It's not spring yet, no matter how tightly I squeeze my eyes and pretend it is, so in this edition I'm focusing on treats to help you get through the last throes of winter. Soon enough, I'll park my down jacket in the closet and wipe the filthy salt residue off my well-worn boots. In the meantime, February is a perfectly appropriate month to indulge in chocolate, comfort food and wine. As usual, if you see any new retailers or if you spot changes to a long-time fixture, please email me at email@example.com and I'll check them out.
Aroma Espresso Bar
100 Church St. (betw. Barclay St. and Park Pl.), www.aroma.us.
Coffee shops abound, but it's hard to find a place that serves an outstanding cup o' joe and fresh, made-to-order food. You won't find pre-made sandwiches wilting in a cooler here. The coffee bar emulates the Middle Eastern concept of organizing the space around a u-shaped workstation where baristas make their caffeinated creations out in the open instead of behind a counter, said manager Gal Danay. "Customers feel like they're part of the coffee-making experience," he said.
The bar is large and airy and has plenty of seating for both groups and the individual who wants to settle in with a book and a hot chocolate. Speaking of the hot chocolate-try it. It comes with a large chunk of chocolate praline at the bottom and a spoon to stir it as it melts. Enjoy this treat because, eventually, you'll have to go back to work.
281 Broadway (betw. Reade and Chambers Sts.), www.chipotle.com.
Chipotle is a place that does satisfying Mexican food fast the way you want it. They now have another location for us to enjoy in Lower Manhattan, which brings the count to four within a half-a mile of one another. The chicken is always juicy, the condiments are plentiful and if you're looking for a a healthier version of the burrito, you can go for some tortilla soup or mix up a custom bowl. There's something comforting in knowing you'll always find a hot and fresh meal here and the portions are big enough to take the leftovers home for dinner.
Financial District Wines and Liquor
120 Nassau St. (betw. Nassau and William Sts.), 212-933-1092.
Don't let the construction, cranes and drills on Nassau Street stop you from hitting this new wine and spirit shop. FiDi Wines and Liquor is spacious and bright, features a diverse selection and what they describe as the lowest prices in Lower Manhattan. Customers are already dubbing the shop a favorite. One recent patron declared on Yelp: "If you live or work in the Financial District, FiDi Wines and Liquor really is a neighborhood gem."
They kicked off their grand opening with a party that included a DJ, free tastings and a stilt walker. Assistant manager Norman Bent says the stilt walker was the consummate professional and didn't come close to knocking over any bottles. They know how to throw a party, so give them a call to see how they can help with your event.
J and R Jr.
23 Park Row, 2nd Fl. (at City Hall Park),
Above the computers and the laptop cases and the office supplies of J and R Electronics lies a sweeter venture more concerned with nurturing our youth than expanding a business. Children's store J and R Jr. opened on the second floor above the electronics retailer and is busily entertaining Lower Manhattan's kids. The store sells everything from car seats and strollers to the tiniest grand piano you've ever seen. They held their grand opening the day before Valentine's Day and entertained a packed house. I stopped by the store a few days before it opened and felt a bit of an expectant lull or pregnant pause, if you will, kind of like a delivery room at the hospital. Stop by and welcome J and R's newest addition.
Vintry Fine Wines
230 Murray St. (at North End Ave.),
Vintry is so pretty it looks more like a work of art than a shop that sells wine. Their architect knew what he was doing. The space's curvilinear lines are reminiscent of waves or straw-colored sand dunes softly stretching out to the water and beckoning you to stroll through the store's vast selection. The shop has something for the wine connoisseur and the casual sampler who is just looking for a great bottle to go with dinner. Vintry is owned by Peter Poulakakos, whose father Harry is the restaurateur responsible for such establishments as Harry's at Hanover Square, later reborn as Harry's Café and Steak. Customers have come to expect a lot from this family and Vintry is sure to deliver.
Waterstone Grill, 79 Pearl St.
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