Congratulations. You’ve made it through the 40-day period of Lent and are now entering an entire day of divine gluttony known as Easter. Just like Jesus, you too are resurrected, as your worst vices – ice cream sundaes before bed, chocolate after lunch, and mustard & salami sandwiches – are raised from the dead newly available during a meal known as “the moveable feast.” But since we all know the most moving we’ll be doing is from the table to the couch/reaching for the Italian bread, let’s get started on where to eat. Here are the restaurants serving New York’s Top Easter Brunches.
For kids, peanut butter is the ideal snack, and for adults, it’s the stuff of nostalgia. One bite into that PB&J-no crusts-white bread sandwich is like taking a trip back to the playground and swinging on the jungle gym. Which is why today—National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day—is one of our finest (national) holidays. For one day, it’s your chance to delight in the protein, healthy fat, crunchy-filled spread that is peanut butter. So put down that spoon you so commonly dig into your PB jar, get out of your apartment, and head to one of these restaurants for the best sweet and savory peanut butter dishes around.
1. The Sesame Noodles at Sammy’s Noodle Shop & Grill: Heaping platter of peanut butter-sesame-lathered thick, coarse noodles. Very effective hangover cure. Request them heated up.
2. Any dish from Peanut Butter & Co.: Every single item on menu has PB in it. Classics like PB&J club, shockers like spiced PB-Thai chicken sandwich. Flavored PB spreads available for take-home.
3. The Rogue Burger from Rogue & Canon: Peanut butter, crispy pork belly, aged cheddar, & onion marmalade on a potato roll. Speechless.
4. The Maple Bacon Dates from David Burke Kitchen: Medjool dates stuffed with sweet & spicy peanut puree, broiled and crispy.
5. The Sweet Revenge Cupcake from Sweet Revenge: Signature cupcake with peanut butter cake, chocolate ganache center, and peanut butter fudge frosting. The namesake for a reason.
Back in September, the James New York opened in Soho. It’s hard to make a serious racket in New York’s over-saturated hospitality market, but with their rooftop bar Jimmy attracting a young, professional crowd, and the recently-opened David Burke Kitchen fast become a hub for foodies, the James is staking its claim as one of the city’s premiere hotels.
Brad Wilson is the man largely responsible for the James’ emergence, having spearheaded their first major opening in Chicago. As VP of Operations for W Hotels Worldwide, Wilson was a member of the founding team of what’s now one of the world’s largest and most popular hotel chains. He jumped ship in 2005 to join The James Hotel Group as its CEO, and is now the COO of parent company Denihan Hospitality Group. Here’s Wilson on his start in the hotel business, why he left W, and the future of the James.
What was the first job you had in hotels? I was an elevator operator in Chicago at the Drake Hotel.
Was working in the hotel industry aspirational? It was, actually. That was the year before I went to college. My mother owned a catering firm and bakery, so I kind of grew up in the kitchen, working catering jobs, leaving school and chopping carrots, then eventually serving. So I always wanted to progress, originally thinking I would go into the restaurant business. The whole events process kind of defined my life, and so my mom taught me to throw really good parties, and that’s kind of been the direction of my life since then. When I was young, I was first thinking about going into restaurants.
Where did you develop the business acumen that you obviously need in your position? I went to Cornell hotel school, so I have a Bachelors in hotel management, but I have a MBA from my mother. After I left Cornell, I actually did work at the Plaza in NYC, and was the manager of the Oak Room. After being there for a while, my mother had started a commissary bakery, baking desserts for a lot of the big restaurants in Chicago, so she asked me if I would come back and take the wholesale bakery she was working on and develop a retail line of bakeries for that. So after a couple years at the Plaza, I left and went to Chicago to open this new business, which was a chain of retail bakeries. We did everything from really great brownies to cookies, and the world’s most amazing cinnamon rolls and coffee cake. It was my job to go out and find a location, hire an architect to design and build it, staff it, open it, develop the delivery systems, the accounting systems, and all this stuff to just build the business. So I jokingly say I got my MBA from my mom, because she gave me this truly entrepreneurial opportunity. It’s a very small microbe of what I do today. Today we find locations, we build hotels, we design them, create them, and open them. A lot of what I do is not that far off from what I did before, but just on a much larger scale.
What mark did you leave on the W that we can still see today? I’m the guy that actually coined the phrase, “Whatever, whenever.” So I guess that’s a big one, because they overuse that today. Back then, I was proud of it.
During what stage of W’s evolution did you get on board? I was one of the first people hired for W. I think there was one woman, Diane Briskin, that did the marketing, that was hired before me. I came in right after her to develop the operations side of the branch for our first opening, which was the W New York on Lexington. I was there before it was called W, when it was called Urban Eclectic Group. The lobby at the James.
Were you involved in the birth of the James or did you come in when it already existed? I guess I was pre-birth. I came in shortly after the first James opened in Scottsdale. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the James Scottsdale, but it was kind of this fun-in-the-sun little resort, not so much the James you think of today. The guys that had partnered to do that hotel — which was Danny Errico, the founder of Equinox gym, and Steve Hansen, the owner of Be Our Guest restaurant — opened that hotel, and then turned to me. I had worked with Steve when he had done some restaurants for us at W, so we were all friends, and they really wanted to get into the hotel business and create a company, so I came in to build a hotel company out of this initial hotel project.
The staff at your New York location is stunningly nice. We believe that nice starts at the top, and in turn we try and really build a nice culture. We use a term around our office, “Classic hospitality,” which at a boutique hotel seems kind of odd to say. We really try and come back to the ideas of a guest-centric focus. It’s nice to be well-designed and all that, but in the end it’s nice to be well-designed for the guest. We really try and focus on that and we really feel that if you’re in the hospitality business and you start with nice, hire nice, be nice, nice will come out to the customer. Every comment I get is like, “Your people are so nice!” We get it all the time from Chicago, and everyone was saying it’s because you’re in Chicago and it’s the Midwest, and that you won’t be able to do it in New York, but we do.
