Slowly Shirley

It’s been sometime since we’ve updated our Favorite Space & Places segment of our Journal, and rather than just list a few more of our favorite eateries and watering holes, I thought I would give a brief tour of my recent findings in New York. Since my son, Max, now lives and works in the Big Apple, he always awaits our next visit with a list of places he would like for us to try (since the folks are paying, right?). The routine usually calls for a quick pre-dinner cocktail, followed by an interesting dinner, followed by a nightcap.

A favorite starting point is a hidden gem in Greenwhich Village called Slowly Shirley. Found between two storefronts, a stair leads to an underground oasis.

Slowly Shirley, 121 West 10th Street

The creation of ACME’s Jon Niedich and NoMad’s Jim Kearns, this 1940’s steamship themed lounge recalls “Hollywood’s Golden Age, when glamour and sophistication held sway”, complete with the jazzy California soundtrack.

Specialty cocktails at Slowly Shirley

The handcrafted cocktails, like the Salty Duncan and Ingrid Bergman here are creative and refreshing.

If you are a fan of the old New York experience of places like the Waverly Inn, then just a short walk away is 4 Charles Prime Rib. A word of advice, call well in advance to get one of the ten tables in this cozy restaurant.

4 Charles Prime Rib

Once inside you will be wrapped in warm nostalgic light, leather and wood as Frank croons in the background. The atmosphere envelops you as you immerse into a delicious New York steak dinner experience.

A spread at 4 Charles Prime Rib

4 Charles Prime Rib, 4 Charles Street

If you are looking for something more casual, then Le Esquina in SoHo may be your style. As you approach the corner Mexican diner, people spill onto the sidewalk as they order tacos through the window. But don’t be fooled; if you have planned right, shoulder your way through the crowd to a hostess, dressed a bit too elegantly for her surroundings.

La Esquina, SoHo

If your name is on the list, you will be ushered through a steel door, down a flight of stairs, through the busy kitchen and into a rustic brick cellar, aglow from low light and Spanish music. You may find yourself, as we did, dining next to John Krisinski  and Emily Blunt- but this is no “Quiet Place” among the hum of a hip dining scene. Spicy cocktails and Micheladas introduce Mexican street food better than any north of Mexico (or, let’s just say Texas).

La Esquina Brasserie and Tequila Bar, Credit: Robbie Roman/

But if spice is truly your thing, venture farther out to East Village. On a block occupied by dive-bars, you’ll find Mission Chinese. Again, don’t be discouraged by the laundry mat appearance of the front dining room, where a handmade sign hangs among eerie blue light reading, “Ask for the rare specials”.

Interior ambiance at Mission Chinese

If you’ve made your reservations, you’ll be shown to the back dining room- an eccentric space with a gold-leaf covered ceiling, central aquarium, and large dragons with glowing blue eyes.

Mission Chinese in NYC

What GQ calls “Inside Danny Bowien’s delicious, bizarre, soul-cycle-fueled world of cool”, a hip beat thumps through the hum of the crowd. Warm up with a “Hairdresser Fuego” while you peruse the unusual family-style menu, but note the warning at the bottom, “Disclaimer: Sechuan Peppercorns are known to produce a tingling, numbing sensation”.

Mission Chinese, 171 E Broadway

A waiter with a fully tatted face begins to lay a feast before you, reminding you that “the heat opens up the complexities of flavors”- a counsel you will be fully aware of as, after one bite of the hot chicken wings, your lips and lower face go numb. Yet, you’ll heed no warning as you imbibe in the intensity of a meal not soon forgotten.

Doyers Street in Chinatown, still from “The Amazing Spiderman 2”

To sooth your senses after such an eccentric culinary experience as Mission Chinese you may find yourself in need of a night-cap. Another New York secret waits down Doyers street in Chinatown. More of a dark alley than a street, this location  feels more like a movie set than reality.

Lab coats and craft cocktails

At a bend in the road is a small sign that hangs- it reads Chemist. A large man will great you at the steel door, requesting your I.D. before allowing you into Apotheke, an incensed infused bar fashioned out a 19th Century apothecary. Here mixologists “in cool lab coats” craft some of New York’s most unique cocktails. As you may guess, absinthe based cocktails are a specialty. Sleep tight.

Apotheke, Chinatown