Guide to Gallery Hopping Across the Country
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Whenever I get to explore a new city, my first stop is hitting the gallery scene. Representing what is new, fresh, and exiting in art, every city's gallery district shows a pretty clear vision of the cultural tone of the place and the people contributing to it. Not to mention, it's one of the most affordable (read: free!) cultural activities you can engage in, in any city. By popping in and out of sleek and industrial gallery spaces, all in a row one after the other, people visiting that city for the first time or the 10th time can get a distinct feel of what it has to offer, both culturally and socially.
The catch is that many gallery districts are in semi-secluded, industrial neighborhoods that haven't always been hotbeds of culinary activity. But since seeing and interpreting art all day long definitely works up an appetite, we’ve mapped out where to eat and drink to nourish your art-loving soul and rest your tired-of-gallery-hopping body.
Chelsea, New York City
You can toast your gallery-spotting skills at this bar without feeling like you totally left art in the dust. The Half King is owned by Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, and the bar supports the local art community by featuring works in their “gallery” and holding readings. They offer one of the widest beer selections in Chelsea, and a food menu to match. The Half King offers tasty entrées, an array of salads and panini, and if you’re in the mood for higher-end bar food, try the curry coconut steamed mussels and "Shepard Pie Shooters." (Photo courtesy of Flickr/roboppy)
In this open, airy restaurant with farm-to-table fare, you're bound to get a delicious and seasonal bite in a serene place, to reflect on what you’ve just seen. The team at CookShop is committed to the utmost sustainable ingredients, humanely raised animals, and the support of local farmers. Grass-fed burgers, apple wood smoked bacon, sheep’s milk ricotta bruschetta, steamed mussels, and the freshest vegetables are all on offer. Thirsty? The eatery brings the same local-only devotion to their innovative cocktail creations and wine list.
After a long afternoon spent unravelling and decoding complex concepts and meanings, sit down to some deliciously uncomplicated food. Pepe Giallo offers a welcoming, cozy atmosphere with a great garden area, and features artwork on the walls, lit by glowing paper-bag chandeliers. They're masters of simply honoring ingredients, like grilled shrimp salad with roasted corn and hearts of palm and cod livernese with garlic mashed potatoes and spinach. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Indabelle)
New York City's Lower East Side
Down in the Bowery, near some of New York City's newest and most forward-thinking contemporary art galleries, Pulino’s pizzas are unique creations. Without straying too far from traditional flavors, Pulino’s mixes things up by putting ingredients like spinach, mascarpone, mozzarella, and an egg on one pie; meatballs on another; or if you get there early, try their breakfast pizzas with eggs, sausage, bacon, mozzarella, and white cheddar.
Inside this pristine factory-like shop are machines churning out 200 different kinds of homemade gelatos and sorbets, perfect to satisfy any art lover's sweet cravings — and it's all visible from the street. All of the creamy delights are made on the premises with local and seasonal ingredients, and who would know how to make them better than the grandson of the founder of Carvel?
If the galleries start getting too fancy for you, (or you spent all of your dough on cabs trying to find that one underground "concept space" behind a noodle shop where you have to knock three times), hit up Vanessa’s Dumplings where you get delicious house-made dumplings, like chives and pork, vegetable, chicken and mushrooms, and great bang for your buck. The shop also offers sandwiches on sesame pancakes. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/roboppy)
Boston's South End
Conveniently located near the SOWA Arts guild, the Gaslight Brasserie is the relaxed and affordable cousin of L'Aquitaine, a few streets away. There's a reason I think this restaurant makes for perfect post-hopping dining — the juxtaposition. It's a great contrast to go from stark spaces and walls lined with contemporary art, to the Old World look and feel of the Gaslight Brasserie. It's multi-sensorial. What will jog your senses even more are their classic French dishes like duck confit, steak frites, and salad niçoise.
Galleries offer, if nothing else, a more intimate setting in which to study the art. Looking closely enough, you can see the passions of the artists in their pieces in a way you may not be afforded at, say, a crowded museum. The same goes for the South End Buttery. After 15 years of working as a criminal prosecutor in Boston, owner Richard Gordon saw a coffee shop for sale, did some soul-searching, and the South End Buttery was born. The dishes are modeled after what you'd find in a traditional English buttery, with a healthy twist. They have great views of the eclectic neighborhood's passersby and you can leisurely reflect, with a great café au lait.
