The latest news from Broadway

By Mike Cohen

NEW YORK-There are many reasons to travel to New York City (https://www.nycgo.com), but one most unique to the city’s soul is the extensive list of amazing Broadway musicals found at the heart of Times Square. 

The Temptations

Last spring I saw Motown the Musical inMontreal, the American dream story of Motownfounder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and many more.  I loved every minute of it. So when I visited New York City recently, I was naturally drawn to Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations (https://www.ainttooproudmusical.com). It won a 2019 Tony Award for Best Choreography and had 12 nominations.As for Jewish connections to this show, David Mirvish, Josh Berger and Cheryl Wiesenfeld are among the producers. In addition, there is Liz Caplan, vocal supervisor; Merri Sugarman, casting; and Shelly Berger, creative consultant.

The Temptations are an American vocal group who released a series of successful singles and albums with Motown  during the 1960s and 70s. Featuring five male vocalists and dancers, the group formed in 1960 in Detroit, Michigan under the name The Elgins and gave us such memorable hits  asMy Girl,Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,I Wish It Would Rain, Treat Her Like a Lady, Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)  and  For Once In My Life, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted and more.. They earned three Grammy Awards.

Otis Williams is the last living member of the Temptations. His book about the group is the basis for the Broadway show. Williams in fact continues to perform, using the Temptations name.

 Ain’t Too Proud, currently playing at theImperial Theatreon West 45th Street until at least US Thanksgiving Weekend 2020,is the electrifying new musical that follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. With their signature dance moves and unmistakable harmonies, they rose to the top of the charts creating an amazing 42 Top 10 hits with 14 reaching number one. The rest is history — how they met, the groundbreaking heights they hit and how personal and political conflicts threatened to tear the group apart as the United States fell into civil unrest. This thrilling story of brotherhood, family, loyalty and betrayal is a beautiful production.

Tony Award nominee Derrick Baskin portrays Otis Williams and is the glue to the show. He narrates the entire history of the Temptations from the opening number until the conclusion. Before walking into the theatre I simply knew the songs which made the Temptations so successful, but this is a true history lesson and it pulls no punches. There have been 24 members of the Temptations since this group was first established. Williams had to continually make the hard decisions and drop members who were not comporting themselves properly. At one point two of the singers who were let go returned for a reunion tour, but they could not turn over a new leaf. Williams himself was an absentee father and husband, focused exclusively on the business. I loved the show so much that the greatest hits of The Temptations are now loaded on my iPhone.

After breaking house records at both Berkeley Rep and The Kennedy Center, this musical is  written by three‑time Obie Award winner Dominique Morisseau, directed by two‑time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys), and featuring choreography by Tony nominee Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, On Your Feet).

Leading the current cast of Ain’t Too Proud as The Temptations is Tony Award nominee Derrick Baskin as Otis Williams, James Harkness as Paul Williams, Jawan M. Jackson as Melvin Franklin, Jelani Remy as Eddie Kendricks, and Tony Award nominee Ephraim Sykes as David Ruffin. Ain’t Too Proud also features Saint Aubyn, Shawn Bowers, E. Clayton Cornelious, Taylor Symone Jackson, Jahi Kearse, Jarvis B. Manning, Jr., Joshua Morgan, Rashidra Scott, Nasia Thomas, Christian Thompson, Candice Marie Woods, Esther Antoine, Marcus Paul James, Correy West, Drew Wildman Foster, Curtis Wiley and Jamari Johnson Williams.

Tickets for Ain’t Too Proud are available by visiting www.Telecharge.com, by calling 800-447-7400, or by visiting the Imperial Theatre Box Office (249 West 45th Street). For groups of 10 or more, visit www.BroadwayInbound.com or call 866-302-0995. For more information, please visit www.AintTooProudMusical.com # # # # AintTooProudMusical.com twitter.com/AintTooProud facebook.com/AintTooProudMusical instagram.com/AintTooProudMusical. The show runs two and a half hours.

