Minetta Tavern in the Greenwich Village

Keith McNally has done it again: the successful restaurateur of Balthazar, Pastis, Schillers and Morandi has proven to possess the ultimate MT (Midas Touch) with Minetta Tavern, his latest venue.

Minetta Tavern, which he renovated and opened this Spring after with chef-partners Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr is the trendiest bistro in town. Aware that getting a last minute reservation is impossible, my friend and I tried the next best option: pull an early bird to at least get a couple of stools at the counter. We believed 6 pm would be “early” enough. Our bar-dining plan was looking promising from the outside of the premises: no one in sight at that sunny evening on the quiet corner in the heart of Greenwich Village where MacDougal meets Minetta Street.
Little did we know. We pass the antique looking door and enter another dimension (and time zone!) It’s super dark (feels like 10 pm), all tables are taken, people are standing around the entrance and bar area, because, yes, all bar chairs are already occupied with other early diners. I can’t contain my sigh and ask the hostess if New Yorkers started a new habit of having dinner before sunset. “You should see the line we had outside at 5:30.” And that was on a Wednesday. Be forewarned. Or call two weeks in advance, at least while the place is still so novelty. And good.

Renowned food critic Frank Bruni called it “the best steakhouse in the city.” I tried the burger with amazing fries and my friend had a steakhouse-worthy bone-in New York Strip. (My burger was better). The ambiance has the McNally-label all over: out of time ambiance, cramped, noisy, good vibe, all types of people (including some true early-birds from a more mature generation), and friendly service. We connected to Francois, the ex-Balthazar bartender, and thanks to this strategic liaison we managed to fulfill our plan of dining at the counter, eventually.
Minetta Tavern has been around for 72 years, but this historic pub-locale never attracted so many crowds looking for a culinary experience. What is McNally’s secret recipe? A bartender at Pastis once told me he believed it was the dim lighting and cozy atmosphere. “It makes people feel comfortable.”
Comfy indeed. We had a true tavern-esque experience, and it felt extremely surreal to walk out, - steak-filled bellies and a little tipsy-, and be greeted by a mighty shining sun...

113 MacDougal St
Btwn Bleecker & W 3rd St
(212) 475-3850

Bebel Gilberto at the Surf Lodge, in the Hamptons

Southern rhythms are traveling to Long Island’s east end this Sunday. Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto is performing for a select crowd at the charming Surf Lodge, the boutique “shack” hotel in Montauk, the Hamptons’ furthermost outpost. The stage to Bebel’s silky bossa nova tunes will have the sunset as backdrop and an open bar from 5 to 7 serving caipirinhas, the must have refreshing lime drink of summer.
This special event is promoted by BrazilFoundation, a wonderful New York based organization that raises funds to foster the work of hundreds of Brazilian non-profits. Beautiful music in an intimate setting, surrounded by a scenic bay sunset… If you are like me and agree that there is no better way to spend a Sunday evening, there are still tickets available here.

Whatever Works

I just watched Woody Allen’s latest film: Whatever Works at the Angelika, and couldn’t be in a better mood. Thanks Mr. Allen for giving me one and a half hours of sheer “genius" grace. I’m a fan, and enjoyed seeing this 30-year-old script undusted, revived by Larry David (yes, and I’m also a sucker for Curbed your Enthusiasm). This post is not about the movie, even though I obviously recommend it.
To top off that lightheaded feeling that lingers after being intelligently entertained, walking out of the theater was like taking a stroll in the actual movie set. This post is a total boast of my neighborhood!
As an enthusiastic village dweller, I am happy to say that I was very proud to have recognized almost every location (ok, not the ones that were filmed in Queens, - they are supposed to look like Manhattan but just ain’t).
If you are in the mood of living a bit the inside of the “Whatever Works” scenario start out by strolling Chinatown’s Grand Street, walk up Centre Street/Lafayette/Bowery and make a right on Stuyvesant Street.
The corner of Stuyvesant and East 10th is where Melody bumps into the young fellow with the dog. Just a few steps over, at the corner of 2nd Avenue, Melody gets the antique handkerchief from prince-actor-charming. You can find fresh cut flowers and local organic produce twice a week at the farmers market there, right by Saint Marks church, the second oldest church building in Manhattan.
Walk down Second Ave and make a left on 8th Street, also known as St Marks Place. That’s were you’ll find Café Morgador between First Av and Avenue A. That is where Marietta first meets hottie Randy James and schemes to get her daughter and him together (scene pictured above). This restaurant is one of the best Moroccans in the city! Worth a visit. The couscous is delicious, and the atmosphere always lively. To finish off the tour, have a coffee or dessert at Cloister’s Café, on East 9th Street between Second and Third Avenues. The charming garden ambiance is attractive, but unfortunately, the food is not. That’s were Boris gets dumped even before ordering. Better that way. He saved himself from a second bad experience. No one deserves unpalatable food after getting the boot. Stick with an espresso and you’ll be good.

