Every time I am walking with someone new, I find myself winding past Breads Bakery to have us try yet another delicious bite of their freshly baked goods. I cannot call this a hidden gem, by any means, as the lines are sometimes out the door. In a matter of a few weeks from when Uri Scheft and Gadi Peleg opened, they have managed to be written up everywhere. They have even been cited as having the best rugelach and babka in different periodicals, but I must encourage all who visit to sample Breads' take on focaccia - the multigrain version. If it is not still warm from the oven, then take it home, heat it up, add a bit more olive oil and savor every bite. Another that I cannot resist are the flaky cheese straws. Direct from the oven, they are impeccable. In fact, fresh is king here, and the baked goods are often fresher than the vegetables around the corner. While most bakeries have their employees come in during the night to pump out a days worth of starchy creations, Uri's staff at Breads Bakery has fresh bread coming out just in time for each of the mealtime rushes. Uri was raised in Israel, but went back to his parent's roots in Denmark for his training in baking. He then traveled and worked in Europe before returning to his homeland to open up his first bakery in Tel Aviv. Many years later, Gadi was traveling in Israel and discovered Uri's Lehamim Bakery. It took several more years of persistence, but ultimately the timing was right and Uri made the huge decision to move to New York and partner with Gadi to open up shop near Union Square. The store itself feels modern and spacious, with one counter for bread and baked goods just as you enter on the left, and another further back with sandwiches and drinks. Extending further back another 75 feet are the kitchens. Customers can watch bakers ease proofed dough off rolls of canvas onto an adjustable conveyer belt, which feeds into the carefully regulated ovens. Unlike Sheft's locations in Israel, he got to design this one from the ground up so the technology involved is sometimes just as amazing as what comes out of the ovens.
"Daily Provisions followed a long trajectory, " Max Rockoff announced as we sat down to chat about the neighborhood hot spot, an offshoot of the newly opened Union Square Cafe. I met Max, the warm and enthusiastic general manager, in late August of 2017, a few months after the Union Square Hospitality Group debuted their latest restaurant venture. "As Union Square Cafe's space grew, ours continued to get smaller and smaller, " Max told me. "We weren't quite sure where we were headed, but the space dictated the concept, " he continued. When Danny Meyer and his team found this location, a few blocks north of the original Union Square Cafe, they knew that they wished to utilize every inch of it in the most sensible way, but they were always thinking of the community surrounding them. "We had to make an unbelievable place in a tiny footprint, " Max explained. They kept asking themselves, "What can we do with this jewel box on Park Avenue and 19th Street? " They were eager to give a "gift" to those who lived nearby. When the group sat down to discuss their ideas, foremost in their minds was, "What are the daily things people want? " They hoped to provide the best versions of what their customers know and love. Max said it had to start with fantastic coffee first thing in the morning, together with some smashing breakfast treats. This would then be followed by salads and interesting sandwiches on freshly baked bread. At the end of the day, the space could provide an outstanding roast chicken that could be picked up on the way home. The final innovation by the team was “cross-utilization. ” Within the downstairs kitchen - accessible from both restaurants - there is a shared bakeshop facility. It is here that they make the incredible "house loaf" - a brown sour dough bread that is served in the restaurant and used to make many of the specialty sandwiches all day long at Daily Provisions. "There is no redundancy here, " Max asserted, "We can feed families all day long. Our breakfast is nothing crazy, it is just the best. " In fact, the bacon, eggs and cheese sandwich is one of the most requested items at almost any hour. Therefore, they offer it until 4: 00 p. m. every afternoon. "The people demand it, so we provide it. We listen to them. " The roast beef sandwich is a classic lunchtime treat, "but it is our version. " I also learned about a special sandwich that is not on the menu, but which is proving to be the real "go-to" - herbed ricotta and arugula served on their house-made English muffin. Then there is the Patty Melt - the meat is blended with grilled onions and served on housemade rye bread with melted cheese. Max shared that the team tried all kinds of cheese for their melt, and when they did a blind tasting, it was the classic American that won. The Daily Provisions team also wanted the small cafe to be a place where people could stop by and unwind, sip on some wine, work on their computer, or simply meet up with friends for relaxing conversation. Somehow, although not surprisingly, this talented and well-loved restaurant group has managed to accomplish it all. I had the pleasure of meeting a woman who came by for a glass of wine around 5: 00 p. m. She worked upstairs in the building and told me that she makes a habit of coming to Daily Provisions at the end of her day. It was so nice to watch her settle in comfortably, acknowledging members of the staff, as well as other patrons sitting around the white marble counters. When I commented to Max on how extraordinary this was, he said, "She is a microcosm of what we've become. "Max was genuinely pleased to tell me that many guests who initially visited when Daily Provisions first opened continue to gravitate back on a regular basis. "They're comfortable here. " Gushing, Max said that the best time of day is when everyone gathers on weekend mornings. He loves how the neighborhood utilizes the shop, be it for a cup of good coffee or a full breakfast. It is a place for all ages that has become a routine stop for many. "Everyone uses it in their own way. " He has found it fascinating to see how the area denizens have embraced them. "They have made us their own. " It was also quite apparent to me how Max and his staff have effortlessly enveloped the community.
