The Taco Of The Town: NYC’s Five Best Tacos

Here in New York, we take tacos seriously – especially during summertime. There’s something about rolling that soft tortilla up, drizzling lemon over the white shrimp and seared talapia, covering it in guacamole, and dipping it in a fresh coat of rice and beans.  But no – not all tacos are created equal. We live in a world where tacos are sometimes soggy, made with stale tortilla shells, and filled with unidentifiable pieces of meat. This is unacceptable. And thankfully, New York’s five best taco places agree. Dig in, compadre.

The Plantain & Chorizo Taco from Los Feliz: the  sweet and savory mother of all tacos, stuffed with green plantains, Spanish chorizo, black beans, portobello mushrooms, garlic cause, crispy panela cheese, and truffle oil. 

The Brisket Taco from Brooklyn Taco Co: award-winning, and a gift of braised brisket, pineapple salsa,  chilorio sauce, cheese, crème, and red hot sauce for your mouth.

The Fish Taco from Barrio Chino: three fresh tilapia soft tacos, simmered in citrus and marinated in avocado salsa, pickled onions, and culinary genius.

The Potato & Chorizo Taco from La Esquina: packed with cactus, chunks of potatoes, dotted with chorizo sausage, and sopped in their salsa verde. 

The Corn & Poblano Pepper Taco from Tacombi: carnivores’ shocking favorite, stuffed with roasted poblano peppers, sweet corn off the cob, a salty Mexican sour cream, and creamy and grated Cojita cheese. 

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Tomorrow Is National Margarita Day! NYC’s Cheapest Drinks

Tomorrow is National Margarita Day! And in honor of the holiday, it’s time to not only watch a puppet named Professor Hans Von talk about alcohol, but also to change your Friday night plans, and take time to down that inaugural, semi-obligatory tequila-teeming Mexican cocktail. But where? And for how much? And what flavor? You are in good hands. Check out these places for the most reasonable, delicious, and potent drinks.

San Loco:This Mexican chain sells $6 frozen lime margaritas and $26 pitchers, and $6.50 frozen fruit margaritas (strawberry, cactus pear, pink guava, mango) for $28 pitchers. Open until 5am, so drink and stay a while.

Blockheads: Of course. $4 margaritas. Get the job done. Pick up the pink lemonade Mexican bulldog (a margarita filled with a Corona) for added potency.

Benny’s Burritos: Same story at this West Village spot owned by the Blockheads team. Cheap, slushy margaritas, and very convivial bar scene. Aka you’ll meet someone.

Barrio Chino: This Lower East Side sexy Mexican spot is known for three things: their grapefruit margarita, lime-jalapeno margarita, and a very long wait. Leave work early, and take a seat.

Dallas BBQ:Texas-sized, $7.99 frozen margaritas are at this BBQ chain, and they’re notoriously huge. Even the “regular” is larger than the basket of cornbread. Good luck.

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Industry Insiders: Matt Levine, Native Son

New York entrepreneur Matt Levine is busier than ever these days. Not only is Sons of Essex, the upscale American restaurant he co-owns with Michael Shah, one of the hottest tables on the Lower East Side, he’s also staying on top of the duo’s just-opened drink spot, Cocktail Bodega. We caught up with Levine to ask him about his background, his hospitality ideas, his favorite hangouts, and what exactly goes into a “Gin Hulk” cocktail. 

Where are you from and how did you get into the hospitality business?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, then grew up right by the JFK airport, in the Five Towns area. You could say I grew up in the hospitality business, bar-backing and serving while in high school and then bartending during college, and eventually bartending in the city every summer.  From my later teen years and early twenties, I started throwing parties and special events throughout the city. Working within the fashion and nightlife world, I started a clothing line in 2004.  Besides giving me an opportunity to travel, the clothing line gave me a creative outlet and the resources to eventually invest in my real passion-hospitality. At the age of 26 I opened The Eldridge.
 
What was the Eldridge like?
The Eldridge provided another creative outlet, and in that 1,000 square foot space, we did some amazing things.  The Eldridge had a great run, was a learning experience from an operational standpoint, and gave me the opportunity to operate F & B on a hotel level, as well as open up satellite locations and management deals. And then when 133 Essex Street came into discussion, I had an asset with The Eldridge, and an opportunity to sell the liquor license and the lease for 247 Eldridge Street, so I did so, and started building out what is now Sons of Essex.
 
What is an average day like for you, if there is such a thing as an average day?
I generally wake up at 7:00 am every morning, check emails, watch a little ESPN, walk my extremely lazy and stubborn English bulldog, Boss, and get to my office by 8:30 am.  I’ll head to Sons of Essex in the afternoon for meetings, and to our new project-Cocktail Bodega.  I generally get home around 8:00 pm, walk Boss again (or should I say he walks me) – then head back to Sons of Essex for dinner with friends and then … it starts all over the next day. Exciting, right?
 
