Lower East side dining spot and a fab stay at the W hotel Union Square in NYC
NEW YORK - Two girls on a fire escape on a hot summer’s night. A humming corner restaurant with enough noise to rival a 747 at takeoff. Tons of fun bars and a real, edgy feel.
I managed a bit of time in this city’s Lower East Side on my recent visit and checked out Schiller’s Liquor Bar on Rivington St.
It has the feel of a subway station, with off-white tiles on the walls and floor and a black-and-white floor that had the 70’s music bouncing around like shoes in a washing machine. It was awfully hard to hear anything but the music, but it didn’t seem to bother the huge throngs of folks who gathered for a relatively inexpensive meal.
There’s a bit of a bistro feel to the menu, with steak frites (excellent, at $25 ) a mainstay, as well as roasted chicken and chicken pot pie ($18), which I thoroughly enjoyed. They also have a variety of oysters for $3 apiece, which is quite reasonable.
The wine list is divided into three categories; cheap, decent and good. The menu tells you cheap is best, but I went for the good.
The drinks are terrific. We sampled a nice pear margarita and, even better, a Schiller’s Storm, which has Makers Mark bourbon, ginger, pineapple and plum. Wow.
A fun spot with good food and a fabulous atmosphere in a real up-and-coming but still edgy part of town. Highly recommended, but only if you don't mind concert-level noise over your meal.
After staying the first night at the Z hotel in Long Island City, we switched over to the W at Union Square. I’d never stayed at a W property and was curious about what they’d offer.
I kind of expected a bit more edginess, if you like. But the lobby check-in area felt like a Four Seasons, with marble all over, a sweeping staircase (it's a restored 1911 beaux art building), a lovely floral display and pink-orange lighting. The lobby/sitting area was a little more casual, with sofas and chairs decked out with bright pillows in shades of purple, pink and orange, and a series of large windows looking out onto bustling Park Avenue.
The fake shrubbery and plastic butterflies on a couple of the lobby walls was a complete mystery to me. Some folks seemed to enjoy it and were having their pictures taken, but I couldn’t help thinking it felt like the Rainforest Café, which I would be very happy to never see again in my life.
The lobby then spills into Olives, a Todd English restaurant with some nice food offerings. I loved the chorizo flatbread but wasn’t so crazy about the spaghetti carbonara with crab, as the shellfish somehow didn’t match up well with the main dish.
Still, there’s a nice wine list and the place was absolutely packed with pretty people on a Friday night.
There are WAY too many hotel rooms done up these days in UPS colours of crème or white and brown. Thankfully, that’s not the case at the W. Our room was mostly off-white, but one of the walls was done in a cool, ribbed wallpaper and one of the wallpapered walls was Los Angeles Dodger blue.
The headboard was bright orange, with a white patterned wall above it. Our room looked south toward Union Square and City Hall and lower Manhattan, and it seemed a good 20 per cent bigger than most standard hotel rooms. The bathroom also was bigger than most, with nice fixtures and amenities and enough space for a couple of toiletry bags.
Toss in a nice fitness centre (called Sweat) with a punching bag, use of a bike if you want one (or a car), a good concierge service (called Whatever, Whenever), a nice business centre and a prime location that’s two blocks from the subway and close to great food and shopping and walking distance to Greenwich Village and SoHo, and you’ve got a fine hotel for folks of just about any style.