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Posts Tagged ‘West Village’

A cloudy fall Manhattan afternoon

In beauty, behavior, cities, life, urban life, US on October 26, 2012 at 12:03 am
English: McNulty's Tea & Coffee - located on 1...

English: McNulty’s Tea & Coffee – located on 109 Christopher Street . This is one of my favorite stores. Go!! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I take the subway south to Christopher Street from Grand Central Station.

Across from me on the train is a lean, tall, attractive woman in her 40s, maybe 50s. Not an ounce of body fat. Her male companion is equally attractive, equally lean. She’s wearing white skinny jeans tucked into low red suede boots. His hair is salt and pepper, very well cut.

Tourists.

There are always clues — his messenger bag has an unfamiliar label. They are unusually quiet, speaking so low I can barely hear them, in what sounds like Dutch.

I get out of the subway and cross Seventh Avenue to my hairdresser, whose three-chair salon feels like home. I found him more than a decade ago through my husband, (now bald), who came to him when he had hair and Alex was over on Carmine Street. Now he’s on Grove, in the West Village, my favorite Manhattan neighborhood of all, with its low 19th and 18th century buildings, narrow and cobblestoned streets, sheltering trees, its cozy cafes and well-loved indie bookstores tucked into battered little spaces with pressed tin ceilings and worn wooden floors — a place whose intimacy is best experienced on foot, walking slowly, noticing things.

My hairdresser is a classic New Yorker, a gruff guy in his late 40s, maybe early 50s. No bullshit. Someone calls him and starts asking the prices of every possible service. “Are you starting your own salon and looking for pricing?” he asks.

And yet I’ve seen him bend over and offer a gentle, shy kiss to his clients, outer-borough women in their 70s and beyond, one of whom came in a wheelchair with her attendant. Everyone comes to Hairhoppers: trendy young bankers, lawyers, museum curators, a few Uptown blonds. We remember all his assistants, and ask after them, even years after they’ve left, like Brie, who moved to San Diego and got married, and Eddie, who now works uptown, and John.

This day, I’m sharing the space with a state attorney and a retired English teacher. We’re soon deep into passionate conversation about the economy, hard to avoid as we’re all barely feet from one another. There’s no brittle status anxiety here, but one of those rare and special places where strangers immediately feel comfortable, often trading phone numbers after a lively exchange. The teacher and I are talking so much I keep turning my head and Alex gives up cutting. He’s pissed. Chastened, I stare straight into the mirror, and talk to her reflection.

I cross Seventh and head to one of my favorite restaurants, Morandi, to eat outside, even though it’s gray and drizzly. A man with two sons sits nearby, someone famous in a baseball cap, but I can’t remember who.

A blond man in a T-shirt is pacing the sidewalk, on his cellphone, deeply disturbed. “But can he sing? I have to find an arranger, and book a studio and I don’t even know if he can sing. He can’t?”

A man in a black suit, carrying a garment bag, joins his companion behind me. Lawyers, one of whom seems to want to change jobs. “If Romney wins, my heart just won’t be in this work anymore.” They discuss the machinations of the Senate. Can’t tell if they mean state or federal. I love eavesdropping, and look as though I’m reading a book, which I also am.

Two Town Cars pull up, waiting, rain-beaded. A handsome stocky man exits the restaurant with his son, maybe 11, his blond wife with her $1,200 Stella McCartney handbag, and another woman. They jump into the Town Cars and drive away.  I wonder how the world appears to a young boy for whom so luxurious a life  — a $50 lunch, an idling limousine and driver — is routine, expected.

I stop into Greenwich Letterpress to sigh over the beauty of their work, and pick up a price list for their business cards. The samples offer many familiar names, of writers, designers, photographers. I finally feel a bit like a New Yorker, knowing who they are. They’ll charge $340 for 250 cards. Hmmm, is every contact I meet worth $1.36?

I suspect it would take me more than a year to distribute that many cards. In today’s melting-ice-floe economy, who knows which professional identity I’ll be using by then?

Running late for my 3:20 train, I cab it to Grand Central and am so late I have to buy my ticket on the train — paying double the price, punished for my tardiness. In the space of six hours, I’ve spent more than $250, grateful I can afford it right now.

Manhattan often feels like an expensive lover who, exquisitely and charmingly and with great certainty of purpose, shakes your pockets empty.