What’s the greatest challenge of running a successful restaurant?
The greatest challenge is keeping consistency levels to the standards we expect. It’s always someone’s first experience at Sons of Essex, always someone’s first Asian calamari salad, someone’s first truffle mushroom pizza and so on – so it’s important to have the customer service and quality of product perfected. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
 
What kind of place is Sons of Essex? Where did the name come from?
We named the restaurant after the Sons of Liberty, who were a movement of shopkeepers, artisans, workers, and tradesmen who held down places like the Lower East Side when the British tried to take it over.  The Sons of Liberty were the voice of the people, the voice of the streets (organizing the Boston Tea Party, taking down the Stamp Act) and with us being located on Essex Street, we wanted to pay homage to those who looked out for our rights, the people’s rights. Sons of Liberty + Essex Street = Sons of Essex
 
What’s the menu like?
The Sons of Essex menu is a reflection of the diverse melting pot of cultures that have helped develop the Lower East Side to what we know of it today.  The old-school scene has been described as a Bowery Boys atmosphere and Gangs of New York vibe that pays homage to the history of the Lower East Side. We fuse a traditional American comfort food menu with the spices of Lower East Side immigrants and the use of local ingredients and Essex Street Market fruits and vegetables.
 
Tell me about Cocktail Bodega. 
Cocktail Bodega serves liquor-blended smoothies and spiked fresh-squeezed juices, with a creative and innovative take on traditional street food by my dude, Chef Roblé.
 
Where does the Bodega part come in?
Bodegas represent a strong sense of community within the Lower East Side, and with the use of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables in the cocktail program at Cocktail Bodega, the name Bodega seemed like a natural fit.
 
Will cocktail bodega specialize in any particular spirits or cocktails?
Throw a little vodka into your strawberry-mango smoothie, or have some rum with fresh vegetable juice, that’s what Cocktail Bodega is all about.
 
What’s your favorite cocktail to get there?
My favorite cocktail is the Gin Hulk: Hendrick’s Gin, freshly juiced apple, freshly juiced cucumber, freshly juiced spinach, lemon squeeze, and a cucumber garnish.
 
Other than your own venues, where do you like to go out in New York?
When not at Sons of Essex, I have my Lower East Side comfort zone. Barrio Chino, Les Enfants Terribles, Fat Radish for dinner, 169 Bar, Epstein’s, and Motor City for cocktails.  Throw me anywhere with my friends, a beer, and I am good.
 
To what do you attribute your success? Any secrets you can share?
I think it’s important to put your staff and team first, and lead by example.  When you walk into Sons of Essex, you aren’t coming because of the owners, you are coming because of the atmosphere and vibe, the customer service, and of course, most important – the food itself. All of this is a shared vision. I laid out the foundation and the operations, but the staff executes all the deliverables for the customer experience.
 
What do you like to do in your spare time to relax and recharge?
Bikram yoga is my relax & recharge time, checking out Hester Street Fair on Saturdays for good grub, hanging at Tompkins Square Park to chill, checking out an indie film at the Angelica or Sunshine … all help me balance the work week.
 
[Photo: The Lo-Down]

Industry Insiders: Michaelangelo L’Acqua, Global Warming

When Michaelangelo L’Acqua first entered the high stakes world of music-meets-high-fashion, he couldn’t have been more blissfully unaware. L’Acqua has spent a decade working with designers like Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, John Varvatos, Jil Sander, Chanel and Diane von Furstenberg on nearly 150 fashion shows and 200 commercials. L’Acqua is far from naïve about the industry, and as a seasoned vet in an ever-thinning circle, he’s diving into his new position as the W Hotels’ first ever Global Music Director with unbridled enthusiasm and bohemian sensibilities. L’Acqua has been busy producing the W’s 8th CD, crafting a digital mark for the brand and drumming up more than a few live performances. More on L’Acqua’s W plans, history in the industry and memories of the “velvet mafia” after the jump.

Fashion backstory: I used to play in funk and soul bands. Then, I wanted to be part of the bigger picture so I moved into production. After I’d been producing music for a while, I got invited to produce a Cynthia Rowley fashion show with my old partner who didn’t know anything about producing. We did a bunch of remixes for the show, and the next thing we know, a production company called Kevin Kline and Associates heard about the remixes and how people were just going nuts about them. They asked me to audition, and then, I was on a plane to meet this guy Tom Ford. I had no clue who he was. When I landed in Paris, I turned to my old partner and said, “How is he related to Ford trucks?”

On Tom Ford: When I met him, I was like, “Hey, Buddy! How you doing?” Everybody else was like, “We don’t look at him in the eye directly. You have to have a ten foot distance away from him at all times.” Working for Tom was one of the most intense moments of my entire life in the creative world. He’s a man who had such unbelievable vision in what he wanted to accomplish in fashion and in life. When I started, it was one of the largest moments in fashion. It was the passing of the torch. Yves Saint Laurent was just stepping down. Saint Laurent hated Tom Ford because he thought he was selling out to a person who wasn’t like Saint Laurent. He was such an epic character and Tom was more of a marketing genius. Tom acquires the most talented people in the world and orchestrates them to create his vision. For me not to have known anything about fashion and then thrust into that world was insane! I’d have to create a soundtrack like a score for a film and visualize it from the words that Tom would say. He’s the only other man that made me cry other than my father. He’d refuse the word “I can’t.” I used to say, “I can’t do this!” He’d just look at me and say, “That’s not part of my vocabulary. You’re gonna do it or you’re back to oblivion.” Every move you made could be your last, but if you did what he wanted, you were like a prized dog.

