Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, which opened in the late summer of 2014, pairs ease with elegance as a welcome addition to 51st Street. “We live in a very fast-paced world. ” In midtown Manhattan, these words resonate. But spoken by Aldo Sohm, seated at a table in his eponymous wine bar, they seem incongruous. “The idea is basically that when you walk in here, you walk into my living room. To me, it’s always important that you be in a place where you feel comfortable. ”Sohm continues his role as wine director at Le Bernardin, the four-star restaurant located across the 6½ Avenue pedestrian plaza. At the wine bar, however, he and Le Bernardin’s co-owners, Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert, have created a setting distinct from the formal restaurants in Manhattan, in its simplicity and lack of pretense. To be clear, it shares the elegance and attention to quality of its neighbors. But upon entering, an open arrangement of sofas beckons patrons to sit down. Sohm has noticed guests who arrived separately conversing across tables - sometimes even discussing their choice in wine. And wine is the focus at Aldo Sohm. Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin’s acclaimed chef, oversees the food menu; so, whether wine accompanies lunch, dinner, or a snack, it promises to impress. Guests can order bites to complement a glass of wine, like a grilled foie gras “lollipop” or a warm skewer of baby beets. Shareables include a whole baked cauliflower and a plate of Murray’s cheese with a Maison Kayser baguette. Sohm emphasizes the flexibility of the experience. If not in the lounge area, there are tall square tables for seating. The thick oak “sommelier table” incorporated into the bar seats guests on both sides, ensuring that no one is excluded from conversation. Sohm chose these arrangements intentionally. The wine bar endeavors to be unpretentious, relaxing and fun. Evoking this sensation, the architectural firm Bentel & Bentel incorporated clean lines and bold color in designing the interior. Sohm and his co-owners deliberated considerably in choosing the art in their “living room. ” Ample shelves extend to the double height ceiling, featuring artifacts meaningful to Sohm. Having grown up in Austria, Sohm points out, “I like things very very clean, very European. I like colors on top of it. ” A stack of Interior Design magazines becomes a design object itself as a cube of rainbow spines. The curves of miniature Panton S-chairs, each a different color, mirror the charred wood molds of the delicately hand-blown Zalto glasses in which each wine is served. Sohm is the brand ambassador for Zalto, an Austrian-based glassware manufacturer. To learn more about the varied wine offerings, visitors can reserve the tasting room. Aerial photographs of wine growing regions flank the eight-person table, allowing the sommelier to incorporate a visual element and story of provenance to the tasting. Sohm - once designated the “Best World Sommelier” by the Worldwide Sommelier Association - maintains humility despite his accomplishments. He wants the wine bar to be just as down to earth; an antidote to a demanding day, it exudes precision and sophistication.
While the lineups at Radio City Music Hall have changed dramatically over the years, the "Showplace of the Nation" has long been at the center of the city's entertainment scene. Opened to the public in 1932, the Art Deco building, with almost six thousand seats, was initially intended to "house high-class variety entertainment. " However, the space was later converted to a movie hall, with films accompanied by stage shows. This lasted until 1979 when, for a variety of reasons, Radio City began transitioning into a concert hall. Besides consistently booking some of music's hottest stars, Radio City has also hosted numerous award shows, including The Grammys and The Tony Awards and is the home to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes, a tradition that commenced in 1933.