I dive into “Canada”, Richard Ford’s new novel, as the Hudson River flashes by on my left, the fall colors muted in the mist.

Eating Out In New York City? Go Here

In business, cities, design, food, travel on January 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm
This is actually Tom's Restaurant, NYC. Famous...

Tom's Diner, UWS, immortalized by Seinfeld and Suzanne Vega...Image via Wikipedia

Check this out — a new downtown Manhattan restaurant that will totally change its decor and menus every month.

That space has special meaning for me and my sweetie of eleven years, for in it we had our third date when it was a French bistro named Le Jardin. We loved eating in its grape-arbored backyard, a rustic rarity in downtown Manhattan.

Here’s a list of favorite New York City restaurants from one of my favorite blogs, Eater NY.

Some of my own hangouts made the list; I’ve lived just north of NYC since 1989:

Bars

Old Town Bar. Noisy and crowded in the evening, but great for a quiet lunch. Founded in 1892, its booths are battered and worn, like stepping into a sepia photograph. Head up the narrow steep stairs for a quieter experience in the restaurant upstairs.

Dublin House. Dive bar! Great jukebox. An unlikely find in the pricey upper West Side.

Fanelli’s. Love its heavy etched glass doors and narrow bar. Like Old Town, it’s more than 100 years old, so go for the setting, not the food.  Stop in for a Guinness as you stumble through Soho.

Temple Bar. Look for the small glowing lizard inset — no sign! — into the wall on Lafayette Street. This bar is a tiny, intimate jewelbox. Perfect for a romantic date. Dress up!

The King Cole Room. A drink will cost a small fortune, but worth it for a taste of true old-school elegance at the St. Regis Hotel. Savor the gorgeous Maxfield Parrish mural behind the bar that gives it its name.

Cafes

Cafe Cluny. Tiny, perfect, neutral colors. Not cheap but worth it.

Cafe Angelique. Perpetually jammed with bankers and European tourists, this pretty spot has good food in an interesting neighborhood, the West Village. Fuel up here for your shopping on $$$$$$$ Bleecker.

Caffe Reggio. Crammed with NYU students at its small tables, it’s the perfect spot on a cold winter’s afternoon for a cappuccino and cannoli. Opened in 1927, its ochre walls are covered with art.

Grey Dog. The best! I love its rustic interior, friendly staff, comfy tables. Settle in with your NYT and savor.

Restaurants

Gramercy Tavern. The room is gorgeous, the service elegant, the food delicious. Still thriving after 17 years!

La Grenouille. I had lunch upstairs last year and it was one of the loveliest experiences ever. Hushed, old-school, formal, delicious, expensive. Founded 49 years ago, it has an elegance hard to find and one to cherish.

Toloache. This three-year-old Theater District Mexican is one of my absolute favorites. I love their small, freshly made margaritas, their delicate hand with portion sizes and sauces, friendly service. I love the look of the two-story room, with its hand-painted tile mural. This is high-end dining, not boring old fajitas/tacos/burritos.

Red Cat. Few restaurants in Manhattan last, but this one has. Red Cat is welcoming, warm, lovely to sit in and offers great food at reasonable prices.

Morandi. One of Keith McNally’s faux-aged see-and-be-seen spots, I love it anyway. Sit at the bar and enjoy one of the city’s best spaghetti carbonaras.

Balthazar. Another McNally spot, opened in 1997. Heaven. Huge room, high ceilings, stylish crowd, great food. As close to Paris as you can get on this side of the Atlantic.

Cafe Boulud. We recently treated ourselves to the three-course prix fixe lunch ($35 pp) with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone for $28. The room is calm, quiet, lightened with antiqued mirrors and crisp, bright watercolors. The service is excellent, the food lovely, presentation fab — my vitello tonnato came on a slab of slate, my banana/ice cream dessert de-constructed into three pockets of a white china dish. Can’t wait to go back.

New York Noodletown. Cheap, delicious, cheap, delicious. The white plastic tablecloths and line-up of people eyeing your table reminds me of all my favorite (hometown) Toronto spots on Spadina.

Daddy-o. I just discovered this 12-year-old tiny little corner restaurant with a great burger. Any restaurant lasting more than a decade in Manhattan is doing something very right!


What are your New York favorites?

