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Comings & Goings: Travelers, Poets & Friends; Hamburger America; floating sugar bears

BY CAROLINE BENVENISTE | We’ve seen many Asian restaurant openings lately, as well as wine bars, beer taprooms and French and Italian newcomers.

Savory fare at Travelers, Poets & Friends. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)

Top Openings:

Travelers, Poets & Friends — 457 Sixth Ave., between 10th and 11th Streets

The large space that was Sammy’s Noodle Shop & Grill for many years is now an Italian cafe, market, bakery, pasta shop and wine bar. The first phase of the project to open was Pamina, the gelato shop at the corner of 11th Street. Travelers, Poets & Friends is part of the One More Hospitality Group, which also runs Osteria 57 and Alice, two Italian pescatarian restaurants in the West Village, and the pescatarian theme continues at Travelers. In the store’s front is the pasta station, where chefs make fresh pasta for sale, as well as for pasta dishes at Travelers and the other restaurants in the group. In the middle, a coffee bar also displays pastries from different regions of Italy (a cream-filled brioche from Sicily, a frangipane-filled brioche from Veneto, cornettos, plain and filled, including a particularly delicious one with pistachio crème and raspberry jam). On the side is a small market area selling Italian dry goods. In the back, an oven churns out various focaccias, as well as breads sold by the pound. Prepared foods, in a display case at the back, can be purchased to go or eaten at a number of small tables in the front. The menu also features pasta dishes, sandwiches, soups, salads and more. A cocktail/wine bar is separated from the main area by a partition. Toward the end of January, the last section, an Italian tapas restaurant, will open in the site’s southernmost part. All the food I’ve tried so far has been delicious. According to Luigi Porceddu, one of the partners, the vibe is meant to be “chill,” and it is.

People are lining up to get into Hamburger America. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)

Hamburger America — 51 MacDougal St., at Houston Street

George Motz is a hamburger aficionado, and literally wrote the book on the subject (well, two books, actually). Now, he’s opened a hamburger joint, which he named after his second book, “Hamburger America.” He describes it as follows: “Stepping into HAMBURGER AMERICA is a step back in time. Our 15-stool counter is an authentic piece of living hamburger history, a LOVE LETTER to one of America’s favorite foods.” The restaurant does have a very retro feel, and the signs over the counter mimic those found at classic diners. There are two burgers available (onion and smash), as well as other lunch counter sandwiches. From the moment it opened, a line snaked down Houston Street.

Hamburger America features a retro-ish interior, harking back to classic American diners. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)
A sugar bear in lemon tea at Sing. (Sing)
Pineapple buns with ice cream at Sing. (Sing)

Also Open:

Sing, a Chinese restaurant chain with over a dozen locations in China, has opened at 182 Bleecker St. (between MacDougal and Sullivan Streets). It bills itself as a cha chaan teng, or a Hong Kong-style cafe/diner. Many of the classic dishes are offered here, such as slippery eggs over rice and pineapple buns. There are also sugar bears that dissolve into beverages. The décor is spare and white inside, outer space-themed in the enclosed courtyard, and the prices are affordable. Figure 8 (18 Cornelia St., between W. Fourth and Bleecker Streets) is the sister restaurant to Silver Apricot, and the food is a mash-up of Chinese dishes incorporating Southern ingredients. Sahadi’s, the famous Brooklyn Lebanese food shop, has opened a stand at the Market 57 food hall (25 11th Ave., at 15th Street). Sandwiches and other prepared foods are available for purchase but, unfortunately, the newest outpost does not carry any bulk items or spices. Pinkberry, the frozen yogurt shop, has opened a branch at Sixth Avenue at the corner of 13th Street. Redvanly (371 Bleecker St., between Charles and Perry Streets) is the latest athletic luxury brand to open a flagship store on Bleecker Street. Hokkaido sells Japanese baked cheese tarts at 166 Second Ave. (between 10th and 11th Streets). The brand launched in Malaysia in 2016 and now has stores all over Asia. The tarts have a shortbread crust with a creamy cheese filling (somewhere between a curd and a cheesecake). Some of the more exotic flavors are Purple Yam, Butterfly Pea Lemon and Hojicha. Hokkaido is an island in Japan that produces half of Japan’s dairy products. Kinzan Omakase (259 Sixth Ave., between Bedford and Downing Streets) is the latest entrant into the omakase game in the Village. It has opened in the space that briefly housed Clover Grocery. Tokuyamatcha & Onigirazu Bar (627 E. Sixth St., between Avenues B and C) serves rice balls, similar in concept to onigiri but square rather than rectangular. The rice balls are made to order, which can result in long lines at peak times. Matcha drinks are also available.

