Within Manhattan’s bustling Financial District, there is a relatively quiet one-way street. On that street, there is a small blue awning indicating a Russian bathhouse. Within that bathhouse, there is a bar-restaurant serving the bathhouse’s robe-wearing clientele infused vodkas, dumplings, and soups. Unsurprisingly, it is called Matryoshka, the term for Russian stacking dolls placed inside one another.
Wall Street Bath & Spa 88 is a three-story subterranean slice of Russia laying just beneath the pounding capitalist heart of the United States. The downstairs lobby is accented with enough wood to make you feel like you’re in a Soviet ski resort but also enough signed visiting celebrity photographs to remind you it’s still New York City.
Another floor down and you’ve entered a roomy space that would be inconceivable on the packed, noisy, windswept streets of Lower Manhattan, with access to a eucalyptus steam room, a traditional Russian sauna, an ice bath, a juice bar, and a lap-pool. After you jump from hot to cold and back again, your appetite will find no better solace than Matryoshka, in the center of this unthinkable underground getaway.
While alcohol is definitely not recommended when intentionally overheating one’s body, a fully stocked bar with vodkas ranging in infusions from orange to ginger to horseradish are certain to tempt steam-drunk visitors. One or two won’t hurt, but if impulses get the best of you, there’s more than enough food to get you back on track.
The nature of being within an underground spa shouldn’t bely the quality of Matryoshka’s offerings; nor should eating on patio furniture. The Russian fare here consistently ranks among the best in the city, made even better by virtue of enjoying it while in a robe. Appetizers from pickle platters to herring and beef tongue give way to an array of borscht options and regional soups such as the Georgian spicy lamb soup known as harcho. The pelmeni come smothered in sour cream, the steamed dumplings stuffed with cherries, the chicken tabaka a perfect mix of crispy and juicy. With enough advance notice for larger parties, the restaurant also offers roasted whole baby pig, lamb, or duck, for more imperial spa get-togethers.
Know Before You Go
A famously short-tempered secretary will take your keys, wallet, and phone at the front desk in exchange for a numbered bracelet. Any charges to the bar or restaurant will be added to a bill with your bracelet's number on it. Payment comes at the end of your visit. To enjoy the full spa and restaurant, leave enough time for three hours. Note that the deep end of the pool is still too shallow for diving. Weekends are crowded, early weekday evenings less so. Most importantly, in the lobby you will find an adorable white lap dog. Do not pet this dog.