Blockbuster! Block Drug Stores Opening Vision Shop Next Door

IMAG0746Samantha Balaban

After 128 years Block Drug Stores will finally get a much-younger sibling when Block Vision Care opens right next door. Carmine Palermo says he expects to open in the former Jack’s Luxury Oyster space by mid-April.

Mr. Palermo’s father, Carmine Palermo, Sr., purchased the iconic drug store in 1962. Mr. Palermo began working at the shop in 1975 and eventually bought it from his father in 1994. When Jack’s closed last year, Mr. Palermo decided to sign a lease at 101 Second Avenue and expand his beloved neighborhood business horizontally. Read more…

Joe’s Pizza Opening On 14th Street This Week

photo (22)Paul-Benjamin Dousset

One of the city’s most celebrated slices is coming to East 14th Street — possibly by the end of the week.

Joe’s Pizza, the slice joint at 7 Carmine Street, has renovated the space that briefly held Naked Pizza and is aiming to open there by Friday.

“Everything is going to be the same. Same sauce, same memorabilia; nothing is going to change,” said owner Pino Pozzuoli.

Don’t expect Joe’s to join the $1 pizza wars: Mr. Pozzuoli hasn’t even thought about changing his prices. “Everything will be the same, so we’ll still have the same prices over on 14th Street that we do here on Carmine Street.” Read more…

Video: A Father and Son Chronicle Life at McSorley’s

Earlier this month, McSorley’s Old Ale House celebrated its 159th birthday. Geoffrey “Bart” Bartholomew has been a barman at the saloon for 40 of those years. His son has worked there on and off throughout most of his twenties.

Mr. Bartholomew moved to New York City from Ohio to pursue a writing career. After struggling to capture the essence of the history-clad, sawdust-covered tavern in form of short stories or novels, he found his voice in poetry. Last year, “The McSorley Poems Volume II — Light or Dark” was published by Charlton Street Press.

Now, his son Rafe —  a writer for the popular sports website Grantland — is trying to tell those kinds of stories in his own way. Having spent most of his childhood at McSorley’s, Rafe feels a special connection to the place. After a three-year absence, he moved back to New York from Los Angeles, and now works as a stand-in for his father every other week, or sometimes even side-by-side with him.

In our video, above, Rafe tells us more about the book he’s writing about the bar.

A Glimpse Inside The Fourth, The Hyatt Union Square’s Brasserie

UntitledDaniel Maurer

Here’s a peak inside the “all-day American brasserie” that the operators of Tocqueville and 15 East are opening on the ground floor of the long delayed Hyatt Union Square.

Named after Paris’s Fourth Arrondissement (and located on Fourth Avenue), The Fourth will occupy one of the city’s legendary nightlife spaces: 76 East 13th Street has held The Cat Club, The Grand, Spa, and Plaid. According to the Hyatt’s Website, the 100-seat room will boast “a café with a European style espresso and wine bar, a 24-seat communal bar and dining space, and a 45-seat full-service formal dining area.”

The menu will consist of “traditional brasserie fare with a modern American interpretation: upscale fare with a continental flair.” The wine program will be overseen by Roger Dagorn, the highly decorated Master Sommelier from Chanterelle, Tocqueville and 15 East, and the cafe will have its own private-label coffee. Read more…

Superstunner: Superdive Space to Become Animal Hospital


Superdive’s infamous Mad Dog Room has really gone to the dogs.

ABC Animal Hospital is leaving East 14th Street and aims to open at 200 Avenue A at the end of next month, said Shirley Yeo, the hospital’s marketing director.

That’s right: after three and a half years of outcry from neighbors, the former home of Superdive has gone superdry.

The animal hospital has been at 532 East 14th Street for about five of the 14-plus years it has been in the East Village, said Ms. Yeo. Its owners had hoped to stay longer, but the building was sold last year.

Ms. Yeo said it would “cost a lot to rebuild the place” at 200 Avenue A, but hoped it would be worth it. “The new space is larger so we’re hoping that will help us do more business,” she said, floating the idea of installing a coffee station, a more accessible pharmacy area and maybe even bookshelves.

