Sakagura, a hidden Japanese restaurant and sake bar in Midtown Manhattan is one of our favorite hidden gems. We’ve highlighted it before for its quirky bathrooms that are in the shape of oversized sake barrels, but the entire restaurant is deserving of its own feature. First, it’s one of those places that you have to be in the know because the entrance isn’t right on the street. Open since 1996, Sakagura is located in the basement of a nondescript Midtown office building, past the security desk and through a pristine white marble lobby. Go down the stairs and into the entrance, and suddenly you feel as if you’ve entered a Japanese village.
The food desert that characterized the Upper West Side restaurant scene for much of its history has been replanted over the last few years with with an amazing array of options. These days you can find most any cuisine and at almost any price level. One result is that restaurants are often packed—on a beautiful evening it’s possible to walk the length of Amsterdam Avenue, for example, coming back up Broadway or Columbus Avenue while spotting nary a single empty table.
We lay out a few of our favorites here, even as we mourn the many that have closed since the last time we did this, with our guide to Eating Well on the Upper West Side of Manhattan: 10 Moderately Priced Restaurants. But know that there are many more. If you get turned away from one, just head next door. We start at the northern fringe at Manhattanville, head through Morningside Heights and down to Columbus Circle, taking an expansive definition of the Upper West Side.
For many shoppers, the frozen food aisle is the place to go for cheap TV dinners and boxed pizzas, to be reheated on nights when the effort to cook or go out is too great. But at Babeth’s Feast, frozen food is given a gourmet makeover. In fact, the store pretty much only sells frozen foods, for the most part. The Upper East Side location opened about a month ago and is essentially one big frozen food aisle–but don’t expect to find any Stouffer’s microwavable meals lining the walls. Spinach and goat cheese quiche, bacon-wrapped scallops, and lobster wellington are just a some of the available options that require nothing more than a little time in the oven to prepare. (more…)
Starting Thursday, The Feast of San Gennaro–the annual event that has taken place in Little Italy every September over the past 88 years–will begin again for two weeks. The Grand Procession will take place on Saturday, September 13th with Mayor Bill de Blasio as Grand Marshal. The three main streets for the Festival are Mulberry, Hester and Grand and the activities will run from 11:30 am to 11:30 pm (midnight on Fridays and Saturdays).
Right on the corner of Grand and Mulberry Streets is the Italian American Museum. This corner of Little Italy is as significant to Italian-American Heritage as the Feast itself. It was on this corner in 1885 that the “Banca Stabile” was founded by Francesco Rosario Stabile. Banca Stabile was much more than a bank to the immigrants.
Can you believe it’s been 20 years since the TV show Friends premiered? We still think that some people who visit New York City wander around looking for Central Perk, the iconic corner coffee shop hangout. They might even have dinner at Little Owl, at the corner of Bedford Street and Grove Street where the fictional cafe was located.
In honor of the 20th anniversary, Warner Bros. and Eight O’Clock Coffee are installing a pop-up Central Perk in SoHo for two days. Gothamist has pointed out the noticeable lack of rugs in the recreation, while we think the rather dreary Second-Life looking renderings mostly indicate a cafe full of stuff to buy, which isn’t surprising given that Warner Bros. Consumer Products is a partner in the event.
We’ve eaten in parks before but eating with “Wildman” Steve Brill is a slightly different experience. The self-titled “Wildman” leads foraging tours of New York area parks, part of his mission to promote urban agriculture and sustainable eating.
Brill came to the public’s notice in the 1980s. Arrested by NY Parks Rangers for eating a dandelion, he parlayed the charge into a full-time job as the official Parks Department naturalist, leading the same tours that led to his arrest in the first place. Since going freelance in the ’90s, the “naturalist and science geek” continues to lead tours, both to the public and for school field trips. He’s also published three books on wild eating, consulted for the Parks department and advised several New York chefs on sustainable ingredient choices.