Manhattan — With A Cane

In cities, travel on May 29, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Bleecker Street, the old one — the bit that runs east-west is the place to be. Many benches, like every block. Two lovely little pocket parks right at 6th. Avenue. Whew!

Being able to sit down and rest is a blessing, and a rare one in Manhattan. It’s either that or fall to the pavement, not a good look.

Everyone was nice, wishing me the best, wondering why a relatively young-looking woman is clicking along with a cane; the arthritic hip is out of control, a knife twist almost every hour this week, so I finally said the hell with it and took it with me into the city today. Now carrying three kinds of pain relief in my bag: patches, cream and gelcaps of Advil. So fun.

The city is full of tourists for the holiday and lots of sailors in their gorgeous, crisp whites because it’s Fleet Week. Plenty of street parking as everyone flees — I waited for 10 minutes while some poor local wrestled a surfboard onto the top of his already-crammed minivan — to claim his West Village spot.

Distances, certainly in the Village, aren’t far so I managed to have lots of fun within a six-block radius: found a summer cologne for the sweetie at Avignone, a terrific old, privately-owned pharmacy; bread at Amy’s; coffee and tea from my favorite purveyor, Porto Rico; a haircut; lunch at Cafe Angelique and an Asian dinner at a sidewalk table.

A Legendary Manhattan Street, Ruined

In business, cities on May 3, 2010 at 7:50 am
NEW YORK - MARCH 20:  Cars are parked near the...

This is what's left of the real Bleecker. Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Hey, if you love Marc Jacobs, you’ll love the new, shiny Bleecker Street, that odd dog-leg of a street that starts out running north-south in the West Village before turning east-west. He’s got five stores on this strip, leaving some street-lovers, like me, mourning the old Bleecker.

I’ve been loving that street since I moved here in 1988, but have watched its hideous yuppification over the past decade with dismay. Nusrati — that crazy corner emporium of jewels and tunics and rugs, out — Ralph Lauren store, in.

Gone is the great Japanese store, several antiques stores, bookstores. Now it’s all faux hipsters and cell-phone-photo-snapping tourists thrilled to be able to shop all the Big Name Designers they can find at home in their malls in Shanghai and Rome and Tulsa, but still cop a Magnolia Cupcake a block away.

Reports The Wall Street Journal:

Other retailers that recently signed new leases and are open or expect to be operating soon include: menswear shop Freemans Sporting Club, French retailer A.P.C. and a bookstore from fashion designer Marc Jacobs—his fifth shop on this stretch of Bleecker. Molly’s Cupcakes and Echelon Cycles have also closed on deals.

Even the William Gottlieb estate—the area’s largest private landlord and one with a reputation for letting leases expire and stores remain vacant for an extended time—is aggressively courting new tenants. It recently hired brokers Ripco Real Estate and CB Richard Ellis. Spokeswoman Lin-Hua Wu says the estate “has signed a number of new commercial and residential leases in the past several months.”

Not everyone, of course, welcomes the influx of retailers. The makeover of Bleecker’s once sleepy stretch of antique shops, pet stores and dry cleaners began when Marc Jacobs arrived in 2001. Even before the area’s newest retailers open their doors, they are already generating angst among long-time West Village residents.

“I hear more complaints about gentrification than about the boarded-up stores in the neighborhood,” says Kim Herzinger, owner of Left Bank Books, who decided to relocate his shop to Eight Avenue from West 4th Street off Bleecker after his lease expired in January.

When the lease for a Laundromat or deli expires and is handed off to a fashion accessory shop, residents complain their quality of life suffers. “Everybody misses the services,” says Marilyn Dorato, a local resident who presides over the Greenwich Village Block Association. “You can’t get a pair of shoes repaired around here anymore.”

If you’ve never heard it, play “Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.” by Simon and Garfunkel, on which they memorialized the street in this beautiful ballad:

Fog’s rollin’ in off the East River bank
Like a shroud it covers Bleecker Street
Fills the alleys where men sleep
Lies the shepherd from the sheep
Voices leaking from a sad cafe
Smiling faces try to understand
I saw a shadow touch a shadow’s hand
On Bleecker Street
A poet reads his crooked rhyme
Holy, holy is his sacrament
Thirty dollars pays your rent
On Bleecker Street
I head a church bell softly chime
In a melody sustainin’
It’s a long road to Caanan
On Bleecker Street
Bleecker Street.

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