Every year my son and I celebrate his birthday with a “Mother Son Dinner.” So far, he continues to be “OK” with this. Planning our destination becomes challenging. My son, like many kids, has an assortment of foods that he will eat, and you would be hard pressed to get him to try something new. I love to try different things and have grown rather bored of frequenting the same restaurants.
You may be thinking, “you could cook.”
No, I cannot.
It is for everyone’s benefit that I avoid playing “Chef.”
This year, we decided to pay a visit to The Plaza Food Hall, because variety seemed the utmost of importance, and elegance was a close second. This may have been the smartest decision made all year.
The culinary experience made us joyful during and after. The ambiance defied the lackluster image I had of a “food court.” The ‘walk-thru’ of culinary delights was well thought out and a mini tour of what New York City dining has to offer. I confess, I was sad to leave.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you a bit about where I was.
The Plaza Hotel
A New York City landmark, The Plaza Hotel is 20 stories high and currently a hotel and condominium apartment building nestled at the corner of 5th Ave and Central Park South. It is the corner of fabulous Bergdorf Goodman, next door. The property extends along the east side of what we call Grand Army Plaza and the main entrance has the pristine address of 768 Fifth Avenue, the south side of Grand Army Plaza to be accurate.
The Plaza is part of the ‘Historic Hotels of America’ by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The property was accorded landmark status in 1969 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and it was designated a National Historic Landmark for its architecture in 1986.
The Plaza History
Construction on the first Plaza began in 1883, and after some funding issues McKim, Mead & White opened the first version of this hotel on 1st October 1890. In 1905, the hotel was demolished, as it was “too small”.
A revised and larger Plaza Hotel designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh was constructed for $12.5 million dollars and opened to the public in the Fall of 1907. Ownership changed hands numeous times over the 20th and 21st Centuries.
Conrad Hilton purchased and then sold the Plaza to Boston industrialist Sonny Sonnabend. Sonnabend created the Hotel Corporation of America for tax purposes in 1955 and changed its name to the Sonesta.
Sonesta sold the Plaza to Western International Hotels in 1975 and in 1980 Western Hotels changed their name to Westin Hotels.
Westin sold to Donald Trump who referred to the property in the New York Times as “A masterpiece – the Mona Lisa” in 1988.
In 1995, CDL International purchased a controlling stake in the Plaza due to financial problems and the property was then sold again in 2004 to El Ad, a Manhattan-based developer.
El Ad made plans to add residential and commercial sections to the landmark and closed the Plaza in 2005 for an extensive revamp.
You may remember the Plaza Hotels contents being available for sale before the renovations began. I sure do.
The hotel reopened in Spring 2008, offering 282 hotel rooms and 152 private condominium units. In 2012, Sahara India Pariwar purchased a 75 percent controlling stake. In May 2018 the Sahara Group announced it had finalized a deal with Shahal Khan, founder of Dubai-based White City Ventures, and Kamran Hakim of the Hakim Organization to buy a majority share of the hotel for $600 million. That deal is expected to close on 25th June 2018.
Plaza at the Movies
The Plaza made its movie debut in 1959 in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, ‘North By Northwest’. Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford met at The Plaza in the 1973 film, ‘The Way We Were’.
Who can forget little Kevin and his escapades at The Plaza in the 1992 film ‘Home Alone’?
For so many who live in New York, the Plaza is a welcome constant to the ever-changing architectural landscape of New York City. To those visiting our city it is an iconic, “must do” on many lists of “Things to See.”
The Plaza Food Hall
Entering at Todd English on Central Park South and Grand Army, my son and I went down an escalator and felt for a moment, overwhelmed.
Lady M Cake Boutique
We were greeted by Lady M Cake Boutique and a decadent display of sliced cake. It was at this moment that I realized I may have gotten myself in to a situation that I could not handle. This food court was a true destination that I needed to navigate.
Thinking on my feet, I told my son to take a “walk thru” with me. It seemed we first had to explore and then plan what we would indulge in.
After a first pass, I was back at Lady M. Here I found myself staring at a delightful spin on a Strawberry Shortcake, a Cheesecake in a Graham Cracker Crust, a Napoleon and a chocolate cake with a checkered inside, that we would learn was called “Checkered Cake.” I knew what my son would pick…
The “Checkered Cake” is a mixture of Vanilla and Chocolate cake designed to resemble a checker board and is covered in a gorgeous chocolate Ganache.
This is what we started with…
It received a “Thumbs Up” and was inhaled in less than five minutes.