Saar, which translates to “the essence of something, ” has a double meaning for Pastry Chef Surbhi Sahni. It represents the essence of Indian food, as well as the essence of her relationship with her husband, Chef Hemant Mathur. Although Surbhi has been in the industry with Hemant for years, the two have not worked together on a daily basis since their days at their Michelin-starred restaurants, Devi and Tulsi, both of which are now closed. Saar represents their fresh start while also staying true to their culture and roots. When Surbhi and Hemant met in 2000, Hemant was teaching Indian cooking classes at New York University as he was getting ready to open Tamarind on Park Avenue. Surbhi joined the opening team at Tamarind, designing the tearoom and promoting quick lunches. He went on to operate five different spaces, including Sahib, Haldi, Chote Nawab, Malai Marke, and Chola, while Surbhi helped manage events. During that time, she also launched Bittersweet NYC, a pastry business focusing on wedding cakes and Indian style desserts for larger corporate events. Surbhi’s relationship with cooking is unlike the typical love story of most chefs. Her experience in the kitchen started at the age of ten in New Delhi as more of a responsibility and chore when her mother’s health declined. She explained to members of the Manhattan Sideways team, “It was not something I could ever imagine myself doing for the rest of my life. I wanted to do art and write and paint or sing and dance - every other activity in the world but cook. ” Notwithstanding these sentiments, Surbhi was encouraged by her father to take a job in hotel management in New Delhi. She was part of the Sheraton Group’s revolutionary all-female kitchen and restaurant at a time when there were only approximately twenty female chefs in all of New Delhi. At age twenty-five, however, Surbhi chose to move to the United States to pursue her Masters in Anthropology and Food at New York University. Despite never getting to study writing and painting at university, these endeavors have always been an integral part of Surbhi’s life. Her father is an accomplished artist exhibiting in both India and the US. Today, she is proud of her own teenage daughter, Soumyaa. "She is the true artist of the family. " When entering the dining room on 51st Street, Surbhi’s artistic aptitude is obvious. The modern space is both clean and dramatic, with natural light and bright pops of color. Saar was a particularly exciting project for her, as she was given free rein in its design. In a mere five months, she turned what she described as a dingy, confused room into an open, tasteful dining space. Saar has also allowed Surbhi and Hemant to completely reinvent their menu. They focus on regional food, staying authentic to the specific flavors of each area. For example, Surbhi told us that the Turbuj Pachadi - a tomato and watermelon salad with a fennel and ginger dressing - is a Rajasthani staple, as watermelon is a fruit that is readily available there, and is usually consumed with freshly baked bread. She has also made an effort to challenge conventional conceptions of Indian cuisine. The Mango Coconut Soup is a light and sweet palate opener, proving that Indian food is not always too spicy or a combination of too many flavors. She believes that Indian food is actually very demarcated in the way flavors are put together. “Just how in Japanese food they have many different layers of flavors they add as they’re cooking, we do the same with Indian food. ” While cooking can serve as a creative outlet, Surbhi still tries to write and paint whenever she can. In ending our conversation, Surbhi emphasized the importance of food’s role in building a community - something she looks forward to creating on West 51st Street.
Between Second and Third Avenue, dwarfed by much taller buildings on either side, is a lovely hidden oasis called Greenacre Park. Created by the Rockefellers to provide New Yorkers with "some moments of serenity in a busy world, " the park offers a bit of unhurried tranquility to neighborhood residents and those tourists lucky enough to stumble across it. I came there after lunch and sat on one of the low wooden benches, enjoying the mid-afternoon sunlight as it filtered down through a thick leafy canopy. Around me were friends catching up over coffee, suit-clad professionals taking a break from work and parents exploring with their children. Although filled with people, the park never felt busy or crowded: it is unexpectedly large, extending far enough back to allow several levels of seating and to have a 25-foot waterfall — the most remarkable and dynamic feature. Folded into the side of the park, there is a small, unimposing kiosk. Falls Cafe sells coffee, breakfast sandwiches, pastries and fruit. The man behind the counter commented to me, "This is the best place I ever worked, " and turning around to capture his view, I understood why: he looks directly out at the waterfall.
Spending enough time dining at Ethos, it is easy to forget that they are located at the corner of 51st and First Avenue, instead of perched overlooking the ocean somewhere along the western coast of Greece. The only thing missing is a light sea breeze coming through one of the restaurant's wide-open windows. And the longer I chatted with the manager, Stamathis Pelardis, the more I learned about the restaurant and their overwhelming commitment to its heritage. The food is not the only thing that is Hellenic - the entire interior, including the exposed beams supporting the ceiling - were shipped from the Isle of Rhodes, making for one of the most authentic Greek dining experiences possible outside of the country itself. In addition, there are paintings by Greek artists adorning the walls, as Ethos is also a gallery, with changing exhibits every few months. The restaurant's specialty is seafood; there are whole fish offered on their dinner menu, including Mid-Atlantic Wild Bass and Dover Sole. The nautical theme is reflected in the aesthetic of the restaurant. The walls and tables are white, with navy blue accents, and the paintings on the wall, when I visited, depicted seafaring scenes in shades of cobalt and azure. The restaurant's interior is clean and open, with high ceilings and a bar in the center of the room. It is there that I found guests leisurely sipping on a glass of wine or drinking an espresso.