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A new food market is housed at reclaimed archway beneath Manhattan Bridge, by Alexandra Forbes

New York already has its fare share of street markets – the best one being the greenmarket at Union Square. But New York’s newest food market, in Dumbo, will still be a very welcome addition and is sure to make waves.

What’s most special about it is the location. Starting at the end of June, Dumbo’s market – currently held on Sundays on Main Street at the entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park - is slated to be held at the beautiful Dumbo underpass, a space beneath the Manhattan bridge that only recently was opened to the public.

The Archway is a 7,000 square feet tunnel paved with historic Belgian block and boasting 45' height. It sat behind closed gates for 17 years, when itserved as storage space for the city’s Department of Transportation.

The non-profit Dumbo Improvement District has spent nearly $200,000 to bring The Archway back to the public domain Rogers Marvel Architects and Jim Conti Lighting Design were comissioned to provide adequate walkway lighting and benches that incorporate the existing remaining storage brackets. Exposed Belgian blocks form The Archway's base, and lights were used to highlight the graceful vaulted ceiling.

Alan G. Brake recently wrote in The Architect’s Newspaper : “Much of the new programming, including the market, has yet to be formally announced pending city approvals, according to the district, which emphasizes that discussions with public officials are ongoing. (...) The reopening of the historic archway, which is already publicly accessible, marks a significant milestone for advocates who have slowly been reclaiming the urban fabric around the bridge’s piers. The new space would offer a stunning—if provisional—backdrop for the New Amsterdam Market, a project spearheaded by Robert LaValva, a former planner for the Department of City Planning who has evangelized for the role public markets can play as both civic gathering spaces and a key link in the sustainable supply chain. (...) LaValva ultimately envisions a permanent showcase of purveyors that runs year-round indoors and offers a wide variety of goods, similar to the Borough Market in London or Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market."

The parallel with London’s Borough Market is quite relevant. The same way the London Bridge is a crucial factor in the history of the Borough Market and of London itself, the Manhattan Bridge’s opening, 100 years ago, expanded commerce and civic life beyond Manhattan island. If the New Amsterdam market were to relocate permanently to The Archway, the markets would have similar waterside locations under their respective city’s most iconic bridges.

For more information: Dumbo Improvement District’s site.
Images: courtesy of Dumbo Improvement District.

DBGB on the Bowery: bloody rockin’ good

How nice it is… to visit a new spot that you just know in your gut will be sooo trendy, simply because it’s already so good at its awakening. It makes you feel like you own this town. You and another, hmm, maybe 200 “special” people who feel entitled to witness the birth of a NY trademark: a burger joint that’s a gourmet bistro on the happening Bowery Street.
After having sushi at Bond Street, one of the most reliable Japanese eateries in town, I strolled over to Bowery and First Avenue, aware of the first night’s soft opening of DBGB: Daniel Boulud’s Burger joint. First we stumbled on a John Varvatos live band music party at his store, ok, wrong door, a block down. Really? Seems improbable being that there was only an unfinished looking building with a handwritten number on top of a glass door: 299. Yeah baby, that’s it, and we’ve got meat.
I loved it!! We had to try a burger after all that raw fish, and I’m happy to report that I was so happy (medium rare, came rare, but as it rarely happens, the bloody burger was hardly ever so tasty that I didn’t complain) and even gave Daniel a big heads up when he came into the door just before 10pm (not that he noticed really).
I will take a wild guess and say that DBGB stands for Daniel Boulud’s Great (or Good) Burger…
And guess what, it is. I just googled it. I saved you a couple of seconds, ok. Listen, have a burger there. If you feel like something different, have Italian at Gemma at the Bowery Hotel, munch on Spanish tapas at Mercat, have Bond St Sushi, or explore the goodies at the new restaurant at the new Cooper Union hotel. In any case, there are more then 50 beers in bottles, 22 on tap at DBGB. That's more than seventy reasons to have a nightcap there. The bathrooms are gorgeous and the ambiance excellent. What else do you want. I’m just so happy I live 4 blocks away.

P.S: If you are wondering if the name (and even logo) is a homage to the home of underground rock CBGB - which used to be a couple of doors away-, you betcha!

officially open tomorrow ;)

299 Bowery Street, at E. 1st St.

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