2010 was a big year for Fany Gerson. A native of Mexico City and a former pastry chef at Eleven Madison Park, she spent the spring and summer launching her business, La Newyorkina, which sells traditional Mexican ice pops and sweets. But as winter approached, business began to slow down, and a good friend of hers suggested that they open a doughnut shop together. Fany was skeptical at first—“Bed-Stuy didn’t seem like the obvious place for gourmet doughnuts”—but in spite of her reservations, she accepted the job. After long discussions with her business partner about textures and flavors, Fany set out to create the perfect old-fashioned doughnut, thick and hearty, but also light. “We wanted a doughnut that would taste good naked, ” she told me “and we knew it was all about the dough, hence the name. ” Finally, after endless tweaking and experimenting, Fany hit on the perfect recipe, and three weeks later, Dough opened its doors in Brooklyn. It was the beginning of a wonderful partnership. Throughout the fall and winter, Fany devoted most of her attention to Dough; as the weather grew warmer and doughnut sales declined, she had time to develop new flavors and recipes for La Newyorkina. But it has not always been easy to balance the two businesses, especially since Dough’s second location opened in the fall of 2014. “That first summer, ” Fany recalled, “the hot weather unexpectedly affected the doughnuts, and I had to adjust my recipe last-minute and work on La Newyorkina at the same time. ” She smiled, and added, “I don’t get a lot of sleep. ”But in spite of the difficulties, it is obvious that Fany loves what she does. She gave me a fascinating tour of Dough’s kitchen, enthusiastically pointing out where the dough rises and how the doughnuts are fried, about one minute on each side. “Most places make their doughnuts in the morning, ” Fany explained, “but we take it a step further. Our doughnuts are fresh and warm whenever you come in. ” Once the doughnuts are fried, they are ready for the final touch—the glaze. I was eager to ask Fany about this stage of the process, since Dough is known for its exotic flavors—some of its best sellers include hibiscus, mocha almond, and dulce de leche. “Inspiration is everywhere, ” Fany told me, “but a lot of my flavors come from my memories of Mexico. ” She invented the hibiscus flavor, for example, on a hot day when she was craving the refreshing hibiscus water that she used to drink back at home. “We needed a colorful doughnut, ” she told me, “but I didn’t want to use coloring. And it occurred to me that hibiscus has a beautiful natural color. ”Some of Fany’s flavors have become so popular that customers complain if she takes them off the menu. “We have a few flavors that rotate, but not many, ” she told me. “We have to give the people what they want, but we also try to keep it interesting. ” Some of Dough’s best-selling staples include salted chocolate caramel, café au lait, and nutella, although Fany’s personal favorite is the cinnamon sugar. “I also like the tart flavors, like passion fruit and tropical chile, ” she told me. “The glaze is a nice contrast to the richness of the doughnut. ”I was surprised to learn that, in addition to producing hundreds or even thousands of doughnuts each day, Dough runs a wholesale operation at night, selling doughnuts to nearby coffee shops and supermarkets. To keep the business running smoothly both during the day and at night, Fany estimates that Dough employs thirty or forty employees total. Dough has been hugely successful, and Fany told me that they will soon be opening another location in Manhattan. “It’s hard, ” she told me, “I’d like to see the business grow, but I’m hesitant to do franchises in other cities. ” Instead, she prefers to keep Dough personal, developing new products and flavors and expanding on a smaller scale. “We’re trying new things every day, ” she told me, “and we’re growing organically. ”After the tour, Fany led me out to Dough’s front counter. “Would you like to try one? ” she asked, and after a moment of deliberation, I chose the dulce de leche doughnut. The smooth caramel flavor of the glaze paired perfectly with the crunchy slivered almonds on top, but the best part, as I expected, was biting into the soft, airy dough, still warm from the oven.