Oklahoma

The exceptional Tony Award winning revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahomahave closed its run on January 19, 2020 at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre, but a tour will begin fittingly in Oklahoma next fall and visit other places in the United States and hopefully Canada.

Directed by Daniel Fish, the production has also been hailed as the Best of the Year and a Critic’s Pick by The New York Times and the #1 Theatrical Event of the Year by Time Magazine. Seventy-five years after Rodgers & Hammerstein reinvented the American musical, this is Oklahoma! as you’ve never seen or heard it before, re-orchestrated and reimagined for the 21st century.

The first collaboration between the Broadway powerhouse duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein IIOklahoma! was adapted from Lynn Riggs’ play Green Grow the Lilacs and was originally choreographed by Agnes de Mille. The original production, which premiered on Broadway in 1943, is largely credited with being the first musical to fully integrate its book, score, and choreography towards advancing the plot. Fish’s re-imagining leaves the original text and score intact while exploring them through a 21st century lens.

The Broadway cast of this darker version of the classic is led by Rebecca Naomi Jones as Laurey and 2019 Tony nominee Damon Daunno as Curly. They are joined by 2019 Tony nominees Mary Testa (Aunt Eller) and  Tony Award winner Ali Stroker (Ado Annie), as well as Patrick Vaill (Jud Fry), Will Brill (Ali Hakim), Mallory Portnoy (Gertie Cummings), James Davis (Will Parker), Mitch Tebo (Andrew Carnes), Anthony Cason (Cord), and Will Mann (Mike).

Set in a Western Indian Territory just after the turn of the century, the high-spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys provides the colorful background against which Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a winsome farm girl, play out their love story. Although the road to true love never runs smooth, with these two headstrong romantics holding the reins, love’s journey is as bumpy as a surrey ride down a country road. That they will succeed in making a new life together we have no doubt, and that this new life will begin in a brand-new state provides the ultimate climax to the triumphant.

You may recall the traditional idea of Oklahoma! either from school productions or the 1955 movie, starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, and Rod Steiger. It will all look quite familiar when Curly sings “everything’s going my way” in the opening number.

Oklahoma is filled with both the optimism and hope that come with the promise of Oklahoma territory becoming the newest of the United State along with the fear of the other that often arises when groups of people are forced to interact with each other.

Oklahoma was the first musical the use choreography as a way of moving the plot forward. Most notably with a 15 minute Dream Ballet at the end of Act ,  where Laurey discovers her true feelings and fears surrounding her two suitors Social media mavens have hash tagged this production #SexyOklahoma

 We were really excited to see Ali Stroker portray the exquisitely naughty Ado Annie.  She made history in 2015 as the first actress in a wheelchair to appear on a Broadway stage. In this show  that chair is perfectly integrated into the choreography.

Songs like The Farmer and the Cowman, All erNuthin, Kansas City and It’s a Scandal! The Surrey With a Fringe and It’s an Outrage! will continue to dance in your head.The setting on Broadway was indeed interesting as the cast of 12 performed attired in modern clothing, pretty much avoided using microphones and did so on a small stage with the audience seated on either side. There was seven-piece band, with the sweet sounds of such instruments as the banjo, pedal steel guitar, mandolin, bass, cello, accordion and violin.

Back to Stoker, who was so wonderful to watch, she became the first performer who uses a wheelchair to receive a Tony Award.The audience at New York’s Radio City Music Hall gave Stroker a well-deserved huge ovation when her name was announced as best supporting actress in a musical.She  proceeded to dedicate the award to “every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena.”

The 31-year-old Stroker has been paralyzed since the age of two because of a car crash. She began performing in musical theatre at seven, the.After her win, the actress appeared before journalists backstage, who asked her how to make Broadway and theatre more accessible.

“The theatres for the house, where all the audience comes in, that is all made accessible to patrons,” Stroker said. “But the backstages are not. So I would ask theatre owners and producers to really look into how they can begin to make the backstage accessible, so performers with disabilities can get around.”

