Tongues of flame twist in a fireplace, hinting at the warmth filling the bustling kitchen at MK Valencia. Rail lighting spills a blue aura over dishes that draw from myriad culinary traditions. Mediterranean flavors shine through in salmon drizzled in a pesto sauce and lamb osso bucco. In the dining room, glasses clink occasionally like a xylophonist failing a performance review, setting a tempo for the wait staff, which totes roasted salmon in a pesto sauce.
A curtain of bubbles rises up through champagne cocktails in lively colors that match the crescent-shaped orange booths or electric-blue wine racks. During warmer months, the murmur of conversation spills out onto a patio equipped with a 75" TV. Inside, the lounge also offers two 60" TVs.
True to its name, Just Grapes Lounge focuses on wines, with more than 30 vintages poured by the glass and 18 more varieties sequestered on a reserve bottle list. Microbrews, champagnes, and ports round out the lounge's full bar, complementing a Mediterranean-tinged tapas menu. Small plates, ranging from hummus and crostini to stuffed baked clams, are ideal for smothering appetites or boosting a tiny table's self-esteem. Three styles of rustic pizza artfully pair tomatoes with cheese, whereas molten fondue, served in a bread bowl, comes in varieties including gorgonzola and double-cream brie.
Hailing from countries such as Germany, Russia, Italy, Poland, and Argentina, Starlight Dance Center's all-star instructors channel their experience in global competitions and performances while guiding students into the land of ballroom dancing. Three high-ceilinged ballrooms and a 4,000-square-foot performance floor set an elegant, roomy stage as instructors prepare children for recitals at the end of each course. They also teach adults to whirl and jive during group classes, which include weekly salsa parties and free mortgage-refinancing tips. To mix things up, Starlight Dance Center has created a Fit & Dance department where students can explore Zumba, belly dance, ballroom fitness, and total-body workouts.
Sweetwater's serves up an eclectic array of eats, quaffs, and entertainment, continuing the traditions of the Manhattan Sweetwaters in the ’70s and ’80s. Start a nautical-themed meal with Sweetwater's signature bowl of tortilla soup ($5.95) and a sea-sourced entree such as the fried shrimp ($11.95, with fries), and then cast a land-anchor with a hefty bacon burger (with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, pickles, and a side of fries, $8.95). Patrons can sample the full spread of bathypelagic bites with a seafood tray—fried fish, calamari, shrimps, and seafood quesadillas served with fries ($29.95).
If the zebra-skin walls of Lenox Lounge’s Zebra Room could talk, what stories they would tell. Perhaps they would open with an account of how poet Langston Hughes once mesmerized his audience with “The Story of Jazz.” They might then try to recapture the magic of one of those nights when Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, or Billie Holiday stood close to the mic and everything else came to a standstill. The Zebra Room’s famous—or infamous—reputation dates back to 1939, when Lenox Lounge first opened its doors to the legends of jazz. The club has since appeared in TV shows and movies, but it continues to put live music first. To complement the intimate atmosphere, there’s a menu of traditional soul food such as fried chicken and waffles, stuffed catfish, and collard greens.
Named after the iconic Central Park monument, Cleopatra’s Needle has earned a reputation of its own with a daily schedule of open mics, jam sessions, and jazz performances. As one might expect, the club’s menu references Egypt and other Mediterranean locales, though its cocktail list is classic New York—martinis, wines, and frozen drinks are all well represented. While the performers are taking a break to warm up their vocal cords or massage the grand piano’s tense strings, guests can watch local sports on the big screen.