Tag Archives: Manhattan

On restaurants loved and lost: Florent (and Odeon)

Here are a number of pieces on two great downtown Manhattan restaurants: Florent and Odeon. Florent has been closed for a number of years. But Odeon lives on, happily. What I love about both restaurants is how the embodied that era and how they both set a stage. You can see that in the pieces below about them. Florent in particular was a radical place that was like no other, right down to their menus and promotional material (like the one above).

When they both opened the lower part of Manhattan had nothing like them. There was no gentrification down there like there is now. They were an oasis of good food, good design, and good times.

To really get a sense of that, read Restaurant Florent Takes Its Final Bows – The New York Times.

For more on the design ideas around Florent, see: Restaurant Florent | Restaurant Design in New York, NY — Memo Productions

A short history of the space Florent occupied is written about here: What remains of a Gansevoort Street restaurant | Ephemeral New York

Lastly, here is it’s Wikipedia write-up: Florent (restaurant). It’s a good source of other links on the place.

Before I forget, this is a fun piece on The Odeon: A Retro Haven That Defined New York 1980s Nightlife | Vanity Fair.

Also worth reading. Now go and eat at The Odeon.

 

On restaurants loved and lost

The pandemic has been hard on people and hard on businesses. One type of business it has been especially hard on is the restaurant business. So many has closed that it is hard to recall them all. Partially to remedy this, the Times did a piece on them: Remembering the Restaurants America Lost in 2020 – The New York Times

If you read it, you will likely see some you loved. One I always wanted to go to but never got to and now never will was Lucky Strike. Here’s how Julia Moskin recalled it:

Lucky Strike was for us. That’s how it felt in the early 1990s, when I lived in downtown Manhattan and my restaurant priorities were cheap red wine, good lighting and a potent steak au poivre. Lucky Strike was Keith McNally’s first restaurant of his own, and a looser, more fun sibling of the polished, magnetic Odeon in TriBeCa, which he had opened with partners in 1980.

At the time, Lucky Strike’s location was most accurately described not as “in SoHo,” but “near the mouth of the Holland Tunnel,” and its strip of Grand Street was desolate at night. The warmth and noise that it spilled onto the street made it a beacon for locals. We liked that the food was never quite good enough to draw a crowd. We liked that the rough floors and wine tumblers repelled the people who came looking for lychee martinis and tuna tartare. Mr. McNally went on to open bigger, glossier joints that are still with us — like Balthazar, Minetta Tavern and Pastis — and has closed almost as many, but Lucky Strike was the only one that was a neighborhood restaurant, and the only one I’ll mourn.

I was going to NYC a fair bit in the 80s and 90s, and I remember the buzz around Lucky Strike. I thought: that’s my kinda place. That’s the kind of place I want to hit when I get to Manhattan. But while I went to New York a fair bit, the times there were always short, and I never made it.

There are many great restaurants  I have gone to in my lifetime. Some like Lucky Strike were killed off in the pandemic, some closed long before that. Some of them are still on some form of life support, hoping to make it through to the bright side of this dreadful era. I want to write about those places before I forget them, for my own sake if nothing else. Although perhaps you will have the same thoughts reading them that I had when reading about Lucky Strike. If so, that will be good too.

Restaurant reside in the best parts of my better memories. It’s a good time to recall them, write about them here, and group them with the tag #restoslovedandlost

(Images from the New York Times article)

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Is New York dead yet?

Predictions are hard. Predictions about New York City especially so. This one was written a few years ago, and talks about how gentrification is killing NY: The Death of a Once Great City | Harper’s Magazine.

Now in the midst of the pandemic, that economic costs of that will take a bite out of gentrification, which will be nothing compared to the closures that will occur as this disease hangs over the city and the rest of the world.

Whatever happens to New York, be it 9/11 or gentrification or the pandemic, I think the best and safest prediction is to never count it out. Perhaps some far off day New York will no longer be one of the world’s great cities. Perhaps some day it will die off, like many other great cities have. I think we can predict that day is far away still.

