Odd Couples

by NYCgo.com Staff

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New Yorkers know all about making the most of limited space—we live with roommates, we use foldout couches and we set up “offices” in the corners of bedrooms. (This apartment is a prime example.) Businesses aren't exempt from this approach—there are plenty of New York City restaurants, shops and bars pulling double duty, sometimes in unexpected ways. Some examples: a Tibetan restaurant that sells mobile phones, a knitting shop where you can have a drink and a health-food restaurant that offers framing services. For more details, read on.—Jonathan Zeller

Photo: Peter Striffolino/Two Boots

Two Boots 
42 Avenue A, 212-254-1919, East Village, Manhattan
There are Two Boots pizzeria outposts throughout New York City (and even as far afield as Los Angeles), but only the Avenue A location is also a video store, the old-fashioned, dying-breed kind, complete with an employee-recommendation display and a flat-screen TV that's always playing one of their selections. The pizza's good, too. The crust is dusted with cornmeal, and specialty slices cater to every customer imaginable, whether lustily carnivorous (the Newman—named for the Seinfeld character—features soppressata and Italian sausage on a white pie) or entirely vegan (the Earth Mother, piled with vegetables, is available without cheese, and the V For Vegan pie uses the non-dairy Daiya variety). Among our personal favorites is the Grandma Bess, with tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic and basil, especially when it’s fresh out of the oven. 

Odd-ometer rating: 5
This is the only pizzeria/video store we know of—heck, it's getting harder and harder to find a video store at all in the age of Netflix—but on closer examination the pairing makes as much sense as a cheese slice and a cola, or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. After all, if you're renting a video, why not get a pizza at the same time so you'll have something to eat while you watch the movie? —JZ

Photos by Joe Buglewicz

Healthy Nibbles
305 Flatbush Ave., 718-636-5835, Park Slope, Brooklyn
This storefront, situated on the part of Flatbush Avenue where residential Park Slope meets the busier section of Prospect Heights, looks unassuming from the outside. The interior, though, might be the only place in New York City you can enjoy a mixed-greens salad and a berry smoothie while you get your diploma mounted—it's a combination health-food restaurant and frame shop. Many of the items on the menu are named as affirmations: a turkey burger goes by “I Am Amazing”; a mango, papaya and banana smoothie is called “I Am Sassy.” Ample seating and a magazine rack make the restaurant an attractive place to relax for awhile.

Odd-ometer rating: 9
Healthy Nibbles is a fun place to hang out, the food is outstanding and reasonably priced, and, while we haven't used them, we have no reason to suspect that the framing services are anything but top notch. Still, it's hard to imagine what would make such a combination seem congruous (though maybe you'll like your sandwich so much you'll be faced with the irresistible urge to frame the receipt). —JZ

Photos by Joe Buglewicz

Juice Pedaler
154 Prospect Park Southwest, 718-871-7500, Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn
As one might guess from its name, this bike shop is also a juice bar and café—so locals who like traveling on two wheels can enjoy fresh-made juices, tea or Stumptown coffee after bringing in a fixie for repairs. The place also rents out bikes and sells cycling equipment. Finally, they boast outdoor seating and, no kidding, a fireplace.

Odd-ometer rating: 2
It's not remotely strange to have a juice bar in a bike shop. Sure, you probably shouldn't drink your juice while you ride a bike, but anecdotal evidence suggests there's a huge overlap between “juicers” and cyclists, so this place seems more like the result of a solid business plan than anything else. —JZ

Photos by Joe Buglewicz

Black Gold
461 Court St., 347-227-8227, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Black Gold is a candidate for “Brooklyn-est Store in Brooklyn.” Not only does it accommodate both vinyl snobs and coffee snobs—both groups thrive in the borough—but the shop also carries a selection of taxidermy. Asked about the unusual combination, co-owner Sommer Santoro replies that it was a natural fit: “We're all collectors of records and antiques, and we’re big, avid coffee drinkers, so it just kind of made sense.” Like the concept itself, the music selection is wide-ranging. While the collection is mainly rock oriented, she reports, “We have a lot of weird foreign stuff and rare soul.” Now all we need is a record-pickling station.

Odd-ometer rating: 7
As noted above, it's fair to group everything going on at Black Gold under the “Brooklyn” umbrella. That said, it's one thing to combine coffee and records, but quite another to add taxidermy into the mix. —JZ

Photos by Marley White

Grande Monuments
382 Graham Ave., 718-782-1800, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Bread is the staff of life, and gravestones are the stuff of death. They come together at Grande Monuments in Williamsburg, where owner Jerry Ragusa sells both granite markers and brick-oven Italian bread. Here, the daily bread is stacked on a tall, narrow shelf, on display in the monument shop's window next to Catholic icons and signs indicating its origin, Il Fornaretto Bakery in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. The combination is unusual but has a simple explanation. Ragusa's daughter works at the bakery, which is owned by his cousin. One day she gave him some extra bread to get rid of. Instead of feeding the birds as she suggested, he gave it away to the Italian grandmothers in the neighborhood, who quickly spread the word.

Odd-ometer Rating: 5
On the face of it, this is perhaps the most incongruous pairing of merchandise yet—“Oh, I'll just pick up a loaf of bread after I purchase my headstone”—but the family connection to the bakery and the story behind it make more sense than may be evident on first glance.—Adam Kuban

Photos by Julienne Schaer

Sustainable NYC 
139 Avenue A, 212-254-5400, East Village, Manhattan
Caffeine-fueled shopping trips are ordinarily a two-step process, but East Village retail shop Sustainable NYC helps sustain your shopping stamina by way of organic and fair trade coffee from Brooklyn Roasting Company. The cafe also serves up sweet and savory edibles from local eatery Ciao for Now, including vegan soups, pastries and cupcakes, plus a rotating selection of non-dairy, cashew-based ice cream flavors (plus gluten-free cones!).

