Maybe they’re betting the bulk of their Euro clientele doesn’t read the New York Post, or maybe they’re just shameless, or maybe they just don’t give le fuck. But despite being the boldest restaurant name in today’s blaring front page Post exposé on the city’s C-grade restaurants, as per the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s new guidelines, Soho resto/ bar Felix has still not owned up to their grimy ways. A tipster just snapped this pic a few minutes ago and sent it to us with the caption “still, still pending.”
The Post quotes a bartender at Felix who mumbles something about a lawyer being on the case to rectify their poor grade, which sounds a bit like having your mama call your professor when you fail a pop quiz. Probably easier to just clean the place and hope people forget. But Felix, perhaps aided by their bartender/ PR consultant, chose to stick their heads in the sand and hope people wouldn’t notice. The question is, why risk the notoriety of a chest-thumping New York Post expose for the whole world to read when you can discreetly post the C (which honestly looks much better than, say, an F or a D to the casual observer). Maybe they got the lousy marks for the kid who pissed on the side of the restaurant in the Adam Sandler flick Big Daddy. Could it be the wall was cleaner than their can?
The story behind Marlo Scott’s quaint Carmine Street cupcake, wine, and beer bar is more saucy than sweet. Vowing to take her ‘sweet revenge’ on a former employer after being laid off, Scott opened her unlikely concept bar in the West Village, earning her clientele from the ground up. Scott moved to New York in ’99, first working as an investment banker to learn the business ropes and subsequently opening her first venue in ’08, a tough time for even well-known hospitality pros. But Scott defied the odds for small-business owners. Recently, she and Sweet Revenge were featured in a TV spot for Chase’s Ink cards for small business owners (also in print, radio, and online ads). The results have been staggering, amping up demand for Scott’s exceptional beverages and goodies, including Savory Cakes (we recommend The Seville). More on the satisfaction of Sweet Revenge after the jump.
On turning patrons into regulars: Patrons are greeted when they come in, and they’re listening to some pretty fantastic tunes. We have the sounds of vacation on the I-pod: a lot of reggae, bossa nova, and Latin influences. I offer eclectic imported beers and really beautiful imported wines, which I pair with my cupcakes, savory cakes and cookies. Once people try the pairings, they’re like, “Oh my god, this is delicious!” It’s the combination of the vibe, the ambiance, being treated with really good cheer, and having something that is not only beautiful, but tastes amazing. The devil is in the details. I focus on nailing all of the many facets in running my small business, so that the impression I leave for someone is long lasting and special. I try to make this place really different for patrons. I think folks feel that energy in here. It’s a good, happy place.
On the differences in her cupcake, beer, and wine bar: Most places offering baked goods are shops – ie cupcake stores and bakeries. We’re a beer and wine bar serving badass baked goods. I styled out Sweet Revenge to be inviting, with a world-inspiration that feels like a place in Europe because that attracts a diverse mix of patrons. We are not trying to be a ring-the-register transaction; we’re creating an experience at Sweet Revenge. Patrons have a different emotional connection with their fave local wine bar than they do with their neighborhood bakery. My hat is off to the more traditional places and their success. But for me, because I spend my life here and it’s my life’s savings in here, I want it to be a playful, sexy and indulgent escape that makes patrons feel happy, and they carry that happiness out the door and into the world.
Why cupcakes? Back in 2005, when I didn’t get my promotion and I swore sweet revenge on my then-employer, I lived two blocks away from Magnolia. I would stand in line and study the place from a business model standpoint. I started investigating cupcakes in general, and I saw that anything in the world of cupcakes got national media attention. Back in 2005, Billy’s was open, Buttercup was open, Sugar Sweet Sunshine was open—I was starting to see this trend. Cupcake couture was hitting the scene; fashion lines were putting cupcakes on apparel. Crate and Barrel came out with a 24-pack cupcake carrier. I got laid off in 2007, so I decided I would get into cupcakes as a smart business decision. You can get into the business with fewer resources if you’re keeping it really simple.
