With the hope of opening in early May 2013, we were invited for a sneak preview to what promises to be an amazing new fashionable venue in the Meatpacking District. The expectations are high for the Russian group who is behind the 20,000 square feet of space at Manon. The mirrored baroque interior interlaced with exposed brick, rustic barnwood floors, crystal chandeliers, and large comfy couches all come together to create a very appealing atmosphere. The intention is to attract a crowd that is looking for an evening filled with fine dining, excellent cocktails, and good music spread out over three floors. Despite their Russian background, the group behind Manon was eager to focus on local talent when deciding on their staff, and we had the pleasure of meeting several of them. Beginning with chef Tae Strain, we learned that he has been in training for this moment for many years, working in restaurants across the country and traveling throughout Asia to hone his skills and develop the perfect menu. When we asked what he felt would become his signature dish, he immediately replied the Dorade. It is a whole fish, similar to Branzino, that will be soaked in herbs over night, grilled, and served with jicama, shallots, and a palm sugar vinegarette. Something else that we are eager to try, after hearing his description, is the Jerusalem Artichoke and Shitake Mushroom Soup that is cooked with a bit of cardamom and kaffir lime. We enjoyed our conversation with Chef Strain, and it was equally interesting to then meet Aaron Polsky. He is a top New York mixologist who plans to use his years of expertise from behind several East Side bars, including Amor Y Amargo, to create fantastic cocktails for patrons on the West Side of Manhattan. Aaron's basic concept is to create a cocktail program that is not only delicious and interesting, but that also gives a nod to the vast space of this bar...and the need to produce quality drinks in a matter of thirty seconds. "It will be all about the timing" at Manon, Aaron explained, "not necessarily showcasing the making of the drink." There are basic descriptions offered on the cocktail menu, but unlike other bars, there will not be a complete listing of all of the components - just the flavors. "We don't want people to focus on what is in the drink, but rather on how it actually tastes." After spending quality time at Manon, we have no doubt that they will provide a high-quality, warm and inviting venue for guests to eat, drink and socialize. We look forward to our return and finding out for ourselves.
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.
From the bright yellow revolving doors, to the adorable little ice skating rink, to the bar, the lobby, the rooms with the views, this is quite the place to see and be seen. Located in the Meatpacking District, where so much of the city's nightlife takes place, this hotel is definitely one of the more popular places to visit... but some of us prefer it during the daytime when you can really appreciate all that it has to offer...including its proximity to the High Line. That being said, if you are a night time person who loves the party scene, then do check out Le Bain, the rooftop club that opens at 4:00pm.
Located in a charming, quiet area of the West Village, Cafe Cluny is a perfect setting for a ladies lunch, as I can attest to, having eaten here on several occasions with friends. The menu is American, but with a nod to the French. The breakfast menu is also quite impressive, with a selection ranging from granola with sheep’s milk yogurt and different styles of organic eggs to cured salmon served on a bagel and brioche French toast.Over the years, I have also dined at the other restaurants owned by partners Lynn Wagenknecht, Judi Wong, and Steven Abramowitz – neither the Odeon nor Café Luxembourg have disappointed.
Beneath the Spanish Benevolent Society lies La Nacional, one of Manhattan’s most authentic Spanish restaurants and the most easily accessible part of the society. Just by walking down the steps into the dimly lit basement lounge, we felt the bustle of 14th street quickly recede and we were transported across the ocean. La Nacional has the same relaxed, no frills atmosphere as most tapas bars in Spain. We gazed at the old photographs from the society’s earlier years on the walls and then had the option of sipping a drink at the bar, sampling some classic simple Spanish tapas such as tortilla de patatas, croquetas or chorizo, or dining on a full meal of paella. Perhaps the most authentic option, though, was to simply have a seat by the television to watch the fútbol game - it is always on. For visitors from Spain who want a taste of home, those of us pining for the Spanish travels of our past, or New Yorkers simply curious about a new culture, La Nacional is the place to go.
Babycastles, randomly named in honor of a Japanese pastry, is a gallery and community venue for video game designers. However, according to Todd Anderson, one of the members of the Babycastles collective, Babycastles is about more than just gaming. It is an “incubator” of fresh artistic thought, a place to go with unconventional ideas to be welcomed by individuals who can see those concepts into fruition without red tape and hefty price tags.Using his own story as a case study, Todd told me about how he moved to New York from Chicago in order to pursue digital poetry, a relatively new genre that plays with the interaction between technology and language (for example, using a keyboard to control the delivery of a poem in the same way a conductor guides an orchestra). Todd turned to Babycastles, inquired about hosting a monthly poetry event, and was met with great support. He found a home for his art, and has been invested in Babycastles ever since.Sharing a building with Hack Manhattan, Babycastles hosts a wide variety of events for all ages including concerts, lectures, game launches, and even yoga. The Babycastles team curates exhibitions that spotlight independent video game designers and define their work in the larger context of fine arts. Oftentimes, custom game cabinets are built to accommodate the works on display.Game creators and other artists are invited to apply for the Babycastles residency program, which allows them to take advantage of the bright, sunlit co-working space and receive inspiration from an artistic community where they can freely test their latest ideas. For an application to the program, check the website; new members are admitted regularly.