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Gem Spa Bodega Transforms Into a schitibank

Gem Spa Schitibank
All Photos By Gail

If you’ve passed by Gem Spa, the legendary East Village bodega that is home to the city’s Best Egg Cream (#BestEggCream) at any point since September 11th of this year, you may have done a double, or even a triple take. We know that St. Mark’s Place has become increasingly gentrified, but is Gem Spa now a bank, or wait, what is going on here, exactly?

Gem Spa Schitibank

While it has been rumored that a citibank is slated to take over the corner lot which has been home to  Gem Spa since 1957, fear not: this an art installation meant to draw attention to, but also satirize, the phenomenon known as “Disappearing New York.” It isn’t very pretty.

Disclaimer text running across the bottom of the sign above reads:

schitibank has kept the historical appeal to this building to absorb their customer base. This schiti location is not affiliated with any other schiti locations. We don’t mean to gentrify, as schitibank is co-opting this space with Gem Spa to bring you an authentic banking, egg cream and vaping experience. Every customer is on surveillance cameras. Smile, you’re on camera.

Schitibank Storefront

The Gem Spa Schitibank installation is the work of Tommy Noonan and Doug Cameron of boutique marketing firm DCX Growth Accelerator, who are known for their ‘Artisanal’ publicity stunts (Google them and be very impressed).

Gem Spa Schitibank
Click Image to Enlarge So You Can Read the Fine Print!

God is definitely in the details here. Promotional posters for the ‘bank’s’ various perks and services include artwork by Robert Mapplethorpe as well as the likenesses of The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.

Gem Spa Schitibank
Click Image to Enlarge for Detail

Gem Spa Schitibank

Schiti Identity Theft Madonna

More posters and props can be found inside the bodega!

Schitibank ATM
Schiti ATM!

Gem Spa Schitibank Exterior

We clearly do not need another bank in the village (or anywhere in NYC, for that matter) but we do need a cool bodega that’s been around forever, and we need our delicious egg creams! Gem Spa is located at the southwest corner of 2nd Avenue and St. Mark’s Place. Drop in and drop some cash next time you’re in the hood. Better yet, make a special trip to visit, so you can see the schitibank installation before they take it down!

Gem Spa Schitibank

Update, May 8th, 2020: Sadly, Gem Spa has fallen victim to the Coronavirus Outbreak. Read the Press Release After The Jump

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Vandal Restaurant Launches Pop Art Gallery in its Vestibule!

Vandal Pop Gallery
Image Source for Above Photo. All Other Photos By Gail.

Opening an art gallery inside a restaurant may not be an entirely original idea, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen more often. In fact, I think it’s a spot-on idea whose time as arrived! In a thrilling and logical partnership, TAO Group and Pop International Galleries have joined together to create a new art gallery in the vestibule of Vandal, one of the coolest contemporary pop art-themed restaurants and lounges in New York City.

Front Gallery Walls
Art by Dom Pattinson (Left) and Flore (Right)

It’s worth noting that Pop International Galleries’ home base is located just a few doors down the street from Vandal, and the Pop gallery inside Vandal features works by a select handful of popular street artists that the gallery represents. Along with original artworks by UR New York, Sean “Layercake” Sullivan, Flore, Dom Pattinson and RESO, a portfolio of ten very affordable, signed and numbered limited-edition prints by this group of artists are on exhibit and available for purchase.

Post Continues After The Jump!

Continue reading Vandal Restaurant Launches Pop Art Gallery in its Vestibule!

Love Cafe & Bar: Russian Home Cooking Comes to Kips Bay!

Love Cafe Interior
Interior Photo Courtesy of Leigh Cort. All Food Photos by Anne Raso.

If you are a lover of Russian comfort food who thinks you have to hike it all the way out to Brighton Beach to taste Perogies and Chicken Kiev “like Grandma used to make,” then you will flip for Love Cafe and Bar, which recently opened in Manhattan’s up-and-coming Kips Bay neighborhood to astoundingly positive Yelp Reviews. And that says so much right there, because those Yelpers can be brutal.

