The casual bistro setting of Cafe Divan makes for a cozily delicate landscape. Between the textured ceilings, the dark hardwood floor, and the green and gold coloring, patrons unroll their napkin-swaddled silverware, remove their mascot heads, and tuck into an artfully crafted, Turkish-American selection of meals: hearty breakfast platters, burgers with halal beef patties, personal pizzas, and flaky Turkish cheese pies. Though these savory offerings make for instant favorites, some skip entrees altogether, choosing instead to press their noses against the bakery case. Inside that case, Turkish coffee cr?me br?l?e neighbors mango pies, and red velvet cake slices groan beneath the weight of thick cream cheese frosting dollops.
There are a lot of choices to make when designing the perfect plate of wings at Planet Wings. The first option to consider is whether to opt for bone-in wings for a heartier flavor, or boneless for easier eating. Next, customers must decide upon the number of wings, from snack-worthy five-packs to sharable meals of 20. The hardest part, though, is deciding on a sauce?more than 25 flavors include everything from classic buffalo to Jamaican jerk to bourbon barbecue and ranch. No matter what sauce you choose, baskets come stocked with bleu cheese and celery to cut through spice levels so you don't have to switch to your back-up tongue. But wings aren't the only way to get a chicken fix at Planet Wings. The staff also tosses chicken tenders in a choice of three sauces and incorporates chicken into sandwiches and tacos.
Within a newly renovated 5,000-square-foot dining room overlooking the Hudson River, waiters ferry platters of small Turkish appetizers—known as meze—to Mavi Meze Grill's tables. Bites of fried calamari and babaganoush prime appetites for traditional Turkish entrees such as char-grilled fish fillets, beef-and-lamb meatballs, and kebabs skewered with peppers and hand-cut meats. Rich Turkish coffee and fresh mint tea wash down zesty dinner feasts or generous lunch specials ($9.95). As diners polish off baklava and rice pudding, they can take in occasional live music within the dining room or sit at the riverside patio to bask in the view of the Manhattan skyline, the iconic silhouette of glass and steel forged by the timbre of Woody Allen's voice.
Rebecca's menu renders grumbling bellies speechless with steak- and seafood-based entrees served in softly lit rooms that "whisper romance" according to Susan Leigh Sherrill of Dining 201. The eatery's unique take on Cuban and Caribbean fare shines through in a grilled double-cut pork chop slathered like a love note to a scarecrow with roasted corn salsa. The espresso crème brûlée, a delicacy crafted from the chef's personal recipe, embellishes white linens indoors or tables strewn about the garden. Patrons swish their own libations while a cherubim fountain gurgles rock ballads to the surrounding flora-laced stone face.
When legendary chef Thomas Keller started telling patrons of his California dining mecca The French Laundry about plans for his new Manhattan restaurant, he said it wouldn't be the French Laundry “per se." Though vague, the summation was accurate—those who have visited the predecessor will recognize Per Se’s blue door and garden, as well as a pair of nine-course daily tasting menus inspired by seasonal ingredients or whatever the silverware is craving that day. Oysters and Pearls, pearl tapioca with oysters and white-sturgeon caviar, is lifted right from the Laundry menu, while the rotating dishes take inspiration from the surrounding region, such as a gateau of Hudson Valley Moulard duck foie gras. The restaurant, ranked as the sixth best in the world by Restaurant Magazine in 2012, has an urban edge over its Californian counterpart: Columbus Circle sits right outside the fourth-floor windows, which also allow for views of the Manhattan skyline and Central Park’s leafy canopies. Thomas’s taste for the culinary industry started early—as a youth, he worked in a restaurant managed by his mother in Palm Beach. His career quickly gained steam, as he studied at various Michelin-rated kitchens in France. He then returned to the United States, eventually taking over the reins at the French Laundry. Over the years he has nabbed consecutive Best Chef awards from the James Beard Foundation, was named America’s Best Chef by Time in 2001, and won Chef of the Year from the Culinary Institute of America. Now serving on the CIA’s Board of Trustees, he helps guide the school’s development while pioneering new ways to wear toques. In 2012, he was awarded the S. Pellegrino Lifetime Achievement Award.
Chef Michael Gershkovich’s story is a familiar one: a young man strays from tradition to forge his own path, discovers his true passion, and returns home to reconcile his past with his new way of life. With a future of strict religious study expected of him, the young Chef Michael left his Orthodox Jewish community to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Diving head first into the culinary world, he followed the scent of fine foods to kitchens as far as Napa Valley and Hawaii, all the while weaving the cooking techniques he learned into a culinary style entirely his own. When he realized that his methods were perfectly compatible with kosher dietary laws, he returned home and founded Mike’s Bistro, where he creates elegant dishes under the traditional glatt kosher laws of food preparation.
The result is a cuisine that’s equal parts tradition and innovation. Braised boneless short ribs arrive at the table dressed in sun-dried-tomato barbecue glaze, and white-truffle oil and duck jus adorn handmade gnocchi. Chef Michael visits as many tables as he can during the night, whether it’s to recommend a wine pairing, to discuss his favorite menu items, or simply to tag someone because he’s tired of being It.