Guy Vaknin and his wife Tali opened Beyond Sushi in July of 2012 with the goal of producing healthy, beautiful and earth-conscious food. After learning of the depletion of fish in our oceans – not to mention the health benefits of a meatless diet – Guy set out to be the “first to pioneer the fish-less sushi movement. ” He views “sushi as a vessel that carries the perfect amount of flavor to just grab it in one bite. ” He also praises sushi for its consistency, which gives him room to play around in creating interesting and perfect balances of vegetable's flavors and colors. When describing his extensive background in the restaurant industry, Guy told us, “I had a dream to cook since I was young. I’ve always loved food. ” He grew up on a Kibbutz in Israel - and came to New York after serving in the Israeli army - to help out in his father’s restaurant. He went on to work at numerous other restaurants in New York doing every possible position, and after a brief dalliance with computer engineering, returned to the food world by studying at the Institute of Culinary Education. Fresh out of culinary school, Guy became the executive chef at his father’s kosher catering company. When a request for a sushi station popped up, and knowing that meat and fish are restricted in some areas of the Jewish world, he decided he wanted to create something “cool and innovative - and not fish. ” It took two years to develop his vegetarian sushi, but after selling out at the Vegetarian Food Festival two years in a row, Guy decided to open a business on 14th street. Within three months - working solely with the help of his sushi chef - the growing popularity of his beautiful, healthy, and delicious food quickly enabled him to expand into the thriving company that Beyond Sushi is today. One of Guy’s main goals is to balance sustainability and accessibility to encourage people to choose the healthy option of Beyond Sushi, and the passion that sustains this goal is his creativity. Even now that he has grown Beyond Sushi into a consistently expanding company, Guy still spends around fifty percent of his time cooking, and loves adding new dishes to his menu. He thinks of his business expansion in terms of community impact and wants to be “as big as possible. "
Everything at Norma Kamali's eponymous store feels distinctive, from the layout to the designs of the clothes. In the years since the designer opened her first shop on 53rd street in 1968, she has carved out a style all her own. Her flagship store's aesthetic is striking - white walls, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and fluorescent lighting that feels intentional and welcoming. Racks are placed at different locations throughout the store, showcasing Norma's three core collections - Activewear, Swimwear, and Kamali Kulture. The first includes Norma's iconic sweatsuits, which revolutionized women's activewear when the line appeared in 1984. The Swimwear collection prominently features the Bill Mio bathing suit, a rucked, old Hollywood-esque one-piece. Finally, the Kamali Kulture line was created so that a wider variety of women could enjoy Norma's signature designs; every item in the line is under one hundred dollars. The store also features sunglasses, including Norma's signature cat-eye shades. While being given a personal tour by Marissa, a representative of the Norma Kamali Brand, we learned that Norma's flagship location houses the Wellness Cafe, where women are invited to take a break from their shopping, sit down, and help themselves to some green tea and popcorn - sprinkled with Norma's own line of olive oil. On display is a "curation of products Norma loves, " including health snacks, supplements and weights. Marissa went on to explain that Norma frequently hosts events at the cafe featuring members of the medical community as well as tarot readers. "We invite people with a range of backgrounds and expertise, " said Marissa. Norma has achieved significant recognition in the fashion world and beyond, but many people who come into the store are merely drawn in by the display window. Customers stop by "whether they know that it's Norma Kamali or they're just curious, " Marissa told us. Though Norma's collections are featured in most major department stores, including her Fifth Avenue neighbors, this location on West 56th is the only one devoted exclusively to her. Because of their "small but mighty" status, Norma is able to keep a hand in everything that goes on at her boutique and wellness cafe: she styles the display window and chooses what clothing is showcased. Her virtual presence is strong as well: she narrates her own website, providing the stories behind various pieces of clothing. Towards the end of our time spent here, an exhilarating moment occurred when we had the pleasure of catching a glimpse of the grand lady, herself.
