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July 8, 2024
BROADWAY EATS with Allyson Briggs

Though we understand their circumstances may have been a bit different, like Oliver and his clan of orphan boys, we’ve all fallen into a daze dreaming of “food, glorious food” at one point or another.

After all, it’s been said that food is the great equalizer, connecting us and bringing us together, either with family or friends, colleagues or companions, or any others from all walks of life, to dine often at a communal table or gathering space wherein we share stories and reveal the most authentic parts of ourselves.

In our continued effort, however, to find our way into others’ hearts (and stomachs!), sometimes it helps to venture beyond our tables and into the kitchens of others — especially in a city with such a diversified abundance of eateries as New York.

And of course, you can’t spell “theatre” without “eat.”

So, in our food-based series, we continue to poll some of the Great Bright Way’s best to “dish” (get it?) on where they love to eat, drink, and take in the vibes either pre- or post-show, while also answering why they love to sup there, sharing a favorite dish or two, and more.

Photo Credit: Manonce Celestine

Next on our lineup is vintage jazz vocalist Allyson Briggs, who, backed by her equally alluring band, Fleur Seule, will celebrate the songs of Burt Bacharach in concert at Birdland July 9th, ahead of a highly anticipated full album release on July 12th. Stacked with standards, from “I Say a Little Prayer” and “What the World Needs Now” to “Alfie,” “Arthur’s Theme” and “Close to You,” both the album and the evening promise to be a touching tribute to the beloved composer, satiating music aficionados with the soundtrack of the 1960s.

In addition to stints at Birdland, Briggs has performed at Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Rainbow Room, and regularly with her band at Tavern on the Green (more on that last one later). Throughout her career, she’s sung alongside such artists as Lionel Richie, Michael Feinstein, Luba Mason and Ciara Renée (of note, newly-pregnant Julie Benko, late of Funny Girl and Harmony, also duets on the forthcoming album, and will appear in Tuesday’s concert as well!) Among her many albums are Vaya Con Dios, Standards and Sweet Things and Swing Around the World. Fleur Seule was also the featured band at the opening night party for Broadway’s The Great Gatsby.

But where does this “glamour girl” get her grub?

ALLYSON BRIGGS RECOMMENDS....

Café Fiorello

(1900 Broadway)

Photo courtesy of Café Fiorello

Located on Broadway, directly across the street from Lincoln Center, Café Fiorello has been serving theater clientele, opera patrons, philharmonic fans, and other guests from nearby, far and wide since it opened in 1974.

Surprisingly spacious, with a club-like, intimate feel, “it’s the perfect spot for a coffee date, lunch meeting, or light bite before or after a show,” says Briggs. (Also highly recommended by staff: cocktails and dessert!)

Founder Shelly Fireman, a native of Italy for over 35 years, regularly returns to his motherland, as a means to soak up the rich culture and gain inspiration to enhance his menu. And if you ask his patrons today, it’s never been better!!

Photo Credit: (clockwise from left) Bonnie Tandy Leblang; courtesy of Café Fiorello; Jean-Phillipe Gerbi

In terms of lighter options, “my favorite dish is their Jumbo Lump Crab & Avocado Salad,” our subject continues, topped generously with fennel and orange slices. A specialty on the menu, “it’s the perfect portion, with a refreshing citrus taste to send you on your way.”

For the more adventurous eater, the rest of the extensive offerings, which boast traditional Italian with a modern twist, include a host of rustic favorites, from pasta to fish to their signature thin-crust pizzas (available with gluten-free crust for an additional charge). Try the pepperoni pie, made with ‘nduja sausage and spicy honey, or the chicken parmigiana alla vodka, with bulging burrata mozzarella.

And you can’t go wrong with the lasagna, uniquely flipped inside out and on its head: large sheets of tender pasta are spread out on a plate and doused with tomato sauce, short rib meatball, a braised short rib meat, and a creamy cheese blend.