So whenever you read about New York dying of one thing or another, take it with a grain of salt.

(Photo via malteesimo)

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Invisible cities: the eruv of Manhattan

What’s the eruv of Manhattan? Well according to the article below:

The eruv encircles much of Manhattan, acting as a symbolic boundary that turns the very public streets of the city into a private space, much like one’s own home. This allows people to freely communicate and socialize on the Sabbath—and carry whatever they please—without having to worry about breaking Jewish law.

Here’s a map of it:

You might think that it is hard to believe such a thing could last for long, but as this piece shows, it is diligently maintained.

I found this fascinating. There’s many interesting aspects of New York, but this is one of the better ones. For more on this, read: There’s a Wire Above Manhattan That You’ve Probably Never Noticed

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Friday night cocktails: the Bronx

What is a Bronx cocktail? David Lebovitz explains:

Not as famous as its “other borough” cousin, the Manhattan, the Bronx is a fruitier, lighter alternative to the rough-and-tumbler whiskey-based cocktail. However one sip and you may find yourself visiting the Bronx a little more often!

I’ve had one recently and it’s delicious. Get your ingredient list, here: Bronx Cocktail – David Lebovitz Bronx Cocktail recipe.

 

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It’s winter in New York. You don’t want to be outside. So go see these places.

Yesterday I showed you how to cry in New York. Today I want to show you how to enjoy New York when the weather is less than ideal. The best way to do that is to be indoors. And the best way to enjoy the indoors in New York is to visit the most beautiful interiors in New York City

P.S. If you are a fan of New York like I am, then ny.curbed.com might be for you too.

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What are the best places in New York City’s to cry in public?

Yes, it is an odd list. And yes, you might not find it useful. But read it. Make notes. You will find some wonderful places in NYC as a result. Even if you never plan to cry in public: New York City’s best places to cry in public, mapped

(And if you do plan to cry in public in New York, you are now all set!)

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A bold maximalism


Meanwhile a bold maximalism is achieved here, not so much by the amount of items as by the amount of bold colours and prints used throughout the place. It’s still not a big place, but it feels right. I guess that is all relative, but I love this.

For more, see This Manhattan Home Feels Like a Jewel Box | A Cup of Jo

(Image a link from the above article in A Cup of Jo)

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On the super tall and skinny buildings popping up all over New York City

New York City has had skyscrapers for a long time. A new twist on the skyscraper is the super skinny ones popping up all over Manhattan. There’s plenty of reasons for that, and the Guardian well documents that, here: Super-tall, super-skinny, super-expensive: the ‘pencil towers’ of New York’s super-rich | Cities | The Guardian.

I don’t particularly like them, but like all buildings, I am sure they will grow on me over time. They seem too featureless. Their main feature seems to be the thinness. That hardly puts them in the same class as the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building.

Regardless of your thoughts on them, the article in the Guardian is good.

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How to travel back in time in NYC


One way would be to go to this place: Barbetta. The New York Times has a fine story on it, here: The Elegant Relic of Restaurant Row. Even if you don’t intend to go, you’d be rewarded just reading the piece.

Love that photo by Dina Litovsky for The New York Times. The sign is “made of opal glass. A forerunner of neon, it is the last of its kind in the city…”.  Fantastic.

Two portraits of a great writer: Robert Caro

Robert Caro

I find Caro a fascinating person and this portrait of him in this Paris Review interview is well worth reading: Paris Review – Robert Caro, The Art of Biography No. 5.

It’s worth comparing it to this piece on him in the New York Times that talks about his routine, including how he goes to a separate office in Manhattan just to work and that he wears formal business attire to do so. A rare life writing about another rare life.

The history of a great collaboration: Philippe Starck, Ian Schrager and the rise of the NYC designer hotel

It seems commonplace now, but the idea of hotels having the same cachet as a nightclub seem to me to come about in the 1980s with the rise of Ian Schrager as a hotelier. While he collaborated with others, the partnership he formed with Philippe Starck resulted in some really fantastic hotels, as can be seen in this post: The 21st Century Interior – Case studies – Philippe Starck/Ian Schrager: Designer Hotels – Blog – APID.

