Chicago Opening: Untitled

The sheer scale of Untitled, an 18,000-square-foot speakeasy, makes it a little hard to keep up such pretenses as "secret" or "underground lair." But it’s always better to cop your cocktail conceptualizing (and the food, for that matter) from the Prohibition Era than from the post-Millennial twee that haunts so many serious new imbibing destinations. And there’s something kind of cooly meta about calling your place Untitled (it’s sort of like naming your kid Noname).  

Make no mistake, this is no six-table basement hideaway. Rather, it is labyrinthine supper clubbing to the extreme, with a large-boothed dining area, a whiskey-focused library room, and a lounge with a bar the length of a couple of healthy giraffes. There are the usual text message procedures and special VIP keys and whatnot, to add the frisson of challenge to the proceedings.  All sorts of retro naughty entertainments will also be regularly proffered, with Bally Hoo! being the high-profile Friday night fete. Unititled…unfettered. 

Want to know about it first? Sign up for BlackBook Happenings now and get the latest openings and events in the city of your choice, delivered to your inbox every Monday.

Dubai Opening: The Living Room at the Grand Hyatt

If only one’s living room could actually look like this. Indeed, the new HBA-designed The Living Room at the Grand Hyatt is like a lavish ’round the world tour.

Perhaps it should have been called The Living Rooms since it encompasses three lounges, each with its own special geographical inspiration: The Velvet Lounge is all Middle-Eastern flash, with lots of purple, magenta, and gold; the European Lounge is dressed up in Louis XV opulence, with a peek-a-boo portal into the Velvet Lounge; and the Chinese Lounge just drips with silk fabrics and flamboyant, glittering chandeliers. And should the decadent atmosphere steer you into over indulgence (and why wouldn’t it?), there is a new and also HBA-designed Ahasees Spa on site for body revivification. What we call living…

New York Opening: Demi Monde

Named after a group of people who live hedonistic lifestyles, Demi Monde flaunts a decadent caviar service, glittering chandeliers, and cocktails with names like Jewel Box, Whisper Campaign, and Mister Sparkle.

Located in the Finanical District, this tippling establishment comes from the team behind Death & Co., and draws inspiration from such literature as Norman Mailer’s Deer Park, Henry Miller’s Opus Pistorum, and, of course, Alexandre Dumas’ Le Demi-Monde. The interior is stocked with sumptuous hunter green booths, dark wood walls, and dramatic, velvet drapery.

Take a Break on the PCH at SHOREbar

Here’s the thing about driving the PCH towards Malibu at sunset: You shouldn’t be drinking, but all you want is a drink. The mountain curves, the beach is on your left, surfers are half-naked on either side of you. It’s all too stunning to just drive on through. Well, now you can stop and enjoy the view from the nautical-themed SHOREbar, a two-level cottage on a semi-remote stretch of the highway.

They’ve got all the classic cocktails, plus some signature aromatics and sours, and if stay long enough, they might talk you into joining the members-only second floor where you can stash booze in your own locker. If that’s what you need.

Austin Opening: Swift’s Attic

Set in a century-old warehouse, with a mesquite bar, and hunter green booths, restaurant and bar Swift’s Attic brings a comely masculinity and Moroccan feel to the downtown Austin scene.

For a special historical touch, a floor-to-ceiling mural was unearthed during the renovations. But it’s not toys you’ll find in this attic–rather, it’s creative, style-defying small plates featuring kimchi, poutine, scallops, and oxtails. The bar boasts at least fourteen craft beers on tap. Still, we’re most curious about the dessert menu’s Foie PB&J.

Beers, Breads, and Buns at Landbrot, German Bakery and Bar

Sometimes a restaurant opens in New York that makes you wonder, “How did this not exist before? How did we live without it?” It’s a rare, divine occurrence, and the first dining experience at this kind of place is filled with a lot of head-scratching, unfinished sentences (“I just… I don’t know… where do I… begin?”), and cleaned plates. If this is something you have yet to experience, then stop into Landbrot, the new German bar and bakery in the West Village and LES. With one bite of their just-baked salted pretzel, a sip of Hoss Holzar beer, and a scoop of German chocolate cake, you’ll realize Landbrot is that kind of place, and there’s no living without it.