It wouldn’t be the first time the storefront held coffee and books: from 2006 to 2008, the onetime Korova Milk Bar space held Rapture Cafe & Books. It was, of course, replaced by Superdive, a rowdy bar that incensed neighbors with its keg service, bottomless drink specials, and a Mad Dog Room that ran afoul of the Department of Buildings. The community board accused the bar’s owners of exploiting Rapture’s liquor license, which had been granted on the condition that it be used only for a bookstore and cafe. Read more…

First Look at Feast, Bringing a Stuffed Bobcat and Nose-to-Tail Dining

Nevada Smiths isn’t the only thing coming to Third Avenue early next month. A door down from the soccer pub, Feast will offer a menu that’s true to its name.

“We kind of want to change the way people eat,” said George Chiang, an owner. And so groups of diners will pick between three tasting menus priced at $35 to $45 per person. One will be a seasonal market feast based on ingredients from the Union Square Greenmarket; another will be a nose-to-tail feast featuring various parts of a whole lamb or pig. There will also be a limited number of la cart options nodding to “American regional food,” Mr. Chiang said last night as Chris Meenan, a former chef de cuisine at Veritas in Union Square, geared up in the kitchen.

“Everything will come out all at once and everyone eats family-style,” said Mr. Chiang. “We want to bring back communal dining.”

Mr. Chiang, whose family owns and manages hotel and motels, is opening the restaurant with Brian Ghaw, owner of Savoy Bakery in East Harlem. They had planned to open Feast uptown until the framing store below Mr. Chiang’s longtime apartment at 102 Third Avenue (his family owns the building) vacated the space after many years.

“We took a hard look at it,” he said of the East Village. “Traffic is… you know, this whole area has been changing the last couple of years. It’s a lot different than it was a couple of years ago.” Read more…

Nevada Smiths Aims to Open Early Next Month

UntitledDaniel Maurer

After a year’s delay, Nevada Smiths now plans to open its new space on Third Avenue in the first week of March.

“We’re 90 percent there, but we’re just waiting on the buildings department to approve everything,” said an employee of the popular soccer bar who didn’t want to be named.

The hope is that the bar will reopen in time for the first round of Union of European Football Associations knockouts, which start March 5. “March is a really big month for soccer,” said the employee, “so we definitely want to have people in to watch the games at our new location the first week of March. That’s what we’re hoping.”

Smiths is currently showing games at Webster Hall, but none appear on the online schedule there past March 7.

The bar closed in November of 2011 to make way for a nine-story building housing luxury rental apartments at 74-84 Third Avenue. (A photo of that construction is below.) It will reopen at 100 Third Avenue, a block away.

UntitledDaniel Maurer

First Look at Ichabod’s, Serving Oysters and Bacon Sazeracs Tomorrow

Ichabod's_Photo1Courtesy Ichabod’s

The space that held the hemp-happy Galaxy Global Eatery for 15 years will be reborn as Ichabod’s tomorrow. It’s the second establishment named after Washington Irving (it’s on Irving Place, see) that Eric Sherman and Brian Krawitz have opened in recent months.

At a private party last night, many of the guests were friends of the owners, who took over the space adjacent Irving Plaza last year. A couple of months ago they opened The Headless Horseman in the former home of Bar 119, around the corner on East 15th Street. It’s a woodsy speakeasy-type spot that looks like a dungeon from the outside.

So what’s with the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” allusions?
See the menu…

Making It | Dmitry of Russian & Turkish Baths

For every East Village business that’s opening or closing, dozens are quietly making it. Here’s one of them: Russian & Turkish Baths.

dmitryshapiroCourtesy Dmitry Shapiro

In this kind of weather, there’s no better place to thaw out your tuchis than at the Russian & Turkish Baths at 268 East 10th Street. The 120-year-old “social spa,” purchased in 1985 by Russian emigres David Shapiro and Boris Tuperman, has always drawn a loyal following of hardcore shvitz-heads, and now a new generation has discovered it thanks in part to online coupons. But if you’re planning to cash in on this week’s half-off promotion, you’ll have to go on one of Mr. Shapiro’s days: the owners have been at odds with each other for over a decade. We asked Mr. Shapiro’s son Dmitry — who works with his brother Jack 181 days out of the year, and has the other 184 days off — how the anachronistic business has managed to survive despite its wacky business structure.


What is the deal with your internal feud? Why do we all know about it?


