad. "We were together for forty years until he passed away in 1996. I have the best memories of him yelling at me throughout those years, always in the most loving way."When Sam and his dad initially opened, they were not known as an office supply store. They carried an amalgam of health and beauty products, chocolate, and other novelty goods. As time progressed, they evolved into a full office supply shop carrying absolutely everything that one could want or need for their desk. In addition to having fun rummaging through the stacks of notebooks, journals, pens, markers, and an array of art supplies, it is the collection of Berol pencils made in the U.S. in the 1960s, the old Swingline staplers — and several other items that date back some fifty to sixty years — that will provide a noteworthy trip down memory lane for many.
As the elevator doors open, a gust of vivacious conversation rushes to welcome every guest to the Haven atop the Sanctuary Hotel. This rooftop caters to three different spaces that gently correspond to the desired experience at hand. On the lower level, there are two bars. The first stands below geometrically alluring lights made to resemble stars. Dinner chosen from the Haven’s “French-Inspired” menu is served on this side of the roof where the mood is serene. On the other side, past the statue of a seahorse and the young trees, the volume rises and the crowd clings readily to this, the second bar. While some prefer to wind down with dinner, others are just trying to let loose. The Haven supports both pursuits. Upstairs, the uniform faded red lounge cushions fashion a more secluded setting that grants the wish for a private discussion or for the simple enjoyment of the mid-city view from a higher position. As is somewhat suggested by the name, “Haven,” this rooftop is plainly reminiscent of a getaway, more specifically a beach house.The Haven happened to be where we stopped by the day the US was playing Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. It was a memorable moment standing beside dozens of New Yorkers as our national anthem was being played. Glass enclosed in the colder months, and serving a French-American menu both during the lunch and dinner hours, this was another great rooftop find.
To spend time inside the Wheeltapper is to take a trip back in time to Ireland, as the pub pays homage to their locomotive system. Numerous pieces of railway equipment adorn the walls and every other possible inch of available space. Even the metal bar stools and wood tables are reminiscent of a long gone Irish era. There are several rooms to meander through and grab a mug of beer. In the back, is a pleasant garden, with heat lamps during the colder months, which is connected to the Fitzpatrick Hotel next door.
Patroon is filled with leather-backed chairs, wood-paneled walls, and pictures of cowboys, boxers, and hunters. Although it initially appears to be a well-preserved vestige of an older civilization, with a sense of refined masculinity, we were told by members of the staff that the restaurant is not merely an updated version of its neighbor, Sparks Steakhouse, but rather a place of innovation and growth, bringing a youthful sensibility to a neighborhood frequently determined by old-school finance.However, our first impression was not completely errant as we went on to learn that the three-story building, which is owned by Ken Aretsky, was built as a steakhouse and cigar parlor. Since its beginning, in 1999, Aretsky has adapted the townhouse building to fit more modern needs, but some of that original clubby atmosphere still lingers in the architecture.After touring their event spaces and conference rooms upstairs- filled with stuffed birds, old books, and other regalia of a past age - we visited the rooftop terrace and bar, a modern garden space overlooking central Manhattan that seems to be a hip and growing hotspot in Midtown. While we left before happy hour, we passed by several groups of twenty-something's heading up to the rooftop. We stopped by the bar downstairs before heading out, and while observing the bartender flitting around the room refilling tall glasses of iced tea, we overheard a casual discussion on the problems of inequality in modern capitalism, alongside conversations on the day's trading. This convergence of old business and new leisure makes Aretsky's Patroon into something of a quintessential New York restaurant - adeptly bringing together the traditional and the innovative, the corporate and the social into a single space.