Inside Tribeca: New York's Coolest Neighborhood
Published: April 2009
By Brad Gooch
In New York City, the acronym of the moment is TriBeCa — for Triangle Below Canal Street. Its cobblestoned alleyways, Venetian light, and sleek lofts fashioned from retooled warehouses are fast being rezoned as a global destination. Moving amid the poets and painters who discovered the neighborhood are indie film stars, models, pop singers, and captains of dot-coms. Here, four-star restaurants are wedged a few stone sidewalk slabs away from blue-collar bistros, and postprandial partying is never far behind. In front of the Tribeca Grand Hotel, stalkerazzi eagerly wait for Matt Damon or Uma Thurman to amble by. Yet for all the uptown converts flocking south of Canal Street, TriBeCa's glamour still comes with lots of breathing room.
The only world-class accommodations in this Bermuda Triangle of low-key-ness are in the Tribeca Grand Hotel (2 Ave. of the Americas; 877/519-6600 or 212/519-6600, fax 212/519-6700; doubles from $449). Open less than a year, it has held VIP screenings for Traffic, Chocolat, and Quills. Last fall, at Diane Von Fürstenberg's fashion show, guests (Barry Diller, Pia Getty, Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece) received key cards to the Grand's penthouse suite as their invitations to the after-party. The neighborhood's equivalent for the pet set is the Wagging Tail (35412 Greenwich St.; 212/285-4900, fax 212/285-1194; www.thewaggingtail.com), a cat-and-dog boardinghouse and day spa that lets pet owners check on their animals via Web-cam.
"I notice the change when Realtors tell me how much I could get for my building. To me it's still just a big hunk of junk. You know how when you're a fat kid and you grow up to be really sexy, but in your mind you're still a fat kid?Part of me still thinks of TriBeCa as a big junkyard." —Ross Bleckner, artist
Those embarking on a spiritual journey should drop in to Sufi Books (227 West Broadway; 212/334-5212), well stocked with tomes on mysticism and enlightenment. A block away is the Sufi mosque, Masjid al-Farah (245 West Broadway), with its stained-glass calligraphy windows; open to the public on Thursday evenings and Friday afternoons.
The keenest of the Wallpaper generation — for whom home furnishings have out-hipped fashion — consider Franklin Street to be their version of Carnaby Street. Within two blocks are crammed a dozen of the most happening boutiques for Scandinavian furniture (the new "antiques") and those ubiquitous Lexon radios. Totem (71 Franklin St.; 212/925-5506) was the advance guard with its graphic, pigment-rich makeovers of everything from mouse pads to doorstops. Antik (104 Franklin St.; 212/343-0471) represents a blonder sensibility in its love of all things fifties and Scandinavian. R 20th Century (82 Franklin St.; 212/343-7979) has honed a mid-century-modern collection from all around the world. Championing wood are John Kelly (77 Franklin St.; 212/625-3355), with his walnut bow beds and neo-Shaker spindle chairs, and Intérieurs (149 Franklin St.; 212/343-0800), with its Parisian neo-Modernist line. Newest concept on the block: Dune (88 Franklin St.; 212/925-6171), opening this spring with a retro-futurist vibe by design director Nick Dine, son of artist Jim Dine. Nearby, Lafco (200 Hudson St.; 212/925-0001) expands home design to include decorative Portuguese soaps and beauty products.
"The heart of this neighborhood is the Fourth Estate newspaper shop. It's gossip central. JFK Jr. used to hang out there, and I see movie people in there all the time. That's where you get all the dirt about what's going on at Miramax."—Kate Betts, editor-in-chief, Harper's Bazaar
The first big-name fashion designer to migrate to TriBeCa is Issey Miyake. His new store, opening in September at 119 Hudson Street, is a chic collaboration between Miyake and architect Frank Gehry. The high-concept, 15,000-square-foot space — rendered by architect Gordon Kipping, a protégé of Gehry's — will showcase Miyake's men's and women's collections as well as lines previously unavailable in this country, including A-POC (short for A Piece of Cloth), a line that lets customers cut their own garments from tubes of fabric.
