Lower Manhattan Getting Back on Track!

So many people and businesses have suffered terribly because of the coronavirus pandemic.  The leisure, hospitality and entertainment sector in particular have really had a rough run.  But now it seems that people are slowly returning to the office and thus need their daily lunches and morning coffees. 

Indeed, lots more money has been changing hands at New York Pret A. Manger Ltd. Stores, indicating that Wall Street, Tribeca and surrounding area offices are being filled once again.  According to Bloomberg’s Pret Index, “Sales are almost halfway back to where they were before Covid-19 struck.”

This has likely been helped by the requirement of Bank of America and Citigroup to their employees to return to work after Labor Day. In addition, criticism has been lauded on staff members at JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs who are still working at home since it disrupts and weakens company cultures.

And given that Google just announced it is to be buying a Manhattan office on the Hudson waterfront for $2.1bn, this is definitely further indication that people are going back to work from the office. 

The Return of Le Figaro Café

While so many small businesses (which include local coffee stores and eateries) have been shuttered due to the local ‘safer at home’ order, there is one café that is actually making a comeback. 

Le Figaro Café had its time in Greenwich Village way back in the 1960s and boy did it enjoy the good times.  Patronized by famous people including Lou Reed and Sam Shepard, it was heralded as the place to be for beatniks in the area. It stayed opened for a while but in 2008 closed.  Backed by some investors, it is now set for a simplified relaunch, ditching the Le, under the name Figaro Café by partners Mario Skaric and Florence Zabokritsky.

Just before the pandemic hit the partners found a space to house the once much-loved café.  Now that they have returned to check it out they have been offered a great deal for the next two years.

With the culture of the sixties returning thanks to shows like The Queen’s Gambit and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, what better time to get back to that day with a renovated café that will still have its cultural ties in the 1960s.

New Eats in East Village

Chinese hot pot in East Village!  Yes, the Dolar Shop is making its way to the East Village. A new restaurant that has 55 locations around the world has just made its debut here at 5 Third Avenue, St. Marks Place.  According to manager Johnny Sleek, since they see Manhattan as “the center of the restaurant world,” East Village is a great start.  Future franchises are planned for Chelsea and Midtown.

Another new kid on the block is chef Hong Thaimee’s East Village pop-up.  Ngam restaurant owner will be selling home-style Thai food in the East Village using ingredients she grows herself at her Hudson Valley Heermance Farm.

Out and About in SoHo

While the coronavirus is indeed preventing so much of our everyday lives from  happening as it used to, the innovation of policymakers, entrepreneurs and the guy who lives next door is very encouraging.  Here, we take a brief look at some of what is happening in and around the SoHo neighborhood.

First, there was the launch of the Open Restaurants Program, which gives local restaurateurs the opportunity to serve customers outside by having seating in the streets and sidewalks.  Thanks to the Mayor, this has become a permanent measure and will mean that people will still be able to enjoy eating out in a safe environment.

What’s also nice about it is that it has given other individuals – who ordinarily might not have offered food choices – to open up pop-ups.  Plus, as the city hopefully reopens, indoor dining capacity could go up to as much as 50 percent as we move into winter. However, in the meantime, there are ways to make the outdoor areas not so cold – such as electrical heaters – under guidelines De Blasio outlined at the end of September. Any propane used will require a New York City Fire Department permit. All of these measures have enabled over 10,000 to reopen across the city with the help of architectural innovations and local governmental support.

For those who want to try one of these corona-safe eateries, one example is the Vestry.  The new restaurant was opened by Shaun Hergatt in spite of coronavirus.  He explained:

“It’s about time people celebrate and look for something positive. I want to have an outlet where you can go away from the craziness and get back to some normality for a while.”

Using locally-sourced fresh fish, Hergatt focuses on the simple approach which he learned growing up in Australia.  As a boy he would go fishing with his grandparents and then grill the catch!  Likewise at Vestry he uses binchotan charcoal giving the fresh fish a smoky flavor.  Other items on the menu include chicken, beef, caramelized onion rice and more.

Manhattan and Below: What to Do, What to See, What’s New

On August 27th those in the Long Island neighborhood can get out and enjoy some Italian fare.  Piccola Bussola is offering delicious Italian food while having comedians entertain its patrons at 159 Jericho Tpke., Mineola.

Movie lovers can still enjoy film festivals thanks to the Tribeca Film Festival that is thinking out of the box and hosting the event through a drive-in outlet in lower Manhattan.  And then of course there is the Skyline DriveIn that is offering a host of movie choices as well as mini golfing!

More is happening in the area too.  New to NYC’s SoHo neighborhood is the opening of Aritzia – a women’s fashion retailer – which will be strictly following coronavirus guidelines and only have 50% occupancy and require face coverings for patrons.

Another recent opening is Kenzo  also in SoHo, on the corner of Mercer and Grand.  Featuring top to bottom mirrors, leather chairs in 1970s draped style, painted metal scaffolding and more, the fashion retailer has French origins and offers clothes and accessories for both men and women.

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!