Career highlights: One was the first season of Gucci where Tom was inspired by the movie Magnolia , and I did remixes of Aimee Mann songs for the show. The level of attention we received having no one know who we were at the moment was incredible. Then, the first season of Yves Saint Laurent when Yves Saint Laurent stepped down, everybody was waiting for that show. There were people who were expecting Tom to fail and people who were expecting Tom to be the next God. We were told, “If you fuck this up, not only will you never work in fashion again, but we’ll probably break you. We’re gonna get the velvet mafia on you and you’ll be in some ditch somewhere.” Other shows that stand out are John Varvatos when he won the CFDA Award for Men’s Designer of the Year. We did the show in Florence, and it was this America rock icon show inside of an abandoned church that had been burned out. We opened it up with Jimmy Hendrix playing “Star Spangled Banner.” Every single person in that room just had chills straight down to their toes.

On DJing: I grew up in a time when you had to be the baddest motherfucker on the block. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t get the job and you never got hired again. Now, it’s changed. A lot of it is about who looks good in a skinny tie and all this other shit. I watch DJs, and it’s not about the skill that they put into their craft. I still approach it like the years where I was an artist or a musician. I wish more kids put more time into their craft these days.

Favorite DJ’s: There’s this one guy, Lincoln Madley. He’s a slick little brother–plays everything and his knowledge of music is phenomenal. There are a couple guys I like in the city. One guy’s named Jesse Marco. He’s real good. There’s another guy named Ian Boyd who is really good. And, my old friend Jordy.

On being the Global Music Director for W Hotels: It’s the culmination, the convergence of all the things that I do and that I have done. From working with advertising agencies, in fashion and scoring commercials, producing records, behind the scenes executive producing to managing egos and talent in the corporate mindset. I find myself working with the W at a time when the industry’s completely falling apart. There are no rules anymore. Whatever worked three years ago, chances are, is not working now. I feel like an artist. I’m a creative person who can just throw some stuff up on the wall creatively. Then, pick the pieces that mechanically work well together. Present it with a partner like the W and say, “This is the direction we can go.” People are now being forced to be more creative and let go of the institution or they’ll sink with the institution. I feel I’ve never been more creative in my life than right now. Working with the W has given me the platform to really help them have a voice out there.

Current projects: We’ve just launched a new record, Symmetry, and I’m in motion to prepare for the next record. I think we’re gonna depart from your standard compilation. We’re taking it more into original content. Within that, it’s developing the relationships and identifying the right artists that could be a part of this record. That’s a day-to-day project even though it may be nine months out. Then, we have the Symmetry live events. We start the first one in Los Angeles with Janelle Monae. We might be doing something with Kelis in Miami for swim week. We’re developing our DJ series, as well. So, we’ll do record release parties and we’ll pull in maybe Golden Filter, maybe Aeroplane in six or seven different cities throughout the US. We’re working hard to develop our digital initiative so that we can come out in 2011 with a whole new interactive platform.

Go-to places: I love places like Bianca and Florio’s, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Barrio Chino, all these Lower East Side joints. La Esquina. There’s a bar called Ella on the Lower East Side that my friends own. I’m excited for the Downtown W, happening in the next few weeks.

Side gigs: I’m producing a festival in Southampton in August. We secured the rights to the land and it’ll be a 1000 to 1500 person festival. An all-day event with ten bands of epic proportion. Then, I’m producing a Mafia Opera that I’ve been writing. It’s a cross between Tony and Tina’s Wedding and Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s an homage to Martin Scorsese’s mafia films. I’m hoping to premiere in August at a place like The Box. The project’s called Tommy Shine Box and The Mirrors. Everybody sings.

Spending Time With an Electric Cigarette

The great Mark Twain once wrote, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” It’s the perfect summation of the eternal struggle between a smoker and his cigarette, at once a loyal friend and two-faced bastard. But an even greater struggle that smokers face is against themselves. Do they smoke because they can’t not, or because they don’t feel like stopping? Anti-smoking products — nicotine gum, patches, nasal spray — are known as Nicotine Replacement Therapy, and have had varying degrees of success. They’re designed to quench your body’s thirst for nicotine, but what they can’t replicate is the pleasure of heading out for a smoke break with your coworkers, or sparking up after a stressful job interview. The physicality of smoking — the holding of the cigarette, the puffing in and blowing out of smoke — is half of the appeal. This means that the most effective form of NRT would be a device that could satisfy a smoker’s nic-fits, while still allowing him to look as debonair as Humphrey Bogart circa 1946. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the e-cigarette.