Let us remind you that Landbrot (German for “country bread”) is a German bakery and bar, meaning that they offer – in one place – most of what makes life so wonderful: fresh and fluffy breads and pretzels; rare German beers on tap; smoked salmon, ham, and cheese sandwiches; and warm apple strudel.
Eating and drinking is welcomed at the bar or a table, where you get an unbeatable floor-to-ceiling windowed view of all the curious passersby who are admiring your herring sandwich from afar. The brats, sausages, and “frankfurters” are equally as enviable.
At Landbrot, it’s hard to name what dish is the star of the show, as this spot satisfies all-day needs, from a cup of drip coffee and a sweet bun or muffin, to a salad, jelly doughnut, and a pint. And with the 185 Orchard St. location staying open until 4am, six days a week, skip the decision-making process and just go all day and night. Or why not sleep there? With all of the freshly baked goods delivered via glass dumbwaiter at the West Village shop, perhaps you can just crawl right into the tray and no one will see.

New York Openings: Randolph Beer, Tradesman, Ginny’s Super Club

Randolph Beer (Nolita) – Craft beer hall that bleeds America.

Tradesman (Bushwick) – Workaday bar would make Tim Taylor proud.

Ginny’s Supper Club (Harlem) – Harlem Renaissance redux beneath Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster. Small plates, big bands.

Industry Insiders: Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, the Gurus Behind Bar Lab

When it’s time to get your drink on, Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi are the men to know in Miami. The mixology gurus behind Bar Lab, a consulting service respondible for the cocktail menus at such nightlife mainstays as Gansevoort South hotel and W South Beach, embody an encyclopedia knowledge of spirits, mixers, garnishes, and glassware. This knowledge has won them devoted fans across the Magic City. So what’s the secret to their booming success? The two alchemists fill us in.

How has mixology changed over the years?
Elad Zvi: It has changed a lot and is always evolving. A while back, bartenders were using sugar-based juices and not-so-good ingredients. Now it’s all about freshness and the quality of your product.
What are some mixology rules that you’ve broken? 
Zvi: One of my favorites is the belief that classic cocktails should only be made certain ways; today there are many ways to make a classic, like frozen or tiki-style.
Your thoughts on wine.
Gabriel Orta: Wine is great! So many different wines in the market right now are actually great for cocktails. Some of my favorite wine regions are Portland, New Zealand and Argentina.
Pairing cocktails with your meal…yay or “wine-only” territory?
Orta: Yes!!!! More and more chefs are doing this now. Cocktails permit for more ingredients that actually support the meal. We do a monthly pairing dinner with different chefs in Miami, with great success.
Where do you go to hang out and drink?
Orta: In Miami we like to hang out at The Dutch, Sra. Martinez, Tropical Chinese; but really, our favorite place to hang is the ocean. It’s the best place to get inspired.
What makes the cocktails you design so out-of-the-ordinary?
Zvi: We always use ingredients that are unique and exotic. We like ingredients from the Middle East, India, Asia, and South America.
What do all master mixologists have in common?
Orta: We all come from the hospitality industry, so no matter how much we have accomplished or know about the art of cocktailing, we are all here to give our guests a great experience.
Is there a spirit or an ingredient you won’t use?
Zvi: Spirit-wise, I like them all. But the one fruit I wouldn’t touch is durian. The smell and taste is just too strong. It overpowers everything.
What is the next frontier in mixology?
Orta: Now is all about the ice; from shaved ice to block of ice to different shapes, ice is one of the most important ingredients in a cocktail. Also, cocktails on tab…instead of draft beer, you can have a Manhattan or a margarita on tab made from fresh ingredients.