On the execution: Before I opened, I surrounded myself with experts. Having never worked in the industry, I knew that I wasn’t qualified to be making certain decisions. I hired a phenomenal consulting chef, Daniel Rosati, to take all of my recipes and menu, re-engineer them, and bring new ideas to the table. I worked with a brilliant restaurant consultant, Lisa Chodosh, who guided me through critical processes such as the optimal space layout for this particular configuration. I have leveraged everything I learned in my corporate experiences. I’m not a baker and never had intentions of going to culinary school. I hire trained and talented pastry cooks who understand the science behind baking to bring my ideas to life. When you’re starting and running a small business, you don’t know what’s going to come down the pike, but you go confidently knowing you’re going to figure it out. The best thing you can do is invest in smart resources.
On Chase commercial fame: One of my lovely daytime regulars is a planner for Chase’s creative agency. I didn’t know her since I bartend at night and our paths didn’t cross. Fortunately for me, she loves my cupcakes and my place. She had been on my website and knew my story. As a result, she put my name into the hat to do focus groups for Chase. They video interviewed me — it was a blind interview so I didn’t know the context. I talked with them about my life in small business. Several months went by and I got the call from the agency saying, “Congratulations, you’ve been chosen to be the face of Ink.” It has been a really surreal and incredible couple of months. Since the commercial launched in early July, I’ve enjoyed hearing from friends across the nation on Facebook saying, “I saw you on television.” Neighbors stop in saying, “We’re just so happy for you.” It’s one of those unbelievable opportunities that you know is going to change your life in the most amazing way. This incredible publicity will help my small business get a whole lot bigger, which I’m excited about. I’m very blessed. I’m grateful to the folks at Ink, Chase’s small business credit card portfolio, for giving me this opportunity.
Guilty pleasures (aside from cupcakes): I’ve treated myself to some manicures, which I didn’t do for three years after I got laid off. We’ve been hand-washing dishes for the last two years at Sweet Revenge, and I decided I’m finally buying a machine dishwasher.
On the day-to-day: You have to look at the bigger picture. You’ve got to keep forward-focused, knowing you’re on a good path, and not get too down about whatever the bumps are. When I opened in July 2008, it was a tough and steep learning curve. There were no patrons. I used to stand out on the sidewalk and give away my baked goods. 2009 started out pretty damn rough but then I had some awesome opportunities with Martha Stewart and Fox 5, got written up in Time Out New York and won the magazine’s Eat Out award. Even though I’m still very small sales-wise, I’m on a great trajectory. I focus on all the positivity. I’ve been in New York since ‘99; I don’t know where the hell the last eleven years have gone. It goes by so fast. You blink and five years are gone. I can’t believe I’m already two years into Sweet Revenge. That first year was hard, but the second year was so much better. And here I am now, very excited about what the future holds.
Future plans: I’m going to be on an episode of Unique Eats for the Cooking Channel. Millionaire Matchmaker filmed at Sweet Revenge, and I think that airs in October. We’re working on a brunch menu and a wedding cake line. Hopefully one day I’ll pitch a book deal that becomes a best seller, which leads to a successful Hollywood blockbuster, you know? Let’s put it out there and then it can happen.
Go-tos: One of my favorite places is Pastis. I really do love going there. I studied all of Keith McNally’s restaurants, and he’s just a genius. I’m very fond of Café Noir, and I love brunch at Felix. They have great vibes. They really nailed it in creating a sexy escape.
Unlike the States, where pesky codes and laws interrupt the dreams of gourmets with culinary skills but no official space, Buenos Aires and its bribe-friendly approach to these matters means that anyone who wants to can give restauranteering a shot. A wet dream for chefs, foodies, and trend-piece writers, puerta cerradas offers a different sort of dining experience focused on elaborate menus and more attentive service. Whether it’s a less wussy approach to spices, savory Italian fare, or a full-on feast, many of the city’s closed-door restaurants provide a tasty alternative to Palermo’s latest fusion misstep. In case you can’t possibly swallow another steak, here are the city’s five best closed-door restaurants, reservations definitely required in advance.
● Casa Felix. Well-known Chacarita puerta cerrada that deserves all the good press it gets. New York Times-approved and vegetarian-friendly, this closed-door restaurant is run by a dreamy and socially adept husband-wife team. This means no awkward theme nights or halting conversation, just a delicious five-course meal with some free booze to start the evening.
