The staff at Cantina Rooftop like to think of themselves as the "neighborhood haunt," where they serve old school cocktails alongside a Latin and European infused menu. I witnessed a surprise party on the day I was there. Sitting comfortably around a table were seven beautiful women. They told me that they were eagerly awaiting their friend to celebrate her twenty-sixth birthday. It wasn't until they stood up, though, that I noticed that each had on a different color tutu. It was priceless.
Located beneath a rental apartment building lies Gotham West Market, a space that is home to a variety of food vendors and a kitchen supply store. The restaurants offer a good variety ranging from American fare to Mexican, Spanish, Japanese, and, of course, a coffee shop.The interior is spacious with large windows flooding the concrete floors with light. Although only in their infant stages, crowds have already been seeking them out, where both on the weekends and after business hours the Market comes to life. I have enjoyed stopping by here both with friends on a bike ride, or while walking with the Manhattan Sideways interns. On one occasion, the students tried the albondigas (lamb meatballs) from El Colmado, a Spanish eatery, and watched, enthusiastically, as the chef prepared the bone marrow brulee at Cannibal for us to sample and photograph. This dish was certainly a first for Maria and Lauren, and they marveled at how the plate was so beautifully presented with the bone marrow served in the bone on a long plate with two pieces of toast and some greens on the side. They were giggling as they scooped the bone marrow onto the bread and topped it with the lettuce. And as we get ready to launch 45th Street, Choza Taqueria is getting ready to open. In 2017, we were able to return to sample their tacos and tamales.Gotham West Market has made Hell's Kitchen a dining destination, offering something suitable for every palette and time of day. The Market offers Hell's Kitchen residents – especially those living right upstairs – a great place to come together and enjoy some of New York's notable cuisine.
The wine list scrawled on the large chalkboard, the exposed wine cellar covering two floors, and the marble bar make Ardesia a beautiful place to while away the post-work hours. Damon, Ardesia's manager, says that while the place is sophisticated, "we also want people to feel comfortable, almost like they are in their living room." This atmosphere has allowed the bar to garner a group of loyal regulars, including local artists and actors and others who work and live in the neighborhood. The rotating wine list ensures they are never bored and, while the main attraction is certainly the broad selection of wines, Ardesia also has a solid menu of small plates.
Only in New York can one hear stories of a couple where one grew up on 44th Street, they met in a bar on 43rd, and now have opened their own tiny, but very special bar on 48th. Suzy Darling and Joe Witham are an adorable and, might I add, very talented pair. Suzy trained with Alvin Ailey as a teenager, went on to become a Rockette for eight years, was a back up singer to Bruce Springsteen, and a dancer with Houston Ballet. And while Suzy was strutting across the stage, Joe was singing opera in Oregon, and today, when not at Pocket Bar, he is the captain at a fine restaurant in Manhattan.When I asked how long they had been open, Suzy smiled broadly and responded, "87 days!" In less than three months (they opened at the end of May, 2014), this dynamic duo has managed to spread the word on the street and around town, bringing in many to share in their super friendly, 300 square feet of intimate space. There are no TVs, as Suzy's goal was to make her bar "a nice place for women." She did not want to be a sports bar but rather as her gay friends suggest, "They opened a gay bar for straight people, but, of course, all are welcome." The concept is to be an escape from the city and partake in a glass of wine on tap from a boutique vineyard or a beer, both under $10.On any given night, there will be Hot Pockets filled with pepperoni pizza, four cheeses or meatball mozzarella being served. And when I was chatting with Suzy, a new friend in the neighborhood popped in having just returned from a fishing expedition and dropped off some for Suzy to expand her pocket line up - this time with ceviche. Needless to say, she was thrilled and commented, once again, on what a welcoming community she has found.
Añejo serves up dishes to be paired with one of the eighty different bottles of tequila and mezcal that embrace Mexican cuisine from a fresh perspective. While sipping one of their custom drinks, it was delightful to watch patrons engaging in conversation outdoors along 47th Street with the cheerful sounds of kids playing in the background.As we sampled some of the small plates, we spoke with Ricky Camacho, the Chef de Cuisine. He explained to us that Añejo does not seek to be a traditional Mexican restaurant – instead, it aims to play upon those elements, ingredients, and components that are distinctly Mexican, making dishes that are new but feel familiar. "The menu is modern but approachable."A bite of the Ahi Tuna Ceviche illustrated Ricky's point to Maria, a Manhattan Sideways team member. She explained to me that while ceviche is generally considered a Peruvian dish (the country that she is from), the flavors of the jalapeño and playful tang of the yuzu orange broth made it clear that this ceviche was in a league all its own. The flavors do not presume to be traditional nor is that the restaurant's goal; they are at once authentic but innovative.Anejo's Executive Chef and former Top Chef contender, Angelo Sosa, has developed a great reputation since opening in 2012. Ricky was quite pleased to tell us that Angelo and four other Top Chef alumni served a four-course dinner at Añejo to raise money for Sandy relief. Angelo's fundraising efforts and resolve to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy shows how intertwined small businesses and the community they serve can be.