In keeping with the original nautical theme from the 1960′s, each room in the hotel has a porthole window and is decorated with teak wood. In 2014, the hotel’s restaurant La Bottega closed to make room for La Sirena by Mario Batali. The Cabanas, open in the spring and summer, is on the rooftop and offers a welcome reprieve from the city streets when the weather permits.
No matter what time of day we have stopped by Grey Dog, the restaurant is pulsing, but in a quiet, relaxed sort of way. Despite the lines to order food from the menu on the chalkboard and the crowded tables, everyone is calm and content. Apparently, this has been the vibe since two brothers opened their first restaurant back in 1996 on Carmine Street. Today they have expanded to four different locations, each one incredibly successful. The formula seems to be quite simple – a chill atmosphere, easy-going but efficient staff, a menu that covers all of the basics with a bit of a flair, hefty portions and, most importantly, everything tastes great. Beginning early in the morning, there are pancakes, French toast, eggs, homemade granola and coffee being served. As the day progresses, lots of sandwiches, salads and other creative dishes are available for lunch and dinner. Without a doubt, if I lived nearby, I would also become a regular.
Trendy and filled with beautiful people, the Dream Hotel has created quite an aura around it. Sitting in the lobby is certainly entertaining at any hour of the day, but in the evening the action really kicks in. There is a DJ in the lounge area right off the lobby and not far from the entrance is Bodega Negra, with a Mexican menu. Also attached to the hotel is a restaurant called Fishbowl, with a 5000 gallon fish tank behind the bar. On the rooftop, the PHD Club tends to play top 40's music, and downstairs is the Electric Room, which is described as a rock club.
I learned of Agnes B's clothing while in college and studying abroad back in the '70's. Somehow, even then, I knew to appreciate her simple French designs for women. It wasn't until I was much older, however, that I was able to purchase a few of her pieces for myself, and I truly treasure them. It seems that many of Agnes B's stores are closing around the country, but here's to hoping that she can continue here in New York.
