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)