Dumps, Dives, & Holes: Moaning and Groaning at Mona’s

Mona’s on Ave B is a great bar for depressed locals to groan about depressing local issues. The last time I was there, a dark and misty Tuesday afternoon, I slouched by a lonely guy slouching next to me who ordered a glass of red wine and a soda with no ice. Down the way, old people debated the merits of local sock vendors. A toothless guy with a small glass of whiskey was telling the bartender he "has a good feeling about things this time." Two guys, one with a top hat walking a Jack Russell, the other with a cane, stumbled in both wearing beaded Mardi Gras necklaces. They began loudly complaining about their "goddamn rich" tenants and let the dog off the leash. Mona’s does its own thing, whether you like it or not.

From the outside, it’s not much: a newer brick facade, low-key sign, the darkened windows filled with neon beer ads. You would never know how big the inside is from just walking by, but it ‘s actually quite large for Alphabet City, with two full rooms and not terribly low ceilings. Just through the door is a cool little pillow seat where you can sit at the windows and watch people mill down Ave B, which is always entertaining, especially if it’s early enough in the day or late enough at night.
The bar stretches the right side of the front room, with a nice wooden bar top and cushioned stools. Behind the liquor are mirrors and a modest amount of chalk signs with pricing info. There isn’t a lot of kitsch going on, but this is not at all that kind of place. Besides the Christmas lights that zigzag the red ceiling to the backroom’s far wall, Mona’s sticks to the general dive bar colors, those certain few that so perfectly hide grime: maroon, black, grey, brown and exposed brick. The tap selection is standard, good. Prices exist on the better side of average: Guinness, Stella etc. for $6 a pint ($2.75 a mug) down to $4 for a pint of Yuengling ($2.15 mug). Cans of PBR are $3. Liquor runs around $5, wine the same, and you can get a dark and stormy for $7.
On the exposed brick left wall, pictures of dead rockstars hang. A small drink shelf stretches back to the same safari edition of  Big Buck Hunter that seems to inhabit every dive south of Fourteenth and east of First. It separates the bar from the sprawling back area.The backroom begins narrow, then expands cubicly outward to the large back wall. The walls are lined with mismatched benches, handmade mosaic table tops tucked in the corners. Some very mediocre, semi-impressionist art sits on walls that vary between red stucco and old exposed brick. Interesting lamps hang, each different from the one before it.
The backroom at Mona’s is mainly a game area and is never totally full. The first available activity back there, one of those multi-game boxes (cannon, pool, trivia…) that were popular for a while and now can only be found in places like Double Down Saloon and Duff’s, sits just on the other side of Big Buck Hunter. In the far left corner is a secret hidden booth, and that game that frequents Chuck E. Cheese’s where you roll a weighty brown ball up a ramp and try to get it into one of the target rungs, with the center and those on the top back sides being the most points. I’ve never known what it’s called, but it’s fun, kind of.
The jukebox is pretty good, and not too expensive. With two plays for $1, five for $2, and 15 for $5, it offers bands like New York Dolls, Devo, Buzzcocks, The B-52’s, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Built to Spill, Stooges… everything you’d expect and some new hit stuff. One of my favorite things about the backroom is its large periodic windows where the outside view is incorporated into the room’s aesthetic. The window to the right of the jukebox has a big poem on the wall outside the window (kind of lame, I know. But hey, cool concept and at least they’re trying). The right wall’s window offers a much cooler view of an abandoned fire escape backlit with an eerie green light creeping from below, Christmas lights reflect.
A pool table sits in the center of the room below a super cool seventies stained glass pool light. Mona’s is a place you could actually play pool without getting hassled off the table by young pushy assholes, something that seems to happen every single time I try to play. The patrons here aren’t in a hurry, even the younger ones (who definitely don’t fall into the East Village college crowd) have come to let time pass them by, let life wash over them quietly and warmly. They’ve come to sip on a beer or cup of liquor, to listen to the problems of those left behind, those complaining hypothetical problems no matter how trivial. The people are funny or nice and they always want to talk in a refreshingly uncreepy way. If you’re bummed, go in the day. If you aren’t, go at night. Take a friend, or make some new ones. Either way, Mona’s leaves no regrets.