On the contrary to the opening theme music from the classic television show, The Jefferson’s, this foodie tour is movin’ on down to the Lower East Side. We begin at the top of the East Side and will work our way to a deluxe restaurant, not in the sky, but conveniently located on street level.
Start your exploration at Kitchen Arts & Letters. It blows any "Cookbook," section of any major bookstore right out of the water. From floor to ceiling and even in between, this store stocks every kind of cookbook known to "cook-kind". If they don’t have it, they can find if for you, including out of print books. Hours can be spent looking at every genre on display. Kitchen Arts & Letters offers books for those interested in: careers in food and cooking, vegetarian cooking, cooking techniques, wine, and cuisines from all over the world. The staff is friendly and ready to help you in any way possible.
Eli Zabar has become a household name for most New Yorkers. He has created a Mecca on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Eli’s Vinegar Factory is housed in New York’s last factory for producing mustards and vinegars. It is a neighborhood grocery store of sorts, nestled in a quiet area on the most eastern side of the East Side.
Within the Vinegar Factory, of course you can find vinegar, but there are a plethora of other products to notice. For instance, there is a large buffet of prepared items in which you can purchase to eat within the store or take away. There is an outstanding bakery department filled with Eli’s famous breads and baked goods. Across the way in the cheese area, mounds of cheeses from all over the world (sold at a reasonable price) overflow the case in which they are stored.
The unique thing about the products that are offered at the Vinegar Factory is that most are local. The prepared items are made on the premises and there is even a rooftop greenhouse where many of the produce items come from. A small cafe is open daily accessible to those looking for a cup of coffee or a quick prepared sandwich to eat. On the weekends, the upstairs restaurant serves a packed brunch from 8am-4pm, no reservations taken.
A leisurely stroll by foot or a quick subway trip away is Dylan’s Candy Bar. Owner, Dylan Lauren (yes, daughter of Ralph Lauren), has created a modern day Candy Land. Three stories high, this sweet shop is filled with every kind of candy imaginable and it is all right at your fingertips.
The first two floors are everything candy; candy gumballs, candy chocolates, chewy candy, games that involve candy and candy fashion. Basically it’s every dentist’s worst nightmare. The third floor is a café where more sugary treats await you. Patrons can select from decadent ice creams, baked goods, hot chocolate and coffee specialties.
All aboard! Next stop, Grand Central Station! Inside this landmark you’ll find convenient retail shops, but also a hallway of sorts replicating an old world market. Here you can purchase anything that you may need to make dinner or just a small snack to hold you over. There are rows of cases filled with high quality meats, fish, cheeses, and produce. Prepared items are available if you aren’t quite in the mood to cook. Don’t forget to grab a bunch of flowers that are offered at the widely colorful florist!
After a day of savory and sweet delectables, why not stop off for a bottle of wine. Though it is known mostly on the West Coast, Trader Joe’s Wine Shop can make any thrifty spender smile. Here you can find many popular labels as well as Trader Joe’s own label of wines for a great price. The selection is wide, and the service is very friendly. The store can be a bit cramped, but the line moves fast and the amount on your receipt is well worth the wait.
As promised at the start of this article, a visit to the deluxe restaurant Gotham Bar and Grill. Recently named by New York Magazine, one of, "New York’s Most Important Restaurants," Gotham celebrates its 25th birthday this year. The doors were opened in 1984 with Chef Alfred Portale, who has helped this establishment become a New York classic. With seasonal menus filled with robust and memorable flavors, Chef Portale has a successful merriment of French technique and worldly fusions.
The décor is immaculate, and well simply, pretty. Amicable service, outstanding food and wine, and original cocktails have allowed this place to earn four consecutive three star reviews in the New York Times…unheard of!
What & Where:
Kitchen Arts & Letters (1435 Lexington Ave @ 93rd St; 212-876-5550)
The Vinegar Factory (431 East 91st St; 212-987-0885)
Dylan’s Candy Bar (1101 3rd Ave; 646-735-0078)
Markets at Grand Central Station (45 Grand Central Terminal)
Trader Joe’s Wine Shop (138 East 14th; 212-529-6326)
Gotham Bar & Grill (12 East 12th St; 212-620-4020)