WTF: There’s a Brooklyn-Themed Bar in Manhattan 

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Photo via The Brooklyneer 

There’s an odd shift in the space-time continuum of New York City; rents are getting lower in some Manhattan neighborhoods while Whole Foods and Starbucks and even Ralph Lauren are popping up in Williamsburg. The cool edgy vibe of Kings County is slowly dissipating as more corporations see millennial money to be had. But that quintessentially hip, young Brooklyn vibe is still a draw. Just ask the owners of a Brooklyn-themed bar in Manhattan’s West Village.

“The Brooklyneer” as it’s called, is either some sort of weird social experiment, art installation, or just a really, really silly concept. Why waste literally dozens of minutes on the L train when you can enjoy all the trappings of Brooklyn in Manhattan? The menu is chock full of eye-roll inducing Brooklyn stereotypes like kombucha, craft beer and local liquors. We wouldn’t be surprised if the bartender wears a knit beanie all year round and has a mustache tattoo on the inside of his finger.

Is this supposed to be, to use a v. Brooklyn word, “ironic”? And even if it is ironic, there’s a weird Disney Land sense of hyperreality about this place that would make even Jean Baudrillard go bonkers.

What Would Steve Buscemi Do: NYC’s Automatic Tipping Rules to Be Enforced

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How far out can you move in Bushwick before you fall into some lake or find yourself actually out of the city or can’t access a subway. That’s what club and restaurant workers are asking themselves as more and more places begin to comply with the (sort of new) tipping regulations. Will tipped employees be able to support themselves now that IRS rules about mandatory gratuities (a.k.a., "autograt") are to be strictly enforced?

The latest update says the added practice of adding an automatic tip of say 18% more or less to large parties needs to be reclassified as a wage rather than a tip. All sorts of grief comes from this as payroll tax withholding and sales tax stuff, not to mention tons of added paperwork, which requires day staff an additional expense owners won’t enjoy or probably agree to.

It will be easier just to end the practice at the expense of the help. The server would have to be paid minimum wage instead of the lesser server wage. It’s a can of worms and the industry ain’t fishing. Autograt will be eliminated. Some places are fooling around with a suggested tip but this probably won’t fly with the government, which will see it as a scam to get around their concept. They would be right. The industry has changed over the years. Cash used to be king, but now its all about the plastic. Hiding or underreporting tips has become harder for those trying to make a living a buck or 3 at a time.

We live in a city where tourist dollars pay for the bread and butter and tourists—especially foreign ones who don’t tip as well as locals…if at all. Without forcing the issue and demanding tips, bartenders and wait staff will suffer. Gone will be the $500-a-night tips and a change in lifestyle will ensue. Without wads of cash, bar employees will spend less. There will be fewer meals in late-night diners and less disposable income for shoes and such. There will be peripheral damage to the economy in general. Staff will seek out cheaper rents in less attractive neighborhoods or live with more roommates. The industry will be less attractive to aspiring models, actors and artists who depend on tip money while they try to make it here.

New York City may become a less attractive option for artist types who just can’t pay the bills. Bar staff may become less attractive as other options surely exist for the beautiful. Fewer "B" models and aspiring actors will find financial support in hospitality and find other options or move back to Peoria or go to back to school and abandon their dreams of stardom. Starving artists working as waitrons may actually starve.

The sky may or may not be falling, only time will tell. But change will be felt come January when all need to comply. I think you might see a time where joints just pay a wage and keep all that tip money and pay the taxes on it as required. Instead of server wages, places may opt to pay a bartender $250 a night and let them grab cash tips as they will. Drink prices may go up a buck or 2, but have a "tip included" line added. Naysayers scream doom. But they screamed doom when smoking was banned.

Pantone-Inspired Bar With Quirky Cocktail Names Opens In San Fran

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Named for those old mechanical 1950’s piggy banks that featured a canine jumping through a hoop and dropping a coin in a barrel, this new SF bar Trick Dog is a similarly quaint throwback. Helmed by Josh Harris and Scott Baird of the Bon Vivants group, its existing industrial elements (i.e. soaring factory windows) are offset by an urban-rustic interior design concept, all anchored by a century-old, marble-accented bar and Pantone-colored stools.

Much of the focus at Trick Dog is on the imbibing, with a drinks program cleverly driven by the Pantone Color Guide. The quirkily-named drinks range from the genial–Pennies From Heaven, Grandma’s Sweater–to the more conceptual, as in the edgy Neat With A Side Menu. Bar snacks include their take on the scotch egg and, for the sweet-toothed, Fernet Mint Chip Ice Cream. Oh, and yes–there’s a real Trick Dog piggy bank at the bar. 

For the inside-info on Trick Dog, check out the BlackBook listing here.

