Half a Decade of ‘Putting the South in the Mouths’ of Murray Hillers and More – Review of Brother Jimmy’s BBQ

BY BETH KAISERMAN

181 Lexington Avenue (btwn. 31th. and 32nd. Streets)
Murray Hill
212-779-7427 / brotherjimmys.com/

Brother Jimmy's Celebrating Five Years in Murray Hill

Brother Jimmy’s Celebrating Five Years in Murray Hill

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ in Murray Hill celebrated 5 years this August with a feast for the eyes, ears and belly. The BBQ chain has been around since 1989, but the Murray Hill location offers the “best combination of fun and quality,” CEO, Josh Lebowitz, said.

Since it’s a large space, people tend to eat and then enjoy drinks at the bar afterward, he said. Last week that scene was just part of a summer-style bash, complete with pork, booze, and a three-hour block party on Lexington Avenue that started at 4 p.m.

As a band inside played bar hits like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” guests outside enjoyed a whole hog served up by Chef Eva Pesantez, along with rib tips, corn, popcorn and cotton candy. And even though it might have been a little early for Journey, a wide variety of people enjoyed some free eats to kick off their night.

Simone Martins was on her way home with her husband and kids when they discovered the party. After all, the smell of smoky BBQ always signifies a great time. Though it was “a little spicy,” for her taste, Martins said it was a nice surprise after a day at work.

The typically bustling Murray Hill was rewarded for its devotion to Brother Jimmy’s, a neighborhood staple that’s obviously generous enough to show their appreciation. Cheers to 5 more years, and many more beers!

 

Other Brother Jimmy’s locations in NYC include the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Union Square, Midtown West, and a West Village to-go spot.

Brother Jimmy's BBQ on Urbanspoon

What’s On… East 20th Street? (between Broadway and Park Avenue South) Gramercy

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Gramercy

Gramercy Tavern may make this block a cut above these days, but before the famed restaurant called East 20th home, Theodore Roosevelt did.  Stop by the Teddy Roosevelt Museum on this block and take a tour of the house in which he was born.  The site pays homage to the life and times of America’s 26th president.   The aptly named Performance Studio also called E 20th home at number 23 and saw a very green Ramones play their first show in 1974.  Today, E 20th Street between Broadway and Park is a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of Broadway and the high-society feel of Park Ave.  Great food finds without the crowds or the attitude await!

 

900 Broadway – Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

Its entrance is basically on E 20th, a catty-corner door facing neither E 20th or Broadway.  Beecher’s makes its own cheese, hence the name of the store, but also carries a variety of other artisan cheeses, salumi and anything else you’d like to go along with the two.  Stop by The Cellar downstairs to indulge in Beecher’s famous mac and cheese or a selection from their dinner menu.  Don’t forget the wine… and more cheese.

 

27 E 20th Street – Rohm

Rohm Thai sits down a few steps from street level just enough to duck out of sight and keep Rohm a quiet spot where you can bring a date.  The music is fun and upbeat, and the food and pricing right in line with other Thai offerings.  Though most may find it rather un-sensational, those who dig it are loyal and come back for more time and time again.

Rohm on Urbanspoon

 

 

Rohm’s exterior

Rohm’s exterior

29 E 20th Street – Mizu

It’s Japanese and Thai at Mizu, whose menu sports all the basics (with options heavier on the Japanese side) and can call itself a solid spot when you’re in the neighborhood.  Don’t expect a glorious experience here, but do expect consistently fresh fish and reasonable rates at this area go-to.

Mizu Sushi on Urbanspoon

 

30 E 20th Street – No Idea

This dive on E 20th is a favorite of the after work crowd, the cheap doubles (or so) served in a pint glass will leave you feeling fine after a tough day at the office. Find your name on their calendar and you’ll feel like it’s your birthday when your name is the chosen one for the night – drink free from 5-11 and bond with others who share your namesake!  A pool table rounds out the experience and most agree this is a solid neighborhood kind of place.