It is always refreshing to find an oasis among midtown's concrete jungle. Enclosed within an atrium, with soaring glass ceilings and scattered seating throughout, the Sculpture Garden has allowed New Yorkers to feel separate from both the offices attached to it and the street outside. The roof of the atrium functions as a giant skylight, filtering sunbeams down onto the imposing bamboo trees planted at various intervals and the impressive artwork that rotates on a regular basis. A favorite stopping point for me, since they opened in 2010, has been Obikà, a small cafe that specializes in phenomenal fresh mozzarella flown in from Italy.
With grandiose entrances spanning the block between 56th and 57th Streets, Thompson Central Park (formerly known as Le Parker Meridien) has much to be seduced by when stepping inside their doors. After having had a stupendous breakfast at Norma's inside the hotel, Marisa Zafran, the director of public relations & marketing, took us on a grand tour, sharing some of the fascinating history along the way. Coincidentally, while chatting about Jack Parker, who built the hotel in 1981, and has since passed away, we crossed paths with his elegant ninety-three year old wife, as she stepped out of the elevator. Apparently, she now resides on the top floor while her sons run the hotel. When entering the elevators, ourselves, we immediately glanced upward to stare at the constantly looping classic films being shown. On any given ride, guests are treated to Charlie Chaplin films, Laurel & Hardy, the Three Stooges as well as old-time favorite cartoons. Marisa explained that the aim is to eliminate the awkward elevator silence and make it so that people feel completely at home at every turn in the hotel. On the top floor, there is a beautiful and inviting lap pool surrounded by glass windows, and stepping outside onto the terrace we had 360 degrees of breathtaking views of New York, including overlooking Central Park in its entirety. Back down in the lobby, we bypassed the line that was wrapping around the space, despite the early hour, to get into Burger Joint. This tiny, hidden restaurant is considered by many to be the best place for hamburgers in the city. I also fully appreciated the exquisite burgundy-draped Knave where people were quietly sitting over a cup of coffee. Later in the day, the bar opens and guests are invited in for a drink and some elegant "nibbles. "
Although foreign missions and consulates are often hidden away behind locked doors in Manhattan, Argentina has opened its entire first floor to the public displaying the country's art, culture and natural beauty. The entranceway - easily missed among the restaurants and boutiques that dot the busy stretch of pavement between Fifth and Sixth Avenues - functions as a gallery and promotion center. For a serious diplomatic enterprise, the mood at the consulate was welcoming and lighthearted. When I arrived, a tango class was just finishing up, and I observed both foreigners and New Yorkers exiting the room together. Wandering around, first in the reception area, I found couches clustered around a coffee table covered with books about Argentina, and a station devoted to Argentine tourism. To one side of the room, an ornate staircase spiraled, one of the only reminders that the main purpose of the consulate lies elsewhere. I then walked into a beautiful wood-paneled room with a fireplace. On display was the work of Argentine photographer Lucia Fainzilber, her ultra-modern prints at odds with the nineteenth century aesthetic of the room.
Patsy’s Italian Restaurant is truly a family affair. It only took a few moments before we were greeted by the many generations of the Scognamillo family: Joe - whose father started Patsy’s in 1944 - stood alongside his wife, and their grandson, Joe Jr. Shortly after, an uncle emerged from upstairs, and then we were joined by Sal, Joe senior's son, and the chef and current face of the legendary Patsy’s. The family-oriented nature of Patsy’s is only part of what makes the restaurant feel like a flashback to a much earlier time. It was noon when we arrived, but the lights were low, and patrons were dressed formally, the atmosphere was hushed with soft conversation happening, glasses clinking lightly and classical music playing in the background. At the front of the restaurant, a bartender in a bow tie polished glasses. Scattered throughout the two floors of the space, the restaurant proudly boasts photographs of an extensive celebrity clientele beginning with Frank Sinatra to Frankie Valli and Michael Buble. For us, the scene was set. How incredibly special it was when Sal invited myself and the members of the Manhattan Sideways team to sit down at a table with him - not only while he shared the fascinating stories of his family's legendary restaurant, but to taste some of the classic Patsy dishes. He was friendly, garrulous, and bursting with quips and anecdotes. Patsy’s celebrates its seventieth anniversary in 2014. An astonishing feat made only more