Stroker got her break in 2012 as a finalist on “The Glee Project,” Ryan Murphy’s reality competition series in which contestants vied for a role in the TV show “Glee.”

“When I started singing, it was the first time I felt like there were no limits,” Stroker told the LA Times. “My voice didn’t have walls. I could jump, skip and run with it. Singing for me is like going for a run for other people. My endorphins go up, and I feel so good after I sing. I was not given the ability to walk or run. But I was given the ability to sing.”

As for what intrigued her most about playing Ado Annie, she responded: “We studied a lot of Rodgers and Hammerstein shows in college, and I really liked her. One of my favorite parts about doing this role is that all of a sudden, without needing to talk about it, we were addressing disability and sexuality. People are so unsure about how to tackle these subjects, and what I loved is that we didn’t need to talk about them. We just got to see them in action.

 

What sort of challenges did she face each day in terms of performing?“I leave home an hour and 45 minutes before curtain,” she explained. “The show has been so supportive of my needs, providing a car for me to get to and from the theater and helping me inside the theater. Because there are a lot of stairs at the theater’s main entrance, I go in through the office building next door, and then Circle in the Square put in a stair lift for me to get down to the dressing rooms and stage level. They also put in a ramp backstage so I can get around. Theaters have made shows accessible

Little Shop of Horrors

We also saw thetriumphant and delicious revival of Little Shop of Horrors in the   intimate 270-seat Westside Theatre at 407 West 43rd Street. This “wildly exuberant and irresistible” production stars Emmy Award winner Tammy Blanchard (“Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows”), Tony Award nominee Jonathan Groff (Hamilton), and two-time Tony winner Christian Borle.

Where to Stay

When planning our trips to New York City,only one place to stayappears on our list and that is thehistoric Algonquin Hotel (www.algonquinhotel.com). Located on 44th Street near 6th Avenue, it is a mereblock and a half from Times Square.  In 2020 a series of renovations will commence.

There is another reason why I love this hotel. When we travel we board our cat and miss her every second. The Algonquin is home toHamlet VIII, a three and a half year-old orange cat. According to hotel executive assistant Alice De Almeida, he was originally a feral cat found in Long Island and brought to the Bide-a-wee shelter (the oldest shelter in the Big Apple), where the Algonquin then adopted him as their own. He came to the hotel in July 2017 after their former cat, Matilda III, retired. “He is so friendly and loveable that people who never liked cats love him.” Alice says proudly. “He has great purrsonality!”

Hamlet has his own Twitter and Instagram accounts, as well as an email account.  “I take care of all his needs, front and back, vet visits and more,” says Alice.

Alice has three cats of her own at home and feeds several ferals in her area. She came to work at this hotel in 2005 and quickly became the natural guardian of the resident cats. “I have become a real Jewish mother to our cats,” she laughs.

Based on the timeline of a book written by the hotel’s first general manager, the lineage of The Algonquin Cat dates back to the early 1920s. Two days after this first cat, Billy, passed, another stray cat wandered into the hotel and The Algonquin welcomed Rusty. The famous classical actor, John Barrymore, best known for playing Hamlet on stage, was a resident at the time in the early 1930s, and Rusty was renamed Hamlet in his honor. The lineage thus far now includes eight Hamlets and three Matildas. Each cat that has reigned at The Algonquin has been a rescue.

The hotel’s executive chef cooks Hamlet special meals on holidays. He receives fan mail and gifts constantly from around the world. He has recently been the subject of a painting that hangs above the Front Desk, by New York artist Marcus Pierno. Hamlet can often be found at the front desk, in one of his two tree houses or prancing through the lobby. He has been trained to never go outside and is wonderful with everyone who wants to pet him.

