It’s a famous Marlon Brandon exclamation, “Stellaaaaaa!!!!” It carries a lot of weight and it means a lot to those who have read and seen A Streetcar named Desire.
Does Stella drink a cucumber martini? Who knows? I can’t remember right now because I’m not really talking about her and her drinking a martini. I am actually speaking about a hidden NYC restaurant.
In this case, I’m actually referring to a hidden gem inside of Macy’s department store in Herald Square. It is one of the busiest intersections in NYC and one of the city’s largest department stores. It’s always great to go shopping at Macy’s for the deals and discounts, but now it’s even better since tucked inside on the 6th floor is a bar restaurant named Stella. It is a restaurant that rivals those you would choose outside on a NYC street.
First off, there is a dedicated express elevator located at the northeast corner of Macy’s so you never even really have to encounter the masses to get to it. Second, it’s spacious, clean, and modern with nice sleek lines; very inviting. Third, the food and drinks are delicious!! And that is where the cucumber ‘martini’ story comes into play.
I was first introduced to Stella 34 Trattoria by a patient of mine. A woman in her 70’s who enjoys her cocktails. So much so, that she raved about this cucumber ‘martini’ from Stella and has now started to make them on her own. This patient was so memorable to the staff at Stella both as a person and because she somehow managed to convince them to give up the recipe for the cucumber gimlet, that she enjoyed more like a martini. A drink that is no longer on the menu but can be made for those in the know…
I dined at the bar one Friday evening and met PJ the bartender. I was enamored with the menu, the happy hour and the fact that it was fairly quiet on a Friday night. In the middle of Herald Square and Macy’s; I was shocked! I was sure it was a low volume restaurant but PJ corrected me and informed me that it was actually a high volume restaurant. Apparently most restaurants do around a 100+ covers per night. Because of Stella’s location and clientele, they are doing 250+ covers for lunch and anywhere from 3-400 covers for dinner. That is HIGH volume!!
The restaurant entertains about a 70/30 ratio of tourists to locals. It’s a great place to stop into while you’re shopping and definitely a place to go if you’re just looking for good food and drink. I found the dishes to be appropriate in size (as in not typical American oversized) and they had a nice selection of dishes with very modern and clean flavors. Executive Chef Jarett Appell has training from all over Italy and opened Donatella here in New York and it is reflected in the menu and the flavors at Stella.
The drinks were delicious! PJ definitely knows his drinks and how to make them. The happy hour chardonnay was lovely (and I’m particular to a good, easy chardonnay), the cucumber gimlet OUTSTANDING! (it was a gimlet, not a martini on the menu but the glass can be changed, clearly), a sparkling red wine beautiful (recommended by PJ), the Limoncello (authentic) and the lemon drop martini (a beautiful display); all drinks a class act. Needless to say, I definitely enjoyed myself at the bar that night and thankfully still remember exactly what I had and how it tasted, which is memorable and worth another visit!
I asked about any injuries in the staff there and what PJ’s take was on work at Stella, which is part of the Patina Restaurant Group. He felt that this was one of the healthiest places he has worked at (previous employment at some big name bars in the city). I found that to be an interesting response; I never expected that. So, can anyone guess why this restaurant may be described as this? Because Macy’s occupies one entire city block! So walking from the north to south end of Stella equals one city north-south block, complete with eastern views and a top down view of Herald Square. Walking is a great low impact cardiovascular exercise. According to PJ, in one 8-hour shift, he can walk 3 miles! That is a lot of walking on the job in the service industry! Now if he could just get Damian, the dining room manager to stock up on the cucumber infused vodka (since it is no longer on the menu)…PJ can take another walk over to the other side of the bar to get the bottle for my next drink…and get his exercise while staying on the job!