so by the fact that its founder - Sal’s grandfather Pasquale, renamed “Patsy” at Ellis Island - came to the U. S. from Naples in 1928 and spent his first few years driving a Macy’s truck. Later, he became a busboy and eventually was able to open his own restaurant, Sorrento, in 1942. Although short-lived, two years later, he established Patsy’s. By the mid-50s, it was thriving, enabling him to purchase the entire building, doubling the size of his restaurant. In the last seven decades, Patsy’s has borne witness to the multitude of changes that the city has undergone. While we ate, Sal called his dad over to tell us about 56th Street’s ongoing transformation. “Everything’s changed, everything, ” Joe told us, showing us a photo of the block in the 1940s, when the building that now houses Patsy’s belonged to Atlantic Records. "Eighth Avenue was the end of the earth back then, ” he recalled. The street was largely populated by car dealerships, and there was a gas station on the corner of the block. Joe went on to tell us that after its early commercialism, the street became dangerous for a while in the 1980s. Throughout, Patsy’s has endured - a constant in a sea of change. Sal was proud to report that he maintains professional relationships with several of its original vendors, including purchasing its cheese for most of their seventy years, from fellow New York institution, Di Palo. He went on to say that they have employed many of the same workers for generations citing the restaurant’s night porter, an eighty-plus-year-old Argentine man who lives upstairs, as a perfect example. “If you become our friend you’re in trouble, because you’re our friend for the rest of your life! ” Sal said cheerfully. Though it has retained its old-world charm and hospitality, the restaurant has adapted extremely well to the demands of the twenty-first century. Sal maintains an active presence on Facebook and other social networking sites, and frequently appears on cooking shows (to date, he told us that he has been on The Today Show some twenty-five times). In honor of their fiftieth anniversary, they created their own pasta sauce line, and published their first cookbook in 2002. Scheduled for release in 2015, is their second, which features a forward by Ben Stiller. At one point during lunch, Sal hit on the essence of his family’s restaurant, “I attribute our success to the three F’s, ” he said. “Food, family, and Frank Sinatra. ” The first two F’s may seem obvious; the third requires a bit of backstory. According to Sal, Tommy Dorsey brought Sinatra into Patsy Scognamillo’s first restaurant sometime in the early 1940’s, reportedly telling Patsy: “I’ve got this skinny kid from Hoboken you’ve gotta fatten up. ” Patsy’s would become a favorite of Sinatra’s; Sal distinctly remembers bringing the singer in through the restaurant’s hidden side entrance in 1975, when Sal was just thirteen. Today, a statue at the bar memorializes Sinatra, and Joe wears a pin in his lapel that Nancy Sinatra gave him after Frank’s death. At least in part because of Sinatra, the restaurant garnered a bit of a reputation as a gathering spot for old-time mobsters. Mario Puzo reportedly drew his inspiration for The Godfather’s Don Corleone from a series of people he encountered at Patsy’s. When the second Godfather movie was being filmed, director Francis Ford Coppola wanted to shoot a scene where a man is stabbed and then choked to death at Patsy’s front bar. Joe respectfully declined - “You think people want to think about that guy dying at the bar while they’re eating their spaghetti? ”For us, no such images disturbed our meal, as Sal presented us with Veal Milanese (Sinatra’s favorite), Eggplant Parmesan, Spirali Al Filetto di Pomodoro, Artichoke with a garlic and anchovy sauce and a classic plate of Spaghetti and Meatballs. The menu, like everything else at Patsy’s, is old-world Italian, featuring many of the same recipes that the family has been preparing since day one. An extra treat was getting to spend time with Joe Jr. before he headed off to begin his college career. He spoke of his younger brother, Peter, who loves to cook and often helps Sal come up with menus. Joe Jr., however, said that he isn’t interested in cooking, “it is too hot in the kitchen. " He went on to say, however, that he looks forward to managing the business side of the restaurant when he graduates. Sal proudly told us that his boys began working at Patsy’s at eleven, the same age his grandfather before him began. Though he has worked his way up over the course of his seven years at Patsy’s, Joe Jr. says that he still answers to his grandfather - “but that’s because he’s my grandfather, not my boss. ” And then proudly stated, "I wrote my college essay on Patsy’s. "