Both Fireman and Executive Chef Brando De Oliveira pride themselves on hospitality, and there’s no question this place exudes it from the moment you step in the door. (“The staff is always welcoming, and they are very good about letting me have a long and chatty visit,” Briggs notes, on the subject).

“We never compromise when it comes to quality or hospitality,” adds Fireman, speaking of the restaurant’s mission statement. “[But] our business is in making people happy – putting a smile on everybody’s face. What people get when they dine with us is an unmatched experience and a wonderful time.”

Café Fiorello is open Monday 12-10pm, Tues-Thurs 12-11pm, Friday 12-11:30pm, Saturday 10am-11:30pm, and Sunday 10am-10pm. 

Tavern on the Green

(67th Street & Central Park West, Within Central Park)

Photo Credit: Sarah Silberg

“It’s the ultimate New York experience!” raves Briggs, of the establishment, serenely situated in the heart of Central Park. Originally designed by architect Calvert Vaux, the iconic Tavern on the Green restaurant was originally built as a sheepfold in the 1880s to house the animals that would graze what is now known, appropriately, as Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. As part of his larger, more major Central Park renovation, then-newly appointed Parks Commissioner Robert Moses transformed the building afresh in 1934 to resemble more of the restaurant aesthetic for which it’s known today; additions included a dance floor, an ornate Crystal Dining Room, an outdoor patio with an unparalleled view of the park, and, of course, a lavish, luscious menu of goodies. A revolving door of owners and proprietors took the reins from 1934 ’til its closing in 2009, at which point it became a public visitor center and gift shop run by the city. After a years-long search for new operators, Tavern on the Green opened anew in 2014. Under owners Jim Caiola and David Salama, the restaurant now boasts an interior with dark wood paneling and a “more open, bucolic feel” reminiscent of the original sheepfold aesthetic that first lay on its land.

Top: Bonnie Tandy Leblang / Bottom: Courtesy of Tavern on the Green

But amidst all these changes, its food remains at the forefront. As the leader of Fleur Seule, the venue’s reigning house band for the last ten years, Briggs has an encyclopedic knowledge of the menu, given her continual “bird’s eye view of what dishes [remain] the most popular.” For a lighter, summer dish, she recommends the Chopped Vegetable Salad (“great for performers before a show”), packed with a cavalcade of produce, from haricots vests, radish, jicama and asparagus to butternut squash, tomato, corn, potato, avocado, carrot and onion, and topped with a tangy caper dressing (add protein, such as salmon, for an additional charge). But for the ultimate sweet treat after a show, you simply can’t beat the desserts — “which always seem to disappear,” notes Briggs — especially not the sumptuous signature Birthday Cake, a slice of layered confetti cake alongside a sizable scoop of ice cream and sprinkles. “It’s [my] special treat to reward myself after a big performance,” the singer says, of the dish. “They usually recommend sharing, but with that decadent cream cheese frosting, I don’t mind keeping it to myself!” Other iconic staples include the Peanut Butter Chocolate Lava Cake, a slice of New York Cheesecake, and the Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie.

But as long as you’re soaking in the summer atmosphere, Briggs urges you to heed her “pro tip” for a short summer getaway: “What’s better than a rendezvous on a Friday night with cocktails by the bar under the stars, and a side of live jazz music by Fleur Seule?” What else indeed?! With such a fabled locale steeped in storied history such as this, we’re willing to bet on Briggs.

Tavern on the Green is open M-Th from 11am-10pm, Friday from 11am-11pm, Saturday from 9am-11pm, and Sunday from 9am-10pm. Bar Room Seating & Bar Menu are available all day, seven days a week, and the Tavern to Go service is open daily from 8am-5pm. Special restaurant week menus are available M-F from July 22nd through August 9th.  

We’ll continue to present a new performer with a new restaurant and a new menu, so keep checking back to see who we poll and what’s on their mind at mealtime! Until next time, as always, bon appétit!

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