Several weeks ago one of our interns was puffing away at what looked like a cigarette right here in the office. When he took a haul, the cherry glowed. When he exhaled, a plume of scentless smoke whisped out. He told us it was an electronic cigarette, and what he was blowing out was “nicotine vapors.” Like a child seeing their first Yo Gabba Gabba! episode, we were transfixed. Did this device — that looked and behaved just like a cigarette — feel like one too? Was this the smoking gun (pun intended) that self-hating smokers were looking for? What if you could quit smoking without really quitting smoking? We had to get our stained-yellow hands on one and find out for ourselves. So that’s exactly what we did

After the e-cigarette’s manufacturer — Green Smoke — agreed to send us a $139 Starter Kit, we did a little research and found out that these cyborg smokes weren’t exactly new to the market. The Times explored their yays (zero carcinogens! You can smoke in bars!) and nays (It’s the stuff they use in smoke machines!) back in June of last year; The Wall Street Journal wrote on the controversy surrounding them (the FDA has yet to approve). The articles both featured testaments from heavy smokers who, thanks to their e-cigarettes, were able to cut smoking out of their lives significantly, if not totally. Leave it to federal rulers and regulators to summon a dark cloud of smoke (pun intended again) over what should be a very positive thing. Detractors claim the different cartridge flavors — chocolate, strawberry, apple — make them attractive to kids. Also, although you’re mostly inhaling a vaporized version of nicotine and water, the concoction includes something called propylene glycol, a compound used in deodorant, hand sanitizers, and anti-freeze. The jury is still out on whether this is a viable alternative to quitting, or a lesser but still sketchy quick fix. For the last two weeks, there was not an hour I spent sans e-cigarette, and the experience kind of freaked me out.

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During my two-week fake-smoke rampage, I defiled Barrio Chino, Mile End, Henry Public, Butter, and a myriad of other venues that dot New York. I smoked in other people’s apartments and bathrooms, on the bus, the subway, in taxis, in bookstores, in a movie theatre, at the Rangers game, at the Knicks game, and at the gym. I was popping cherries with my cherry all over town, and it felt great.

At first, the sensation of smoking in places that haven’t seen the swirl of cigarette smoke since the days of Don Draper was odd. I expected to be chastised for so openly and blatantly defying the law. At Madison Square Garden, hundreds of people saw me exhaling what they must have assumed was about 42 carcinogens-worth of secondhand smoke. Every time I blew some out, I expected a tap on my shoulder. It never came. On a crowded bus in Brooklyn, people gave me blank stares as I essentially blew smoke in their faces. Not a word. Even at the YMCA, on a Life Cycle, smoking for what all accounts and purposes looks and acts like a cigarette, I was left alone. Weird.

But that’s not entirely true. I was bugged, but only out of curiosity. When Butter’s monolithic bouncer called me over, it was only to ask what I was smoking. I told him it was an electric cigarette, and that it’s not real smoke.

“I gotta get me one of those!” was his response.

That’s the thing: You end up meeting a lot of people thanks to this strange little device. They’re not so ubiquitous that the average person has heard of them, let alone seen them. You’ll meet more curious and confused strangers with your electric cigarette than you would if your name was Heidi Montag. In fact, it’s a perfect conversation starter for single people looking to hook up. Just make sure you’ve got a slick answer to “What are you putting in your mouth?” It shouldn’t be hard.

When people asked me what it was, which a lot of them did, I found myself explaining the device best as I could (“It’s nicotine vapors”), always making sure they knew I was doing this for work. I didn’t want them thinking I was such a slave to addiction that I resorted to what seems like a desperate gimmick. But that probably says more about me than the product.

The e-cigarette can also function as a hilarious trendsetter. While puffing on my bionic butt (futuristic fag?) during last week’s Jets game, I overheard two guys asking each other if it was okay to smoke inside. It wasn’t, and they didn’t, but you can tell it crossed their minds. And in light of the city’s recent crackdown on the smoking ban, I would’ve taken more than a little pleasure in seeing them get a scolding, while I smoked mine like a little rascal.

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Since I didn’t go anywhere my electric cigarette didn’t go (and vice versa), my friends came to know it almost as well as I did. And every time I used it — which by the end was a lot — they were sort of bewildered. If four of us were in a restaurant having dinner, I was the weird guy sucking on the metal stick. The looks on their faces every time i pulled it out was a mix of “That’s so funny!” and “Is he serious?” A few times they remarked that I’m smoking more now than I would if I was using real cigarettes. Before long, they were telling me to put it away, and I began to feel like Green Smoke had created a monster.

Toward the end of the experiment, a disturbing trend emerged. I started holding the cigarette in my mouth all the time — clenched between my teeth or hanging loosely between my lips. Eventually the cartridge — which in smokerspeak is the filter — got all gnawed up. Soon the sticker peeled off exposing a metal surface, the Terminator of smokes.

Until then, I refused to ponder this gadget’s true nature. But glimpsing its machine-like interior put thoughts into my head. It suddenly seemed more artificial than real cigarettes, themselves just some leaves wrapped in paper. I specifically avoided reading the user’s manual before starting this experiment because I wanted to go in blind, to not know exactly what I was inhaling — kind of like smoking for real. But a product that calls itself Green Smoke instantly connotes the purity of nature. A substance that calls itself propylene glycol does not (it’s the same thing that comes out of smoke machines). Electric cigarettes are without question less dangerous than real ones. They’re also scentless, and you don’t have to freeze your ass off in the winter to support an addiction that may very well kill you. But do you really want to be that guy? I don’t.

