Seaport Report, Week of July 2, 2014

Downtown Express photos by Joseph M. Calisi Game On! Water St., the Downtown Alliance’s new promotion with activities all along Water St., including Nok Hockey.
Downtown Express photos by Joseph M. Calisi
Game On! Water St., the Downtown Alliance’s new promotion with activities all along Water St., including Nok Hockey.

BY JANEL BLADOW  |  Our little neighborhood is the belle of the summer fun in the city this year! Thank you Macy’s for drawing attention downtown!

Restaurant news…New places are popping up in old locations. Long established spots are back and better. And a historic gem is working hard to make a comeback. 

Rumor has it The Bridge Café, 279 Water St., is shooting for a reopening at the end of the month or in August. The street level and basement needed to be gutted, floors and all, following water damage from Hurricane Sandy. Seaport Report will keep you posted on its return.

Barbalu, a new Italian spot, has opened at 225 Front St., where Barabarini, the trattoria/grocery, once was. While the storm caused extensive damage, it also caused the owners to go their separate ways. But Stefano Barbagallo and Adriana Lugue took up the challenge, reimagined the space, and have earned great reviews for their Italian countryside food and vibe. One lunch diner so raved about their bresaola sandwich (crusty bread, sliced beef, goat cheese, arugula and truffle oil, $9) that his review earned a spot on their webpage. 

Work continues sporadically on two new spots – Z, at Front and Beekman Sts., where the much-maligned yet cherished Carmine’s was family-run since 1977. But the bar and other fixtures continue to live up to their maritime history in at the Old Stein Inn near Annapolis, MD.

Workmen are in and out off and on at the old Meade’s location on Peck Slip and Water St. A Tribeca bar owner plans to open an upscale mixology bar with dazzling cocktails, according to whisperers. No opening date is set. Meanwhile, over at the short-lived Grandma’s on Peck Slip, men with pencils, measuring tapes and clipboards have been taking stock of the finally cleaned out space. No word on plans for the place that had several incarnations in recent years.

Historic anchors unite…Two of the neighborhood’s best-loved hot spots celebrated their longevity last month. The Paris Café, first opened in 1873 at 119 South St., celebrated its after-Sandy reopening a few weeks ago and tied the event to the 131st anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge. A fitting coupling, for sure.

“We plan to build on this tradition and make it an annual event,” café co-owner Peter O’Connell told Seaport Report as we sampled a few of their new tantalizing and refreshing summer cocktails. What better way to enjoy our hood’s maritime flair and bridge connection?

O’Connell and business partner Diarmuid Hackett are awaiting news on their sidewalk café license and hope to have outdoor seating for 26 along the building’s Peck Slip and South Street façade. The menu is new and updated, no longer simply Irish pub food, but sumptuous snacks, salads and entrees. Heading the kitchen is chef Scott Hawley, who is as handsome as he is talented. You may remember him from TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen” Season 7, and The Bluebell Café, one of other three restaurants owned by O’Connell and Hackett. 

“We want to be a destination for dinner as well as a place to grab a burger in the neighborhood,” said O’Connell. “People used to come in for bar food, now we do a proper meal. They can come in to dine. We’re taking it to another level for dinner.

The evening menu includes the famous Paris Burger and house favorite Shepherd’s Pie, but now a Slow-braised Lamb Shank and nightly fish specials will kick the taste up a notch.

“Our focus is on seafood because of our longtime connection to the Fulton Fish Market,” he said. The café is decorated with the stunning black and white photos by neighborhood photographer Barbara Mench, who documented the fish market for many years. 

And specialty cocktails designed by staff mixologist Erica Tempchin, take on a Paris-meets-New York City flair. They will change seasonally. Imbibers will have something new to sample with every visit.

“The neighborhood is changing. We needed to change with it,” O’Connell added. They have, nicely.

Puzzles and parties… through Labor Day, the Downtown Alliance fills the streets and plazas along lower Water St. with fun. Game On!, a new entertainment concept, has several locations between Whitehall and Wall Sts. with giant Sudoku boards, chalk games and mini golf, to name a few. Whitehall Plaza becomes a designer urban beach complete with lounge chairs and shuffleboard. Anyone can play Monday to Friday, noon to 7 pm. And the Andza Hotel hosts an outdoor beer garden for World Cup watchers.  For all the detail: www.gameon.downtownny.com.

Summer swing, tango, foxtrot…Mark your calendars. Our own Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra appears free on the outdoor stage at Fulton and Front Sts. in the Seaport on Sunday, Aug. 3 at 5 p.m., with a concert of “Sweet Sounds of Summer.” Wear dancing shoes —they plan a program of waltz, tango and foxtrot music and the timeless tunes of Johann Strauss, Irving Berlin and other great song and dance masters.