New York City: Top 10 Places For a Girl’s Night Out

We girls sometimes have this strange, perennial urge to get dressed to the nines, smell like cupcakes and flowers, strap on our sky-high Manolo’s and use them to transport us to buzzing, overstimulated bars, where we can teeter around, sipping colorful cocktails, ignoring the opposite sex, and secretly fantasizing we’re characters in our own girly HBO series. Sometimes we want Disney-sized mansions of excess; other times we’ll take chic cosmopolitan standbys, perhaps with some college watering holes thrown in for good measure. We’re women, we’re allowed to change our minds. As if to further stereotype ourselves, these things are for certain, we want a backdrop that looks as good as we do, in a place that makes us feel forever 21, with enough stamina to handle our girl’s night out.

Lucky Chengs (East Village) – A place to truly let it all hang out while the girl-boy trannies try to keep it all in, and tied up, and hidden. The queens, who happen to be the wait staff, act bitchy while belting out “It’s Raining Men.” ● Elizabeth (Tribeca) – A place to really get off on yourself, vibe is dark and sexy- reminiscent of a Kiki De Montparnasse, with more blood sucking. Gather the girls to set the tone of the evening; Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire. ● STK (Meatpacking District) – To be totally vile and cliche, this steak place is very girl friendly. So girl friendly, the slickness is attributed to Sex and the City’s special brand of trendy- with a dash of Buck Rogers. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire; many ‘Ladies Night’ celebrations take place- many gentlemen read smoke signals. ● Greenhouse (Soho) – Glitters like a Radiant cut diamond, sparkles like a Manhattan nightclub should. Sometimes, a girl has to dance, and dance you will, in environmentally conscious surrounds. Pretty pastel LED lights, vines, moss, and a Louboutin conscious bamboo dance floor. ● Sweetiepie (West Village) – More diner than dinner; but this place is far too novel to leave out. Marie Antoinette styling, pink and gold trimmings, completely trivial options like caviar-topped omelets. Grossly luxe, pint sized plush shop was made for an indulgent evening. ● Bubble Lounge (Tribeca) – Good times are poppin’ along with the Veuve. Nothing beats a fizzy champagne buzz, except treating yourself to the VIP wine cellar. Inner diva is brought out, along with the Visa- poppin’ is pricey. ● Butter (Noho) – When you are with a pack, it’s practical to practice pack-mentality. Go with your natural instinct and opt for a venue that has withstood the test of time. Dancing, music, mini skirts, feel good vibes from the confused foreign models and promoters, Richie Akiva knows a woman’s habitat. ● Casa la Femme (West Village) – Grab a tent for you and your harem, er entourage, and sip signature sweet cocktails while entertaining the belly dancers. Guys go to strip clubs. Why can’t we have the same fun? ● The Standard Beer Garden (Meatpacking District) – Attractive crowds have been magnetized to the Standard since it opened, therefore, people watching is never at a lull. Ideal for the pre-dinner meeting spot to take in the view, enjoy a tasty micro brew and instill camaraderie in your girlfriends during a game of ping pong. ● Automatic Slim’s (West Village) – The ratio always sways towards attractive guys, and the type of guys who will buy you a drink but then leave you alone to dance with your girlfriends. Dancing on the bar always encouraged and after a few feel good tunes, you’ll be into the idea.

Plumm Space Up for Grabs

imageAs the economy recovers and money becomes available, places that were long ago shuttered or recently deceased prepare for rebirth. Restaurants lay around like old chairs and sofas covered with white sheets like in an old horror flick. The biggest prize in my eyes is Plumm, that ripe spot on 14th Street with a ton of tradition. Nell Campbell had her infamous joint Nell’s there back in the day. It became famous for charging everybody — and I mean everybody — door admission. Cher refused, got turned away, and the little gimmick turned the place into a hit overnight. In later years, I would go and listen to jazz bands and eat good food before the mayhem of the dance halls. Noel Ashman took the joint over and called it NA. Some said it meant “Nell’s Again,” but most thought it was a tribute to his own dapper self. Noel eventually closed NA and transformed it into Plumm, with a gaggle of celebrity investors including Chris Noth, Damon Dash, Samantha Ronson, etc. Plumm proved to be a bitter fruit, never really catching on with a crowd that spent enough money to pay the rent.