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BlackBook Staff Picks: Dining, Drinking, Shopping, & Staying

Here at BlackBook, we pay a lot of attention to where cool customers go out — bars, clubs, restaurants, shops, hotels, you name it. So why not flip the frame and let you see where we go out? Here’s a periodically updated, exhaustive list of hotspots currently favored by everyone at BlackBook, from the mighty bosses down to the humble interns, from the charming local lounges around the corner to the jet-setting temples of luxe living. ● Creative Director – Jason Daniels, The Odeon (NYC) -American Psychos down salmon and steak frites, but the real scene’s on the sidewalk. ● Vice President, Content – Chris Mohney, Agua Dulce (NYC) – Festive outpost feels like Miami, F-L-A.

EDITORIAL ● Senior Editor – Nick Haramis, Motor City Bar (NYC) – Front like you remember how to drive and these 8 Milers might let you hang. ● Features Editor – Willa Paskin, Mayahuel (NYC) – Tequila temple where patrons pay homage to the goddess of agave. ● Writer-at-Large – Alison Powell, Peppermill (Las Vegas) – Vegas institution pushes diner food in front and romantic cocktails in the back. ● Nightlife Correspondent – Steve Lewis, Serpentine (NYC) – Patrick Duffy’s legendary scene uncoils in west Chelsea. ● Assistant Editors – Ben Barna, Jupiter Room (Montreal) – Drink your face off for cheap and dance ’til it aches. Cayte Grieve, Blackstones (NYC) – Foster Ethan Kamer, Joseph Leonard (NYC) – Elegantly distressed Village charmer serving up three solid meals a day. Eiseley Tauginas, Barrow Street Ale House (NYC) – College sports fans and West Village regulars cram into cozy confines. ● Copy Editor – Michèle Filon, Back Forty (NYC) – Manure-free urban farm sates virtuous, albeit rare, healthy food cravings. ● Editorial Interns – Molly Gunn, PDT (NYC) – Somebody told, but still a nice sophisto surprise behind the grunge of Crif. Megan LaBruna, Mercury Lounge (NYC) – Catch a future indie rock god at this rite of musical passage. Toren Curtis, The Vagabond (Miami) – Great indie scene. Even better music. Ashley Simpson, SPiN New York (NYC) – Marginally-more-athletic alternative to beer pong gets its own private club. Averie Timm, Downtown Cipriani (NYC) – Über-scene congregation of A-list supermodels, art stars, and financiers. Food, too. If you care. Annie Werner, Antone’s (Austin) – This revered blues club’s namesake did more for black-white relations than the Oreo cookie. Hillary Weston, The Four-Faced Liar (NYC) – Greenwich Village-proper pub is something out of Middle Earth, or Docklands. Either way: the real deal.

ART ● Art Director – Amy Steinhauser, Mizu Sushi (NYC) – Popular lunch spot for Flatiron media types needing to bitch. ● Assistant Designer – Serra Semi, Momofuku Ssäm Bar (NYC) – Chef-of-the-minute David Chang fancies up Korean burritos and gets avant-garde after 6pm. ● Photography Assistant – Stephanie Swanicke, Canal Room (NYC) – Jersey hordes in the house, but discreet famous faces still rock all night. ● Freelance Designer – Krista Quick, t.b.d (NYC) – Sleek and chic lounge in the heart of Greenpoint.

FASHION & BEAUTY ● Market Editor – Bryan Levandowski, Shang (NYC) – Toronto-bred Susur Lee takes on nouveau Asian small plates at the Thompson LES. ● Fashion Assistant – Wilson Mathews III, Dylan’s Candy Bar (NYC) – King-sized candy shop hypnotizing children and torturing adult waistlines in the UES.

BLACKBOOK MEDIA CORP ● Chairman – Bob Hoff, Voyeur (LA) – The inspiration is Eyes Wide Shut…so yes, there’s lots of leather. ● CEO – Ari Horowitz, Nikki Beach (St. Barts) – An escape into paradise in the middle of, well, paradise. ● Associate Publisher – Brett Wagner, Barrio Chino (NYC) – Chino Latino tequila bar serving up 50 kinds of that devil stuff. ● Director of Finance and Operations – Joe Friedman, Brooklyn Bowl (NYC) – Rock and bowl will never die. ● Corporate Counsel – Drew Patrick, Tournesol (NYC) – Coq au vin and crème brûlée? Oui! Oui! ● Executive Assistant – Bridgette Bek, Tu Lan (San Francisco) – Word-of-mouth dingy treasure serving good, cheap Vietnamese food in a downright crappy location.