Were you worried about opening another hotel in an already crowded New York Market? How will you distinguish yourself? We’re going to define ourselves by quality. A lot of hotels go through whatever their trick is of the moment, whether it’s the shark in the lobby or whatever. But if you build it on quality design, not just trendy design, but quality design — our top designers are really rooted in classic modernism, and you’ll find we’re going all the way back into mid-century hand-craft that you’ve seen in Frank Lloyd Wright — not on things that are flashy and unique, a true sense of elegance that’s a little more sophisticated will emerge. It’s more subtle than a lot of our boutique competitors. Hanging out in our lobby is not quite so showy.
The lobby in New York is incredibly welcoming and homey. It’s kind of interesting, because when I was at W, we did a lot of the “wows,” and we had this flaming bar and all that kind of stuff. One of the things I saw a lot of earlier in my career, as far as boutique hotels go, is that people don’t actually want to come to their hotel and have people in their face with martinis and that kind of stuff. Sometimes you just want to be a little intimate and have a quite moment. We have those opportunities, where you can retreat.
Can you talk about the future of the James? One of the reasons I left W was because I thought it was becoming too big to be kept into a consistent model. So big is not necessarily our goal. I do think we can be in several cities, and we certainly want to be in LA and Miami, and then after that, San Fran or Seattle, Boston, Washington…
Do you view W as competition? Not really. I can see us competing with Morgans to a certain extent. We do independent luxury and it’s a slightly different niche than the W — the customer is a little bit different, and they might even reject the idea of W being too much of a chain.
Fashion Week has descended upon New York City, anointing new and yet-to-be-opened venues with its holy presence. Fashion houses and fashionable rags have shouldered their way into seen-and-be-seen restaurants and night spots, and have sold off their first born in order to offer their party guests a first look at some unopened places, like The Mondrian and the Darby’s buzzy basement. The perennial question: Whether to elect tried-and-true spots (or, in the case of Alexander Wang, gas stations and bounce houses) over what could be just a flash-in-the-pan hotspot. Herewith, a rumor-mongering and totally useless look at where all the week’s parties shall take place.
No Need for Dropping Bar Names Tonight, Stella McCartney will be watching out for our furry friends along with PETA, Tim Gunn, and Olivia Munn (last name rhyme-a-thon!) at her store for PETA’s Fashion Week fete. Also tonight is Waris Ahluwalia’s party at The Wooly to celebrate the buzzy launch of his line “Waris Loves You,” with Yoox.com and Karen Elson is rumored to perform with The Citizen’s Band. Not to be outdone, Fendi will be at Saks Fifth Avenue along with The New York Botanical Garden and a slew of fashion fixtures like Genevieve Bahrenburg, Byrdie Bell, and Lauren Remington Platt. We know this game all too well: we’ll have to leave our Frye boots at home. One place we can wear our beloved booties is the RETNA graffiti party at 560 Washington Street with fashion royalty, Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, with an after-party at good ‘ol Indochine. Itinerary: Stella McCartney The Wooly Saks Fifth Avenue Indochine
Hotel Playgrounds The James has proven to be a great new nightlife addition, frequented by a slew of designers and celebrities, which means the hotel’s newbie restaurant, David Burke Kitchen, will be a big draw for the fashion crowd, and the rooftop bar Jimmy, will be packed—per the usual. But really, the buzz is all about the VMAN party rumored to be held at the not-yet-opened Mondrian—more specifically, Imperial No. Nine, chef/cool-guy Sam Talbot’s new restaurant therein. Reason for the buzz: VMAN’s cover featuring Kanye West with money in his mouth, shot by Karl Lagerfeld. We’d love to see the confirmed guestlist, pretty please? And of course, don’t discount The Standard Hotel. Although it’s not spanking-new, Boom Boom room will continue to dazzle, and blogger workshops for the Independent Fashion Blogger’s Evolving Influence conference (featuring Proenza’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez) will be held at Le Bain. Itinerary: The James David Burke Kitchen Jimmy The Mondrian Imperial No. Nine The Standard Hotel Boom Boom Room Le Bain
On the Verge Speaking of Le Bain, the French connection will see to it that the delayed Le Baron New York will have a proper place to party. Aside from Alexander Wang (who may just be hosting a chill party at his Soho store opening on February 15th) another person everyone is trying to befriend in time is Andre Saraiva. His Paris club, Le Baron, has always been the spot for Paris fashion week, and conveniently, the New York outpost is rumored to be opening in March. Though it’s been reported that it isn’t officially ready in time for NYFW, that doesn’t mean it can’t host private events and quiet gatherings for Saraiva’s closest friends. But instead of temp fate (or the Community Boards) the splashy Le Bain will host Le Baron and family on two separate occasions: on Friday with Kitsuné celebrating “Kitsuné Parisien” with hosts/music done by Gildas, André Saraiva, Annabelle & Alexander Dexter-Jones, and Grand Marnier from 11-4AM. On Sunday, the Nouveau York weekly will also host “Late Night with Le Baron, with music by Alex from Tokyo, Manu (Supreme Records) and Lee (Hamsa). The Darby has been open for a while, but rumors point to a private basement opening party this Friday, with a subsequent party open to the public (whatever ‘public’ means to the Darby folks) next Wednesday. Also on everyone’s mind: Westway, a former strip club resurrected, has bloodlines from The Smile and The Jane. Charlotte Ronson’s after-party is one rumored party slot in Westway’s schedule. Itinerary: Le Baron Basement of The Darby Westway