E.20thSt

A margarita pizza @ La Pizza Fresca

 

 31 E 20th Street – La Pizza Fresca Ristorante

La Pizza Fresca flaunts the membership rites of being only one of two restaurants in New York City to be part of the VPN (La Vera Pizza Napoletana), a rigorous membership process which includes the training of pizza chefs and a strict ingredient list whose components can only be imported from Naples.  If pizza isn’t your thing, indulge in the seafood dishes from seasoned chef Alessandro Cargiolli, a native of famed seafood region of Liguria, Italy.

*Think this place couldn’t excel in anything else?  Wine Spectator has awarded La Pizza Fresca a Best of Award of Excellence every year since 2001.

La Pizza Fresca Ristorante on Urbanspoon

33 E 20th Street – Moore Brothers Wine Company

Moore Brothers stands a cut above the rest with an attention to fine wine from France, Italy, and Germany.  The owners import and select all wine directly from the vineyards themselves, ensuring a quality bottle (with reasonable price tags to match) every time.  A friendly, knowledgeable, and down to earth staff round out the oenophilic experience.

*Other locations include a close-to-Philly New Jersey locale as well as one in Wilmington, Delaware.
36 E 20th Street – Parea Prime

Parea Prime takes classic Greek specialties and the American steakhouse and makes them their own, pleasing everyone at your table with its something-for-everyone offerings; attentive service and a pleasant atmosphere round out the overall pleasing experience of dining here. Try the grilled octopus and the zucchini tempura to start!

Parea Prime on Urbanspoon

40 E 20th Street – Flute

Ok, so the Champagne bar thing is kind 90s but Flute manages to own the theme and bring it home with a knowledgeable, friendly staff and a well thought out champagne list.  Small bites are offered and can be hit or miss so come early or late depending on the type of celebration.

*In Paris?  Visit Flute’s third location near the Arc de Triomphe.  This location touts a “New York” lounge atmosphere.

Flute Gramercy on Urbanspoon

 

41 E 20th Street – Mari Vanna

The interior @ Mari Vanna

The interior @ Mari Vanna

Mari Vanna’s opulent decor will take you to your babushka’s house (the one who still lives in Moscow) complete with black and white family photos, floral wallpaper, and knickknacks.  The classic Russian specialties here like their borscht and pelmeni will warm you heart and soul, while their selection of Russian and house infused vodkas keep you toasty on a cold winter night.

 

Mari Vanna on Urbanspoon

 

42 E 20th Street – Gramercy Tavern

For nearly two decades Gramercy Tavern has been the gold standard for new American fare and supreme service in New York City.  The seasonal pre fixe menu curated by executive chef, Michael Anthony is timeless and poignant, creating a meal that will surely transport.

*Pre order a copy of the Gramercy Tavern cookbook (being released later this year) to enjoy some of the classics at home! 

Gramercy Tavern on Urbanspoon

 

43 E 20th Street – Veritas

The wine list at Veritas is not merely a list, it is a collection.  The collection of Park B. Smith, a textile entrepreneur, accounts for much of the wine list at Veritas and is yours to peruse while you enjoy the offerings of executive chef, Sam Hazen.  The kind of experience you should expect at Veritas doesn’t come cheap – for a more affordable option grab a seat at the bar and snack on a selection of sumptuous contemporary American small plates.

Veritas on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

Anassa – A First Glimpse

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Anassa
200 E 60th Street
212.371.5200/anassataverna.com
Midtown East

 

Inside Anassa

Inside Anassa

Anassa opened its doors to the public for the first time Friday.  A Greek Taverna with a prime spot on Third Avenue across from Bloomingdales. Hungry shoppers (expect a ladies who lunch vibe) will be a contributing factor to the mid-day customer flow here – especially with moderate prices right in line with the area and it’s attractions (entrees averaging at the $26 mark).  The Grecian space in the former Brasserie 360 location transports with plenty of windows, marble, and flowing white curtains.  The fashion forward crowd here will certainly enjoy the prime people watching of Third Avenue through the walls of windows the space sports.  An especially airy upstairs dining area doubles as an event space with its own ouzo bar.  

Anassa’s bartenders are engaging and knowledgeable, the marble bar top they stand behind, the perfect spot to try a glass of Greek wine while you wait for a table.

Greek staples like dolmades (stuffed cabbage with rice), lamb chops, and skordalia (potato and garlic dip) dot the otherwise seafood heavy menu – just the way I like my Greek.

