An inviting gourmet deli for both to-go bites and sit-down fare, Cafe Fresco offers a salad bar, an omelet station, sandwich fixings, "legendary bagels, " and many other options for all sorts of cravings. One of their featured dishes, the eggplant Milanese, is made with oven-roasted eggplants, pesto ricotta and fresh mozzarella. Open windows give each seat a full view of either First Avenue or St. Catherine's Park. When I stopped in with a fellow Sideways member on a brutally humid summer day, we watched the children swinging higher and higher outside at the park as we hid inside from the heat, refueled ourselves, and recharged our cell phones.
Tavern on the Green, a restaurant that opened in 1934, has not forgotten its origins as a home to the ewes and rams that grazed in Sheep Meadow. Images of sheep are everywhere - carved into the fireplace, decorating the menu, holding up the table in the lobby. In 2010, the building ceased to be a restaurant for a brief stint, serving instead as a visitor's center and gift shop. After being taken over by partners, Jim Caiola and David Salama, and a lengthy renovation, the Tavern made a culinary return with a rustic and seasonal menu. I have eaten here on a number of occasions since its debut in the spring of 2014, but strolling in and out of the various rooms with members of the Manhattan Sideways team was a whole different experience. None had ever been, and I was amused and pleased with their reactions to this iconic Central Park locale. The Tavern contains three main areas. In the front dining room, the vast space resembles a summer hunting lodge. A large, circular bar takes up the center with a rotating carousel of gilded horses above it, and mammoth roof beams run along the ceiling like an old mead hall. Separated from the outdoors by a large glass wall, the second dining area is far more modern with creams, ivories and a collection of glass chandeliers. And though it was a hot day, a few brave souls ate outside in the exterior dining space, under umbrellas and large, mid-century street-lamps. The other side of the building features a beer garden with its own menu of simple bar fare. Finally, for the thousands of people who jog, bike or are simply wandering in the park, there is now a delightful little take-away window called "Green-to-Go. " It offers both a breakfast and lunch menu, and tables to sit down, relax and enjoy either a cup of coffee, a bowl of oatmeal, or a variety of wraps and salads in the afternoon. If nothing else, it is a terrific spot to watch both tourists and New Yorkers passing by.
Delle Celle features many respected brands of Italian-fabricated women's clothing, as well as its own line of garments. The pieces are full of color and pattern, with an abundance of styles - there are very few repeats. Walking in, one is greeted by a friendly salesperson, happy to answer any questions. Face-to-face shopping is a vital component of this business, void of an online site. And the integrity and authenticity of the pieces certainly warrants this tactile form of transaction.
"You are now in Bedford Falls, " a sign read in this 67th Street bar, named after a location referenced in the classic movie, "It's a Wonderful Life. " With a bounty of liquor, an arcade golf game, and sports on all the televisions, this bar is the ultimate man cave. A food menu is also offered, including the ever-popular Bedford burger and a nice brunch assortment for the weekend. When I ventured in on a Wednesday night, men in good spirits, many of whom were regulars, occupied the main bar. A more private room featured cushy leather for quieter comfort, and the backroom was complete with high-legged seating and a wooden-booth. Tables appeared to be repurposed beer boxes, and the place was otherwise furnished with whiskey barrels, brick walls, and light alternative music. And through an intriguing walkway, I found myself in the splendid beer garden.
