When Ashley Van Goehring, Hotel Giraffe’s director of sales and marketing, led me up to the rooftop bar as part of a tour of the entire building, I did not expect to find such a quiet nook. Despite being in the middle of the busy Flatiron district, the patio’s height and warm red brick border meant that the sky-high courtyard is reasonably silent. It is also beautiful: every inch appeared to be carefully designed with hanging plants, potted shrubs, and striped deck furniture that hinted at the hotel’s name. There is even a metallic giraffe statue in the corner, named after owner, Henry Kallan's granddaughter, Jesse. The seasonal rooftop does not remain quiet at night. Though the garden is only open to guests during the day, at night it turns into a cocktail bar, run by Bread and Tulips, the restaurant attached to Hotel Giraffe. The tucked-away space is also attached to the hotel’s private event room, which has a little roof terrace of its own. Ashley told us that the room had been used as Big’s apartment in the Sex and the City movie, and pointed out the little details that can be seen in some of the film scenes. The small attached patio shows just as much care and attention to detail as the larger rooftop bar, with potted flowers and warm, giraffe-inspired colors. Staring out at the sunny view, Ashley turned to me and said, “It’s nice to be reminded that this city is not just the place where I live. It’s a magical place. ”
Amid a sea of skyscrapers, this old townhouse has been made into a bar in three parts. The bottom floor sits amid darkly polished wood, sporting large TVs with the night’s games turned on. Above, a room of unfinished reclaimed wood from Pennsylvania sets a more rustic, rugged tone. And upstairs on the third floor, voila! A long-tabled, compact biergarten nestles between towering edifices to either side, creates a chasm in which to drink beer and be merry all year round. Opened in 2012, this bar is now playing a part in the transformation of the midtown area towards a more "hospitable atmosphere. " As manager, Cara, told us, "With so many hotels in the district, we draw from a "super dynamic" crowd of people. " In addition to the vast selection of beer, there is an excellent cocktail menu that changes by the season to stay up-to-date and fresh, and the American-style eats follow suit. A tale of three different worlds in one, it is a great place to come for a drink and to mingle.
“We wanted to be that diamond in the rough, ” explained Ashley, the co-owner of Blank Slate. When Ashley and Zach, spouses and co-owners, were searching for a location for their restaurant, they wanted to find a neighborhood with a large crowd but not a lot of quality spots to eat. Blank Slate is successfully that hidden gem located in NoMad, one of Manhattan’s up and coming neighborhoods. Blank Slate attracts a crowd full of young, creative professionals who are quickly changing the area. Ashley and Zach established Blank Slate, which opened in November of 2015, in an effort to create the first coffee-shop-restaurant hybrid in New York City. Ashley explains that they were tired of going to places that provided quality coffee but low quality food. She wanted a place that offered superb grab-n-go coffee as well as more formal dining where friends could meet for a long meal. Ashley and Zach’s vision has been realized. Blank Slate serves killer coffee as well as an impressive assortment of salads, sandwiches and even gourmet desserts. Their coffee is proudly served from farm to cup in close to 20 days. They have a sign at the cash register indicating the green date and roast date of the coffee being served that day. My intern, Emily, hesitantly tried their brussels sprout Caesar salad and only had positive things to say about it, even though she usually does not enjoy Brussels sprouts. Blank Slate also has a small but wonderfully curated market located inside the restaurant, which offers primarily locally sourced products such as cookie dough, yoghurts, pickles and a host of beverages. In addition to serving excellent coffee and food, Blank Slate has a fun, creative atmosphere. Ashley and Zach chose Blank Slate’s name because they wanted to convey the idea that people can make or create everything here. While customers wait in line for coffee, for example, there are etch-a-sketches on which to play. They even have Instagram competitions that reward one talented etch-a-sketcher with a free meal. Ashley hopes that Blank Slate can be a space for people to create. She explained that the etch-a-sketch sends a message: the “possibility of everything. "
In the race among Manhattan restaurants to attract customers, simplicity is sometimes lost. But not so in the Mason Jar, a restaurant and bar that keeps it old school with good vibes and great tastes. The southern, barbecue-heavy menu and extensive list of craft beers and bourbons speak for themselves, complete with suggested pairings. Each month, a new craft beer is featured in an effort to support small breweries. If these beers attract a following, they are added to the full-time roster. While visiting with some Sideways members, I had a lively conversation with chef about the different styles of barbecue - our North Carolinian team member swears by vinegar sauce and appreciated Mason Jar’s variety. The food is fresh and not overdone, but at the same time the Chef “puts love into it. ” The high quality meat is treated seriously - specialty ribs are coated with a dry rub, smoked using apple and hickory wood, braised, and mopped with a tomato-based Kansas City-style sauce. Then grilled. The brisket and boneless pork butts are given no less attention. Replete with wood, American Flags, and comfortable seating, Mason Jar also achieves a homey feel to match its Southern style. Many of the University of South Carolina alumni in Manhattan choose this spot as the venue to catch the Cocks football games, and Villanova basketball fans flock here for their games, as well. With the hearty food, good beers, and down-home feel, it is easy to understand why. To put it plainly and simply, Mason Jar was a good find.
