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The Secrets of Getting Your First Bar or Restaurant Space in Manhattan

Wassail owners Benjamin Sandler and Jennifer Lim
(Photo: Arman Dzidzovic/Commercial Observer)

When Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim began seeking space for their second venture, Wassail, a bar devoted to cider, they considered Hell’s Kitchen, Flatiron, West Village, the Bowery and the Lower East Side. This was last spring, though the couple (in business and life) had cider in mind for years. The Queens Kickshaw, their bustling coffee/grilled cheese/craft beer spot in Astoria, opened in 2011 with three ciders on offer. As the fermented fruit drink surged in availability and popularity, their list of ciders grew and then cider propelled every vacation, every trip and everywhere they went for any reason.

An early but unrealized courtship with an interested investor ignited the dream of operating in Manhattan. At the end of 2013, Ms. Lim and Mr. Sandler partnered with Sabine Hrechdakian, one of the organizers of Cider Week NY. And the hunt for real estate across the East River was on.

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Rent Is For Suckers! Restaurateurs are Buying Instead of Renting

28 Seventh Ave South, from an old Elliman listing

When chef Galen Zamarra, his business partner Eric Blinderman and their eight other investors opened Mas (farmhouse) at 39 Downing Street in 2004 they held a 10-year lease with no renewal option. And that was fine.

“Ten years seems like the end of time when you’re 24,” said Mr. Blinderman, referring to the then-age of many of the owners. “But in the course of a business it’s a blink of an eye.”

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Buddhism for Dinner


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Birth: Farm Egg with Beets, Soy Milk, and Spices

What is it about Buddhism that inspires cynicism? Perhaps it’s the challenge of taking seriously an orange-clad, head-shaven drum circle wedged between the farmers market, Lululemon and Whole Foods at Union Square. Perhaps it’s the surrounding maxi-dress-and-fringe-clad Meatless Monday shoppers who galvanize pessimism. Or is it the discomfort of ignorance?

Many of us know Buddhism as a sort of intersection of free time, yoga and vegetables. Well, yoga is arguably Hindu. And vegetarianism is not a mandate for every Buddhist. That’s the most important thing we learned last week, the first of a series of revelations. Another: Those orange robes originally came from saffron and turmeric dyes.

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Midnight Breakfast in NYC

image from line, somewhat unexpectedly, ran down West 118th Street. It was ‘round midnight at Minton’s, where icons like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk entertained the slick and in-the-know from 1938 into the ’60s. A fire in the building closed the club in the early ’70s. Its most recent resurrection in 2013 by Richard Parsons, former chairman and CEO of Time Warner, and chef-restaurateur Alexander Smalls draws nonstop crowds for its acclaimed musicians and the kitchen it shares with one of the city’s hottest dining destinations: The Cecil, but never in the after-hours tradition. Until now.

The lure? Breakfast. Of the ham-and-sunnyside-up-egg-with-fig-jelly-on-a-biscuit variety. In other words: carbohydrate and nostalgia-rich, American-style comfort.

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Whitney Museum Opens May 1, NYC

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On May 1, four years after breaking ground and seven years after initial designs were released, The Whitney Museum of American Art opens its new space at 99 Gansevoort Street, the site of a former meatpacking facility. The museum’s first iteration—Whitney Studio, a place for artists created by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1914—was located at 8 West 8th Street, just a few blocks away. In the new structure's lobby-level gallery, Whitney herself can been seen lounging on a divan, welcoming the eyes of the press who visited the site this week in anticipation of the official opening.

image from complete story on Whitney Museum Sees Fame and Glory Before May 1 Opening

The Ever Changing Face of Times Square

image from the clock approached midnight on Dec. 31, 1903, a tradition was born: a New Year’s Eve bash at the intersection of Seventh Avenue, Broadway and 42nd Street, then known as Longacre Square.

The year 1904 began with fireworks from the roof of the in-construction new headquarters of The New York Times: 1475 Broadway (the first ball drop was 1907/1908). At the time, the 25-story 1475 Broadway was among the tallest in the city, and the world. A few months later the city renamed the intersection and the soon-to-open subway station below for the building (and business) above: Times Square.

“This is the Great White Way, theatrical center of America and wonder of the out-of-towner. Here midnight streets are more brilliant than noon, their crowds on ordinary evenings exceeding those of large town carnivals,” reads The WPA Guide to New York City, in 1939.

Last month the city announced a record 56.4 million visitors in 2014.

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Valrhona Hits Sweet Spot in Dumbo

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Valrhona, the chocolate producer whose name is a nod to its head office location in France’s Rhône valley, relocated its U.S. office and next month officially opens l’École du Grand Chocolat, a school for professionals and enthusiasts, at 222 Water Street in Dumbo.

The 93-year-old company opened a local office in 2008 at 45 Main Street in Dumbo. But the 1,200-square-foot space had one significant deficit: no kitchen. Valrhona is well known for supporting customers with instruction and inspiration; it has training facilities at its headquarters, as well as in Tokyo and Versailles, France.

The two U.S.-based corporate chefs, however, had to rely on temporary locations, often lacking necessary equipment. “You can’t do an ice cream class without a blast freezer or proper storage,” said Sarah Kosikowski, pastry chef.

check out the excellent custom signage

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Buenos Aires: Steak in Translation

image from “carne” in Buenos Aires and everyone will hear “beef”. The significance of steak in Argentina is so paramount that poultry and pork barely register as “meat”. And that’s just the start of the language of “bife”. We’re not saying skip the cordero (lamb) but here’s a guide to ordering the cut you want.


Read complete story at A Meat Lover’s Guide to Buenos Aires


Other Vocabulary Basics:

Parilla: a grate over direct heat (aka: a grill); a restaurant specializing in food cooked on a parilla

Parrillada: a combination grill platter that may include the likes of chinchulines (intestine) and criadillas (testicles). Go for it at least once – the time you don’t want a straight up steak - and share.

Chimichurri: an herby (usually parsley), garlicy, peppery, vinegary condiment that’s tasty with, well, everything.

La cuenta: the bill

Phone Free in Tokyo

image from was once usual, and before that unavoidable, smart-phone-free travel is now counterintuitive to the prevailing conventions of travel. But even in a city like Tokyo, famous for its illogical street map, can be navigated by noggin alone. This isn’t a challenge (you’re already reading guides and contemplating locale in preparation anyway; remember districts; take notes). This is a call to look around instead of down, to connect with the locals, and actually minimize frustration.


Read complete story (and other mini city guides) in Afar's March/April 2015 issue, or at Our Favorite City to Wander without a Phone


One more tip: Make Use of Your Manners

You don’t need a full bow to get someone’s attention or assistance - a nod of the head will do, following a sumimasen (excuse me), and after every encounter - but employing local manners will be reciprocated multifold.