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Top Chef Travels–Bobby Flay’s Manhattan

Chef Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay is a busy guy. As a chef-restaurateur and television personality, Flay travels frequently, visiting his six restaurants in the U.S. and the Bahamas, and filming episodes for his various Food Network shows.

But as a born-and-bred New Yorker, Flay’s heart is never far from the city, where he lives with his wife, the actress Stephanie March. Whenever possible, Flay and March make time to explore Manhattan, he says. “We’re always in awe of the city — it’s just so beautiful,” he adds.

Fodor’s recently caught up with Flay to get the scoop on his three Manhattan eateries, and to find out where he likes to play in the Big Apple.

Fodor’s: Tell me about your restaurants in New York.

Flay: My restaurants are Mesa Grill, Bolo, and Bar Americain. Mesa Grill was my first restaurant. It’s a contemporary Southwestern place that’s been open for almost 17 years. What we do is combine things that are off the grill or out of the oven or out of the sauté pan — whether it’s soft-shell crabs, grilled salmon, lamb chops, or pork tenderloin — and we combine them with Southwestern ingredients like spice rubs made with fresh chiles, and roasted corn and tamales, and salsas. We try to create a cuisine or flavor that is full-flavored but not over-the-top spicy. It’s a balance of bold flavors.

At my newest place, Bar Americain, we celebrate regional cuisine from all over the country. So there’ll be wild salmon and Dungeness crab from the Pacific Northwest, and chowders from the Northeast, and Cuban influences from Florida, and southwestern things like chile sauces. It’s a celebration of American regional foods.

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Fodor’s: One thing Fodor’s readers say they like about your restaurants is the sense of vibrancy they have. Talk a little about how you maintain that.

Flay: One of the common denominators in all of my restaurants is a certain amount of high energy. We call it controlled chaos. It’s not out of control, it’s not stadium dining by any stretch of the imagination. It’s more of a good buzz, and a sense that something fun is happening when you come into the restaurants.

Fodor’s: Tell me about your ideal day off in New York. What do you like to do?

Flay: My ideal day in New York would start off shopping in SoHo with my wife and then having a long lunch at Da Silvano or Bar Pitti (268 Sixth Avenue) with a great bottle of wine. Then walking home and taking a nap. Then, in the evening, going to a Broadway show or a movie. I’m a native Manhattanite, and I try to take advantage of what’s in front of me all the time. I never for one second take for granted what a great city New York is.

Fodor’s: Do you go to a lot of shows?

Flay: I do. My wife [Stephanie March] is an actress. She’s been on Broadway, so we’re always in touch with what’s going on. She just finished a run on Broadway in “Talk Radio” with Liev Schreiber. We go see the things that she wants to see, and we often go and make a day of it. And my wife loves to eat, and to partake in good wine and fine dining. So in that respect we share a lot of the same interests.

Fodor’s: What about museums and galleries? Are there any that you particularly recommend?

Flay: Besides the obvious — going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art — we live in Chelsea, so we walk around our neighborhood and go to galleries. There are tons of galleries near us along Tenth Avenue in the 20s. We love checking out contemporary artists — it’s fun to discover artists that you might not already know. We’ll make an afternoon of it — going over to the galleries and having lunch over there, then walking along the West Side Highway. It’s really a beautiful way to see the river, and you can walk all the way downtown.

Fodor’s: What about spa services in the city? Do you partake?

Flay: Have you heard of this place called Cornelia Day Spa on 5th Avenue and 52nd Street? It’s really beautiful. They do all types of massage therapies and David Evangelista has a hair salon there. My wife likes to get a manicure and pedicure. It’s a full-on spa, and it’s just done really, really well. I have always had really good massages there.

Fodor’s: How about nighttime entertainment? Are there any bars that you recommend?

Flay: I like to go to J. G Melon’s (1291 Third Avenue at 74th St.) for a late-night burger. I grew up near there, and it’s been there basically since I was born. It’s just one of those childhood places that I go back to a lot. Here’s the great thing about J.G. Melon: they serve food until 2:30 every morning, and they serve liquor until 4 a.m. So you can come out of a party at 1:30 in the morning and you can count on it being open. It’s a good thing to know.

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