Anassa Taverna on Urbanspoon

What’s On… 44th Street? (Between 8th and 9th Avenue)

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY
What’s On… 44th Street? (Between 8th and 9th Avenue)Try to ignore the proximity to the Theater District, Times Square, and Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar.

44th Street between 8th and 9th is just off the beaten path enough to have some good dining and drink options along with a rich history in the film and recording industry. This block was once home to offices of 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, and Record Plant – the recording studio that revolutionized the recording industry, where Jimi Hendrix recorded Electric Ladyland and where John Lennon recorded “Walking On Thin Ice” the day he was shot and killed.
701 8th Avenue (@ 44th Street) – Smith’s Bar
Open from 7 am to 4 am every day (why even close?), Smith’s Bar is a staple in on the 8th Avenue landscape and we hope it will remain that way.  Locals and theater-goers alike frequent Smith’s for a good time, every time.  Live music Wednesday through Saturday adds to the appeal, but a word to the wise: stick to the booze here.

Smith's Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

310 W 44th Street – Ça Va
Todd English serves the Theater District well at Ça Va, a French brasserie serving as the restaurant for the InterContinental Hotel, meaning so-so hotel decor and 3 meals a day.The dinner pre fixe is your best bet and a great way to try out some of the more interesting menu options for the more adventurous diner.  Don’t expect accommodating service – it seems the staff is happier daydreaming about that standing ovation they’re hoping for after their next stint on Broadway. 

Ça Va Todd English on Urbanspoon

315 W 44th Street – Birdland.
Although not the original location, Birdland on 44th Street still gets it right after 63 years proving that it doesn’t matter what street the doors open onto, Birdland will always be the premier spot for all things jazz.  There’s not a bad seat in the house, so grab a seat and enjoy the southern inspired menu while listening to some cool jazz.

Birdland on Urbanspoon

W 44th Street – Gyu-Kaku
This Japanese BBQ Chain gets two thumbs up for reasonable pricing and a run place to take the kids.  A menu geared toward the American taste bud
is what has made this place such a success around the country (know your audience, right?) along with the experience of grilling your own food right at the table. It’s not authentic, but who cares?  You’ll have a great time with nearly anyone you bring of any age (except maybe the food snob in your life).

Gyu-Kaku on Urbanspoon

321 W 44th Street – New York Beer Company
This pretty massive bar near Times Square features fluctuating beer prices featured on a ticker board.  Prices go up with popularity,
but it seems like even the least popular selections are selling for more than we’d like to pay for.  Most try to ignore the gimmicky theme and agree that this is actually a decent neighborhood hangout, if Times Square is your ‘hood.
 *Come early and snag the table with its own tap.

New York Beer Company on Urbanspoon

339 W 44th Street – Smokey Burger
This recently opened burger shop sports organic burgers piled high with organic toppings.  Options range from beef to ostrich and lamb, but with average prices hitting the $17 mark before even a side of fries some are looking around at the fast casual setting waiting for even the tiniest slice of truffle or hint of foie gras to justify the prices.

339 W 44th Street – One Thai Chef
It would seem that the above restaurant and One Thai Chef share more than an address – what does the same owner mean for these two new restaurants?  Only time will tell; but my advice is that they both lower their prices – stat.

352 W 44th Street – Etcetera Etcetera
Etcetera Etcetera stands a bit apart from the other mundane pre-theater options in the area with a neighborhood feel despite its proximity to Broadway and the Theater District.
The menu reads to please – something for every taste with standard Italian favorites at reasonable prices.  The pasta will satisfy every time, but most locals suggest leaving this place to the out of town crowd.

Etcetera Etcetera on Urbanspoon

 

Harley’s

356 W 44th Street – Harley’s (f.k.a. The Irish Rouge)
The second of two locations for Harley’s (the original located in East Harlem), this newly opened BBQ haunt features a surprisingly large menu of cheap-o BBQ. A $14 dollar brunch special including two drinks might just be the best deal on the block!