● Cocina Sunae. Korean-American female chef whips up some of the city’s freshest Southeast Asian dishes in a cozy Colegiales apartment. Relaxed dinners outside of the steak and malbec tradition a great alternative to pricier Barrio Chino fare. Her spicy and authentic dishes have even managed to attract ambassadors—fancy!
● Scenna&Santella. Gregarious and charming Porteno-Yankee duo skilled in the art of Italian cuisine, atmosphere-crafting. Rather than weekly dinners, they focus on monthly meals beloved by both visitors and locals. Five-course affairs are demure and delicious, while 50-peso gourmet pizza nights feature a strong-armed, well-dressed waitstaff slinging pies to hungry-looking models and local scenesters.
● Mis Raices. The oldest closed-door restaurant in the city actually opened its doors a quarter-century ago, beating everyone else on this list by at least a decade. Run by the sweetest Jewish grandmother in town, whose take on traditional cuisine is delicious and decadent. Fasting the day-of is recommended, lest you not finish all that’s on your plate. If a 10 o’clock dinner is too late for your own grandmother, make reservations for lunch on a Sunday instead.
● La Cocina Discreta. Local bohemian couple opens their Villa Crespo digs for dinner on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Mix of traditional staples and international flourishes manages to stay on the right side of fusion cuisine, while space for only 18 means that no matter what, your dinner will be intimate. Three-course menu and wine selection slightly more formal without wandering into froufrou territory.
So, the World Cup has started with a whimper—kickoff teams Mexico and South Africa tied—but that won’t deter fanatics of the Beautiful Game (a rare, international breed) from overloading on soccer in the coming weeks. Neither will the 6-hour time difference between here and Johannesburg. What’s to let a few hours (or your employment status) stop you from watching Côte d’Ivoire v Portugal! Germany v. Serbia! Here, we salute the bars that make it all possible. The following NYC watering holes will be open at ungodly hours (7:30am games, people!) for the next two weeks.
1. Amity Hall – This NYU favorite will be offering $25 bucket specials for native brews of the countries playing in each game.
2. Felix – Mesh with real die-hard European and South American fans, and get used to the slew of hot Brazilian girls and guys decked out in Capri pants and Pumas.
3. Nevada Smiths – Their slogan is “Where Football is religion,” and they are serious. There is almost always a line out the door and around the block for bigger games. Go early.
4. The Hill – This Murray Hill staple is usually kicking frat stars off their doormat at 7:30am. World Cup soccer allows them to open for business and invite ‘em back in. Also offering $3 Yingling and Bud Light specials.
5. Brinkleys – Opening at 7am to the public (even if you didn’t go to boarding school) and offering half-priced drinks to anyone that brings a passport from the same nation as a team playing. Also, come to meet your preppy friends for daily beer specials, $4 wells at happy hour, and $5 frozen cocktails.
6. Brass Monkey – Revving up the competition with a projector screen, a World Cup block party, and plenty of outdoor space for people who only like ‘American Football’.
7. Libation – Hosting 3 levels of futbol-crazed drunks in the Lower East Side and supplementing this fun with $3 Carlsberg specials.
8. Fiddlesticks – The best thing about this bar: they serve food. Good food. Start the day off right with a real meal and wash it down right with a brew.
Upon his arrival in New York, Joao Daniel started working in restaurant kitchens hoping to become fluent in English, but he ended up picking up more Spanish than he anticipated. Like most newcomers, he eventually started hitting the club scene, and surprisingly, this was where he honed his language skills. His nightly activities quickly snowballed into a profession. Now the charming Brazilian has his weekly schedule consistently booked with hosting gigs on Monday nights at Le Royale,Wednesdays at 60 Thompson, Thursday through Saturday at Pink Elephant, and Sunday nights at The Eldridge. He’s also in on the Saturday and Sunday pool parties at Hotel Gansevoort. Joao gives us the scoop on where we should be going out.
How’d you end up in the big city? I’m Brazilian; I came here three and a half years ago and started working at Pink Elephant as a busboy. I didn’t speak English at all, and I had to work my way up.