FLEX is a new Hell’s Kitchen LGBTQ+ hotspot created in the former home of Posh — one of the original neighborhood gay bars back in the ’90s. Founders James Healy and Jason Wade Mann’s journey to open FLEX hasn’t been without its challenges. The process began with six months of paperwork to obtain a liquor license from the State Liquor Authority. Though they received approval from Manhattan Community Board 4’s Business Licenses and Permits Committee, lingering complaints about the previous establishment set the bar very high for proving FLEX would not fall into the same pattern. However, this meticulous attention to detail set the tone for what was to come. The bar’s design was a collaboration with two architects from Pratt Institute, who worked closely with students to ensure every aspect was carefully considered. James and Jason had the opportunity to shape FLEX exactly as they envisioned, with a focus on creating a visually stunning atmosphere. Local artist Jo Mar crafted the hand-sculpted mural that takes center stage. It is based on a photo shoot he did in the space with local friends who were more than happy to help bring his vision to life. The entire process took seven months to complete, with each of the four panels weighing approximately 250 lbs as the molds were being made. The attention to detail doesn’t stop at the artwork. The bar boasts original 120-year-old “Tiffany blue” glass windows salvaged from a Brooklyn warehouse, adding a touch of history to the contemporary design. The bar beams themselves come from a century-old Brooklyn townhouse, and the woodwork throughout the space is meticulously handcrafted. The dedication to preserving the legacy of the location is evident in the decision to keep FLEX as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. As James said: “It was a gay space for almost 30 years and that was one of the main reasons Jason and I decided to take over the space. We wanted to keep it as a safe space for the gay community, but very much welcome for all. Our theme is come alone and meet friends, come with friends and make more friends. ”But FLEX is not just about creating a visually appealing space; it also aims to be a hub for community events. With large screens and projectors installed, the bar can host gatherings, presentations and even screen major sporting events. This versatility ensures that FLEX will be a vibrant and dynamic addition to the neighborhood. Beyond the interior, the owners have also made significant efforts to enhance the building’s infrastructure and exterior. Extensive plumbing work was completed and the façade has been meticulously restored, with broken tiles fixed and a fresh coat of paint applied. A new awning, adorned with colorful PRIDE flags, further adds to the bar’s vibrant presence on the block. FLEX aims to be a highlight of the neighborhood, both inside and out. This story was adapted from the W42ST article, "Reviving PRIDE: New Bar FLEX Honors Posh’s Legacy with a Modern LGBTQ+ Twist. "
Walking down West 51st street towards the river, I came upon a little garden located in the yard outside of a public housing development. The gate into the garden was locked, but looking through the fence, I could see beautiful wildflowers, herbs, and even some unripe tomatoes. The manager of the Mobil gas station across the street told me that he remembered when the garden was a VACANT lot where drug addicts slept at night. No longer - in 1993, the space was transformed and named after community member and active gardener Juan Alonso. It has been open to the community ever since, save a brief period of time in 2000 when the public housing it surrounds was renovated. Emblematic of the regrowth of Hell's Kitchen over the past two decades, it provides a space for locals, especially low-income residents, to come together and grow food for themselves and their families. The park and community garden is only one of several such green spaces in the area, all created and maintained by the organization CultivateHKNY, which aims to promote community through the revitalization of shared spaces. Any community member who wants a key to the garden can purchase one for only two dollars and start cultivating their own small plot of land. For the rest of us, the garden is open on the weekends in the early afternoon, and can always be appreciated from the sidewalk.