Harley's Smokeshack on Urbanspoon

357 W 44th Street – Reunion Surf Bar
Don’t miss the understated entrance of Reunion Surf bar on 44th St.  This bar, named after a tiny volcanic island off the coast of Africa which happens
to be a prime locale for catching serious waves, serves surf inspired cuisine (think Hawaiian surf shack) that would satisfy any hungry dude or dudette.  Some complain that this place isn’t what it used to be, now that the shubees have taken over.

Réunion Surf Bar on Urbanspoon

358 W 44th Street – Don Giovanni
Ok, so it’s not the best you’ve ever had but you’ll find something for everyone at this red sauce Italian serving all the basics including pizzas and heroes.
Geared toward the out of town crowd due to its proximity to Times Square, it might just work if you don’t know what you’re missing elsewhere.

Don Giovanni on Urbanspoon

358 W 44th Street (Upstairs) – The Producers Club
This storefront rental space for off-Broadway productions features 5 theaters and a downstairs bar/lounge area.  Here, you’ll find a wide variety of shows from Shakespeare to comedy to the Avant Garde.  The digs could use some updating, but most agree it just adds to the charm.

630 9th Avenue (@ 44th Street) – Marseille
Around since 2001 Marseille has been supplying Hells Kitchen with dependable French fare with an emphasis on the cuisine of its namesake port city.
Brunch is the standout, especially during the summer to take advantage of the prime 9th avenue people watching.  Executive chef and partner Andy D’Amico
seems to have taken over the block (of 9th Avenue) with restaurant openings at every store front. (See: Nizza and Five Napkin Burger).

Marseille on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

Home of Manhattan’s Best Banh Mi Sandwich – Review of Sao Mai

BY ELENA MANCINI

203 First Ave.
East Village
(212) 358-8880 / Sao Mai 

East of the East Village bustle and trendiness, this family-run East Village Vietnamese restaurant serves traditional Vietnamese fare and the best Banh Mi Sandwiches on the Manhattan side of the East River.

Vegetarian Bahn Mi

Available in six varieties including pho, sliced pork, grilled chicken and vegetarian, these sandwiches make a quick, nutritious, flavor-packed meal that’s easy on the wallet (priced between $6-$7). The Bahn Mi are prepared on baguettes are consistently fresh and crusty with a soft and chewy middle. Independent of the filling you choose, the kitchen always strikes the right balance between bread and ingredients. Their vegetarian Bahn Mi is among my favorite comfort-food lunches. Prepared on two warm halves of choice baguette, they’re stuffed with toothsome strands of sauteed bok choy, straw mushrooms, seedless cucumbers, shredded carrot and abundant swaths of cilantro, the sandwiches and seasoned with lemongrass,  sriracha mayonnaise, that provides a subtle and reverberating pitch of complex heat. In sum, it’s a light, filling lunch that delivers high-flavor rewards.

Pho’ Sao Mai

Front: Summer Rolls; Far: Spring Rolls

Lest one think Sao Mi is just about Bahn Mi, flavor mavens and fans of traditional Vietnamese fare will find other  sections of its menu will prove well worth exploring. The Pho Sao Mai will not disappoint. A flavorful broth, rich in tender strips of brisket, sprouts, rice noodles and a medley of herbs will consistently hit the spot. Adding appeal to  Sao Mi’s attractions is its steal of a lunch menu, which includes the choice of an appetizer, entree and a soft drink, all for $10. Sweetening things further,  both the Bahn Mi and the Pho are included in this deal!

Ga Gary – Chicken Curry

With a wide variety of vegetarian options on its menu, Sao Mai is also a smart choice for a low-key dinner that guarantees value, quality and flavor. Pity that wait staff has not yet mastered the walk-in dinner crowd on weekends. During these times, the  friendly service  can turn into a source of frustration for those who do not suffer extended waits and uneven food delivery times lightly.

Sao Mai on Urbanspoon

What’s On… 2nd Avenue? (between 77th and 78th Street)

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

What’s On… 2nd Avenue? (between 77th and 78th Street)
Yorkville, Upper East Side

2nd Avenue gets a bad rap these days, with construction of the 2nd Ave subway underway those who don’t live up in Yorkville would rather stay away.  Keep the small businesses alive in their time of need and make the trek, there are still some great food finds to be visited.  While you’re in Yorkville, stay a while – visit the beautiful Gracie Mansion for a tour or relax in Carl Schurz Park, overlooking the Hell Gate section of the East River.