Ready for the retail part? Sustainable NYC stocks gifts, clothing, jewelry, beauty products, decorations, “alternative energy” gadgets and more—all with an ecological seal of approval. Looking for a water-powered clock? In the market for coasters fashioned from recycled keys? Have your sights set on socks made from organic cotton featuring phrases such as “I am calm,” “just breathe” and “peace”? This is the place.

Bonus: the shop, which was built using several-centuries-old lumber from NYC buildings, is decked out in environmentally friendly paint and wallpaper and powered by alternative energy. Talk about living up to its name. 

Odd-ometer rating: 3
It isn't every day you see a coffee shop in the back of a store, but the combo makes sense. It's all about getting into the eco-friendly mindset. After all, what earth-loving shopper wouldn't smile at the idea of sipping fair trade coffee while perusing organic nail polish and recycled-bike-chain bracelets? —Alyssa Grossman

Photo: Jennifer Lopez/La Casita

La Casita 
253 Smith St., 718-963-0369, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Sure, knitting is typically considered a calming activity, but just in case that tricky cable starts stressing you out, La Casita has you covered with adult beverages that are sure to take the edge off. The yarn shop, whose name means “little house” in Spanish, serves up all the knitting supplies you need to successfully fashion a scarf, sweater or any other cozy creation.

And then there's the bar. In between stitches, sip wine, beer and hot and cold sake inside this cozy Carroll Gardens establishment. For those who'd rather not risk, say, crafting a crooked sweater, La Casita also offers iced tea, coffee and hot chocolate, plus quiche, empanadas, cheese plates and pastries. If you're a knitting newbie and just realized you've been missing out on a fantastic opportunity to purl and drink, the shop also offers classes in knitting and crocheting for all levels. 

Odd-ometer reading: 5
Drinking isn't the first thing that comes to mind when we think about knitting, but adding a social element to the craft is an admirable approach and a great way to bring the City’s knitters together. It's not so much odd as pleasantly unexpected. Just don't drink so much that you can't be trusted with a set of needles. —AG

Photos by Julienne Schaer

Beauty Bar 
231 E. 14th St., 212-539-1389, East Village, Manhattan
249 Fifth Avenue, 718-788-8867, Park Slope, Brooklyn
Housed inside a former hair salon, Manhattan's Beauty Bar fosters a fun party atmosphere for the aesthetically conscious. The retro-themed saloon retained many features of the original beauty shop, including its chrome helmet hairdryers—but it's best known for deals like the $10 Martinis & Manicures happy hour special. From 6 to 11pm Monday through Friday and 7 to 11pm Saturday and Sunday, ladies can sip cocktails on a first-come, first-served basis while receiving a nail polish treatment. Once the manicure stations are put away, the bar offers a back-room dance floor where DJs spin nightly. (If you've just had your nails done, remember to dance with your hands up.) A Brooklyn outpost pays homage to the disco decade with vintage dryer chairs and light fixtures. Rainbow stripes and glittered paint cover the walls. 

Odd-ometer: 6
This is a dimly lit bar, which makes it a strange place to get a manicure (think about how bright the lighting is in most salons). And the smell of nail varnish commingling with the scent of beer isn't one most of us are used to. Still, the vintage décor, affordable drink prices and music make Beauty Bar a fun place to hang out with friends. —Christina Parrella 

Photos by Marley White

The Blind Barber 
339 E. 10th St., 212-228-2123, East Village, Manhattan
First-time patrons may be wary of what to expect of an establishment called the Blind Barber. Fortunately, the place is much more speakeasy than Sweeney Todd. The front of this old-school barbershop, which offers such services as straight-razor trims, beard cuts and shaves, is fashioned with black leather chairs, a striped barber’s pole and white brick walls. But there’s more than hipster-friendly hairstyling. In the back room there are low lights, black-and-white photos and a long bar serving up seasonal cocktails—perfect for a night out. The bar menu is heavy on vodka, gin and whiskey, and patrons get a complimentary drink with each service. The barbershop is open from noon to 9pm Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6pm on Sunday; the backroom stays open much later (until 4am) and, appropriately, has a separate entrance on 10th Street. 

Odd-ometer: 5
If day drinking has become an acceptable activity for adults, there’s nothing too odd about kicking back with a glass of bourbon while you wait for a trim, right? Just as long as the barbers themselves aren't indulging. —CP

Photos by Joe Buglewicz

Lhasa Fast Food 
37–50 74th St., 718-205-2339, Jackson Heights, Queens
Located in an area of Queens that's now commonly referred to as Himalayan Heights, this cheap-eats establishment distinguishes itself by being very, very difficult to find. In order for the intrepid visitor to enjoy the diner's momos (steamed Tibetan dumplings), gyu-ma (beef sausage flavored with “sauce meat”) and other delicacies, it's necessary to first walk through Tibetan Mobile, a cell-phone shop, then through a DVD store that stocks thousands of films in Hindi and Tibetan. The spare spot offers seating at a single table and along a counter against the wall—and the chance to experience an alpine culture that exists a world away.

Odd-ometer: 7
We've never been to the city of Lhasa, so we can't speak for how strange this particular combination of businesses would be over there. In NYC, on the other hand, this is definitely not the norm, even taking into account New Yorkers' affinity for mixed-use spaces. Regardless, the next time we're entitled to a cell-phone upgrade, we know where we're headed—and what we'll be snacking on while we wait. —Jonathan Durbin


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