There are no frills at Turnmill. The space is designed to look like the interior of an old mill, serving good, hearty drinks. Following the success of their bar, The Globe, on 23rd Street, the owners opened this watering hole in summer 2013 to round out what’s becoming a very nice strip of 27th. The interior is lined with steel and big wooden beams made from reclaimed wood from Pennsylvania, which lends it a yeoman’s atmosphere, enhanced by the bar’s emphasis on whiskey and bourbon, but the high ceiling and openness keep it very comfortable. A full kitchen serves traditional pub fare, with imported and domestic beers on tap to wash it all down. In the back, an additional private bar plays host to events from birthday parties to wedding receptions - and to at least one bris afterparty.
In 2001, The Center for Alternative Photography (CAP) opened its doors in the heart of a midtown district with rich photographic history (Abraham Lincoln came here to be photographed). Run by the non-profit Penumbra Foundation, the center focuses on alternative and historic techniques. In the words of Executive Director Geoffrey Berliner, “People are forgetting what photography is and where it came from. In a photo-based world, it is important to understand the history of photography. ” In this spirit, the Center educates, exhibits, and provides support for artists. When I visited in 2013, the center was planning a series on how the depiction of war has changed over time. Walking into the space, I also passed through a tintype studio, where one can have his or her portrait taken using the same methods as were used in the mid 1800s. The event space houses an artist lecture series in an effort to delve deeper into the photographic works. Recurring shows showcase daguerreotype, toy camera, and alternative techniques. The “In Conversation” lecture series has photographers and artists of different disciplines bring in their work to discuss and gain more perspective. A particularly powerful “In Conversation” lecture recently paired up Andrew Moore (whose pictures of urban decay in Detroit find romance in the otherwise decrepit parts of the city), with Philip Levine, a poet who sympathetically describes blue-collar Detroit.
Jam aficionados across the country will instantly recognize the award-winning glass jars lining the walls of Sarabeth Levine's eponymous restaurant. These scrumptious jars are filled with a variety of fruits – peach apricot and mixed berries are two favorites. Jared, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, grew up eating in their UES restaurant and told me that there has always been a jar of jam in his fridge since he was in grade school. I, too, remember coming here since Sarabeth’s first opened some twenty years ago. They were serving brunch long before brunch was a weekend habit for so many New Yorkers. No matter what the time of day is for me, whenever I eat at one of their restaurants, my go-to is the consistently delicious velvety cream of tomato soup - hands down, one of the best in the city. Today, there are Sarabeth's spread throughout Manhattan, each one in an elegant space, offering a more refined, though unfussy, dining experience.
Opened in 1903 as a place for only women to reside, this hotel on 29th Street has continually operated under many different names and owners (most recently, it has been known as the King and Grove and the Martha Washington). At the start, it attracted primarily those in business, but also had several noteworthy female guests who were actresses, writers and poets. It was not until the late 1990s that men were allowed to book rooms. Today, it has been completely renovated and updated, and invites people from around the globe to stay. The lobby is attractive and the rooms are small, but perfectly outfitted for traveler's needs.
Adereth El is considered to be the oldest synagogue in New York that is still operating out of its original location. German Jewish immigrants founded the congregation in 1857, and the building was constructed in 1863. To this day, Orthodox Jews attend services on a daily basis. Until his passing in 2013, Rabbi Sidney Kleiman had been the head of the congregation for sixty years - the longest serving rabbi in the country. Not all of the original architecture remains, as the shul had to be renovated twice during the 1900s, but its old world charm is prevalent throughout. The stained glass windows, the wooden seating, and even the prayer books took us back in time.