Every August The Algonquin hosts an annual Cat Fashion Show to raise money for the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. The event brings together the city’s most fashionable felines to strut their stuff in one-of-a-kind outfits that coincide with different themes – the 2019 edition was “It’s a Small World.”   Hamlet VIII was naturally the star.The spectacle begins with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and desserts; a silent auction featuring a variety of kitty-centric items; an on-site mobile adoption unit in front of the hotel that day and of course NYC cats hitting the catwalk in opulent threads designed by legendary pet fashion designer Ada Nieves. Human guests are encouraged to wear their most eccentric, feline-inspired outfit and share photos from the un-fur-gettable night on social media using the hashtag #AlgonquinCat.

A total of 100 percent of proceeds benefits the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a non-profit charity that works with more than 150 partner rescue groups and shelters to offer important programs and services that save the lives of NYC’s homeless animals. A raffle raises additional funds throughout the evening, with prizes including a variety of pet products curated by the event’s co-chair, pet lifestyle expert and author Sandy Robins.

Hamlet can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  He can also be reached via email: hamletalgonquincat@algonquinhotel.com.

The Algonquin first opened its doors in 1902. Today, it is part of the Marriott chain’s Autograph Collection, an evolving ensemble of strikingly independent hotels. Each destination has been selected for its quality, bold originality, rich character, and uncommon details. The result is an array of properties that is nothing less than unique. The Algonquin Hotel was the first New York City property to become a part of the collection.   

For well more than 100 years, the Algonquin has been greeting and lodging the country’s most prominent writers and literary personalities, as well as the leading figures of the American stage. The hotel is best known, perhaps, for the members of the Round Table, a group of luminaries who had in common both the ability to fire blazing witticisms and to withstand being on the receiving end of them.

After World War I, Vanity Fair writers and Algonquin regulars Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood began lunching at the Algonquin. Though society columns referred to them as the Algonquin Round Table, they called themselves the Vicious Circle. “By force of character,” observed drama critic Brooks Atkinson, “they changed the nature of American comedy and established the tastes of a new period in the arts and theatre.”

This year marks the centennial of the Round Table and as a result special programming took place all summer long. We were there to take in some of the festivities

Each of the 181 rooms and 25 suites features a comfortable well-lit work desk, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi. We stayed in a very comfortable one bedroom Playbill Suite.The layout was ideally suited for us. There is a nice sized entrance, with the master bedroom to the left featuring a nice-sized bathroom. The spacious living room has a pullout couch, a large desk which was perfect for me to write my stories and good drawer and cupboard space. You can get a fridge and a microwave, depending upon availability and on request.

When you enter the hotel, you come face to face with the casual Lobby Lounge, along with The Round Table Restaurant. Just to the left is the hotel’s trendy and aptly named Blue Bar.

The Algonquin Hotel is located at 59 W 44th Street, New York, New York 10036. www.algonquinhotel.com.

Main Phone:  212-840-6800

In the book The Algonquin Kid: Adventures Growing Up In New York’s Legendary Hotel, author Michael Colby tells the story about his grandparents Mary and Ben Bodne, who built this legendary landmark. Southern Jews, they owned the hotel from 1946 to 1987. As a kid, Colby and siblings visited their grandparents every weekend. Colby took up permanent residence in the hotel at the age of 18 and made his way into the theater world as a librettist, composer and lyricist. His musical, Charlotte Sweet, an all-sung, all-rhymed original musical with libretto by Colby and music by Gerald Jay Markoe, received three Drama Desk Award nominations and was critically lauded as “adorable, strange and delectable” by the New York Times.

The Algonquin, its bar and restaurant, have easy access for wheelchairs from the street. There is valet parking. The hotel has six ADA rooms and one ADA suite. There are two elevators. Staff are very helpful and friendly.

Carolines on Broadway

For years I have walked by Carolines on Broadway (https://www.carolines.com), promising myself that I would one day check out this world famous comedy club. Well I finally did so, booking a dinner and show package on a Saturday evening. I arrived at 5:45 pm, checked in and was shown to a nice table in the club where veteran server Alfred took my order –some crispy fresh cut zucchini chips to start and a main course of grilled salmon and roasted potatoes.


