Best of Manhattan 09: City Services

| 02 Mar 2015 | 04:33

    best grown up cut and color: two do 210 w. 82nd st. (betw. broadway and amsterdam), 212-787-1277 two do is the place to go when it's time to abandon your budget-minded haircutting ethos, but you're afraid of ultra trendy salons that dole out pretension as lavishly as they pile on the mousse. below street level and hidden behind a stairwell, two do feels like a secret, low-key spa-there's absolutely no attitude. as soon as you enter, you are offered coffee or tea and cookies in their intimate, attractive salon. co-owner and colorist extraordinaire megan gordon will spend time analyzing your hair and helping you decide on the technique and color that's just right. prices for color treatments and cuts are a little high but still reasonable for new york city, and given upfront-unlike at more upscale salons that coyly refrain from telling you the price until you're slapped with an astronomical bill. my two process foil highlighting cost $150 and was well worth it since it "lasted" for four months. similarly, the $88 cut by sweet israeli stylist, yaniv, grew out in a way that let me go longer between cuts than ever before. yelpers rave about cuts by sasha, and, indeed, the first day i went to two do an acquaintance emerged from the dressing room and i did a double take: she had gone from a pony-tailed, harried mom look to a retro-chic petula clark style; sasha had effected the transformation. bye-bye supercuts!

    best under-appreciated wine store: yorkshire wines and spirits 1646 first ave. (at 85th st.), 212-717-5100 perhaps the most frustrating experience for anyone who actually cares about wine is trying to buy a decent bottle in new york city. you would think that in a city like this, it would be easy. unfortunately, wine and liquor stores are one of the few businesses wherein the owner doesn't feel like they need to know anything about the product they're selling. you'd never know it from the humble exterior, but at yorkshire wines and spirits, not only do they know their stuff, they also have a spectacular selection. from high-end offerings like sassicaia to expertly chosen, inexpensive bottles, they've got it all. don't be afraid to ask for help! unlike most wine and spirit shops, they won't stare at you blankly and point to a bottle of turning leaf. -jp

    best knitting store for budding designers: knitting 321 321 e. 75th st. (betw. second and third), 212-772-2020 tucked away just five steps below street level is a very unusual yarn store. owner valeria kardos learned to knit from her grandmother in budapest when she was just 7. she's a former fashion designer whose husband wanted her to do something that didn't require so much travel. luckily for neighborhood knitters, she opened this shop. knitting 321 specializes in "the best of the best" yarns in all manner of gauges and colorations. but it's valeria's design talents that make her shop unique-she can create patterns for custom-made designs made to measure. whether you can knit sweaters that look like they came from bergdorf, or don't know a knit from a purl, this store is a treasure. she teaches private lessons (an hour each) for beginners in both knitting and crocheting. and people feel comfortable enough to drop in all day for some quickie help with a dropped stitch or a mis-stitched purl. -jw

    best knitting community that just happens to sell yarn: knitty city 208 w. 79th st. (betw. broadway and amsterdam), 212-724-9596 it's easy for a knitting novice to walk into narrow, crowded knitty city and feel cowed. knitters are perched everywhere, often blocking your path, and it's hard to tell who works at the store or who just hangs out. you feel like you've crashed a party until you tap a staff member on the shoulder and say, "i dropped a stitch five rows back. how do i fix this?" patient, extremely knowledgeable staff members including aryn, maxine, betty, jennifer and diane will sit down with you, sometimes for 15 minutes at a stretch, explaining a craft they clearly love and want to pass on to you. this is exactly the kind of environment owner pearl chin wanted to create three-and-a-half years ago when she opened knitty city. by the way, you'll also find gorgeous yarns (from alchemy to rowan to zitron), every stitchery book you'll ever need and the cutest knitting accessories. knitty city hosts classes, charity knitting nights, a men's club and a book group that meets on the first thursday of each month. visit for details. -njb