Olma Caviar & Champagne
We left our table, the first of several tables we would be sitting at and passed Olma Caviar. I have a long-time love of Olma. They have a restaurant in my neighborhood where I frequent with my husband and with friends. This miniature version of the full-size restaurant is captured beautifully with a decadent champagne and caviar displays that communicates to any champagne and caviar lover to “indulge here.”
It caught my son’s eye too, as he said “Mom, this looks beautiful. Shall we sit here?” The menu options were not for him, so we moved along, but I am glad he knows me well enough to know this had “Mom” written all over it.
A few steps away we discovered Pain D’Avignon.
The line was long.
That means that in the low-carb obsessed barracks of New York City, the bread must be phenomenal. We waited in line for 10 minutes and ordered a half loaf of sourdough to take home and some brioche buns.
The breads were a big hit. They were consumed quicker than you can say “bread” and I have been told to go back and pick up more soon.
A stroll past Billy’s Bakery was next.
The cupcakes are stunning. The colors and the designs are detailed, and the display tells a color story.
Given we just had cake, we did not indulge further in baked goods, but I know we will be back.
Brooklyn Roasting Company
The Brooklyn Roasting Company, where it seemed every type of coffee flavor and concoction was available was where I was going to make our next stop. But, I was side tracked.
Vin Sur Vingt
Vin Sur Vingt caught my eye with a sign that read, “Carry Out Wine.”
To me, those words are like magic. I had to know what this entailed, so my son and I entered this French Bistro, and Wine Bar and I asked, “What does one do to carry wine out?”
The bartender showed me a plastic cup and a smile and with that I ordered a Sauvignon Blanc that I could carry with me on our culinary scavenger hunt. I was beyond ecstatic at this point.
We found ourselves in Frannie’s YoArt. A yogurt experience with a candy option that rivals Dylan’s Candy Bar. Naturally we had to purchase some gummy dinosaurs, (Who knew they existed?) and use the M & M dispensers.
William Greenberg Bakery
Like a moth to a flame, my son ran out and over to William Greenberg Bakery to marvel at the traditional Black and White Cookies, a New York favorite, that were made with multiple colors. They were beautiful and delicious, but it was now time to try some food that had a little nutritional value.
Dumplings or Sushi?
We debated between Chi Dumplings & Noodles and Sabi Sushi. After a lengthy deliberation we decided to experience Sabi Sushi.
I am so glad we did. Situated next to a beautiful display of La Maison du Chocolate, my son and I enjoyed a Vegetable Roll and some Pork Dumplings.
I had a glass of Nihonjin no Wasuremono Bunraku (Japanese Person’s Forgotten Spirit) semi-dry sake.
I could not have more than the glass, hence the bottle was wrapped up so that I could take it home. That made me insanely happy.
A picture with the iconic Plaza Bear wrapped up our date, and it was time to make our first visit a memory.
I have already decided that our next family visit will include a trip to La Tartine, but date night will be to Olma. I love when I leave something and look forward to going back; just the idea that I have “next time” thought out indicates how much I adored this experience.
Know Before You Go
You do not need to table hop, although I found it fun to do so. You also do not need to eat anything at all. One can simply explore.
Somehow, The Plaza Food Hall manages to keep what could turn to chaos, under control without putting too many rules on the customer.
I appreciate the elegance in the experience in a more casual environment. One does not need to be dressed to the nines to visit. If you are sightseeing, it is an ideal place to end your day after time in Central Park. If you live here, you can visit for a mid-day work reprieve, or an early bite.
There is luxury in convenience and choices and a sense of elation feeling that you are not tied to one decision.
I will probably be there when you visit.
Angela Ranieri joins us as Contributing Editor with an extensive background in Fashion, Beauty and Digital Media. She has worked with PRADA USA Corp., Jurlique, Amore Pacific and the New York Daily News in management capacities including Marketing, Client Relations, Employee Relations and Training Management. She has authored and published the column, “Ask Angela,” featured on the Amore Pacific USA website. Her beauty advice has been featured in Shape and Fitness Magazines and CBS News.
She is a graduate of Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Writing. Angela also has an MBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from Northeastern University. While at Northeastern, her Market Research on the Electric Car was published for University use.
Angela is currently creator of Circuit Cosmetics, a Brand Ambassador for luxury beauty line, Patchology, an On Air Guest for QVC and blogger for www.thelaughinmommy.blogspot.com.
In her spare time you can find Angela running, spinning, practicing yoga or getting beautified. She resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her Husband, Son, and Chihuahuas.