SoHo’s Service in the Time of COVID-19

During this challenging time for many, there has simultaneously been a great deal of kindness and goodwill.  At the end of last month, local eatery Chobani Café followed suit.

Offering healthy fare of sandwiches, nutritious yogurts, fresh produce and more, the Café has now become a temporary food pantry for the entire community.  Anyone in the neighborhood is welcome to come and enjoy free food during this hard time.  They are “here to help.”

Following the social distancing guidelines and safety in order to beat COVID-19 the restaurant is open twice a week to hand out free products and support families and workers.  It is now staffed by both volunteers from #BeAShepherd and its regular employees.  The idea right now is to “give back to [the] local neighborhood and donate nutritious food to those in need.”

Opening a Restaurant During These Times

It wouldn’t be the best time to open a restaurant.  When most have closed and only a handful remain for deliveries, the industry has been one of the most hard hit with COVID-19.  But just a couple of weeks ago that’s exactly what Adam Leonti and Paul Shaked did in Little Italy, New York.

Sofia’s Panificio e Vino has opened yes, but not under its original planning.  However, the restaurateur (Shaked) and chef (Leonti) have adapted to the current COVID-19 inflicted circumstances.  They set up a deliver and to-go menu.

Situated on Mulberry Street (where Sofia’s of Little Italy once was – a business run by Shaked’s family) Shaked explained how Little Italy may sometimes “feel like this forgotten corner of Manhattan [but that opening his restaurant there has been “a way to reinvigorate and highlight what is a culturally rich and historic neighborhood.”

Chef Leonti is famous for Leonti in the Upper West Side that closed a few months ago and for the establishment of the Brooklyn Bread Lab.

The Riddler

Looking for a champagne with a difference in the West Village?  Stop on by at The Riddler.  Owned by Jen Pelka, with her brother Zach Pelka, Une Femme is now available.

Jen has wanted to create her own champagne for a long time but from a house run exclusively by women.  Enter Une Femme brand which features the Callie (a rosé California sparkler) and  the Juliette (cru brut).

Following the success of her first San Francisco branch, a year ago Jen opened the second champagne home in the West Village.

Along with the female orientation of the firm, the Riddler also insists on serving champagne exclusively in wineglasses, enabling customers to truly “experience all of the different aromatic notes.

Nolita: Up and Coming in 2020

The Nolita neighborhood (which got its name from being geographically North of Little Italy) is one of NYC’s trendier areas featuring a mod shopping area bustling with designer stores and home-design shops. With street cafes and new restaurants gracing the area, it’s a “must-watch” region constantly in flux.

While rustic, Italian wood-fired restaurant Peasant has been a beloved staple for two decades, at the end of last year ownership was transferred to restaurateur and celebrity chef, Marc Forgione.  Made famous by his creation of rustic, chic environments and farm-to-table cuisine, he seems to be just perfect for the Nolita neighborhood.  Supervising the wine program there is Matthew Conway who has – together with Forgione – been a regular at Peasant for many years.  They are going to be continuing the legacy which was set in place by the old owners – married couple Frank DeCarlo and Dulcinea Benson who are will be focusing on Barba Bianca, their Long Island eatery.

Zooba just opened up too in the area.  A Cairo-inspired fast-food chain is bringing its Middle Eastern street food to the hood in a large Kenmare Street location, offering mint-iced tea bubbles from its self-serve fountain.  Spectacular flashing blue, pink and purple geometric LED light fixtures top the open kitchen.  Menu items include aish baladi, hawawshi among other Egyptian culinary delights.  The attempt by co-founders Chris Khalifa and Moutstafa El Refaey (the latter who is also the chef) to steer clear of Westernizing the eatery seem to have been most successful.

The Revival of Murray Hill?

One of the neighborhoods Below 14th Street that often does not warrant much attention – apart from its easily forgettable nature – is Murray Hill. But Japanese-born chef Takafumi Hayashi might be able to revolutionize that perception or at least alter it on some level.

Hayashi is the chef at Tenho Ramen that opened its doors earlier this summer in Murray Hill.  at first glance, it doesn’t seem any different to many of the other local ramen-serving eateries but delving a bit deeper one finds quite the interesting tale…

For a start, Hayashi is the real deal.  not only is he Japanese but he hails from Kurume which is where the porkbone broth noodles Tonkotsu Ramen first originated in 1937 where the yobimodoshi method is used (the soup pot is never emptied, hence a much richer flavor is developed).