Carolines first opened as a small cabaret club in the New York’s Chelsea neighborhood in 1982.Owner Caroline Hirsch, a lifelong comedy fan,soon began booking comedians. The comedy acts – which included now legendary performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, Billy Crystal, Rosie O’Donnell and Jay Leno – were a tremendous success. As the popularity of stand-up surged throughout the 1980s, so did the popularity of Carolines, which was becoming THE place to see live comedy in New York City.

Located in the heart of Times Square, Carolines on Broadway presents the very best live comedy entertainment seven nights a week. Just steps from many of Broadway’s most well-known theatres, Carolines on Broadway provides the same quality entertainment that is customary on New York’s legendary Great White Way. On the night I went the headliner was Sinbad. Born David Adkins, Sinbad launched his stand-up comedy career by appearing in 1983 on “Star Search,” where he beat out another then-unknown comedian named Dennis Miller before losing in the finals.In 1987, Sinbad landed a role in “A Different World,” a spinoff of “The Cosby Show,” and also had his own 1993-94 sitcom, “The Sinbad Show.”He has appeared in movies, including “Houseguest,” “First Kid” and “Jingle All the Way.”Sinbad also is known to display his music ability after his shows. He plays multiple instruments, primarily percussion, and has played with numerous artists and musicians under the name “Memphis Red.” His opening act was  young Caleb Elliott, a North Carolina native whom I think is destined for stardom. After his set he never quite left the stage. When I met him at the conclusion of the evening  I encouraged him to try and get on the card of the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal.

The great demand for comedy brought standing-room-only crowds to Carolines, which moved to a larger space at New York’s historic South Street Seaport to accommodate the ever-growing audiences. There, business continued to thrive, and the club quickly established itself as the city’s top comedy venue. It also became home to the A&E Network’s highly successful series, “Caroline’s Comedy Hour,” which would eventually garner the prestigious Cable ACE Award for “Best Comedy Series.” In 1992, Hirsch once again relocated her club, this time to its grand setting on Broadway in Times Square, where the club continues to present the country’s biggest and best comedians in a sophisticated, state-of-the-art nightclub, bringing the live comedy experience to new heights.

Today, Carolines on Broadway continues to hold center stage in Times Square as one of New York City’s most popular and enduring hotspots and as the city’s only genuine nightclub. The club is a New York institution and was one of the cornerstones in the revitalization of the vibrant and bustling Times Square district. In addition to presenting such top headlining comedians, the 300plus seat club also features emerging talent, live podcasts, and improv and sketch comedy, as well as playing host to countless large-scale fund-raising events and high profile benefits. Hirsch, a long-time Ms. Foundation board member, created an annual fundraiser for The Foundation that has continued to grow each year. Now in its fourteenth year, “The Ms. Foundation’s Women of Comedy” special recently aired on the Lifetime Television Network to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Ms. Foundation. Additionally, Carolines hosts a highly successful annual fundraiser for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, which honors the late Madeline Kahn. In 2003, the club celebrated 20 years of laughter with a gala comedy event at Carnegie Hall that featured performances by long-time club favorites Joy Behar, Richard Belzer, Lewis Black, David Alan Grier, Gilbert Gottfriedand Colin Quinn.

Carolines on Broadway also produces the highly successful New York Comedy Festival, a weeklong comedy festival that presents comedy’s biggest stars in New York’s most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, the Beacon Theatre, Madison Square Garden, and the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, to name a few. The Festival has featured such stars as Bill Burr, Dane Cook, Kathy Griffin, Kevin Hart, Denis Leary, Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais, Howie Mandel, Sarah Silverman, and Robin Williams, over the past fifteen years. In 2007, The Festival launched Stand-Up for Heroes, a very special benefit for The Bob Woodruff Foundation that has featured appearances by John Oliver, the late Robin Williams, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, Tony Bennett and Bruce Springsteen.