“I really want families to play together. That’s my goal in the store, ” said Christina Clark, who has been wowing parents, grandparents, and, most importantly, children for decades with her wonderland of toys and games. Christina worked in a toy store as a young mother and realized she had found her calling. She opened Kidding Around on Bleecker Street, followed by several other locations. Today, it is the 15th Street shop that has survived throughout the years. “I love going to work every day, so it was a good choice for me. ”In the shop’s beginnings, its selection of toys and games leaned toward the traditional — “no batteries, no remote controls, and everything that just uses your imagination. ” Over the years, however, Christina chose to grow with the times and introduce more modern, automated items into her inventory. Her own children later helped her bring new options into the store. Today, Christina feels lucky to work with her daughter, Kasey Coyle, who uses her background in applied behavioral analysis to stock plenty of books and toys for younger children and those with special needs. Interestingly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina found that her clientele went back to the basics — the demand for puzzles and classic board games was revived. “I hope that trend continues, ” she said earnestly. “I hope that people remember how much fun they had playing games with their family so it brings us together and off our devices. ”
Ken Giddon likes to say that he went “from riches to rags” by leaving a career as a bond trader to reopen his grandfather’s men’s clothing store. Harry Rothman used to peddle his wares from a pushcart on Delancey Street in the 1920s before moving into a retail space. “He kind of created the concept of a discount clothing store, ” Ken remarked. Rothman's closed for a time after Harry’s death in 1985, but Ken revived the business a year later in a stunning, 11, 000-square-foot storefront on the corner of 18th Street in Union Square. “I love being on a side street. It gives us the ability to afford a bigger space while watching the movable feast that is New York walk by every day. ” Five years after the shop’s reopening, Ken invited his brother, Jim, to join him. “This is one of the true family businesses in Manhattan. ” The store, which carries both casual and formal attire from top designers, aims to make the shopping experience for men “as efficient and rewarding as possible. ” To this end, Ken and Jim scour the market, travel abroad, and attend numerous trade shows to find the best brands. “We try to provide our customers with that personal, small-town feel in the middle of the city, ” Jim said. Despite Rothman's more modern look and merchandise, the brothers strive to keep some core elements of their grandfather’s business alive, particularly by preserving his humble approach to owning a men’s retail store. As Harry used to say, “It’s not so serious what we do. We just sell pants for a living. ”
“My only connection to chess is through my son, ” confessed Noah Chasin, the unlikely leader of the Marshall Chess Club. Grandmaster Frank Marshall, a native New Yorker and longstanding U. S. Chess Champion, established the club as a haven for chess buffs. It relocated several times, beginning at Keens Steakhouse — featured in the first Walking Manhattan Sideways book — until it finally found its home on 10th Street in 1931. Perhaps the most famous chess club in the world, every champion has played a game here over the past century. “It’s essentially an obligation for all of the top players at some point. ” This is also where the illustrious Bobby Fischer rose to prominence. Fittingly, parts of the film Searching for Bobby Fischer were later filmed on the Marshall’s premises. Though some might be intimidated by the Marshall’s storied reputation, Noah emphasized that the atmosphere is more welcoming than one might expect. The club’s regular tournaments are typically a fifty-fifty split between its members and those who simply possess a love for the pastime. Noah’s own son started visiting the Marshall when he was only eight years old and has since spent years attending some of the largest competitions around the globe, including the Philadelphia World Open. Though certainly no chess disciple himself, Noah was a devoted father, and as his son participated in workshops, camps, and matches at the Marshall, Noah was recruited to represent the parents of other scholastic members on the club’s board. In 2016, he became the president and is now “neck-deep in the chess world, which I never could have imagined before. ” He is delighted to see players old and young, from New York and abroad, find their way to the Marshall. Better yet, he relishes the second-hand thrill of witnessing opponents face off over one of the club’s elegant boards. “It’s not the trajectory I would have imagined as a parent, but it’s been such a spectacular one. ”