1481 2nd Avenue – Lenny’s
This NYC lunch chain serves a wide variety of sandwiches for any taste, making Lenny’s a solid choice for a workweek lunch.   Be prepared for a wait during busy lunch hours, and keep an eye on whomever’s making your sandwich – with so many options they’re bound to make a mistake on yours.

1483 2nd Avenue – Vero
This wine and Panini bar is best known around the neighborhood for their Monday special featuring a free Panini with purchase of a drink, but the other menu selections are solid choices for any other day of the week.  Be sure to try a glass of one of their specialty sangrias – they’re not only delicious, but may help you stomach the vivacious (read: loud) atmosphere inside the tiny space.
*If you like this uptown location but the trek is a bit much – try their Midtown location at 2nd Ave and 53rd Street

Vero on Urbanspoon
1484 2nd Avenue – Al Forno Pizzeria
Pizza is the way to go at this family friendly Italian.  Although gourmet pies aren’t what they’re after, Al Forno serves a solid pie cooked in the brick oven on premise. The friendly, neighborhood atmosphere paired with reliable pizza is what gives this place 2 thumbs up with the locals – and that’s all that really matters for business!

Al Forno Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

1485 2nd Avenue - Brother Jimmy’s
It’s “Bro J’s”, fondly to the regulars who pack the place most nights, but don’t expect much class at this UES location of NYC BBQ chain Brother Jimmy’s where the liquor runs freely until you get kicked out cause you’re causing a scene.  The food will do in a pinch, but it’s not the food that brings most back for a rowdy good time.

Brother Jimmy's BBQ on Urbanspoon

1486 2nd Avenue – Uva
Uva is the perfect first date spot if you’re looking to romance your date over fine Italian wine and food. Most menu items pay homage to the motherland (Italy, of course), using either homemade or imported direct from the source ingredients. The bruschetta is a can’t miss, just don’t get caught sharing a plate with someone other than the date you took to Uva last week!

Uva on Urbanspoon

Pastrami on Rye at Sable’s

 1489 2nd Avenue – Sable’s
It’s all about the smoked fish at Sable’s.  You can’t go wrong with the smoked salmon, or the lobster salad, a sweeter version than found on your classic lobster roll.  Pricing beats the competition from the Upper West Side or the Lower East Side, so most find the trek up to Sable’s worth every stop on the 6 train.

Sable's on Urbanspoon

1490 2nd Avenue – Doc Watson’s
Head to Doc Watson’s for brunch or to catch a weekend afternoon game.  Burgers or eggs benedict are always a safe bet here; otherwise it’s just standard pub fare.  The evening crowd can get a little fratty, so unless you want to get up close and personal with the polo team stick to the day shift!

Doc Watson's on Urbanspoon

1491 2nd Avenue – MXCO
When you’re in the neighborhood and craving Mexican, MXco is a solid choice, every time.  Service that makes you feel like you’re at you’re abuela’s and margaritas that will knock you flat keep the neighbors coming back but most agree that portion sizes aren’t in line with pricing.
*Try the braised short rib taco!

 
MXco on Urbanspoon

1492 2nd Avenue – Vermicelli
Vermicelli is a favorite with the locals, for comforting Vietnamese dishes at comfortable prices. Try the chicken with ginger and scallions in honey sauce (Ga Xao Gung), a favorite at Vermicelli or the grilled pork chop (Suon Nuong), a house specialty in many restaurants featuring Saigon food.

Vermicelli on Urbanspoon

1494 2nd Avenue – Lusardi’s
Lusardi’s has been a neighborhood staple since it first opened in 1982 and regulars have been visiting ever since.  Worthy of a special occasion, Lusardi’s service is top notch with prices to match.  While the menu options aren’t there to wow you, Owners Luigi and Mauro Lusardi have been at it for 30 years and they stick to what they know works.  An extensive Italian wine list rounds out the meal, but not before setting you back a few $$.