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Midnight Mixologists: Camille Austin and Her Top Ten Miami Hot Spots

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Camille Austin was so fantastic as a 2010 Midnight Mixologist, that we just had to ask her back this year. Here is the bartending beauty on Miami nightlife, her go-to ingredient, and that pompadour. Also, see below for her top ten favorite spots to grab a cocktail in Miami.

How did you get into mixology?
I’ve been into cocktails since my venue opened in Miami. All it takes is one person that’s passionate about their craft to bounce that same passion onto you.
 
What’s your favorite part of the job?
A great day at the bar is when I see a bunch of my regulars, we have great conversation, and they leave happy and tipsy.
 
How do you name the drinks you create?
Sometimes it comes easily, and sometimes it needs a little thought. It’s almost like you’re creating a character, and you need the perfect name to represent their unique personality.
 
How is your approach to mixology different from everybody else’s?
The great thing about the world is that we’re all similar in some ways, and different in others. Anyone who chooses to do this as a career has love for it. So in that respect, we all love what we do, and want to make people happy. It’s also great that the world is diverse. I can visit New York City, for example, hit 5 bars in one day, and have 5 unique cocktails, all equally great.
 
What was your inspiration for the cocktail you created for Stoli?
I’m very much into Eastern culture at the moment. I think you can really experience a culture by its cuisine, and this is definitely something I would be sipping on if I were sitting at a swanky rooftop bar in Shanghai.
 
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received as a mixologist?
People dig the pompadour! They ask me all the time if they can touch it, and I say, "Absolutely!"
 
What does it take to be a great mixologist? Is it a God-given gift, or something you can learn?
Tony Abou-Ganim, one of my favorite bartenders, says that you can train skills, but you can’t train personality. I like to remember that when I’m having a bad day, so I change my mood before I step into the bar. Aside from that, you just need a little passion, imagination, and eagerness to learn.
 
What’s the most important lesson about mixology you’ve learned in your years on the job?
To take pride in what you do. Never skimp on freshness or quality, and make friends with the chefs!
 
What makes your venue special?
My bar is just stunning. I’ve been there for over 2 years now, and there are still days when I walk in and think "Wow." Being there invokes a feeling of anticipation and a true engagement of all the senses. The gorgeous dècor, the mouthwatering aromas, and the sexy beats from our resident DJ Jean Marc leave you wanting more.
 
What nightlife trend rubs you the wrong way?
Rose’s lime juice, soda guns, and shaking a martini or classic all-spirit cocktail.
 
What’s the secret to running a great bar?
Passion and attention to detail.
 
Who is your ideal customer?
Someone that’s open to try something new.
 
What do you love most about Miami at night?
I love Miami’s vibrant party scene. It has such a unique and uplifting energy. There’s heat and passion here.
 
What personal innovations have you brought to the nightlife game?
I’m excited that we’re starting to see a strong female element in the Miami cocktail scene. I love a classic all-male bar, but a male/female bar can be just as great because men and women complement each other nicely.
 
What’s your go-to ingredient to make a great cocktail?
At the moment, tea, ginger, and edible flowers.
 
Austin’s Top Ten Miami Spots for a Cocktail
  1. Hakkasan
  2. Purdy Lounge
  3. Arkadia
  4. Zuma
  5. Soho Beach House
  6. Haven
  7. Mynt Ultra Lounge
  8. The Florida Room
  9. Sra. Martinez
  10. The Living Room at the W

To read more interviews with Midnight Mixologists, click here.

Los Angeles Openings: Coffee + Food, The Phoenix, PizzaRev

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One doesn’t normally boast about Australian food; it’s usually a boring blend of ‘80s American and British dishes that include a lot of ‘chips,’ and other overpriced menu items. But here’s one thing about Oz: their coffee is twice as good as that organic swill you’re French-pressing every morning. They always use espresso beans, and they use them well. At the new Coffee + Food over on Melrose, stop in for a flat white or a long black or just a cappuccino, and you’ll really feel what the buzz is all about. As for the ‘+ Food’ part, there’s a nice selection of paninis, salads, pastries, and more.

The rustic and game-friendly Phoenix bar rose in Beverly Hills a bit ago, offering old fashioneds, sazeracs, craft beer, and one food item: steak frites and salad.

And in Studio City, PizzaRev brings a Chipotle-style ‘build-your-own’ food to artisan pizza. No matter the amount of toppings, it’ll be under $8.

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Los Angeles Openings: Smoke, The Famous

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Where’s there’s smoke, there’s a restaurant’s sign on fire. Or something like that. Smoke, the new steakhouse in West Hollywood, gives the people what they truly want (in a nightclub): a sign bathed in open flames, a wall of water, DJ booths, granite table tops, and Wagyu beef grilled in a wood-burning oven. Sure, there’s a lot of eye candy going on here, but the menu is full of interesting small plates, charcuterie, and steak, steak, steak.