For the dinner and show package, food is a la carte.  You do  receive priority seating in the showroom when you have dinner before the show in the supper lounge.  Just arrive at the time of your reservationand you will receive your tickets to the show.  If, however, you miss your dinner reservation before the show, they will not be able to hold the reserved seats for you in the showroom and you will be sat first come, first sat. 

Carolines on Broadway  islocated at 1626 Broadway, between 49th and 50th Streets in Times Square.  

Dining Out

 New York City is indeed the place to dine, with an endless array of choices to please your palate. Needless to say, there is no shortage of kosher restaurants here either. I stopped by Kosher Deluxe (www.kosherdeluxe.com) at 10 West 46th Street. You can order your food and take it to a table, feast upon the endless array of takeout items or order to your hotel or call 212-869-6699.

TAO UPTOWN:We were elated to get a reservation at TAO Uptown (www.taogroup.com), an upscale Pan-Asian brand, located at 42 East 58th Street. There is also a TAO Downtown, as well as locations in Las Vegas, Chicago and Los Angeles.  They will open at Mohegan Sun casino and entertainment resort in Connecticut this year.

A 16-foot Buddha, which floats above a reflecting pool filled with Japanese carp, presides over the scene at Tao. A favorite destination for celebrities and athletes, this heavenly dining experience specializes in authentic Hong Kong Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines. Tao has three levels of dining including the prized “Skybox,” which offers views of this former movie theatre unparalleled in New York. In addition to its 300 seats, Tao includes a sushi bar, lounge and two bars at which to enjoy the food and the show.  Be sure to make reservations.

There is a wonderful ambiance here, with trendy music and a charismatic serving staff.  The menu here is truly designed for sharing. Our waiter Ryan made life so much easier for our party by recommending a series of courses “family style.” He was right on the mark with each.

We started off with some drinks:  a signature Tao-tini (Belvedere Mango Passion, Malibu Run, Cranberry and Fresh Lime), a glass of prosecco and a Bubbles and Berries (True Premium Vodka, Chandon Brut, St. Germain and Fresh Strawberries). We then moved to some appetizers: The Peking duck spring rolls with hoisin sauce, the spicy tuna tartare on crispy rice and the salmon sashimi followed by  miso glazed Chilean sea bass, grilled 12 ounce imperial waygu ribeye (served with crispy fried onions and wow this was beyond amazing!) and lobster and kimchee fried rice.

Ryan promised us a surprise for dessert and he was not kidding. Out came a very large tray featuring a giant fortune cookie (with white and dark chocolate mousse), flourless mochi cake, sugar dusted donuts, molten chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup. Let’s just say we completely ignored the calorie count.

 TAO has a magnificent sushi menu. You can study the options via their menu.

Let me just state that merely stepping inside TAO is an experience. This now represents a “must stop” for us. Hopefully next time out we can check out TAO Downtown.

There is easy street-level access by wheelchair. When making your reservation, ask for table at the main level where there are no stairs.

There are a number of Jewish partners at TAO, including Rich Wolf, Noah Tepperberg, Jason Strauss, as well as managing partners Paul Goldstein and Andrew Goldberg.

For reservations call 212-888-2288 or do so via Open Table.

BLACK TAP: What fun it was for me to experience a Black Tap (www.blacktap.com) restaurant for the first time and no less their new flagship 35th Street location (known as Black Tap 35th). Inspired by the old-school luncheonettes we grew up in, Black Tap is touted as the new take on the classic burger joint. Upscale, but not fussed-up, their award winning burgers have gotten a lot of attention in a short amount of time, milkshakes have always been on the menu, and craft beer is part of their DNA.

Black Tap 35thserves as core location for global menu testing, and features all new design elements, a private dining room, and more. There are also US locales on 55th Street and Soho in the Big Apple as well as spots at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California and at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Internationally you can find them in Bahrain, Kuwait, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

I was impressed the moment I walked through the door. Tangible nods to Black Tap’s ‘80s and ‘90s hip-hop and pop soundtrack can be found throughout the space, including an installation of 5,000 custom-designed cassette tapes and an oversized neon boombox. At the stand-alone Shake Bar—the first in New York—guests can get a glimpse into the magic of making one of Black Tap’s famous milkshake creations and be able to interact with shake makers.