Peter Glassman was the kind of child who would move books back into their rightful places while browsing bookstores. Hooked on reading before the second grade, by age twelve he had “read his parents’ home dry. ” Pegged as a bookworm by his friends and family, for his Bar Mitzvah he received over a dozen bookstore gift certificates. Aged fourteen, he applied for a position at a local bookshop but was turned away for being too young. A year later, he was finally able to land a job at a different bookstore, quickly becoming the buyer for its science fiction section. After spending just a year at Brown University, Peter moved to New York and began taking acting lessons. One day, his acting coach said, “If you're going to be an actor, it should be the only thing in life that makes you happy. If anything else in life brings you more joy, then you should do that. ” It was at this moment that Peter realized, “Books are my greatest joy. ”Soon after this epiphany, Peter began collecting antiquarian books, acquiring enough stock to sell. Originally, he thought he would rent space in a basement and have a mail-order business, but then he discovered a humble 200-square-foot location at 444 Hudson Street. With the help of a few friends, Peter cleaned it up, built some book-cases, and went to a wholesale book company to fill the last four shelves with a selection of his favorite titles, including The Cricket in Times Square, A Wrinkle in Time, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Snowy Day, and Where the Wild Things Are. The fervent reader was only twenty years old when he opened Books of Wonder. In 1982, Books of Wonder opened a second store nearby, tripling in size. Stocked with mostly new books, he also offered a selection of old and rare titles. In 1986, he relocated to an even larger space on 18th Street and Seventh Avenue after he learned that Barney's was opening a “fancy” store nearby. He believed that this would attract more families to the neighborhood. He was correct. Peter soon decided that it was not necessary to pay avenue prices. Instead, he could open on a side street. In 1996, Books of Wonder settled on 18th Street, where he hosted readings by J. K. Rowling, Maurice Sendak, and every other larger-than-life name in children's literature. In 2017, Peter enriched the Upper West Side with his second location on West 84th Street. Of the many attractions at Books of Wonder, Peter is most known for his selection of The Wizard of Oz. He was mesmerized as a preteen when he first devoured L. Frank Baum’s series, and it was a copy of The Magic of Oz spotted at the Strand bookstore — with its beautiful colored plates — that inspired him to restore the series to its former glory. Together with Harper Collins, he printed all fifteen Oz books with their original illustrations under Books of Wonder Classics, something never done before. For some forty years, Books of Wonder has been a space where many children have become avid readers, and Peter is always touched when parents remind him that his store also turned them into devoted readers a generation before.
PLEASE CALL TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT“Flowers bring the innermost smiles out of people, this little moment of awe and wonderment. That’s what I try to give, ” said Bella Meyer, who runs fleursBELLA, an Edenic oasis on 11th Street. As the granddaughter of revered artist Marc Chagall, flowers have long been a part of Bella’s life. Chagall is known for his modernist depictions of vibrant blooms, and he always had a bouquet in his studio while he worked to remind him of the chemistry of colors. Bella, too, shared his passion for natural beauty. She initially meant to follow in the footsteps of her father, a “formidable art historian” and museum director in Switzerland. Bella was researching and writing her PhD in medieval art history while teaching at a university in Paris when she eventually gravitated toward other creative pursuits. She found herself spending more time decorating spaces, painting, and making puppets, masks, and theater costumes. Like her grandfather before her, “I wanted to color the whole world around me and beautify it, ” Bella shared, albeit through different mediums. When seeking a way to express her joy at a friend’s marriage, she took it upon herself to build a chuppah (a wedding canopy) out of flowers and birch branches. The project was an epiphany for Bella. “I was intrigued by the symbolism of the decor. To create meaningful things and spaces, I realized I needed flowers. ” She made arrangements for several events before deciding to open fleursBELLA as a retail business some twenty years later. She envisioned the studio as one “where people could just walk in and find a moment of peace. ” The space was designed to be deeply personal, and she brought in items from her childhood in France to achieve this. The bathtub that her mother bathed her in as a baby is now used to wash the daily flower deliveries, and the family’s old bookshelves are lined up like sentinels along the walls. “These things hold all the warmth of the best parts of my home and my mother, ” Bella believes, and they lend to the shop’s special atmosphere. Above all, fleursBELLA acts as a creative outlet, allowing Bella to convey her philosophy on life and beauty through the blooms she sells. Visitors are greeted by a serene woman made of moss, with foliage climbing the walls and flowers adorning every surface — entering the wild, wonderful shop feels like a sudden departure from the city. As Bella aptly describes it, fleursBELLA is “the perfect hidden place” for someone to get lost in.
I do try very hard whenever I am out for a meal to frequent the side street restaurants, but I cannot deny that I have eaten at Peacefood Cafe on the UWS often, as it is one of my favorite vegan spots. The atmosphere is as relaxed and informal as one can get in Manhattan. The food is consistently excellent and inventive. I love their soups, sandwiches, desserts and muffins. One of my sisters-in-law has terrible food allergies, and whenever she comes to the city, this is her first stop. She loads up on whatever home-baked goods they have on the counter that day. Needless to say, I am thrilled that there is also a location downtown on a side street. I recommend to anyone, vegetarian or not, to go and enjoy a meal there, as this location is equally as wonderful.