Yes, Hill Country is a restaurant, but no hostess will seat you and no server will come by to take your order. Instead, arriving patrons are given a meal ticket, which they carry into a Texas-style market. At one counter, they order meats by weight, watching as pitmasters pull their selection from smoking pits fueled with Texas post oak and the menus of lesser barbecue restaurants. The menu includes the signature moist brisket—juicy, fatty morsels that New York Times’ reporter Pete Wells is said to order a pound of every time because it shows “Hill Country’s rotisserie barbecue pits at their finest.” Whatever meat guests choose, it’s carved onto sturdy sheets of butcher paper they carry with them as they stop at additional counters to collect sides and desserts.
Though all meat is served with white bread or crackers, a lineup of sides includes corn pudding, Longhorn cheddar mac ‘n’ cheese, and sweet potato bourbon mash. The dessert case displays temptations such as banana pudding, which Wells gushed is “built upon a custard so thick with eggs and cream it brings Paris to mind.” Guests can return to the counters as many times as they like; each item ordered is noted on their ticket, which they turn in to the cashier at the end of the meal. The menu has some devoted culinary fans—renowned food critic Frank Bruni named Hill Country one of his five favorite restaurants, for instance—but the eatery attracts a musically inclined audience as well. Downstairs in the Boot Bar, a state-of-the-art stage hosts nationally touring blues, alt-country, and honky-tonk acts that have included Dale Wilson and Roseanne Cash. The shows take place Tuesday–Saturday nights, and are often free of charge.
Pete Lawson's passion for the martial arts is more than 30 years old, reaching all the way back to when he took his first karate lesson in Jamaica when he was 13 years old. His love for the discipline blossomed, eventually earning him five black belts, a spot in world tournaments, and the opportunity to spar against master martial artists. He also studied Brazilian jiujitsu under renowned master Renzo Gracie, one of the sons of Brazil's famed family of martial artists. As a believer in the saying "to whom much is given, much is required," Lawson decided to put his accolades and experience to good use founding and teaching at his own academy, Brooklyn Martial Arts. Today, he offers classes for all levels of Brazilian jiujitsu and mixed martial arts, preparing students for everything from self-defense to competition.
Lawson also imparts lessons of discipline and perseverance to little ones in kids' classes, using martial arts as a platform to improve their schoolwork, teach them nonviolent ways to deal with bullies, and strengthen their listening skills by having them perform pushups with their ears. They even host birthday parties for kids, where the birthday boy or girl cuts the cake with a real sword and competes in fun and friendly martial-arts-based games and activities.
During New York's golden age, when big-band music filled the streets and Tommy Dorsey and Count Basie reigned supreme in regal zoot suits, Ellsworth Statler held court at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Known as much for its delicious food as it was for its swanky shows, the hotel became the standard of swingin' cool by which all others were measured. Today, the same spirit that propelled Ellsworth Statler to greatness inhabits his namesake: the Statler Grill. Using classic midcentury charm and more than four decades of experience in the restaurant business, the owners of Statler Grill reanimate the New York of decades past, time-warping diners as they sit at tables cloaked in white linens amid muted lighting. Artwork festoons the walls, adding warm hues and a jubilant air while frosted glass and earth-toned walls segment the dining room for more romantic dining and more covert fantasy baseball meetings. An adjoining bar serves up a similar sophistication, with a menu of light fare appropriate for an after-work snack, or after a game, being located across the street from Madison Square Garden.
For dinner, the kitchen lines classic new york prime sirloins and porterhouses with the marks of the char grill. Seafood arrives fresh daily to offer the best flavors of the deep blue, including Prince Edward Island mussels, Long Island clams, and fried calamari. The chefs' traditional and inventive American fare complements every meal of the day, from eggs benedict for brunch to filet mignon for supper and Maryland crab cakes for late night sleep eating. All of this fancy fare doesn't get in the way of friendly service, though; the restaurant's friendly waitstaff and knowledgable bartenders earned glowing praise from the foodies at Midtown Lunch.
Since 1861, the Buffalo Society of Natural Science has culled more than 700,000 specimens and artifacts from around the world. These treasures now reside in the Buffalo Museum of Science which opened its doors in 1929. The museum allows visitors to explore anthropology, paleontology, and zoology, with an emphasis on the Greater Niagara region.
Special exhibits inspire curiousity in guests by exploring the world around them through hands-on education. Nano, for example, explains the basics of nanoscience and the way it impacts our lives. Opened in March 2012, the Explore YOU health science studio teaches visitors about their own bodies as they study recent medical technologies that help keep the human race healthy. Our Marvelous Earth, on the other hand, focuses on geological phenomena, extreme weather, and alternative forms of energy via displays and interactive exhibits where guests will have a chance to experience tornado-force winds. The newest exhibit to explore is In Motion which motivates children to learn how things move by interacting with gravity machines, car races, and a fluid dynamics simulator. Elsewhere, Seymour (a 10-foot tall mastodon) and Stanley (a 16-foot long albertosaurus) give kids a glimpse of some really, really, really old bones. For a more relaxing experience, visitors can check out the National Geographic 3D Cinema presented by M&T Bank for rotating titles. During the next few years, the museum will continue to add new exhibits and improve others with interactive technologies.
When Marina Lisser was 14, she decided to take up dancing, despite the fact that in her native Russia, she was considered much too old to start. Firmly flouting social convention, she thrived, competing at the professional level and landing a fifth-place finish in the European Cup finals. Eventually, she went on to earn a master's degree in Dance Forms and write a dissertation on the psychology of competition.
But none of that prepared her for the shock that awaited her when she landed in New York City to work for Fred Astaire Dance Studios in 1993. She hadn't realized she'd be teaching a totally new kind of student: adult amateurs. She'd only taught professionals and children who wanted to dance for a living. If 14 was too old to start dancing in Russia, how would she teach adults in America?
Through trial and error, she figured it out by ignoring, according to a feature in Democrat and Chronicle, whatever holds her students back. "I'm one of those horrible Russian teachers," Marina confessed. "We want what we want; there is no such thing as limits."
Today, she and her staff of instructors specialize in two styles: American Smooth and Rhythm, and International Standard and Latin. Students learn to waltz, tango, and foxtrot atop the ballroom's sprung wood floor, which cushions feet and joints, while wall-length mirrors help them self-correct their form. In addition to teaching social dance skills and helping affianced couples prepare for their first dance, the instructors also ready competitive dancers to take first place medals in everything from cabaret dancing to swing, often by deftly prancing over the laser security systems that guard them. Marina is certified in dance therapy, as well as social and competitive wheelchair dancing, to make dance accessible to everyone.
Strongman competitor William Harris opened his gym to help exercisers achieve ultimate physical conditioning with an innovative approach to fitness that eschews the mirrored walls, isolated machine workouts, and pie-eating competitions of standard gyms. His cadre of personal trainers—most of whom are certified Level 1 CrossFit coaches—draws on real world athleticism: trainer Phaidra Knight was named the women's' rugby player of the decade 2000–2009, and Rob Gutierrez works as a physical trainer for the NYPD. For CrossFit sessions, certified trainers design intense, ever-changing workouts that safely push members while providing motivation and support. Classes rotate through various challenges such as calisthenics, weight lifting, kettlebells, and sprinting, relying on both intensity and variety of motion to improve comprehensive fitness. To bolster long-term health, coaches dispense nutrition tips that keep bodies fueled and give clients the tools to spur fat loss and muscle gain. The results build bodies that function in real-world tasks, such as running to catch a bus, lifting a sack of dog food, or throwing a discus and riding it to work.