Located within the lobby of Parker New York (formerly known as Le Parker Meridien) in a windowless room about the size of a New York City studio apartment, burger joint is the definition of a hole-in-the-wall, but only in the most positive sense. From outside burger joint, the only indication of its existence is a small neon burger sign - and, of course, the crowds of people waiting their turn for what has been voted "best burger in New York. " Inside, the walls are wood-paneled with iconic movie posters hanging on them. A back white brick wall has the signatures of celebrities who have eaten at the restaurant - everyone from hip hop artist Talib Kweli to Heidi Klum. The other walls - and even some of the tabletops - are also covered in writing, though these signatures are less recognizable. It is not actually encouraged to write on the walls; rather it was regular customers who noticed the celebrities' signatures and decided to carry on the tradition themselves. The menu is no-frills and written on a chalkboard: burgers, fries, sodas, milkshakes, Sam Adams, a brownie and that's about it. Having opened in 2002, burger joint has gained a "cult following" due to its unlikely location. According to the hotel's marketing person, Marisa, who kindly gave us a tour, she explained that people enjoy the juxtaposition of Le Parker's sleek elegance and burger joint's underground feel. Though its customer base was once mostly locals in the know, today the restaurant is overwhelmingly populated by tourists, including plenty of international visitors. Burgers are part of the American experience, and a burger joint burger has evidently become part of the New York City experience. When I commented to Marisa that I could not believe how long the line was at 3: 30 in the afternoon, she took one glance at the hectic scene before immediately pronouncing, "This is quiet for us. " Indeed, the employees often find themselves churning out up to "1000 burgers per day. "After so many years with only the one location, burger joint has recently begun to expand, opening a (much larger) restaurant on 8th Street along with outposts in far-flung locales like Seoul and Dubai. Marisa told us that there are plans to expand further, but the original location will always have a special place in the city's heart - all 600 square feet of it.
Souvlaki GR provides diners with a small slice of Greek heaven. Amid the decorations, music, and food, visitors can feel as though they have been whisked away to a cozy taverna on the beautiful island of Mykonos. This authenticity is not without reason: Tina Plagos, a first-generation Greek-American who owns Souvlaki GR with her husband, cherishes her heritage. Every summer, Tina and her family return to Greece, where they continue to be inspired with new ideas for their Manhattan eatery. People who visit the restaurant today might be surprised to learn that Souvlaki GR was, initially, a food truck, started by Tina's brother-in-law. Due to its quality and popularity, he promptly won a Vendy Award, which honors the best in street food. Motivated by his success, Tina’s husband opened Souvlaki GR’s first brick-and-mortar location on the Lower East Side. Five years later, in October of 2015, Tina and her husband added the midtown location. The Greek atmosphere begins with the restaurant’s exterior, which is draped with bright pink bougainvillea flowers and tastefully painted in the colors of the Greek flag – Aegean blue and white. Like the traditional tavernas of Greece, the restaurant offers outdoor seating in the warmer months. Inside, the blue and white color theme continues, enhanced by the framed displays, many of which come straight from Greece: One contains several pairs of trendy sunglasses from two fashion-blogger Greek sisters, while another consists of stunning blue evil-eye jewelry that is popular in the Mediterranean, and the third display has worry beads, which are commonly displayed and worn in Greece. In addition to the decorations, the restaurant incorporates Greek design in its layout; there is a small private nook. This is separated from the rest of the dining area by partial walls, giving diners a chance to have an even more peaceful experience in the restaurant’s already-relaxing ambience. The authentic Greek experience begins from the moment one arrives at the restaurant, and continues throughout the meal, as many of the recipes are passed down from family members including the Greek chef’s grandmother. Both locations currently serve souvlaki - small pieces of meat or vegetables grilled on a skewer - in pita wraps. Tina proudly told us that Souvlaki GR receives fresh deliveries of meat and produce every day. Tina went on to say that many of the ingredients are imported straight from Greece - including the wine, beer and spices, and, of course, the extra virgin olive oil, which is from Kalamata. Even the salt on the table, Kalas Classic, is a product of Greece. Tina and her husband's efforts to create a quality cultural experience have not gone unnoticed; Tina has received calls from Chicago, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and Denver asking her to open new locations. While Tina is excited about the possibility of future expansion, she wants to add another location in New York first.