ADVERTISING – advertising@bbook.com ● Senior Account Executive – Dina Matar, Ilili (NYC) – Upscale Lebanese moves miles beyond falafel. ● Account Executive – Brian Kantor, Lillie’s (NYC) – Victorian pub with just enough antiquery to make you feel grand. ● Executive Director, BlackBook Access – Gregg Berger, Indochine (NYC) – French-colonial greets uptown-cum-downtown diners. ● Advertising Director – Michelle Koruda, Shorty’s .32 (NYC) – Josh Eden under-promises and over-delivers at this Soho charmer. ● Detroit Account Executives – Jeff Hannigan, The Lodge (Chicago) -Ye old typical Division Street cheese, but always a shameless good time. Kristen von Bernthal, Hudson Bar at Hudson Hotel (NYC) – Acid-trip décor. Sit on a log and rest your drink on a gnome head. ● Midwest Account Executives – Susan Welter, Hopleaf Bar (Chicago) – Andersonville’s best bar. Belgian beers and food meet in a place that’s too smart to be too cool and vice versa. Andrea Forrester, Coast Sushi (Chicago) – BYOB meets the sea at this high-quality Wicker Park sushi spot. ● Southwest Account Executive – Molly Ballantine, Rustic Canyon (LA) – Leave it to the upper-cresty West-siders to show everyone else up with their moody, fashionable darkwood and cream take on the ubiquitous neighborhood wine bar. ● Northwest Account Executives – Catherine Hurley, Coi (San Francisco) – The apotheosis of both the molecular gastronomy trend and the sustainable food movement: ethereal, futuristic flavors in a serene environment. Shawn O’Meara, Nopalito (San Francisco) – ● Sales Coordinator – Celia Ballou, Pink Pony (NYC) – Pseudo-bohemian bistro that’s better for people watching than, like, eating or whatever.

MARKETING ● Marketing Manager – Julie Fabricant, Bottega Louie (LA) – Proof that Downtown is still gentrifying. ● Partnerships & Promotions Manager – Andrew Berman, K & M (NYC) – Former perogie factor converted to current meat market for the indie-rock set. ● Interns – Cristina Girgis, Barbounia (NYC) – Tony Medi with good bones. Interior is all about the arches. Alexandra Vickers, The Slaughtered Lamb Pub (NYC) – Magical enough to overlook the horror movie gimmick.

DIGITAL ● Director of Development – Daniel Murphy, Max’s On Broadway (Baltimore) – Ahhh, good old Max’s I remember you well…well what I can remember anyway. ● Lead Architect – Matt Hackett, Caracas Arepa Bar (NYC) – Arepas, seventeen ways. Venezuela is for carb lovers. ● Developer – Bastian Kuberek, Greenhouse (NYC) – NYC’s first Green club tries to make bottles and models sustainable. ● Developer – Dan Simon, Hudson Terrace (NYC) – Rooftop pleaser for drunk summer afternoons. ● Designer – Matt Strmiska, Uchi (Austin) – Thoroughly inventive and delectable sushi in vibrant environs, compliments of lauded chef Tyson Cole. ● Developer – Sam Withrow, The Knockout (San Francisco) – The vibe is blessedly lawless,prolifically musical and down right hedonistic. Peep tall cans and a sweaty dance floor. ● Quality Assurance Engineer – Sunde Johnson, Melt (NYC) – Brooklyn brunch spot becoming the standard for neighborhood dining. ●Mobile Developer – Otto Toth, Alloro (NYC) – Cacio e Pepe peeps get creative on the Upper East.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Bob Hoff, Voyeur (LA). Ari Horowitz, Nikki Beach (St. Barts). Eric Gertler, Matsuhisa (Aspen) – World-famous Nobu chef brings incredibly tasty, stylish, pricy sushi to Aspen. Joe Landry, SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills (LA) – Phillipe Starck and Sam Nazarian mind meld to create a papparazzi-inducing modern luxury hotel in (well, near) BH. Irwin Lieber, Fishtail by David Burke (NYC) – Fresh seafood in the UES by celeb chef David Burke. Dan Pelson, Marea (NYC) – Hopes for a high tide abound at Michael White’s temple to Italian seafood. Barry Rubenstein, Bryant & Cooper (Hamptons) – While it may be trying a little too hard for a classic old-time-y vibe, the steaks are nonetheless quite good. Jack Sullivan, The Raleigh Hotel (Miami) – The local equivalent of LA’s Chateau Marmont.

New York: Top 10 Downtown Joints to Launch a Noche Mexicana

Mayahuel (East Village) – Cocktail connoisseurs of Death & Co. build a tequila tabernacle to namesake goddess of pulque and agave. Dark, sexy atmo coupled with the smart pours will have you sinning and confessing, alternately. ● La Esquina (Nolita) – Bar scene with authentic Mexican food from über-scenesters Serge and Cordell. Dungeon chic and tacos. Not as stealth as at the start, but still holding its own. ● Los Feliz (Lower East Side) – Fat Baby peeps continue their colonization of Hell Square with South of the Border entry. La Esquina meets Spitzer’s over margaritas. Come get feliz.

Su Casa (Greenwich Village) – Speakeasy entry, small plates, extensive tequila list: zeitgeist is in full effect at this buzzy Mexican-style stealth spot. More style than you could ever hope to experience this close to a Qdoba, ● Mercadito Cantina (East Village) – If Momofuku were a taqueria. Narrow blond-wood bonanza, determined to spread the love of Oaxacan flavor. No license for hard liquor, but cocktails fake it admirably with “Tric-quila.” ● Papatzul (Soho) – Complex Mexican fare, can feel unexpected if you’re used to three hard-shell tacos and a side of E. coli from the local Taco Hell. Enough free-flowing tequila to dislodge the stick from most anyone’s ass. ● Cabrito (West Village) – Turquoise walls, red light bulbs, no-res policy give LES feel to hopping W. Vill. hacienda. Energetic vibes stoked by Smokin’ Durazno Fizz, made of peach, honey, and tequila. ● Móle (Lower East Side) – Postage-stamp-sized joint tricked out with Mexican tchotchkes and Talavera tile, looks good in the candlelight. Damn fine margaritas, with nary a drop of sour mix in sight. ● Agave (West Village) – Mahi mahi tacos swim past your eyes in a colorful dining room of adobe walls, mahogany floors, and trellised ceilings. Tank up from the endless tequila list, wander into the mountains to hallucinate yourself stupid while eating lobster and mango quesadillas. ● Barrio Chino (Lower East Side) – Comfy, serene, open to the LES street, which gets less barrio and less Chino every day. Something about agave makes us sin profusely. Good eats, too, should you be in the market for tacos and tortas.