I can tell you first-hand this thing isn’t interesting. Yes, this is a unique business and business structure, but I don’t think it’s really the best way to run a business. I just really think this happens to be the only way we could do it. Read more…

Croxley Ales Adds Another Room, 13 Televisions

photo(87)Daniel Maurer

Just in time for March Madness, Croxley Ales, the popular suds spot at 28 Avenue B, opened its next-door annex on Monday. The narrow room has about a dozen dining booths and just about the same number of flat-screens. If you’re not a huge sports fan it feels a little like that t.v. box Marnie got trapped in on “Girls.”

The expansion has been in the works since at least last June.

Hot Shots: Which of These Baristas Are Crème de la Crème?

IMG_1063 copy copyKelsey Kudak

Sure, the East Village and Williamsburg have some of the highest concentrations of cafes and coffee shops in town, but who pulls the best shot?

This week, baristas from both neighborhoods and beyond will compete at the Northeast Regional Barista Competition in Long Island City.

Here’s how it’ll go down: each of the 43 competitors has 15 minutes to offer each of the four judges an espresso, a cappuccino, and a signature beverage that might include ingredients like truffles or mascarpone or walnut ganache. Judges grade on quality, technical competency, consistency, flavor and body, milk, cleanliness — even style and poise. The top six frothmasters advance to the nationals, which take place in Boston in April.

Here’s what seven local contenders are planning, and how they’re fighting the showtime jitters.

Zoey Thorson, 31 (photo above)
Gimme! CoffeeWilliamsburg
Origin of competition coffee: Santa Barbara, Honduras
Presentation: “I’m all about red. I have my great grandma’s silverware and I have some linen napkins and table runners from her. I wanted to give the geeky coffee awesomeness of now to the 1950s.”
Failed experiments: “I spent one day with every ingredient I thought might be interesting and a very unhappy stomach. I love spicy things, so I tried to use some chilies because they looked so pretty and fresh. Bad idea.”
Pre-competition ritual: “Besides my hair? I’m going to eat a lot of bananas and avocados and peanut butter in the morning, because these are all things to balance out your system.” Read more…

On the Lower East Side, a New Zaftig-Friendly Boutique

P2175206Kavitha Surana

“Oh my God, your mannequins are real-sized!”

“Look, clothes for big girls like me!”

Those are the reactions Kathy Sanchez said she had gotten from passersby after opening Curvaceous K boutique over the weekend.

Even petite women have come in to express their excitement about the healthy-sized models in the window, she said.

The store stocks sizes 14 through 26 and a wide range of hard-to-find labels like Igigi, Mynt, SWAK, and Queen Grace.

Ms. Sanchez gained her nuanced understanding of plus-sized clothes from personal experience. “I’ve been so many different sizes and I always had to learn how to dress my body,” she explained. “Eventually I became the go-to girl for styling my full-figured friends.” Read more…

Samurai-Stocked Ramen Joint Has Fighting Words For Competition

Maybe you saw the samurai in the window of 141 First Avenue this past weekend?

The manager of Ippin is hoping the metal coat of arms – imported from Japan at a cost of $2,200 – lures customers into the “upscale, high-end noodle bar” when it opens this week, possibly as early as tonight.

“People were so surprised,” said Eddie Kito of the samurai’s unveiling a couple of days ago. “They’d walk past and say, ‘Hey, look — something different.’ In other restaurants, no one has this.”

Mr. Kito believes Ippin’s ramen will also distinguish it from places like, say, Ramen Setagaya. “The soup base, I don’t think it’s good,” he said of his competitor. “They have a lot of MSG down there.” (Setagaya’s menu claims it serves “100 percent natural ramen with no MSG.”)
Read more…

2 Bros. Starts Slinging On First Avenue

2 BROSRoni Jacobson

It’s on! 2 Bros. Pizza opened next to Vinny Vincenz on First Avenue today. Last month, The Local reported that the incoming dollar-slice joint had forced the neighborhood long-timer to lower its prices, to the chagrin of the owner.

Around 3 p.m., 2 Bros. was mostly empty. Meanwhile Vinny Vincenz maintained a brisk business, as did Joey Pepperoni across the street. 2 Bros. has not yet set its hours, but expects to be open from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m.

Asked about the competition, owner Oren Halali replied, “We’re not worried about competition. They should be worried about us; we have the best pizza and the best deal.”

Health Department Temporarily Shutters Yaffa Cafe

UntitledDaniel Maurer

Yaffa Cafe, the late-night standby on St. Marks Place, has been closed by the Department of Health.