Now the space is suddenly available, and investment entities are playing a game of musical chairs trying to snare it. The rub — or is it rubb? — is the rent. Noel was in at around $28,000, and the landlord was looking for $43,000. I hear now it’s at $38,000. That’s a high number in these times, and most of the smart guys have left it on the table. Still, there are a few groups looking. These operators, who I will name in the next few weeks, feel that they still have the bottle chops to make loot. The location on 14th Street just east of 8th Avenue has gotten a lot better, as the shift from West Chelsea and its 27th Street strip to the Meatpacking and the surrounding area has really stepped up. Still, Plumm or whatever it becomes is a real long block away from that action, making it too far to walk (especially in heels), but also uncomfortably close for a taxi ride. With a full kitchen, high ceilings, and cabaret downstairs, this place will be something soon. With its proximity to subways, a downtown location, and two floors, it’s ideal for servicing corporate parties if indeed the upturn brings them back. Noel told me that he still has the liquor license, and that should mean someone will need to deal with him, as a transfer from one group to another is easier than a new one.

The Tasting Room on Elizabeth Street folded rather quickly on the bones of quite a few other joints at the start of the recession. It’s easy to blame the economy, but eateries all around it have thrived throughout (although Rialto also failed and is now redecorated and renamed Elizabeth across the street). Still, it’s a half-hour wait at Habana and Gitane, and Le Colonial is always crowded. The blame for failure at Rialto and Tasting Room can be firmly placed on both places’ inability to embrace and cater to the hood. Now Jo’s opens, and the first thing out of management’s mouths is how they are going to be a neighborhood place.

I spoke with Jo’s owner Jim Chu. “I think the best way to describe what we’re doing here is to make something that is casual but professional, stylish, and laid back. Along with the rise of culinary culture in the U.S., there has been a really ugly sense that there is a limited number of people that get to hold the keys to what makes it and what doesn’t, or that you need to have three forks to make it a real meal, or that drinks need to be $14 to be good. Bullshit. It doesn’t matter how exclusive your plate of foodie-branded supper is, if it’s $49 and you can’t afford to eat it. We don’t subscribe to that, and we made a place we really love.”

Jim is joined by actor Johnny Santiago from Torch and Kevin Felker, who has had various roles from bartender to manager at such places as Pastis, Schiller’s, W Union Square, Tribeca and Soho Grand hotels, and Barmarche. He even spent time at Aureole making pastry because he “didn’t want to spend the money on cooking school.” With an eye on their bottom line and a recognition of the still-shallow pockets of their patrons, I think Jo’s is a model for success. The scene is rising from the carnage of the nuclear winter. My design firm is getting tons of inquiries from operators in similar situations, the banks are eking out money and groups ready and able but who have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for credit to become un-crunched, and everybody’s looking to fix up defunct spaces and bring new life and jobs back to the hoods.

New York: Top 10 Late-Night Dining Destinations

imageBecause sometimes a diner just won’t do.

10. Rusty Knot (West Village) – For those butter and salt cravings. 9. The Box (Lower East Side) – A memorable meal for sure; whether you trust what’s on your plate and/or feel like eating after watching the show is another story.

8. Pink Pony (Lower East Side) – Always an interesting crowd at the perpetual hipster-cum-starving-artist hangout, where you can order reliable French-Moroccan bistro grub or just linger with a book and coffee. 7. Henry’s (Upper West Side) – A Columbia University fave, this American bistro’s walls are decked out with culinary poster art from Herman Miller Company’s Summer Picnic Series — a relaxing backdrop for some late-night comfort food fare (mac & cheese, warm goat cheese salad, and pressed sandwiches). 6. Delicatessen (Soho) – Rejected from GoldBar? Shunned at Southside? Retreat to this bi-level spot’s subterranean bar, where you can nosh on artichoke dip while a DJ spins (midnight-2 a.m., Tuesday-Saturday) in the background. 5. 718 (Astoria) – I’ve learned that tipsiness and taking the subway aren’t always a good match. Besides lost cell phones, dropped money, and falling down an escalator, there’s a heightened likelihood of missing your stop and ending up in another borough. N or W train-takers, don’t fret; if you accidentally end up in Astoria, sober up with surprisingly affordable tapas at 718 before giving public transportation another shot. 4. Pastis (Meatpacking District): No matter the hour/day, this eatery is so perpetually packed that there’s often a doorkeeper to control the crowd vying to indulge in good eats with a side of people watching. 3. Elizabeth (Noho) – A fireplace for when it’s cold, a back garden for when it’s warm, a cozy front bar, and a whole lot of black give this spot its sexy, late-night, Carine Roitfeld-esque vibe. 2. Jadis (Lower East Side) – Like ‘inoteca only better, because your panino won’t come with an hour-long wait for a table. 1. Cafeteria (Chelsea) – This oldie but goodie keeps reeling in the Chelsea revelers with spot-on comfort food (yet more mac & cheese, fried chicken & waffles), a downstairs bar, and unbeatable 24/7 hours.