Industry Insiders: Rachelle Hruska, Guest Star

After only a few years spent navigating the social waters if Manhattan, Rachelle Hruska left her cushy job at a mutual fund company to work on her hobby: social media. Her website, Guest of a Guest, not only deciphers New York’s social hierarchies, but, as Hruska puts it, provides “a guide for what is going on among the young and influential tastemakers shaping the collective culture.” Hruska’s pluck and insight keep her focused. “After identifying an open niche in social media that I thought I could fill, it was necessary for me to venture into the unknown”– a leap that propelled Hruska into hosting her own events, sussing out the newest hotspots and basically showing face on a nightly basis. “I see us taking Guest of a Guest to other cities around the world,” she says. “I have met a lifetime’s worth of interesting people in the past two years.”

You went through quite a transitional period when you moved to New York, you weren’t involved in the media industry- what were you doing, and how did you come to decide to run GuestofaGuest.com full time? I was working at a mutual fund, happy and content with my job. I was able to study and learn how companies worked and became interested in starting my own. Naturally, living in the city, it’s nearly impossible not to be exposed to New York media, and as I began to read and follow different blogs and media outlets, I marveled at the seemingly low barrier of entry to that world. For fun and as an experiment, I began to chronicle young Manhattan on a daily basis at nights, after work. After seeing consistent growth, I started to became more and more convinced that there was a market for this kind of website. In May of 2008, I left the security of a wonderful job to take on the risks and challenges of trying to make this a successful company.

How was Guest of a Guest conceived? Was it a passion, a hobby? At the beginning it was totally just a hobby that got my mind off finance. And we got to a place where we saw a niche; these young, twentysomething group of tastemakers, who liked going out and wanted to know everything about it, and we went with it. But it took us a while to get there. When we started, we had writers cover lots of things, from food to fashion, and everything else. It was like a Gothamist more than a Guest of a Guest. After becoming more and more interested in the online media world, and kind of seeing all these print publications crashing — we had to figure out how we were going to survive and expand. We had to figure out how to manage SEO, and basically everything that made a blog work. I started meeting with people like Lockhart Steele. We started talking to people like Nick Denton, and kind of just getting an idea of how they started.

And they just offered up their help? Well, Lockhart found me. At the time I kept my identity a secret. The New York Times picked up a story because we had talked about 1Oak opening and now one even knew 1Oak was in existence. I had just heard through the grapevine and put up a small little post. So, the Sunday Times did a piece referencing us, and once you have a mention in the Times like that, I think that was probably when we made it on the radar. Lockhart started talking to me through email, as I was very nervous about giving away who I was. Since I was working in finance, I didn’t know how my peers would feel about it. So I put some trust in a couple people that I felt could be helpful. Lockhart was one of them from the very beginning. I started this two summers ago. I didn’t quit my job until last April.

You’ve just passed your four year mark as a New Yorker; do you find you’ve lost some of that wide-eyed wonder that you initially had? I’ve tried to not let that happen. I think that being naive, in some aspects, is a blessing. You don’t know what’s not possible, you’re kind of just starry-eyed. I think I’m much smarter and much more aware of agendas, but I also think that it’s important to work at it. Just yesterday I went running with my friend Danielle, who is the Danni behind Dannijo Jewellery, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and we’re both like little kids on this bridge, taking pictures of ourselves with the Manhattan skyline in the background. It was silly how exciting it still is, and maybe those are the kind of things that don’t happen every day, but you gotta work for it. You have to try to not become jaded. New York does that to you, right? And it’s going to do that to you, especially when you’re going to all these events. Obviously, an event is not the same as the first time I went. But you have to learn to appreciate the little things in life. And especially when you’re removed from the city, it’s such a blessing to come back and experience those things all over again.

You cover a lot of charity events, and you’ve launched a charity initiative. Do you have a specific cause you are passionate about, or do you try to give them all a fair chance? VABC: Voices Against Brian Cancer. I lost my grandmother to brain cancer and my friend’s brother is running in the marathon for brain cancer support. Anything close to cancer is close to home. I also do a lot with The American Heart Association because I’ve had a lot of family that have had heart issues. I don’t have much free time or tons of money to give away but I do hope to bring exposure to great causes through GofG

When people get snarky on the internets, call you out on things, or try to pick fight, how do you deal with that? Do you think it’s important to fight back? Yeah, I do. Those dialogues, even though they are tedious and worthless right now, I think they’re fun. It’s always good to have people challenge you, always. It makes you work harder, try to do better, and be more fair. I welcome all of it. I have had people that have put me in a bad light, but if you know you are doing everything you can and are in the right then the open dialogue can only help the situation for other people. I don’t pick fights with people. I never do. It’s not interesting to me, and it’s not something I enjoy doing. But if there is something that I think, then I am going to spend some time trying to retaliate — I’ll do it on my personal Tumblr. It’s important to have respect for your peers. I don’t want to just be a fighter that people look at but don’t take seriously. Page Six and Gawker already do it … it’s fun to read … people like reading it. But there is also room for a nicer and more positive spin. That’s what we are going for.