    the best theater book shop in manhattan: the drama book shop 250 w. 40th st. (betw. seventh and eighth), 212-944-0595 you name it, the drama book shop has it-or will at least try to get it. rozanne seelen, who presently owns the shop, says that she deals with approximately 3,000 publishers to keep her bookshelves stocked with more than 40,000 titles. the current selection includes play scripts and biographies, as well as books on dance, film, musical theater, costumes and puppets. this institution humbly began in 1917 when marjorie seligman set up a card-table in the lobby of the anta theatre and began selling theater books to playgoers. incorporated since 1923, the shop has been at its present venue for the past eight years. with a caring staff of 20, seelen oversees the business matters as well as the diverse theater events presented at the shop. personalities like frank rich have appeared for book signing events in past years. more recently, back stage's david sheward, veteran actor tammy grimes and actor harriet walter of broadway's mary stuart have showed up to plug their newly published books. there's also a children's group called "striking viking" that stages original works at the shop's black-box theater. and on thursday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m., the shop serves wine and cheese to patrons. rejoice, theater lovers. this shop combines old fashioned appeal with an encyclopedic range of theater materials. -dd

    best place to nap on your lunch break: yelo 315 w. 57th st. (betw. eighth and ninth), 212-245-8235 are you an overworked urbanite who simply needs a break from the stress and pressure of the fast-paced concrete jungle? yelo sure thinks so. "the city that never sleeps needs a nap!" hails the mantra of this wellness center, specializing in reflexology and the art of power napping. the ultra-modern interior looks and feels like judy jetson's day spa. step inside, tired city dweller, and use that one-hour lunch break to revitalize your overworked bones in the cleverly named yelocab. a yelocab is treatment or napping cabin designed to exude serenity and wellness. adjust color, lighting, music, nature sounds and even scent to personalized settings that are most conducive to sleep. the yelocabs are complete with a patented zero-gravity yelochair designed to keep your legs elevated above the heart to slow your pulse and help you doze off quickly and soundly, also encouraging a delightful sensation of weightlessness. oh, and as if that weren't enough to help wash away that friday morning hangover, purified air circulates to encourage brain clarity and restfulness. when naptime is over, led lights are used to simulate a natural sunrise, ever so gently nudging you back to consciousness. napping sessions range from 20 to 40 minutes starting at $15, a small price to pay to walk out feeling like a million bucks. -cl

    best local hardware store: beacon paint and hardware 371 amsterdam ave. (betw. 77th and 78th), 212-787-1090 we know home depot has everything. but can the sales staff have an intelligent conversation about the merits of matte versus eggshell finish? probably not. that's why we love beacon paint and hardware, a warmly lit and intelligently staffed resource for paint, tools, cleaning products, housewares and other home goods. co-owner steve stark will help you navigate the well-stocked shelves of this longtime neighborhood store that's been run by several generations of the stark family. an added bonus: petting bru the black lab while your purchase is rung up. -ce

    best spa splurge: the spa at mandarin oriental 80 columbus circle (at 59th), 212-805-8880 if, after using an amethyst crystal steam room, you like to choose the type of precipitation for your shower-from a light spray called "fog" to a firm jet labeled "land rain" or a relaxing downpour deemed "tropical rain"-then this is the spa for you. they say the small things in life make the difference. so too with spas. underfloor heating in the changing areas. citrus-infused drinking water. a vitality pool set to your own ideal temperature between 100 and 105 degrees. it all creates a sense that you really should be doing this more often. the five-star hotel prices swiftly shatter that illusion. but at least mandarin oriental adds to the enjoyment of your rare indulgence. in the spa's case, it can be literally superlative. for example "mosst"-the mandarin oriental spa signature treatment-is two hours of refined relaxation from the first chime of a tibetan cymbal. through a psychological survey and some probing of pressure points, your therapist gauges your weakest bodily element according to traditional chinese medicine. it could be wood, fire, earth, metal or water that's letting you and your vital organs down. thankfully, there are appropriate oils to help remedy each. -jj