New York-based graffiti artists and twin brothers How and Nosmwere tapped for Black Tap 35th’s    signature street art murals. Known for their large-scale installations and unique, complicated compositions, How and Nosm left their mark on the restaurant with their signature style of red, black and white-based imagery with colorful pops of pink, yellow, and purple. The brothers drew inspiration from New York City life and the Black Tap brand itself for two custom pieces within the space.

Black Tap is always innovating and has kept the hits coming at Black Tap 35th. There are always new menu items hitting the tables here as Black Tap tests dishes for potential worldwide launches. All of the classics are here too, from the All-American Burger and the award-winning wagyu beef Greg Norman Burger to the fan-favorite Korean BBQ Wings and addicting Crispy Brussels Sprouts. And it wouldn’t be a meal at Black Tap without a CrazyShake. There’s something for every sweet tooth from the original Cotton Candy strawberry shake and the best-selling Cookie’s ‘N Cream Supreme shake, to the newly added Cinnamon Toast cereal-flavored Churro Choco Taco Shake topped with a Choco Taco ice cream treat and churros. Don’t forget the beverages. True to its name (a nod to craft beer bar tap handles), Black Tap 35th’s  beer menu features New York regional specialties like The Bronx Brewery No Resolutions Imperial IPA and Greenport Harbor Beehave Summer Ale.

I  started off with the Queso & Chips  appetizer –   zesty cheese served with warm tortilla chips and a house salad.  The Old Fashioned Prime Burger  was my main choice, topped with crimini mushrooms, melted swiss cheese, carmelized onions and horse radish with some crispy fries.

I did my best to conserve some appetite for a crazy shake and opted for the Cake Shake. This is a cake batter milkshake with a vanilla frosted rim and rainbow sprinkles, topped with Funfetti cake, whipped cream  and a cherry. My server wisely recommended  that I gently move the cake portion to a plate, enjoying every morsel. For the shake I used the spoon at the start before switching to the straw. It was worth all of the calories, especially knowing that I had a 11 block walk back to my hotel.

Black Tap 35th is located at  45 West 35th Street and open from 11 am to midnight daily. You  can call (646) 943-5135

A BRAZILIAN DINING EXPERIENCE:Fogo de Chão (fogo-dee-shown) is a leading Brazilian steakhouse, or churrascaria, specializing in the centuries-old Southern Brazilian cooking technique of churrasco – the art of roasting high-quality cuts of meats over open flame, all of which are carved tableside by Brazilian-trained gaucho chefs. There is Picanha (signature sirloin), Filet Mignon, Ribeye, Fraldinha (Brazilian sirloin) Cordeiro (lamb) and more. In addition to the main dishes, they boast a gourmet market table, authentic Brazilian side dishes, and an award-winning wine list.

Founded in Southern Brazil in 1979, there are currently 56 locations throughout Brazil, the United States, Mexico and the Middle East. I had a chance to experience this restaurant for the very first time at the beautiful West 53rd Street locationin midtown Manhattan, just a short walk from Times Square and steps away from MoMA.Just before Christmas 2013, Fogo opened this 16,000 square foot flagship location. The stunning architectural design includes a seventeen foot bas-relief sculpture of Antonio Caringi’s, O Laçador, and a historical monument in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The three level facility features al fresco patio dining and a lounge area that is perfect for gathering with friends.  Unquestionably this was a totally new dining experience for me and I was beyond impressed. For first-timers like me, you will need a little guidance in terms of how to navigate the menu. Manager Ricardo Oliveira and his staff did precisely that. This is a “fun” place to dine for sure.

I opted in favor of the Full Churrasco Experience, which for $69.95 includes the trained chefs coming to your table. All you need to do is flip this small circular card to the green side and you will receive a visit, getting a chance to select the precise cut of meat you want. Everything was so fresh and delicious, I found it hard not to keep flipping my card over.  

