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?
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.
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).
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.
Click Image to Enlarge for Detail
More posters and props can be found inside the bodega!
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!
Update, May 8th, 2020: Sadly, Gem Spa has fallen victim to the Coronavirus Outbreak. Read the Press Release After The Jump
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.
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 insideVandal 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.
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.
Kips Bay has been a bit of a culinary wasteland, so we love to see any new restaurants opening along that strip of Second Avenue between 23rd and 34th Streets, but to have a great new Russian restaurant owned and operated by a lady like Margarita Abramov — a native of Odessa, Ukraine — who literally cooks recipes handed down to her by her grandmother, Sara, is especially thrilling, because Russian food is awesome. Abramov previously operated the popular and highly successful Sara’s Crepe Cafe in St. Augustine Florida for many years before moving to New York and expanding her menu to include both sweet and savory favorites from her homeland.
Refreshing Homemade Mango Iced Tea is just one of the Tasty Beverages You’ll Find at Love Cafe and Bar
Love Cafe and Bar is an intimate, 18-seat establishment with bright red walls, charming decor, and a neighborhood feel, where you will be treated as if you are a valued member of the family. It’s this level of relaxed and friendly but attentive service which really sets Love Cafe and Bar apart from its peers. Here’s a peek at just a few dishes from their extensive menu which we sampled on a recent visit.
The Olivier Vegetarian Salad ($8.95) is a take on potato salad containing carrots, pickle, hard boiled egg and peas in mayonnaise-based dressing and garnished with plenty of fresh dill.
We love Beet Salad so were delighted with the Vinaigrette Russian Beet Salad ($8.95)sauerkraut, carrots, onions, scallions, pickles, peas, potato and wine vinegar topped with more fresh dill. Super Fresh!
Chopped Liver fans will want try the House made Chicken Liver Pate Platter ($8.95) topped with pomegranate sauce and served with black Russian bread, tomato and onion. The serving is generous enough for the entire table to share.
Margarita’s hearty homemade soups are a highlight of the menu and we sampled three varieties: Both HotandCold Borscht as well as traditional French Onion Soup complete with a thick topping of melted Gruyere Cheese. All soups are priced at $3.95 for a cup and $4.95 for a bowl.
Perogies and Pelmeni (another kind of Russian dumpling) have their own section on the menu and you can’t visit Love Cafe without trying at least one variety! We had the Potato and Fried Onions Perogies ($8.50). These are homemade daily and you will not find fresher Perogies in the city. Don’t skimp on the sour cream!
For my main entree I chose the much-raved about Stuffed Cabbage served with Basmati Rice ($14.95). This dish is big enough to share, featuring two cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a filling of savory ground beef and pork, seasoned with garlic, onion and spices, accompanied by homemade tomato sauce and served with sour cream for topping. While each dish is made to order, the wait is very reasonable and the food is rich but not heavy or greasy. You can really taste the love as well! Other recommended dishes are the classic dish Chicken Kiev (Breaded chicken breast pounded, rolled and stuffed with garlic butter and herbs, $14.50), Veal Schnitzel ($17.95), and Beef Stroganoff ($14.95).
Grandma Sara’s Dessert Crepes are a specialty of the house and we had the chance to try a couple of favorites. The Chocolate lovers choice is going to be La’Belle Chocolate Crepe, drizzled with chocolate sauce and dulce de leche and served with vanilla ice cream ($9.50). So decadent!
Another of Margarita’s specialties is the Crepe aux Pomme et Caramel ($8.95), a warm apple crepe with two layers of caramel sauce that is made individually from scratch with fresh apples! It tastes even better than it looks!
Love Cafe and Bar serves Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch and Dinner. With so many favorite and tempting dishes left to try, we can’t wait for our return visit!
UPDATE JUNE 2017: LOVE CAFE IS NOW CLOSED FOR BUSINESS
The Love Café and Bar is located at 430 Second Avenue (Between 24th and 25th Streets), New York, NY 10010. Hours are 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM Daily.Phone (212) 779-7300 for more information, and peruse their extensive menu at This Link.
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.
Canadian Burger Chain Big Smoke Burger has just opened its flagship store in Chelsea and I recently had the pleasure of being won over by their no-frills approach to creating a big, juicy burger the way you would make one to fire up on your own backyard grill.
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.
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.
7A was, out of necessity, renovated and redesigned a couple of times over the past two decades, but it never lost its character.
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!
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!