Asking for a recommended wine pairing at Boston's Seiyo, a sushi and wine bar, is a must, because they're experts in it. The spot started out as a specialty wine and beer retailer, but it really came together when they added a sushi bar. This place is great for all types. If it’s just you and a friend on an art adventure, sit at a cozy table and dine on fresh and creative rolls like the New York Maki (tuna, avocado, fuji apple, and jalapeño) with a great sauvignon blanc or spend the night trying out the myriad of chardonnays alongside your myriad of sashimi. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Antderosa)
Miami's Design Distric
If you’re sweating it out in Miami, either from the heat or the intricate art and architecture, you might want to stop into CVI.CHE 105 for a refreshing bite. The Peruvian restaurant has been recognized for their notable ceviches like “Pisco 100,” which comes covered with white sauce and a parmesan gratinée, or the restaurant’s anticuchos, which are pieces of hearts from cows “madly in love,” in a secret marinade mix, skewed by wild sugar cane and brought to a smoking fire. How can you say no to that?
Stop into this small, quiet, laptop-friendly café to map out the day's gallery hopping. Famed Miami chef Michelle Bernstein has a seat for you in her Crumb on Parchment café in the design district — a perfect place to relax in a low-key setting and grab a sandwich or salad. In the mood for something sweet? Bernstein’s own mother is to thank for all of the homemade bakery items.
By the time you've made your way up and down the design district, you'll be plenty hungry for a restaurant and a meal that will heighten all your senses. Buena Vista Bistro is the spot. They pride themselves on focusing on the little things, whether it’s the charmingly scrawled chalk menus behind the counter, hand-cut french fries, a perfectly plated grouper with beurre blanc, or a pop of color with their yellow umbrellas outside.
Culver City, California
Coolhaus' architecturally inspired and artisanal ice cream sandwiches made a name for themselves quickly on the LA arts scene by, frankly, being little pieces of art themselves. What started as a too-cool food truck, is also a brick-and-mortar shop in Culver City where you can make a between-galleries pit stop for cool ice cream, homemade cookies, and local artists' and design groups' works lining the walls. No order is dull — the Tahitian vanilla bean is a classic, peach bellini is light and delicious, and strawberry jalapeño is on there to keep everyone guessing.
The second outpost of Father’s Office, the first of which is less than half its size and located on a quiet strip of Montana Avenue. in Brentwood, dishes up the restaurant's famous Office Burger and sweet potato fries (served in a mini metal fryers basket) to roaming art lovers. It's got a gastro-pub vibe with a menu to match, but their real draw is their extensive selection of beer that ranges from malty to hoppy to the "really good sh...". (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Uscdeacon)
Standing in as a perfect lunch spot, Tender Greens is dedicated to organic local food with big flavor. With a big, bright window on every wall and a covered porch with plants running wild, it’s a great space to enjoy a intricate salad like the “Craft,” with housemade salumi, feta, pickled vegetables, and roasted peppers with a cabernet vinaigrette, or their grilled prawns with chorizo, lima beans, and arugula.
Named one of America’s Best New Chefs of 2011 by Food & Wine Magazine, chef Bryce Gilmore’s newest venture came from the popularity of his “farm-to-trailer” food truck, Odd Duck. Barley Swine offers only a bit more space than the trailer, but it's worth waiting for one of the 34 seats in the place. Gilmore puts as much emphasis on locality and craftsmanship of beer here as he does on his tasty, simple, and artfully presented food.
Chef Sonya Cotè recently made our list of the top 10 badass women chefs in America, and for good reason. At the East Side Show Room, a speakeasy-like establishment, she proves that slow food is exquisite with dishes described as French food-meets-soul food. Innovative, mouthwatering meals are paired with eclectic collections of beer, wine, and classic cocktails. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Kylesteed)
Austin is known for being a young city, full of edgy, outside-the-box creative minds who seem to say with ease: “I have an idea. Yeah, let’s do that.” And this is seemingly how East Side King got its start. The food truck specializes in a sort of Japanese comfort food; basically it's a mashup of all of the things the owners enjoy. Beef tongue sticky bun anyone? How about a deep-fried bun with peanut curry or a panko-crusted hot dog? This food truck-turned-shop is adept at making interesting, art-filled days become infinitely more exciting.
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