Munch on Mozzarella on Madison in Manhattan

One of the frustrations of Madison Avenue in midtown is that there isn’t much to eat. You have to dash down a side street to get a quick bite, which leaves you craning your neck at every intersection to see if it’s worth taking a few steps off your path for a chance to fill your stomach with something you want. After a while, you just give up and walk into the first restaurant you see after your will has been decimated.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The next time your trudging up Madison from one luxury retailer to the next (and there are many, so many), duck into the Atrium at the IBM building on the corner of E. 56th Street, and skip street food in favor of mozzarella. Obika, a mozzarella bar, is made for cheese fiends, with a wide range of alternatives, not to mention meat tastings and pastas that you can add to your meal if, for some strange reason, mozzarella isn’t enough.

When you order, cautions the New York Daily News, don’t let appearances deceive you:

There were three mozzes atop a bed of spinach on the tasting plate. It didn’t look like a lot, sitting there, but wound up being more than enough for the two of us. We agreed, though, that had the cheeses-and us-been joined by a little wine, we probably would have mopped up every dairy-oozing morsel.

If you are addicted to cheese, you can carry the theme straight through dessert, with a ricotta mousse, topped with pine nuts and honey. I can tell you that the taste is unbeatable – and that the dish is incredibly heavy. As small as it looks, share it.

The drawbacks are present but not sufficient to ruin the experience. Writes the Daily News of Obika‘s atrium location:

The ceilings are high and the atmosphere nil. The bathrooms are down an escalator, around the corner from some Trumpean joint or other. And, worst of all worsts-and I can only assume that this is due to its location-Obika doesn’t have a liquor license. Their location in Kuwait City does, but not Manhattan. Cheese without wine? That’s just wrong.

The location’s ideal, though, when you’re hauling full shopping bags to your next credit card-melting store and need a break for a taste of attainable luxury.

Six ways to enjoy Madison Square Park

Manhattan has a lot of great parks – but a handful tends to hog all the attention. Central Park is what it is; there’s just now way to compare it to anything else. Bryant Park has live performances and exhibitions (not to mention a starring role in Fashion Week) and is only a block from Times Square. And, there are others that would come to mind before you work your way down the list to one of my favorite open spaces in the city: Madison Square Park.

Don’t be misled – this park is nowhere near the “garden” of the same name. It sits between East 23d Street and East 26th Street and between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue, in a small pocket of New York that most visitors tend to skip. So, catch the R or W train to the East 23d Street stop, and get ready to enjoy Madison Square Park in six different ways.

1. Take care of two buildings at once
The uniquely shaped Flatiron Building is right across the intersection from the southwest corner of the park, where Fifth Avenue and Broadway meet. What you may not realize, though, is that the northwest corner of the park (East 26th Street and Fifth Avenue) provides a great view of the Empire State Building. Crowds tend to form, for some reason, during morning rush hour (which sucks for the locals). Also, avoid lunch hour and evenings, as people who work nearby will get in the way of your shot.


2. Watch some television – live
It’s not unusual to find camera crews in and around Madison Square Park. Plenty of shows shot in New York use the space. So, while you wander through, you may be lucky enough to bump into one of your faves.

3. Go to the bathroom
If you aren’t fortunate enough to spot a celeb, drink some water. This will have the predictable effect and send you to one of only a handful of self-cleaning public toilets in the New York City. It’s on the southeast corner of Madison Square Park, and a quarter buys you 15 minutes. That should be plenty of time to take interior photos of the device that guest-starred on CSI:NY.

4. Enjoy some art
There’s always a public art display of some kind in Madison Square Park. Right now, it’s Markers, an installation by Mel Kendrick, a Boston-born artist who’s now a resident of New York. This project consists of five pieces reflect the “rippling surfaces contain the fossil memory of the actions taken over time.” Like almost all the public art in Madison Square Park, Kendrick’s installation is definitely worth a look.

5. Grab a bite
Sure, it’s tempting to head over to the storied Shake Shack in the southeast corner of Madison Square Park (near the toilet/TV star/murderer). But, if you’re looking for a substantial, enjoyable sit-down meal, go up to Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse, a few blocks north on East 28th Street and Fifth Avenue. Definitely make the ribeye your meal (it was amazing), but you’d be nuts not to start with the seafood platter. Take your time, and rest your feet for a bit, especially if you’ve been wandering around the city all day. The staff is attentive and accommodating, and they will not rush you. This is a great alternative to the long waits and hope-you-can-pull-it-off reservation situations at the steakhouses in mid-town. And, the dark-wooded interior drives home the insider feel that makes any steak dinner in Manhattan complete.

6. Grab a cigar (for those inclined)
For many, the only way to finish a hefty steak dinner is with a cigar. Go local with a stick from Martinez Cigars, a few blocks away on West 29th Street and Seventh Ave. Grab a maduro, and go back to the park (while you can still smoke there). If nobody’s around, chill for a bit on the new pedestrian area just west of Madison Square Park.