And that led to … I did the door at The Box for awhile. I hosted at Mansion. I hosted at Cain. I host Pink Elephant at the moment, and I work there three nights a week. I’m really good at organizing these parties. I also used to do Monday nights at Stanton Social. I moved to Vegas and passed off the Monday night gig. When I came back, I wasn’t interested in getting involved with that again because it was a very different crowd. A mutual friend of mine and Terry’s told me about the Monday night at Le Royale. Not too many people in the city knew about the party, like they do now. I know a lot of people in the industry so, it’s really become well-known. I left Le Royale recently, and now my focus is the weekend pool party at The Gansevoort.
Why’d you move to Vegas? I went out there to work, but ended up back at Pink Elephant in the summer of last year. I worked at Tao in Vegas, because Rich Wolfe of Stanton Social is also an owner there. I got offered a job to work at Tryst at the Wynn, and Rich said, “No, you have to work for us.” But I finally got the offer to work as a host for Pink Elephant, and because I started there as a busboy, it was important to me to work as a host there. I especially missed New York.
What did you miss about New York specifically? New Yorkers don’t say things that they don’t mean. If they say that they like you, it’s because they like you. If they don’t like you, then they’ll show that they don’t like you. It’s very black and white, and I love the style. People like to dress up, and people like to be in fashion. It makes the city more alive.
Best thing about Le Royale? The place is completely music driven, and that’s why I love it so much. The music at Le Royale on Monday is a little of everything, but not the cheesy stuff we hear at other places in New York right now. Stuff you’ll hear at other clubs, you’ll hear at Le Royale six months before. They have the real hipsters there. I try to avoid promoting too much, because it’s industry night. We end up having promoters from other places that just come because they like the party.
Is there live music? Terry is so well connected with the music industry, so some Monday nights we have special events. We had Shiny Toy Guns play, and usually, when they play in New York, they play for 300,000 people. There is a cover, so we can have bands to open the night. We can have big DJ’s, and I think we’re one step ahead of every place in New York City in terms of music and a good crowd. Now, bottle service is in a big crisis because of the economy, and Le Royale wont die because it doesn’t depend on that. It depends on the music and people go because the music is amazing.
What’s the best night, for parties/nightlife in New York, in your opinion? I work on the weekends, and I’m having a lot of fun at Pink Elephant because I really love house music. My favorites are definitely Sundays and Mondays. On Sundays, I never miss going to brunch. Brunch parties are taking over the city. Via dei Mille and Sol are the best. People get drunk and dance their asses off until 9 o’clock at night. After brunch, I go to Felix, and then I hit up GoldBar.
What are your spots in the city? I love going places with amazing cocktails. I like the bar at 60 Thompson. It’s out of control. I like Employees Only. For restaurants, I go to Jewel Bako sushi in the East Village. I love Stanton Social, which is great if you have a big group and want to share food.
What are you doing tonight? Getting ready to go to Le Royale.
New York City is a veritable hot zone for burning loins on a mission to be cooled. But where is one to go when craving a no-frills hook-up with no need to swap digits afterward? If you’re over the romance, and have already exhausted our targeted tips for boys and girls — here’s a little something for everyone looking for a little something.
● Felix (Soho) – Your best bet for a little Sunday afternoon delight. Go for the brunch, stay for the booty. The wait for a table is so long that you will have met five potential hook-ups and ingested three Bloody Marys by the time you sit down. ● Hudson Terrace (Midtown West) – If you’ve read even one article in the past month about nightlife, then you’ve definitely heard of this highly publicized pick-up zone. Attractive people are flocking to the West Side Highway lounge for its large roof and loud music with a clear mission to make a match, for the evening at least. In fact, the music is so loud, you needn’t produce semi-witty banter before you begin to bump n’ grind.