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Big Smoke Burger Opens Flagship Store in Chelsea

Big Smoke Burger Storefront
All Photos By Gail

Do you like Burgers? I sure do. Burgers have been a bit of a Thing for a while now, so there are many different places competing for your money when you want a red meat fix. There are a few places scattered around the city that I frequent, and each does something special with the simple culinary pleasure that is the hamburger. Now, I am adding a new favorite to that list.

Burger Prep

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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Orale Mexican Kitchen

Jaritos Wall
“Pop Art”: Illuminated Wall of Jarritos Soda. All Interior Photos By Gail, Most Food Photos By Anne Raso

Hey do you like Mexican Food? I sure do. While there’s always been a dearth of authentic Mexican – or even the revered California Style Mexican – cuisine in Manhattan (and, let’s be honest, in the entire tri-state area) the Upper West Side has a new contender for at least a Top Ten List fixture with the arrival of Orale Mexican Kitchen, which has been open for just under a month.

Skull on Wall

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Midtown Foodie Find: B & Co.

B and Co NYC
Exterior Photo Courtesy of B & Co. All Other Photos By Anne Raso. Click on any Image to Enlarge.

It was really by accident that we ended up at B & Co. on East 58th Street. Earlier in the day, plans called for us to dine on the lower east side, but electrical problems at that establishment saw our reservation moved to midtown. And what a fortuitous change of plans that turned out to be, because our meal at B & Co set a new bar for delicious food and very fine service in midtown Manhattan.

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A Sad Day in the East Village: Restaurant 7A Closes for Good

7A From Across the Street
All Photos By Gail

Oh MLK Day, I took myself out to the “Weekend Brunch” at 7A — my favorite local Brunch spot and a restaurant I’ve frequented for the twenty years that I’ve lived in this neigborhood. The word is out now that 7A — cleverly named for its location on the corner of Seventh Street and Avenue A — will shut its doors for good at the end of January. My waitress told me that the owner is moving to California and just wants to sell the property off and be done with it. And that’s just shame, because 7A was the best.

7A Counter

When I first moved to the East Village and didn’t know many people, I hung out a lot by myself. One of my favorite things to do in those years was to visit 7A on the weekends for their delicious brunch, sit at a table by one of the windows and just watch people walk by. You could not buy better entertainment than that. But 7A has always been about so much more that good Freak Watching. The prices were always very reasonable, the food excellent (their guacamole-laden Mexican Burgers featured better ground beef than you find in most steak houses) and plentiful (I never left hungry) and the service friendly and efficient. 7A was a colorful local hangout where you could just be yourself.

Ceiling Fan and Mural

7A was, out of necessity, renovated and redesigned a couple of times over the past two decades, but it never lost its character.

Mural By The Bathroom

California Omelet Brunch

This is the massive meal I had for Brunch on my recent, and perhaps final, visit. A California Omelet stuffed with refried beans, cheese and tomatoes and topped with their delicious homemade guacamole, accompanied by Green Salad, Crispy Home-fried Potatoes and Seven Grain Toast. Brunch also included Coffee or Tea and a Cocktail (In this photo, I am about to enjoy a Screwdriver, which, as you can see, is tall enough to get you buzzed). This feast costs only $14.95, which means that with tax and generous tip you get more food than you can barely stuff in your face for about $20. What a bargain!

7A Illuminated Sign

With the way things come and go in NYC and the rate at which landmarks and beloved establishments are being swept aside to be replaced by another fucking Starbucks, sentimentality is, perhaps not surprisingly, in short supply around here. Because you just can’t afford to get too attached to anything anymore. And while the loss of 7A is hardly as emotionally and culturally devastating as the closing of The Kiev, I will miss it.

I’m not sure what 7A’s final day of business will be (the 31st is a Thursday) but you might have time to grab one more famous Weekend Brunch if you step on it. Goodbye 7A and thanks for all the memories. I hope your staff finds good new employment!

Brunch Sign

The Last Brunch