The eighties saw the cult of Odeon (145 West Broadway; 212/233-0507; dinner for two $75), a revamped chrome cafeteria that turned into the epicenter of the art scene and is now a classic. Then came the Nieporent-DeNiro explosion with Montrachet, Layla, Tribeca Grill, and Nobu (105 Hudson St.; 212/219-0500; dinner for two $110), a Japanese date restaurant for L.A. types "in the business," as well as Next Door Nobu (105 Hudson St.; 212/334-4445; dinner for two $110) — but don't bother calling, there's a no-reservations policy. Vying for title of "the anti-Nobu" among locals who resent not being able to get in: Zutto (77 Hudson St.; 212/233-3287; dinner for two $50), a sushi favorite of playwright and neighborhood resident Edward Albee.
The perfect restaurant for film fanatics is the Screening Room Restaurant & Cinema (54 Varick St.; 212/334-2100; dinner and a movie for two $60). Vertiginously ranked by food lovers: David Bouley's Danube (30 Hudson St.; 212/791-3771; dinner for two $100), which feels like dining inside the lacquered jewel box of an Austro-Hungarian duchess, and his Bouley Bakery (120 West Broadway; 212/964-2525; dinner for two $100), with its low-attitude haute French cuisine.
Farther downtown is the Juniper Café (185 Duane St.; 212/965-1201; dinner for two $50), a late-night bistro jammed with fashion photographers. Just across the street at Roc (190A Duane St.; 212/625-3333; dinner for two $80), the percolating Rocco Cadolini (formerly of Elio's on the Upper East Side) has concocted a trendy restaurant mixing high (a glittering chandelier, antique Sicilian vases) and low (a weekly spaghetti-and-meatballs special) that's true to his native Sorrento. On balmy nights, you can eat outside against the backdrop of the World Trade Center's towers. Most favored regular customer: Gwyneth Paltrow.
After 21 years behind the top-rated Chanterelle (2 Harrison St.; 212/966-6960; dinner for two $168), chef David Waltuck and his wife, Karen, have a new bistro: Le Zinc (139 Duane St.; 212/513-0001; dinner for two $60). The softly lit, high-ceilinged space is the ideal spot for munching on salmon burgers and sipping a Côte du Rhône. Art is a Waltuck tradition: at Chanterelle, artists like Mapplethorpe and Haring designed the menus; at Zinc, the walls are plastered with posters for upcoming movies and art openings.
SEE AND BE SCENE
Every Sunday afternoon at three, a crowd worthy of a Benetton ad heads to Body & Soul, a fevered dance party at Vinyl (6 Hubert St.; 212/330-9169). Weeknights at the swanky Grace (114 Franklin St.; 212/343-4200), twentysomethings tipple apple martinis along with tapas of tequila-marinated shrimp till 4 a.m. (tapas are the staple of the TriBeCa diet). At Tja! (301 Church St.; 212/226-8900), the dishes are Scandinavian-inspired and the music is trance-inducing. Nocturnal is the word for the cabaret scene at Shine (285 West Broadway; 212/941-0900) and at just-opened Rubber Monkey (279 Church St.; 212/625-8220). From jazz trios to fire-eaters and contortionists, these two hot spots offer more than just trippy sofas for lounge lizards.
"It's very casual down here, not like uptown at all. People walk around in paint-splattered drawstring pants, sweatshirts, and Chinese slippers. You would never wear a Chanel suit or Manolos. You couldn't — not on those cobblestones." —Susanna Moore, novelist
HOLLYWOOD ON THE LOWER HUDSON
The strip of Greenwich Street between Franklin and Watts has become a Little Hollywood — it's home to the TriBeCa Film Center, and the offices of Miramax are nearby. Recently, scenes of Sex and the City were shot in front of Sosa Borella (460 Greenwich St.; 212/431-5093), an Italian-Argentine café where Keanu Reeves, Fisher Stevens, and Tim Robbins drop in for ciabatta-bread sandwiches and fries between takes. The West Coast—meets—East Coast vibe is palpable throughout TriBeCa. Ula Day Spa (8 Harrison St.; 212/343-2376) attracts local players Harvey Keitel and model-turned-actress James King with its hydrating mask of green tea and licorice. Among the boldface names who've reportedly taken up residence in the neighborhood recently: Billy Crystal, Ed Burns, David Letterman, Marc Anthony, Nathan Lane, Gisele Bündchen, and Kyle Eastwood (son of Clint). Rumored to be half-moved-in: Mariah Carey, Ricky Martin, Sean "Puffy" Combs, and Ben Stiller.