Lusardi's on Urbanspoon

1496 2nd Avenue – Bocca East
With a slightly more updated menu than Lusardi’s next door, Bocca East appeals to the younger set of UES patrons with a clean, wine cellar esque design sense and even a late night menu.  Best for some wine tasting from their considerable list paired with a few select antipasti, Bocca East will impress almost any date.

Chef gives ‘off the cuff’ lecture on his love for Italian cooking – Event at 92Y Tribeca

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Rons Suhanosky's Spread

Chef Ron Suhanosky eats pasta with tomato sauce almost every day.

Suhanosky, who opened Sfoglia on the Upper East Side and in Nantucket with his wife, released his second cookbook, The Italian Table, this past fall.

In a lecture Thursday at 92Y Tribeca, he discussed his love for Italian food and gave some cooking advice.

After working for years in New York City restaurants, including River Cafe and Il Buco, Suhanosky wanted to return to his passion for down-home Italian food. Inspired by his travels in Italy, he realized it was time to be “more off the cuff,” he said.

Last month he opened Nonna’s Table, 163 E. 92nd St. which offers specialty foods, cooking classes and private dinners. His mother provides the pastries.

Rather than working tirelessly over restaurant recipes, Suhanosky now wakes up in the morning and decides what he feels like cooking for his customers. What he likes, customers will like, he said. It’s all about using the ingredients properly.

“The simpler food is, the more Italian it is, in my mind,” he said.

But one of his favorite melt-in-your mouth delights isn’t from Italy — it’s from Mars.

A bowl of perfectly cooked al dente pasta, fresh tomato sauce, and a bag of peanut M&M’s are the keys to this chef’s heart.

For information on booking a cooking class or private dinner, call 212-831-9200.

What’s On… Amsterdam (btwn 74th & 75th Street)

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Upper West Side

The late 20th century brought with it the rise of Amsterdam Avenue;  becoming one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Manhattan at the time.  Several institutes of higher learning call Amsterdam Ave home, including City College, John Jay College, Columbia University, and Yeshiva University as well as Saint Luke’s Hospital and New York Presbyterian Medical Center.  While the backside of the Beacon Theater (est 1926) occupies most of the block between 74th and 75th streets on Amsterdam, there are some great choices for pre/post theater (or for any time!) on this and the surrounding corners.

167 74 Street – Levain Bakery
Just around the northeast corner of 74th street lies Levain Bakery.  A tiny, decor-less, space (essentially a kitchen fronted by a counter), Levain dishes out some mighty tasty treats (notably their stellar chocolate chip cookie) that are worth the trip no matter where you’re coming from or where you might be headed – unless you might be headed to East Hampton, where they have a second location.

Levain Bakery on Urbanspoon
300 Amsterdam – Josie’s
Josie’s is a family friendly spot, specializing in fresh and organic fare. Best suited for lunch, Josie’s bright flavors and cheerful decor will leave you feeling refreshed.  Some quip the prices are a little steep, but for the neighborhood and a satisfying meal – spot on.
Josie's on Urbanspoon

By Carolyn Onofrey

303 Amsterdam – Freddy & Peppers Pizza
Pizza toppings abound at Freddy & Peppers where you can get just about any craving on top of a pizza pie. Goat cheese, beans, avocado, seafood, and even a ratatouille slice are all the norm here. *try the Chilean empanadas for an added bonus.
Freddie and Pepper's on Urbanspoon

311 Amsterdam – Fusha West
If it’s Asian fusion you’re looking for, then Fusha West is a good bet.  Although prices are what you’d expect for the neighborhood, most agree the decor and service can justify the extra dollar or two tacked on to each dish. *Try the guacamole with spicy tuna and wasabi chips.

Fusha West on Urbanspoon

164 75 Street – ‘Cesca
At the northeast coner on 75th street, ‘Cesca spells solid Italian for the Upper West Side.  A front bar lends itself to ice breaking on many a first date; a precursor to a meal that may just sweep her off her feet for you.  A nice Italian wine list and menu items that you haven’t seen a million times before make ‘Cesca a standby that we hope won’t go anywhere soon. *Like ‘Cesca?  Check out their sister restaurant Accademia di Vino across town.
Cesca on Urbanspoon

NYC landmark Gray’s Papaya closed

GraysPapaya

Gray’s Papaya – 8th Avenue Photo courtesy of www.ronsaari.com

Gray’s Papaya on the corner of 37th street and 8th avenue closed its doors this weekend due to unreasonable rent increases, reports an employee at another location.  The chain plans to reopen this store at another Midtown location, but talks remain in the works as to when and where this will occur.