● Gansevoort Roof Deck (Meatpacking District) – Now that summer’s here, the flesh is fully exposed atop the Gansevoort Hotel’s roof on Saturdays and Sundays for the weekend’s daylong Plunge party. This gives all the boys and girls not one but two days to lounge around the pool paying $15 per drink, all the while honing in on Mr. or Ms. Right-now. By 7 p.m. everyone is tipsy, and you may even meet one of the many promoters with bottles to lighten the bill. Drop names Tony, Ruben, Richie, or Morgan at the front. The rest is up to you. ● Pianos (Lower East Side) – Are you in the mood for a little hipster love? Surprisingly, this live music go-to spot on the Lower East Side actually has much more to offer than tight jeans-wearing boys with flat ironed-straight hair. You can find quite a selection of suitable hook-ups listening to the band, eating and drinking in the front, or getting cozy on the couch upstairs. The place is somewhat legendary, so the draw is still there, and so are the singles. ● M2 (Chelsea) – Nothing like a massive Chelsea club to quench your hook-up thirst. The sheer magnitude of people makes your odds at snagging a mate for the evening uniquely high. I’ve never been there without getting hit on at least 28 times, which also helps me remember what street its on. ● Lexington Bar and Books (Upper East Side) – I know I know, it’s way too far uptown. But do you want to score or not? If you are a lady in your 20s or even (gasp!) 30s, you’ll nab yourself an older gent with money to pay for your drinks as well as a fine pack of Dunhill’s, since it’s a smoking establishment. Vice versa goes for the young fellas. The cougars in this place are just waiting to snatch up some prey to take home to their Classic Six lairs. ● Corner Bistro (West Village) – Go for the burgers, stay for the booty. Where else can you find a place so casual hosting a mishmash of twenty- and thirty-somethings chomping down the best burgers in town for under $10 a pop? After all that beef, it’s only natural to find someone to burn off the calories with. ● Underbar (Gramercy) – Even the name even implies you’ll be getting under someone. Anyplace dark and subterranean with couches and candles is good for snagging some action. Underbar’s stylish but easy to get into, so the bridge and tunnel crowd can take over on weekends. But who are you to turn down B&Ters out of hand, you elitist snob? Plus, such a partner will have to run to the last train at Penn Station, which gets them out faster. Warning: If they miss the last train, you may be stuck with a unwanted sleepover, so keep an eye on the clock. ● Joshua Tree (Murray Hill) – Strictly for frat boys and their ilk — those perhaps most inclined to prowl for an evening hook-up, so you need the most help. The best time to go is when there’s a game on during happy hour. You and your potential match will high-five each other when your team scores, then proceed to some scoring of your own. ● Hudson Bar at Hudson Hotel (Midtown West) – Shimmering white floors as far as the eye can see make even the most jaded of New Yorkers happier, not to mention easier on the eye. Being attached to a hotel with readily available rooms (showers with a view of the bedroom) is a bonus. This fairy-tale cocktail lounge will make ladies feel like Cinderella at the ball — only the curfew is way past midnight.
Some of you might have been planning to break from New York this weekend for somewhere warm, wild, and full of fun-loving foreign people with exotic accents … until the snowstorm put your holiday plans on ice. Well, here’s a couple of spots that will make you believe you’re somewhere fairly similar. Reports filtering back to the BlackBook cave suggest there’s a new daytime drug called Merkato 55 making party-crazed foreign-ish types go berserk, and it’s available at the Meatpacking District resto every Saturday afternoon courtesy of two-day-party pushing brothers with a Bilboquet pedigree. Well placed/sauced sources have sighted “people with sparklers dancing on tables at 2 p.m.” Other insiders report “a full-on discotheque at 4 in the afternoon.”
Then there’s the inevitable comparisons to St. Tropez, Ibiza, Punta del Este, and yayo-filled mangos. We’ve even received multiple, drunken texts telling us to “gt our asdss oerv her!!ee” In short, all the telltale signs that there might actually be a raging party going on, and on a Saturday afternoon, no less. Some even claim it’s contagious: “As [Americans] at the party get more drunk, they start affecting European accents, Madonna style.” So, even if the airports close, your flight to Punta del Este gets nixed, and you’re stuck in New York this weekend, you can still pretend you’re somewhere warm, debauched, and swarming with randy Euros. Merkato owner Unik Ernest tells me they’re simply “picking up where Felix left off.” And while it is most certainly true that Soho restaurant Felix also parties pretty hard on weekend afternoons, that’s more of a summer sidewalk place. Plus we’ve yet to see sparklers there. The party moves downstairs to Merkato’s subterranean lounge Bijoux after 5 p.m. and keeps going till 10 p.m.