Assorted cheese tarts at Hokkaido. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)


The original location of Hao Noodle and Tea by Madame Zhu’s Kitchen (401 Sixth Ave., between Waverly Place and Greenwich Avenue), which opened in 2016, is now shuttered. A sign on the door explains: “As our lease for West Village location is ending on November 19th 2023, we will not be able to operate after November 19th. However, our Chelsea location remains open.” The Chelsea restaurant, which opened in 2018, is at 343 W. 14th St. (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues). The owner, Madame Zhu, operates nine Madame Zhu’s restaurants in China. Rothy’s (407 Bleecker St., between 11th and Bank Streets), a sustainable shoe company, has closed its West Village store. The shop originally opened in March 2020, then closed during the pandemic but reopened in October 2020.

Coming Soon:

The Italian sandwich shop All’antico Vinaio will be opening its fourth NYC location at 89 Seventh Ave. South (between Grove and Bleecker Streets) in the old Cuba Libre space (and before that, Organika, from 2010-2016). All’antico Vinaio opened in Florence in 1991 and now has a number of other locations in Italy. The sandwiches are made with schiacciata, a Tuscan flatbread similar to focaccia, and have a dedicated following. This will be a nice addition to the block, which has been plagued by empty storefronts, the most recent among them, Jekyll & Hyde, and the oldest, Sushi Samba, which served Brazilian-inspired sushi at 87 Seventh Ave. South for 17 years until it closed in 2017. There may yet be hope for that space too: The Real Deal reported in April that a yet-unnamed Japanese restaurant had leased the space. At December’s Community Board 2 State Liquor Authority Subcommittee meeting, Par Avion Group sought approval for a wine and beer license for a wine bar located at 37 Carmine St. (between Bedford and Bleecker Streets). The establishment plans to serve classic French small plates, such as escargots, steak tartare and cheeses and charcuterie. The French owners of Pasta Corner, a fast-casual pasta restaurant in Midtown, are planning to open Savta at 259 Bleecker St. (between Jones and Cornelia Streets) in the space that used to be Baker & Co. I met the team behind Demo Natural Wines and Fine Food in front of their establishment at 34 Carmine St. (between Bleecker and Bedford Streets). They told me that it would be a cafe during the day and a restaurant at night, with a focus on Mediterranean food, particularly seafood. Everything will be cooked simply and without too much butter. One of the owners was previously at Wildair.

The pizza and brew at Grimm Artisinal Ales in East Williamsburg are worth the trip. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)


Bar Pisellino (52 Grove St., at Seventh Ave. South), Jody Williams’s and Rita Sodi’s Italian bar, which is perennially packed, just like all their other Village restaurants, is expanding into the old Panca space at 92 Seventh Ave. South (between Bleecker and Grove Streets). Many cities have had a lively beer culture for a long time, and while there have been a number of breweries in the outer boroughs, lately, we are seeing activity in Manhattan. As we reported previously, Talea recently opened a taproom in the West Village, as well as one in the Bryant Park area. Sixpoint Brewery will be opening Downtown in Brookfield Place, there is an outpost of Other Half Brewing in Rockefeller Center, and Threes Brewing has a store in Moynihan Train Hall. Torch and Crown brews beer in Soho and operates a seasonal beer garden in Union Square (which is closed now, but which will return next summer). Even more breweries continue to expand in Brooklyn, such as Grimm Artisanal Ales (a short train ride away in East Williamsburg), which has added a New Haven-style pizza restaurant, Lala’s Brooklyn Apizza, on their enclosed rooftop. In addition to beer and pizza, wines from their experimental, natural winery, Physica Wines, can be sampled.

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