The three store chain was founded in 1973 by a former employee of the similar chain “Papaya King,” and quickly found its way into the hearts of New Yorkers, serving up hot dogs with a signature snap and frothy papaya, as well as other tropical flavored, drinks.


There wasn’t much else like standing at the stainless steel counter on a hot Summer day, snacking on a few of their dogs while people watching.  I’m sure that I’m not the only one who feels a little saddened to say goodbye to this location on 8th Avenue.

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TAO Restaurant turns 10!

BY CLAIRE McCURDY

42 East 58th Street
Midtown East
taorestaurant.com/

Master Chef, John Villa. <br>Photo Credit: behindtheburner.com

Master Chef, John Villa. Photo Credit: behindtheburner.com

TAO Restaurant (New York) has just celebrated its 10th Year Anniversary on Saturday 10/16, /10, a milestone for a New York landmark which is also the highest grossing restaurant in the nation.

The Tao is a concept found in Taoism, Confucianism, and more generally in ancient Chinese philosophy and East Asian religions. While the word itself translates as ‘way’, ‘path’, or ‘route’, it is often used philosophically to signify the fundamental or true nature of the world.  One might even say: the heart of the world.

Chef John Villa says that TAO Restaurant is essentially at his heart— his pride and joy. –When asked to define TAO’s menu – whether it could be described as Asian fusion, Villa emphatically said that it could not.  He presents classical Japanese and Chinese dishes – he maintains the authentic quality of each cuisine. Villa serves a fine Peking duck exactly the way it would be served in Beijing. Chinese and Japanese guests have remarked on the quality and authenticity of the offerings.  In other words, Asians are just as pleased and impressed with his classic Asian food as are all other diners.

We asked “what really drives you, Chef John?” And he said that it is the creation of top quality food in high volume so that each dish is presented exactly the same, with exactly the same degree of quality, when TAO’s doors open at noon as when they close at midnight.  In other words, no matter how many times a single dish is replicated for hundreds of diners, each version of that dish is the same.  Villa cautions that the restaurant is not a “factory” but a place which serves consistently beautiful dishes at the peak of their perfection.

The story of Villa’s professional background emphases his early love of fine food, his early and youthful apprenticeship, the speed of his rise, the quickness of his ability to absorb and reproduce a wide array of new and classic foods, and, quite simply, his ability to please his eclectic and sophisticated diners.

After training at the age of 19 at the Culinary Institute of America and a brief apprenticeship at le Cirque and Tropical, Villa really came into his own at the Judson Grill. Within months, at the tender age of 24, Villa had earned a title as Executive Chef and two stars from the New York Times, making him a rising star in the culinary firmament.   Villa’s wildly successful reinvention of the Boathouse in Central Park earned him the Times sobriquet “a prodigy” and another two stars from the New York Times. For Villa’s opening of his own Portuguese inspired restaurant, Pico,  he received another coveted star for a total of three stars from the Times, and a stunning accolade: “’John Villa has created his own private Portugal, a fantasy wrapped in a shimmering haze.’”

But it is at TAO that Chef John Villa has become the mastermind behind one of the largest Pan-Asian kitchens in the world.  He is truly an extraordinary, internationally acclaimed master chef.

Coda: Tao features a unique and striking feature– a huge statue of the Buddha.. The Buddha was brought in through the roof with a giant crane before the restaurant opened in 2000.  Some statistics:  Height: 16 ft tall, Weight: 4,000 pounds,  Material: Wood;  Origin: Designed by Thomas Shoos; carved in Thailand.

We asked, “Why did Chef John decide to import the giant Buddha into the restaurant?”  Villa said .  “The effect on diners is wonderful. The Buddha creates an incredible cultural and possibly spiritual ambience. “   Villa says it always is a pleasure to be there—“everybody loves TAO.”

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