When John O’Mahoney, the director of sales and marketing for the Press Lounge and Print, ushered us up to the bar at the very top of the entirely green building that houses the hotel, Ink48, I was dazzled by how bright everything was. Even though there had been snow flurries on and off, the Press Lounge was bursting with light. The wide open space seemed like what one might experience on the west coast, rather than in New York. The Northern Californian vibe is no accident, as Adam Block, the owner, is bi-coastal. Though he spends much of his time in New York and grew up in Chicago, but has great respect for Californian aesthetic and customs.The space on the rooftop was partitioned into several unique sections, each equally awe-inspiring. The main bar space featured a series of differently sized cubes on the back wall, glowing in hues of coral and teal. The couches were draped in warm fur blankets for wintertime, and Persian palms dotted the room. An outer patio had dark, wicker furnishings where, despite this wintry day, the views remained the center of attention. One of the most astonishing rooms was “the Sun Room,” often reserved for private events, which has an enormous garage door that opens on warm days to give the illusion of being perched on the edge of the sky. Finally, the outdoor portion of the patio was the only area closed for the winter. Adam, however, was kind enough to show me the video of how the pre-existing rooftop pool was turned into a garden and seating area using repurposed, warped wood.When I spoke to Adam, he told me that he received a lot of his inspiration from Alice Waters, who was a client through his consulting business. The notorious chef and restaurateur from Chez Panisse in Berkeley, developed farms in Northern California and aimed to find farmers off the grid. She was truly “farm to table” before the expression became trite. Adam came away with a significant education from Alice, and when he decided to open the twin dining establishments for Ink48, his first thought was, “How can we be sustainable?” He was not only referring to the food, but also to the business model: He wanted to create a space that would be a destination, but also a place to which people would want to return. He wished to develop the staff in such a way that they would remain as part of the family. People called him crazy, he told us, when he added 125 jobs during a financial crisis, but he believes it has paid off. There has been very little turn-over in the staff, which is unusual in an industry which is known for being a revolving door. Adam proudly told me that he has had the same cocktail servers for the past three years. He attributes this to “a balance in healthiness.”One of the positions on his staff that had existed from the very beginning is the role of professional forager. Meghan Boledovich holds that title, and she is possibly the only professional forager in New York. She was educated in the new NYU Food Studies program, and Adam said he liked her for the role, not only because she was extremely qualified for all aspects of the job, but also because she was “very bohemian in her purest mindset.” Meghan explained, “People think I’m just out in the woods hunting for mushrooms…but I only do that sometimes.” She has a hand in the special outreach programs that the restaurants run in order to give back to the community - most recently she taught school children how to maintain a better food mindset. She networks with other foragers and uses a European sensibility gained from her time spent in Provence to find the best seasonal ingredients at the nearest, most sustainable locations. Locality comes second to sustainability: she would rather choose a farm that is farther away with better practices than a nearby farm with questionable methods. As we stared at the snow, she expressed her jealousy for Californians: “They have about eighty items in season right now. We mostly have root vegetables. It’s hard to be a forager with this pause.”
Initially serving as a resting stop for Scandinavian sailors when they disembarked in lower Manhattan, the Swedish Seaman's Church opened its doors on Water Street in 1873. The neo-Gothic building in which the Church currently resides was constructed in 1921 for "The Bible House" before being sold to the Church of Sweden in 1978. The Church's nautical past is evidenced in the model boats placed among the large collection of Swedish books.With a chapel, a library, and a coffee shop, the Church's doors are always open to Swedes. While tasting their delicious Swedish buns, I chatted with the staff who spoke enthusiastically about the function that the center plays in people's lives. For families, it provides a "wind" of Sweden whenever they miss their homeland. There are also multiple weddings conducted in the chapel each week, and people come from all over to celebrate holidays and shop at their Christmas Bazaar.
Clinton Garden is a striking testament to the power of residential communities in New York. One of the earliest examples of urban agricultural reclamation, the garden was created in 1979 in a lot that had been abandoned for twenty-eight years. Seeing potential in the space and hoping to improve the area around the neighborhood, residents (with the help of Operation Green Thumb, which leased the lot from the city) transformed the VACANT property into a garden using reclaimed and salvaged bricks, concrete, and slate. Finding the gates open on a beautiful spring Saturday, I wandered in and strolled down the paths filled with magnificent flowers and shrubs. I also met committed people tending to their small plots of land, of which there are now over one hundred. I have since been back many times, as I think this is a magnificent retreat on those days that I am in a need of a place to rest while walking the side streets of Manhattan.
Tucked between a Swiss and an Italian restaurant, Scent Elate brings Eastern spirituality to the neighborhood. With the doors swung open, the aromas were an enticing trail that led me into this tiny boutique packed with an array of incense, candles, soaps, oils and lotions. Scent Elate also has books on meditation and yoga scattered among crystals, jewelry, chimes and hanging ornaments. In fact, it might just be "the" place to go when searching for sticks of incense - not only is there a vast selection, but Mo, the owner, makes a special effort to find the perfect scent to enhance each individual customer's environment.
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.