Hell's Kitchen has gained two world-class specialty shops in one with the arrival of Rubber N' Road — an establishment that's bringing global coffee and cycling gear to the neighborhood. When Gil Lavi arrived in New York from Tel Aviv in 2010, the first thing that struck him was how bad Starbucks coffee was. "I landed here 11 years ago and I walked into Starbucks. I was immediately taken aback by the flavor — I found it just shocking. I never tasted anything like that. It was just completely strange to me. Then I was also looking for something that tasted more close to what I was used to. And so I started to research, " he told us while meticulously making a coffee. Over the years, his research transformed into a desire to open a coffee shop — and along the way, he gathered a second obsession, cycling. "I got obsessed with coffee and cycling at pretty much the same time, " Gil said. Now he has joined forces with his friend Max Davis to merge those passions at Rubber N' Road on W51st Street between 9/10th Avenue (in the store that used to be Cakes 'N' Shapes). "It's pretty easy to geek out on bikes and coffee. There's a lot of equipment and gear — people can really immerse themselves, " says Max. Gil and Max founded Rubber N' Road in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. They had both spent years working with large brands in the cycling industry but wanted to create a new way to serve the New York cycling community. Gil offers the global perspective in the partnership, while Max, who was born just steps from Central Park, gives the local knowledge of New York road cycling. In the venture they see lots of synergies between cycling and coffee. They want to "bring a fresh alternative to the cycling industry's habit of using glittery paint jobs to cover up less-than-ideal supply chains and products" as well as being a unique alternative to branded coffee that "is like having one vineyard serve the same cup of wine to 200 million people year after year. "They are promoting emerging, independent cycling brands in the store — and for their beans, they have selected single-origin coffees curated by the legendary Berlin coffee roasters, The Barn. Max recalls first meeting Gil at industry events around the city four years ago. They struck up a friendship and in 2019 Gil asked him to join his consultancy business. "For the first six months, it was insanely busy and then the pandemic hit. The whole world kind of hit the pause button, " Max recalls. They started to look at options and identified that New York's cycling community "with all the diversity in the New York cycling community, the offering of cycling brands and products was extremely limited. "Their business started online with a range of independent products from around the world. "We started to send out emails and make calls to brands in June, July of last year. We got in touch with Rob Gitelis, who's the owner of Factor — a bike brand. He really loved the idea and agreed to support us. Rob is an American based in Taiwan — everything he produces is built and engineered in his own factory. And then we started reaching out to the apparel brands, " Max told us. They soon added jerseys from MAAP in Australia, Kask helmets, KOO sunglasses and Q36. 5 apparel from Italy, Isadore clothing from Slovakia, Festka bicycles from the Czech Republic and cycling fashion from FINGERSCROSSED in Germany. "We launched the website in August of 2020, " said Max. "We always remember MAAP shipped us our first shipment of apparel and it was in this tiny box — three feet by two feet. So we started selling the apparel through the website. "Their move to meeting customers in person came when they wanted to do a photo shoot up in Vermont. "We couldn't afford anything — and car hire was $200 a day. So we asked Volvo if they could help. They liked what we were doing and helped with a car — and offered for us to create a popup at their dealership on 11th Avenue, " said Gil. "That's when Rubber N' Road actually came to life. Customers actually showed up in real life. "They did more popups and one day when Gil was delivering locally from his Hell's Kitchen apartment he spotted the empty storefront on W51st Street. "We wanted a place with proximity to Central Park and the West Side Bike Patch — so geographically it felt right, " he recalls. They took on the lease in March and are in soft launch for the rest of August — opening Thursday to Sunday from 9am-5pm for cycling talk and coffee. "I mean, cycling and coffee are pretty related. I think most cyclists enjoy coffee — we're always going on coffee rides. There's always a coffee stop, " said Max. They've already connected with their neighbors. Specialist beer bar, AS IS, around the corner on 10th Avenue is already their after-work favorite and they've made friends with Lino at Il Melograno across the road. They're also facing a challenge from Bobby next door at Totto Ramen. "We need for Bobby to approve our Japanese-style hand brew. It's a Japanese-style ice pour-over. Gil's been working for some time on that, " said Max. This story originally appeared in W42ST. nyc in August 2021as: Heaven has Arrived in Hell's Kitchen for Bike and Coffee Geek