Locals: check out this spot.  Others: check out this spot too!

Creative Cupcakes

Visit the Little Cupcake Bakeshop in Soho for a taste of childhood.

The bakery, which is known for celebrity sightings, offers several unique cupcakes. Remember enjoying the Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars? Try the Good Humor Cake—it’s just like the ice cream, only in cake form.

If you’re craving chocolate, the Brooklyn Blackout’s for you. Named one of the best chocolate cakes in America by Food and Wine Magazine, this moist cake is frosted with two different kinds of chocolate icing.

Of course, what’s cake without coffee? Coffee lovers can enjoy espresso and other caffeinated drinks at the bakery.

Foot High Milkshakes in SoHo

You’ve probably never seen a milkshake like this before. Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer is offering some of the best milkshakes you’ll ever see – and for only $15. They launched the milkshake idea in November, as head chef and owner Joe Isidori  made one for his wife. As he explained, “One day my wife wanted me to make her a cotton candy milkshake, so I whipped something up, put it on Instagram and the rest is history.” Now, Black Tap is offering three main specialty milkshakes for only $15 at its two Manhattan locations. The milkshakes are a foot tall and divine.

Check out the pictures, and run to enjoy! The three choices here below are: Cotton Candy, Sweet and Salty and Cookie milkshakes.

Here are Black Tap's Cotton Candy, Sweet and Salty and Cookie milkshakes.

Charlie Bird Opens in Soho

Charlie BirdCharlie Bird, the new Soho restaurant, from Robert Bohr and chef Ryan Hardy is ready to impress. It just opened a few days ago and shows an amazing food section that is split into five categories. These include Raw, Pasta, Small Plates, Vegetables and Large Plates. They focus on Italian flavors as they describe on their website, they have an “Italian influenced, American executed, and entirely New York.”

They are a very inexpensive place to enjoy, with only one dish over $30. Their win list includes a section called “Shameless Plug” which features wines made by sommeliers who are friends of the house. These include Aldo Sohm of Le Bernardin and Bobby Stuckey of Frasca Food & Wine, in Colorado.

As they describe on their own website,

“The menu comes from New York’s farmers markets, Long Island fishing boats, country fields and the wondrous meanderings of spirited travelers with passionate palates. We’ll be crushing seafood, roasted meats, crazy good wine and creamy espresso. We’ll present a wine list broad enough for you to come by and enjoy wine with us every night or, you can be a baller and order something you can’t get anywhere else in the world. We’re Italian influenced, American executed and entirely New York.”

Zarsha Leo Comes to Soho

Soho has many great restaurants, but up until now they really haven’t been a hot spot for sports bars. Enter Zarsha Leo. Located right in the heart of the district, Zarsha Leo has already shown itself to be quite popular in downtown Manhattan. Now, they are venturing well below that comfort zone.

As CEO Evan Burschkopf explained, “We figured that Soho residents like sports just like residents in any other area, and we wanted to bring a bit of our flavor to the Soho experience. We are eager to see the locals coming out and enjoying what we have to offer.”

And offer they do. They includes 10 enormous, flat screen television sets blaring the latest sports news and activities. They have great food from their ribs and chicken wings to their sweet potato fries. And they even have a dart board and pin ball machine for enjoyment!

Capsouto Freres : A Souffle Sanctuary

If you haven’t been to Capsouto Freres yet in TriBeCa – it’s time to get there. This French bistro that has been dubbed the “souffle sanctuary” of New York City offers amazing made-to-order soufflés.

The restaurant was founded in 1980 by three brothers including Jacques Capsouto. He won’t give away much of his secret recipe, but Capsouto will reveal that he starts his soufflés with crème patisserie, not with the bachamel sauce that many use.

The menu is filled with so many soufflés that you’ll never be bored on a return trip. There are five savory and four sweet soufflés that are hand delivered to your table by Jacques. He actually pours the hazelnut cream sauce into the middle of the crust right at the table, and tops it off with whipped cream for the drooling customers.

Capsouto Freres is well worth the experience. It’s located at 451 Washington Street between Watts and Desbrosses Street in Manhattan.