The next time you’re in Glendale and thirsty for whiskey, might we suggest stopping in the old Huntley-Evans building? The Famous, a new tucked-away bar with a wall-length leather booth, streaming black and white movies on the walls, and a piano on the stage, is the perfect spot for rattling ice in your tumbler.

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Los Angeles Opening: Sassafras Saloon

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Having so successfully transported LA hipsters to the Great Northwest with their Bigfoot Lodge (before it was all trendy to be old-timey), 1933 Group have taken a turn to Southern days of yore with their new Sassafras Saloon.

The glories of the old south are in full effect (minus all the bad stuff, of course), with a 19th-Century townhouse literally trucked over from Savannah and reassembled. Think antique fireplaces, an old "courting couch" (gentlemanly behavior is expected, fellas), an actual wraparound porch fitted to the interior, and a big, stuffed grizzly bear. With drinks like the rye-and-sarsaparilla Sassafras Royal, the Toasted Pecan Julep, and barrel-aged cocktails, this is as Rhett-and-Scarlett as Hollywood has been since Gable and Leigh took to an MGM soundstage in 1938. Frankly, my dear…

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New York Opening: The Flatiron Room

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New Yorkers are not the most loyal lot when it comes to drinking establishments. They have a few signature cocktails here, then there,  then off to somewhere else. But the owners of the new Flatiron Room have sorted a way around such traitorous habits: give drinkers something to own.

At The Flatiron Room, you can polish off half a bottle of your favorite bourbon or rye, and the bartenders will brand it with your name, and store it for you until your next visit. But then, you’d pretty much want to come back here anyway, with its staggering collection of more than 400 whiskies, high-minded classic cocktails, live jazz, and vintage-chic (coffered ceilings, Chesterfield-style banquettes). Proximity to the Ace and The NoMad hotels promises a cool international crowd. 

 

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Sleep No More Moves Up to the Roof With Gallow Green

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By now, if you haven’t heard of Sleep No More, a macabre, interactive version of Macbeth by the British theatrical group Punchdrunk, you are probably living under a rock. But while many of the mysteries of the show have been revealed via blogs and Yelp, the folks behind the performance keep adding new bits.

Their most recent addition is Gallow Green, a rooftop space above the masked madness below. Right now, the airy bar is in previews, so forgive them if the older lady in white stumbles, both on her words and the uneven terrine—it’s still 100 percent worth checking out. First, it’s on a roof, which always makes things more exciting, especially at sunset after a heavy rainstorm. Luckily, even if it rains, the majority of the space is sheltered in airy tarps. On one end they have a glorious old train car, gutted and rusted with delicate lace curtains hanging in the windows and a long, wooden table in the center. The rest of Gallow Green is a mesh of tables situated around pentagonal structure with rows of fresh herbs growing and white clad waiters running around. The whole thing brings to mind a fairy tale or some Shakespearian sonnet, perhaps it’s an urban version of Midsummer’s Night Dream?

Now, as for the acting part: like Sleep No More, there is a vague plot to Gallow Green, as well as an ominous elevator. This one is named Miranda, and the groans and squeaks that emanate from her make you wonder if the noises are for real or a soundtrack hidden in the paneling. Once you arrive upstairs, a hostess running the “fresh” flower stall (ask her for a stem, she will let you have it) greets you and leads you upstairs. We were graciously seated and poured over the menu of punches like the Sleep Bowmore Punch (made with Madeira wine, Bowmore single-malt whisky, nutmeg, and orange Curacao), which were created by cocktail expert David Wondrich. They also have a nice house cocktail list with appropriately themed names like Damned Spot (with Famous Grouse whisky, limes, Fentiman’s ginger beer, and a “spot” of Petchaud’s bitters) and Third Degree (with gin, dry vermouth, absinthe, and orange bitters). For food, the plates are small but succulent and run from three to seventeen dollars. We loved the warm pretzels with spicy mustard, Scotch quail eggs, the fun jar of summer pickles, and rich pulled brisket toast with tomato jam.

Once we settled into our cocktails and nibbles, that’s when we realized Gallow Green is a play. It became clear after a mysterious lady in a white satin gown came around and told us she and her husband threw this party for an important woman every night, just in case she showed up. The husband came by and said the same thing, and wispy girls flitted about the place looking lost, sad, and in love. Apparently, none were the one the couple was waiting for, but I did leave wondering who she was and what would happen if she did show, which, undoubtedly, at some point she does. With Gallow Green, at every turn you get the sense of the mystery and finesse that made Sleep So More so popular, and, if they play their cards right, it will be just as successful—at least until winter comes.