Do you have a hit list? Maybe not in a personal way, but with the knowledge that your readers have a lot of interest certain names? Well, you have to be aware of everyone. Obviously there are people that you see over and over again at parties, and people might share rumors, and suddenly you have an understanding of who people are talking about. I think that you can also create people that I personally think are interesting — you can do that on your own. I don’t know about the hit list, but there are definitely characters that people are always on the lookout for. And you know, if we’re writing a post on an event and, let’s say, someone’s there and something happened with them the week before, we might add that name to the event.

Have you felt like you’ve been able to be supportive to people who are now big hitters in the industry? That’s the goal. And I think that was for me too, that was really the goal, to give interesting people who were trying to do something good or trying to build and create something in a time when, I mean, let’s face it, we are in a major recession, and people don’t need to be worked down, they need to be built up. I think you can do it without sounding too Pollyanna. I said this to the Times reporter because, one of the things he said was, “you shill for Surf Lodge.” Well, I actually really like going there! It’s not like we’re going to write about things that we just think are cool because we want them to be happy with us or on our good side. We generally only write about things that we like and that we want our readers to be aware of. There are designers and people in nightlife who are trying to bring something in an industry that is bringing our city so much revenue. Of course, I want to try and support that. I really feel it’s helping our city by doing that because it’s making people aware and raising interest for these businesses. Charities, especially in a time like this, are huge. These events are always giving back and built around philanthropic causes. They get young kids excited about giving back. Even if they can’t afford a ticket, maybe they can help out by being on the committee. Our interns, for example — whenever they go to an event, they really take it as their own. When I am invited to a charity, I try to see who from our team is best suited to cover it and really get personally involved and help give it space online that really has eyeballs coming to it. We can try to sell tickets, give free tickets to newsletter readers, and just generally raise awareness to it.

Where do you like to go out in New York? Do you have a favorite restaurant? My favorite restaurant is Blue Ribbon. I got introduced to it a year ago, and I have been going back a lot. I tend to stay by my neighborhood. I love Raul’s. I am starting to get into the Diablo Royale. Barrio Chino — I love Mexican food.

Any favorite bar? I like Rose Bar. I am not into clubs, but Rose Bar is my go-to. I like the Cooper Square Hotel. I like the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel, the Jane Hotel, and recently I’ve been going to The Standard Grill.

Favorite shops? I hate shopping. I hate it. I haven’t been shopping since last October. I don’t even know what to say about shops; I don’t know anything about them. If I need something I’ll go to Topshop or Bloomingdale’s in Soho. Being a blogger now, I don’t need to dress up during the day. I am running out of clothes. I should start online shopping.

Who do you admire in your industry? Do you have any mentors or anyone you’ve tried to emulate? It depends if you’re looking at media people, writers, or tech people. The thing about my industry is that there are not many females in the tech world so it’s really interesting to get to meet them. It’s cool. I met Caterina Fake, who did Flickr and is now doing Hunch.com. She really impresses me. And other women, like Arianna Huffington, who really changed the way we get our news. But Caterina’s story really impressed me. And I admire a lot of my peers who are working really hard to try to do their own companies. I look up to them. I always admire people who go to the beat of their own drum.

Do you love your job? I love it. I absolutely love it. There are definitely days where I have a lot of trials, and some days you’re pulled in so many directions. But it’s just like anyone who has a company. You’re wearing so many hats that they all come crashing down at the same time. You have to put things in perspective and realize it’s not the end of the world. I’ve never worked harder for anything, but sometimes it doesn’t even feel like I’m working all the time. Even though I am working day and night, I am passionate about it. It doesn’t feel like work. I get to meet such great people in the industry, really interesting people. And that wasn’t available to me in finance. I really enjoy it.

Fame Fail: Emily Haines & Beatrice Inn Do Not Get Along

It’s common practice for us to ask celebrities what their favorite bars and restaurants are, so you’ll know where to stalk them. Usually they’ll list a couple of places with a few reasons why, and sometimes they’ll struggle to remember the name. But rarely will they outright refuse us. Like Emily Haines, for example. The Metric singer told me buzz off when I prodded her to reveal her secret favorite New York drinking den. Instead, she just bad-mouthed the Beatrice. Yippee!

I do have a favorite place, and there’s no fucking way I’m telling you, because nobody goes there and I really want to keep it that way. But I’ll just drop Barrio Chino, because it’s a good place for drinks and food. Where else is a good place in New York to drink? You know, Beatrice. I’ve never been treated like such shit by a waiter. And bartender. I was like, “Don’t you know who I am?” And he was like, “No.” And I was like, “All right, whatever.”