Their market table is a fabulous way to get your meal started. The server also brought a basket of cheesy bread to the table and a delicious jumbo shrimp cocktail appetizer in a bowl of ice. Each piece of meat seemed better than the last, cutting like butter. A server came by and offered me some mashed potatoes and vegetables. There was not a moment during this dinner when either a server, chef or manager did not stop by to see if I needed anything else.


As for my beverage, the guarana Antarctica is the national soda of Brazil and contains guarana berries found in the Amazon.  The dessert menu fortunately had a calorie count and I chose the Tres Leches Cake – a rich cake soaked in three types of milk then topped with vanilla mousse and salted caramel de leite. I enjoyed this with a cup of decaf cappuccino.

Next time I dine here I will definitely try either the mango Chilean sea bass, pan-seared salmon and if dine with my family, the seafood tower.

 For more information about Fogo de Chão, the new culinary additions or to make dining reservations, visit http://www.fogo.com. You can reach the West 53rd location at  212-969-9980.

 

A FINE IRISH PUB: Located just up the block from my hotel, The Algonquin, isO’Donoghue’s Restaurant and Pub (https://odpubnyc.com)at 156 West 44th Street. I have been walking by the place for several years now, intrigued by the lineups outside. Well, this place indeed exudes  Irish warmth. Manager Helen Moran is from Ireland and so was my charming server Sarah. With 24 beers on tap, 10 HD plasma flat screens and  traditional Irish and American cuisine, O’Donoghue’s is the perfect place to unwind after work (happy hour specialty drinks), for sporting events (showing all major sports channels) and private parties (party packages available).They are right in the middle of the Theatre District, so this is the perfect place to stop by for pre/post-theatre meal and drinks, or if you’re just shopping around town.

I had tickets for a 7:30 pm musical close by, so I arrived at 6 pm. The service was impeccable and I enjoyed my meal at a good pace, finishing with more than sufficient time to be sitting in my seat 10 minutes before the curtain went up.

There is a regular menu as well as those for kids, late night, weekend brunch and another just for the bar. They also have daily specials.  I started off with some piping hot beef and barley soup, a delicious order of garlic cheesy bread, with marinara sauce, and a glass of prosecco wine.  For the main course I was debating between their signature burger, one of the sandwiches and the special chicken and mashed potatoes.  I opted for the latter. The chicken was cut in neat thin slices, moist and extremely tasty. I made the right choice.   Did I have room for dessert? The homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream sounded like the perfect way to conclude dinner. Along with a fresh cup of decaf coffee I finished every morsel, leaving over just a bit of the ice cream.

There is a great atmosphere in this place. You can call(212) 997-2262.

The restaurant is handicapped accessibility, with a level entrance.

JEWISH CONNECTION: New York’s landmark historic Jewish neighborhood, the Lower East Side was once home to the world’s largest Jewish community. Covering the area between Houston and Canal Streets east of the Bowery, this neighborhood is where New York’s garment industry began. Today it is a bargain hunter’s paradise, with great deals to be found on everything from souvenir t-shirts to menorahs, especially along Orchard Street in the neighborhood’s center. The overall New York Jewish community in the metropolitan area has remained stable at 1.4 million people; the population of New York City is just below a million.

Indeed, the world-class museums and collections found throughout Manhattan are not to be missed. The historic synagogues should be toured. But in New York City, Jewish life is just a walk down the street. The Jewish Museum (www.thejewishmuseum.org) at 1109 Fifth Ave. (northeast corner of 92nd St.) is dedicated to presenting the remarkable scope and diversity of Jewish culture.  You can also visit the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan (www.jccmanhattan.org) at The Samuel Priest Rose Building (334 Amsterdam Avenue at West 76th Street).  The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (http://www.mjhnyc.org) first opened its doors on September 15, 1997 at 36 Battery Place.