But wouldn’t you know, there’s yet another prominent day party option right around the corner – do we detect a trend? – and it too has its origins in Le Bilboquet. Bagatelle’s weekend afternoon soirees, which also have a distinct Euros-gone-bananas vibe, are helmed by former Bilboquet boss Aymeric Clemente and Remy Laba. In a bit of Meatpacking district intrigue, an impeccable source tells us spies from Bagatelle have been spotted stealthily checking out the Merkato afternoon jam, although the same source claims both parties are “equally fun and pretty similar. People dancing on tables, that sort of thing.” In the end it is you, the table-dancing, sparkler-lighting, champagne-swilling consumer who wins. Two crazy options for daytime revelry within blocks of each other, and all without leaving the snowy confines of New York.
Stefano Villa of chic Gaucho eateries Azul, Novecento and Industria Argentina on how an Italian wound up with three Argie joints, the fun dangers of his profession, and what nationality plays the dirtiest New York restaurant soccer.
Where do you eat out in New York? When it comes to restaurants, there is one I go to a lot, especially for lunch, because it’s like my kitchen at home — Bar Pitti. I go there all the time. That’s where most of the people I know hang out. There is one in my neighborhood — which is SoHo — that I like; you have to go there with a girlfriend, which is Raoul’s. When it comes to bars, Café Noir.
How did an Italian get mixed up in Argentinean restaurants? Opportunity. I was hired as the manager of Novecento, and it worked. But I was already in my 30s, and I realized that it would be extremely tough to compete in the Italian market in New York given the limited experience I had in this city. And I saw there were only three or four Argentinean restaurants back then, so I said, “Oh I can do this,” and I went all the way.
Are you ever going to open an Italian restaurant? Yes, I will. Not in the near future, but I will open an Italian restaurant. I will do it for my heart.
How’d you get your start? I started in the industry when I was five years old watching my grandmother cook in the kitchen. That was it. I was born in Nigeria, but I went back to Italy when I was two years old. And after that, I made my way to the restaurant, to the kitchen. I couldn’t get away from a restaurant, away from a kitchen, away from a dining room or a bar as a customer or not. I just loved it, and I still do.
Who do you admire in the industry? Well, of course, my partner Fernando Trocca. He is the most well-known Argentinean chef. I think he does a great job, and he’s a very important person to me, both personally and in the business as well.
What’s something you like about the industry? Because of the high volume of people you have to deal with on a daily basis, you learn how to read people pretty quickly, and that helps a lot.
Something you don’t like? You are extremely close to danger all the time. You’re close to a bar, you’re close to women, you’re close to fire all the time. So if you blink, you might fall pretty quick.
Do you see that happening to a lot of people? Yes, of course. It happened to me sometimes. I always managed to survive.
What is something that people may not know about you? What [customers] don’t know is that it is a business. During the day I have my business side. It’s not [customers’] business to know that. And at nighttime when I go to the restaurant, they think that’s my work, though I actually just hang out because my job is done already.
You play in a soccer league with lots of your employees and other owners. Not anymore because I injured my knees. We did play soccer as a team. And we actually won two tournaments. It wasn’t actually the team of the restaurant, but there were a lot of people on it from Azul, Industria, and Novecento. New York is a great place to play soccer because you have the opportunity to play against people from all over the world. When you play in Argentina, you play only against Argentineans. In Italy, only with Italians. Here, the teams are like Brazilians, Italians, Argentineans, Uruguay, France, Mexico. It was incredible.
Do different restaurants have different playing styles? The most skillful guys are usually from Brazil or Argentina. We had a lot of people from Argentina, and Felix had some people from Brazil. The Italians are more tactical. Usually the more violent people were the Croatians.
What are you doing tonight? We’re having a Christmas party with all of the employees of Industria Argentina and all the employees of Azul. It’s gonna be a dinner party and the chef from Industria Argentina, Natalia Machado, and I will cook for them. I’m going back in the kitchen!