A sign on the door says the restaurant is closed for “minor renovations” and redirects customers to Simone Martini Bar, a sister establishment.

Health department records indicate the semi-vegetarian institution was hit with 64 demerit points during a Jan. 25 inspection. (That’s the same number Maharlika racked up before it was closed.) Violations included evidence of rats and mice, and incorrect food temperatures.

Making It | Manny Garcia of Cafecito, Celebrating Ten Years

For every East Village business that’s opening or closing, dozens are quietly making it. Here’s one of them: Cafecito.

cafecitoSamantha Balaban

Loisaida was a very different place when Cafecito opened on Avenue C in 2003. “I remember people thought we were crazy, because back then we were the only ones on the block,” said owner Manny Garcia, who celebrated the restaurant’s tenth anniversary last week. “Well, we did it anyway.” A decade later, the Cuban joint is still going strong, and selling about forty slow-roasted pork shanks per week. We spoke with Mr. Garcia about life on C.


Why did you choose the location you are in? Ten years ago Avenue C was such a remarkably different place for a small business.


It was the only avenue that was still reasonably priced to get a location we could afford to rent. We saw that the neighborhood was rapidly changing. It was a Latin-based neighborhood of families and it was getting gentrified pretty quickly so that is good for a new business – all these new people coming in and exploring. Read more…

With Sweet Chick, Restaurateur Expands From East 8th to North 8th

cafecito 2Samantha Balaban Sam Saleh, John Seymour, and chef

He already owns a restaurant on East Eighth Street in Manhattan; now John Seymour is opening a spot at North Eighth Street in Brooklyn.

Next Tuesday, Mr. Seymour will open Sweet Chick, named for the restaurant’s signature dish: fried chicken and your choice of bacon and cheddar, or rosemary and mushroom waffles. (See the dinner, dessert and cocktail menus below.)

Mr. Seymour opened Pop’s of Brooklyn a year ago, on East Eighth Street, between Greene Street and University Place. He met his partner in Sweet Chick, Sam Saleh, after Mr. Saleh opened Organic Planet around the corner from the original Pop’s, in Williamsburg. (Mr. Saleh also owns Swallow Coffee).

Born and bred in Brooklyn, Mr. Seymour and Mr. Saleh say they are committed to friendly, family-run businesses, especially as chain pharmacies and banks take over retail space in the East Village and Williamsburg. “This neighborhood is cool,” said Mr. Saleh. “But it’s about to be ruined by franchises.” Read more…

At Former CBGB Gallery Space, a Glowing Fish

photo(86)Roni Jacobson

Earlier this week, Patagonia Surf was cleared for a permit to install a 19-square-foot sign displaying its trademark fish-and-trident logo on the former home of CBGB Gallery.

Will it be as iconic as the CBs awning, or will it be a fish out of water?

We went fishing for information and a representative for the surfwear brand told us the store’s opening at 313 Bowery had been delayed due to Hurricane Sandy and various construction issues. No opening date was available.

Though the construction permit application calls for an illuminated sign and puts the cost of installation at $3,750, this won’t be a flashy fish: the project’s architect says the sign will be made of oxidized steel and backlit, so as to emit a warm glow.

Street Scenes | Japadog Adds Outdoor Seats

UntitledDaniel Maurer

Health Department Shuts Down Maharlika


Maharlika, the popular Filipino restaurant on First Avenue, has been temporarily shuttered by the health department. Signs posted on its windows indicate the closing is due to a gas leak.


The restaurant was cited for eight sanitary violations (for a total of 64 demerit points) during a Jan. 29 inspection, including food temperature violations, a lack of hand washing facilities, and evidence of mice, roaches, or other vermin.

Nicole Ponseca, owner of Maharlika, was unavailable for comment but a host who asked not to be named assured us that the staff was cleaning up. He had no knowledge of when the eatery would reopen.

If you’re a fan of the restaurant, you may want to head six blocks up to its sister location, Jeepney, instead: it just launched a new lunch menu.

Update | 8 p.m. Maharlika e-mails The Local with official comment: “We are very disappointed to be closed. However, we look forward to reopening in the next couple of days. We currently have a shared basement, part of which we don’t use. This portion of the basement was not up to code, and so we had to shut down to make this space doh compliant. We are also fixing a mechanical issue in the kitchen. Hope to feed you soon.”