Nowadays many of these hotels have changed, but in the latter part of the 20th century they were opening with all the excitement of a new nightclub, which in some ways they resembled.  I remember hanging out in the lobby of The Royalton as it was just getting ready to open, talking to the staff in their Hugo Boss suits, marvelling over the designs of Starck, thinking of how the blue carpet made one feel as glamorous as anyone in the city. Later on I stayed at the Paramount and Morgan’s, each visit made Manhattan that much better.

Recently the hotels have been changing as they have been upgraded. Only The Hudson seems to have retained that earlier quality, it seems. Soon even that will transform into whatever brings in the guests. I haven’t been to The Hudson yet: I must get their before it is too late.

I am not sure if there is a history of great hotels, but if there ever is, I expect some of these places will find their place in it. Meanwhile, read the post on these hotels, and check out The Hudson in NYC while you can.

(Top photo of the Royalton, bedroom photo from the Paramount. Both linked to from the post, which has more great photos.)

 

It’s not that Brooklyn is getting more expensive: it’s that Manhattan is expanding. Why?

Home prices in some of the city’s neighborhoods have not just climbed over the last decade, they’ve blasted off, landed on Mars and found water.

Why? Well, look at where the growth is, and then look at this map of the NYC Subway:

More than other factors, the price of real estate seems  is tied to how easy it is to get back and forth from Manhattan.

That said, I’d be interested to know the story behind the areas of Manhattan that are stagnating.

NYC is never boring.

Source: New York Home Prices | New York Real Estate Price History

On living in Manhattan, by Zadie Smith (a most wonderful piece of writing)

There is so much good about this piece by Zadie Smith that if I started pulling in quotes from it, I would essentially replicate it.  It’s an effortless read, and yet even as I was reading it, I could feel how great it is. I had the feeling of racing down a high mountain on skis, exhilarated and impressed by the beauty and amazed how fast I am going and then it is done.

So, yes, I recommend you read: Find Your Beach by Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books.

 

NYC has a good problem to have (some thoughts and observations)


New York City has a good problem to have: it’s getting increasingly more expensive to live there. In the second half of the 20th century, it had the opposite problem and the question was would anyone want to live in all but small parts of it. Those days are gone, so much so that Manhattan became too expensive for most, which partially led to people moving to Brooklyn. Now even Brooklyn is getting too expensive, according to this: Moving Out of Brooklyn Because of High Prices – NYTimes.com.

It’s not surprising to me: NYC is more desirable than ever to move to. Yet the parts of Manhattan and now Brooklyn that people find too pricey are not the whole city. I expect in a few years from now people will be talking about great spots in Queens and the Bronx and how they too are becoming more expensive.

Globally populations are leaving small towns and rural areas and moving to cities. Cities like New York will be the beneficiaries of this, and will grow accordingly.  Assuming they are well run cities, they will find ways to accomodate newcomers, and the parts that were cheaper will rise in value.

I don’t see NYC getting cheaper any time soon. It will be more what parts of it people live in, and what the housing will look like. I expect you will see more high rises built in places where none were before, and more and more neighborhoods being gentrified.

Here’s to a growing New York.

(Creative commons image from picsbyfreyja)

First bookstores, now restaurants being driven out of Manhattan

This Village Voice article has a run down of a number of great restaurants being forced to close due to the price of rent in Manhattan. Restaurants are following bookstores,  which are also suffering from the cost of doing business in this part of NYC.

I suspect low margin businesses like this will move to the other parts of NYC and away from the big rent/big money sections. It will be interesting to see the migration both of the businesses and the people. Compared to the way Manhattan used to be in the later part of the 20th century, this is a better problem for them to have.

For more on the bookstores closing, see this piece in the New York Times.