By Raphael Pallais, Chief Concierge for The Plaza Hotel
With the disappearance of the Fulton Fish Market in 2005, the recent rise of luxury condos, and the relentless greening of the waterfront, South Street Seaport has outgrown its old touristy self and evolved into one of downtown Manhattan's most vibrant neighborhoods.
The small stretch of Front Street between Beekman Street and the Brooklyn Bridge is the Seaport's real soul, and feels like a world apart from the glitz of neighboring Wall Street and the new city (of mostly retirees) at Battery Park.
With its historic pedigree of cobbled streets and low-rise tenements, the northerly fringe of Front Street is cozy, romantic, even down-home. And now, in just the past few years, it's sprouted an impressive row of eateries, shops and watering holes. Here are some of my favorites:
Stella Manhattan Bistro at 213 Front St.
This is a colorful nook where you'll find a seasonal, modern European menu with a gastropub slant. The chef is a Dubliner whose dishes include black sole imported from Ireland (no corned beef and cabbage here). Weekend brunches are superb.
Il Brigante at 214 Front St.
Calabria native Venanzio Pasubio opened this rustic trattoria with pizza on his mind, and he makes some of the best pies in downtown Manhattan. Both the Paesana and the Margherita are out of this world.
Bin No. 220 at 220 Front St.
A charming wine bar with the finest small plates in the area, including cured meats, roasted vegetables and the best cheese selection south of Canal Street. Their wine selection is small but well arranged and they are famous for their white sangria, featuring a great Italian Sauvignon Blanc.
Jack's Stir Brew at
222 Front St.
Perhaps the most unusual coffee place in all of New York, Jack is the inventor of his own machine, which oxygenates coffee even as it brews for a fantastic taste. Must try it to believe it. According to their erstwhile slogan: God gets his coffee here.
at 225 Front St.
Claudio Marini and Stefano Barbagallo's tiny restaurant and market sells specialty Italian groceries from burrata cheese to speck, plus prepared foods like fava-and-pecorino salad, spaghetti alla chitarra, and open-faced veal tonnato sandwiches. Bello!
at 24 Peck Slip
The best sushi in the area by way of Victor Chan, a veteran entrepreneur in the Seaport. Fantastic rolls and a system where you can "make your own," all of it combined with some of the sweetest views of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Nelson Blue at
233-235 Front St.
Aussie beer, NZ Steinlager, mussels, grilled squid, fish tacos and plenty of lamb: what else can you possibly want from a couple of Kiwis in town trying to make an honest living? By the way, it's one of the only New Zealand restaurants in the city, so come ready for some fun times.
Raphael Pallais is the Chief Concierge of The Plaza Hotel.