In an effort to bring Zen to the West, the first branch of The Zen Studies Society was established in 1956. New York Zendo was opened in 1968. This temple offers multiple facets of practice including zen meditation, chanting, and Dharma talks, with the mission to awaken all to "inner freedom and true happiness. " The Zendo is one among a limited number of places where authentic Rinzai, one of three main sects of Zen, is practiced. Today, Giun Stefan Streit is the resident minister and Shinge Sherry Chayat, whose name means “heartmind flowering, ” is the abbot. The pair underscore the authenticity of what the temple offers, as NYZ is among the few places where Rinzai — one of the three main sects of Zen — is practiced. Shinge, who encountered the Society in the 1960s when many were “hungry for spiritual experience, ” has applied herself to adjusting the ancient traditions of Zen for contemporary times. To her, “NYZ has always been a hothouse for spiritual maturation. People have gained insight here into what it means to be human, what it means to dedicate oneself to a purpose that goes beyond one’s own small self. ”
Aaron gallery was founded in 1923 Paris by Jean Aaron. Just after World War II, it was taken over by her son, Didier, and formally renamed Didier Aaron. This 67th Street location was opened in 1977. Dating between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, the gallery's art is comprised of paintings, sketches, and a sprinkling of antique furniture. "Just look at it, it is a beautiful space, " explained Alan Salz, director and head of paintings and drawings, and an art history admirer. He was referring to the space and the natural light that the windows allow. Alan was pleased to share with me that he lives only a seven-minute walk from the gallery, enjoying his time in this part of the Upper East Side. "I look for what clients will like, " he told me, "Something high-quality, with an interesting provenance. "
The 67th Street firehouse has endured a lot since its construction in 1887. Initially, the building housed the Manhattan headquarters of the New York Fire department, but in 1914 they moved to Centre Street, leaving behind Engine 39 and Ladder 16. In the 1970s, a proposed expansion of Hunter College included designs to demolish the firehouse altogether. Fortunately, in 1982, the facade was landmarked and its premise was restored and renovated in 1992 for better usability. Today, the building is shared with the police department's 19th Precinct. Dylan, the fireman that I spoke with, expressed pride in the traditions of this firehouse with both its architectural roots and circulated stories, immortalizing honorable men. "There was a man I worked with who had been here for forty-three years, " he explained, "It is great working under men with so much history. " Dylan directed me to a CBS documentary, Lasting Image of 9/11: An Inspiration to Engine 39 and Ladder 16 in Manhattan, which details how one photograph captures the heroism on the devastating day. This department has also managed to have a lot of fun over the years, Dylan said. Founded on bravery and dedicated to saving lives, they are an example of "a living, breathing energy of guys always coming in and out. " Dylan smiled as he continued, "We have a lot of other stories, but many of them are not the ones I can tell. "
Park East Synagogue, also known as Congregation Zichron, was organized in 1888 as an alternative to the Reform Judaism that dominated the Upper East Side. By adopting the English language into its Orthodox services and emphasizing religious involvement of its youth, the temple also helped define American Judaism. Designated a landmark in 1980, Park East Synagogue is a beautiful combination of Moorish and Byzantine style, both relics of the search for an appropriate Jewish architectural expression. A notable detail of the temple is the asymmetry of the twin towers, an uncommon site.
Named after the patron saint of those who heal, St. Catherine's Park is modeled after the Roman Santa Maria sopra Minerva Church that holds the saint's remains with its pew-like play areas and altar-symbolizing flagpole. Renovated in 1996, the park takes up a portion of both 67th and 68th Street, and is frequented by people of all ages. Young children can entertain themselves on the slides, swings or in the sandbox, teens can engage in a basketball or handball game, while adults can find joy running on the track, playing against the tennis wall, or simply seating themselves on a shaded bench. The greenery surrounding this area is maintained by the volunteer-based organization, The Friends of St. Catherine's Park.
Both a space of learning and of performing, Kaufman Music Center is home to Merkin Concert Hall, Lucy Moses School, and Special Music School. The organization was founded in 1953 and receives most of its funding through donations from music enthusiasts. The Merkin Concert Hall has been around since the 1970s and was renovated with the rest of the building in 2007. Vocal and acoustic performances of classical and new music send resonating sounds throughout the spacious 450-seat room, with its well-lit stage and impressive grand piano. Each year, the concert hall hosts the Ecstatic Music Festival, which presents one-night-only artist collaborations from across the spectrum. The Special Music School is the only public school in the city to offer music as a core subject to its gifted students, and the Lucy Moses School offers a variety of classes in music, dance and theater. "Lots of people will come back to play here as an adult having taken classes as children, " explained Communications Director Joan Jastrebski. In the summertime, the classrooms turn into musical theater workshops where specific age groups work with writers and choreographers to develop a performance for their final recital. Because every good show needs its props, a team of designers gets together to go over every last detail. Alex, one of the interns, shared with me the story of how the team scurried around to fabricate a prop microphone out of tape and foam when one went missing from the set, only to find it moments from show time. "What is exciting about the center is what people are doing, " Joan added when she took me to watch little ones dance passionately to playful music in the Ann Goodman Recital Hall. She also allowed me a peak into one of the private practice rooms on the third floor where Genya Paley, who had been with the center for over three decades, was giving a piano lesson to a young boy. "Yes, right, " said Genya as the child played each chord individually, "Now put it together. " The lovely harmony that followed exemplified the intersection of practice and performance.