It’s a fact that Foodies can get Fickle Fast. Even restaurants that have laser-like focus on a successful culinary groove may need to change things up in the kitchen sooner than anticipated. On a review visit to traditional Mexican eatery Teqaback in the late summer of 2011, this self-proclaimed ‘Taqueria & Tequileria’ was savoring its position as a hip newcomer and was all about promoting a ‘Tacos and Tequila’ vibe that would attract a fresh crowd to its Murray Hill neighborhood. But it wasn’t long before anyone with a Mexican food hankering could find Tacos and Tequila every few blocks. It was clearly time for a re-think, as Teqacame under new ownership, bringing in a new Chef, 28-year-old Steven Cruz (a private catering expert also formerly of the Lower East Side’s Orchard House).
Happy Hour 4:00 – 7:00 PM (Interior Photos By Gail. Food Photos By Anne Raso).
NOTE: This venue has closed as of August 2013
In the twenty five years I’ve lived in Manhattan, I’ve never known there to be a dearth of inventive new restaurants popping up in the trendy Flatiron District. Of course, there’s always room for one more, especially when that place does everything as impressively as Prandial. This American Bistro flaunts an interior that’s a perfect balance of rustic and elegant, and a kitchen expertly helmed by Executive Chef Pierre Rougey (formerly of Raoul’s) – a man whose firm handshake is as memorable as his cuisine.
Old World New York charm abounds in a mix of Industrial materials (check out the iron railings along the perimeters of the raised dining area) combined with vintage decorative flourishes (mirrors, clocks), soft lighting and both table seating and comfy booths. I was a fan before we even ordered. Once I tasted the food, however, it was love at first bite.
The menu offers a full page of enticing starters, so it was hard to chose, but we settled first on the Artichoke Salad ($12), a very creative way to do a green vegetable salad. In addition to frisee, arugula and the promised tender artichoke hearts, we also discovered asparagus, fennel and hearts palm (decoratively shaved into spiral ribbons) all nesting on our plates. A sprinkling of parmesan highlights an emulsified, lemony French dressing that’s a refreshing break from traditional vinaigrette.
We were also tempted by the crispy, luscious Pork Belly ($15.00), served with Haricots Verts, Beet Salad and Pickled Chanterelle Mushrooms (Chef Rougey does all of his own pickling and canning in house). Assuage any feeling of caloric guilt by splitting this dish with a dining companion!
They say that you can tell a lot about a restaurant by how it does Roast Chicken, and Prandial’s Roasted Chicken ($23.00) earns high marks. Served in its natural jus (accented with a hint of Rosemary), with Broccoli and a generous portion of Potato Gratin on the side, the skin on this chicken is so crispy you would swear it had been deep fried. The secret, according to the Chef, is just to close the oven door and keep it closed. Basting, he offered, is the worst thing you can do to a roasting bird if you want a crispy skin that will seal in the natural juices. Remember that when Thanksgiving comes around!
Red meat fans will also flip over the Grilled Ribeye ($35.00), a massive slab of tender beef served with House Fries and Watercress Salad and accompanied by a side of mild Black Peppercorn Sauce. The creamy sauce is Chef Rougey’s way of Americanizing the black peppercorn crusted Au Poivre preparation which, he says, many diners find too peppery for their taste. We suggested that a bit more black pepper could safely be added to the sauce without fear of offending any delicate taste buds. Alternately, you can always ask for a twist or two of cracked black pepper, if that is how you roll.
A side of Cauliflower Gratin ($8.00) baked in an iron ramekin with light béchamel sauce and swiss cheese arrived at our table near-bubbling with an appealing oven browned top. This portion is generous enough to share with a dining companion.
It is not easy to “make room for” dessert after such a feast, but we did our best to sample two of Prandial’s sweet treats (all desserts are $9.00). We were surprised by the decadent deliciousness of the Buttermilk Panna Cotta, served in a canning jar with a sweet Berry Gelee at the bottom and topped with Port Wine-poached Berries. This rich and creamy Italian pudding has a tangy-sweet flavor (think: cheese cake) and a slightly less custardy texture, which we enjoyed very much.
If you are looking for truly unforgettable dessert, order the Banana Upside Down Tart, a phylo pastry and Bananas Foster amalgam topped by bruleed bananas, caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream and garnished with a white chocolate straw. This dessert is huge and, again, perfect for sharing (possibly with several people) after the type of rich delicious meal you are going to be enjoying at Prandial.
We are currently dieting for a return visit.
Prandial is Located at 31 West 21st St. (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), New York, NY 10010. Visit their Website at This link or Phone 212-510-8722 for Reservations.