    best restorative facial: yin beauty and arts spa 103 w. 86th st. (near columbus), 212-362-2626 facials are viewed as something women mainly do when they need to feel pampered and coddled. in truth, however, a facial is a somewhat painful affair-if done right, as the ladies at yin beauty and arts do it. the goal isn't just to have your face steamed, massaged and swathed with pleasantly scented, hydrating lotions in a semi-dark room while listening to soft, vaguely oriental music (though yin does that part extremely well too). it's to keep those blackheads and whiteheads from clogging your pores. yin combines western high-tech (a computerized ultra magnified look at your skin) with eastern beauty arts based on ying/yang balance and feng shui. whatever. my 60-minute facial ($95) and extra 10 minutes of whitehead removal ($30) made my face actually look better, not blotchy as after some facials, and it left me so relaxed i had a buddha-like smile for hours afterwards. yin offers a wide variety of intriguing skin and body treatments, most costing $150, such as "chinese pearl facial," "yin sculpt muscle toning for face and neck" and "aromatic jade therapy." note: an "express" facial is $60 for 35 minutes of cleansing, gentle exfoliation, an intensive mask and a neck/shoulder massage-pure bliss without the pimple plucking. -njb

    best old-school, family-style shoe repair: jim's shoe repair 50 e. 59th st. (near madison), 212-355-8259 need a good shoe shine? high heel just broke? bring your drab and mangled footwear to jim's shoe repair. this family-run establishment is recommended by the insiders of upscale department stores in manhattan. over the years, legends like ed sullivan, andy rooney and mitch miller (the 98-year-old entertainer was recently in the shop) have depended on "jim's" to keep them well soled. many loyal patrons refuse to turn elsewhere for their shoe doctoring. just in case you're wondering who "jim" is, he is vito rocco (born in italy), who founded the business in 1932 and adopted "jim" as his american moniker. vito died in 1964, but his son joe, who is the current proprietor of the shop, also goes by "jim." there have been four generations of roccos working at the shop. it's a family thing. -dd

    best quick shoe repair: sam's shoe repair 330 e. 65th st. (betw. first and second), 212-861-2278 new yorkers put a lot of wear and tear on their shoes, handbags and leather goods. but there are few things that sam, of the eponymous sam's shoe repair, can't revive. in his glass-front, hole-in-the-wall shop, sam will repair your shoes while you wait. dirty loafers or broken heels come home looking like the day you bought them. sam also fixes rips, tears, zippers on handbags, belts and basically anything else you might bring him. his shop, pungent with shoeshine, may not be the easiest to find, but your shoes will be glad they walked the extra mile. -zk

    best second-hand surprises: goodwill 217 w. 79th st. (betw. broadway and amsterdam), 212-874-5050 unlike other city nabes, the upper west side isn't flush with thrift shores, and in this economy, baby, we need 'em. you can go to salvation army on west 97th, which is, frankly, quite skanky, or housing works on columbus-a bit too tony, but great steals on furniture and designer togs. goodwill, however, offers a happy medium that won't overwhelm. it organizes all clothing neatly by size and color, and you will always find surprises. to wit: a boy's gap dress shirt perfect for bar mitzvah-hopping ($9.99), a green corduroy j.crew jacket ($14.99), a chic gauzy girls' top, great for wearing over leggings, a sterling bracelet with dangling hearts ($4.99) or six cheery red and white striped plastic popcorn holders, perfect for family movie night (50 cents each). and for those who haven't abandoned the technologies of the 1980s, there are cassettes and classic vhs movies (african queen!). in these tough times, one needs a reliable thrift store for last-minute halloween costumes and expensive outerwear items like sweaters, jackets, snow pants and snow boots. beat the chill at goodwill and use the dollars you save to head someplace warm (they sell beach towels, too). -njb

    best place to sport your new lululemons: ride the zone 201 e. 67th st., 3rd floor (at third), 212-327-1217 say good-bye to yoga, pilates and kickboxing. there's a new trendy workout for ladies who lunch-and this one might just be a keeper. in addition to two studios in the hamptons, ride the zone has set up camp on the upper east side. what makes this spinning studio different from all others? the handlebars and bikes are not stationary but move from side to side, allowing you to feel like you are-low and behold-on an actual bike. instead of being a workout just for the legs, the classes here incorporate turns, leans and one-handed stunts that leave abs and arms aching for days. forty-five minutes of sweating while listening to michael jackson and the black eyed peas has never been so much fun. and if you've forgotten your expensive, butt-hugging leggings, there's a lululemon store conveniently a block away from the studio. -zk

    -- nancy j. brandwein, deirdre donovan, charlotte eichna, joe jackson, zara kessler, christina livadiotis, josh perilo and jane warshaw