French New Wave Hits the Lower East Side with ‘Le Turtle’

Photography: Leta Sobierajski & Wade Jeffree

On the corner of Chrystie and Rivington in the Lower East Side, modern french restaurant, Le Turtle, sits chicly with the cool laissez faire of any member of the downtown crowd. Inside is a decor dream with an all marble bar, raw concrete accents, a plush pink velvet perch, Horween-leather lined seating and nods to architectural icons like Carlo Scarpa and Sol Lewitt.

HyperFocal: 0Photography: Scottie Cameron

Founded by Taavo Somer of Freemans and Carlos Quirarte of The Smile, Le Turtle is all about atmosphere. The scene is a mix of fashion types, creatives, film stars and a table of patrons that were surely Andy Warhol’s friends. At the bar, you’ll overhear a debate about whether or not Purple Rain was the greatest record of all time and under the neon lit tables conversations are adamantly declaring that Julianne Moore saved the new Greta Gerwig movie.

When it comes to music direction, expect a soundtrack transitioning between old school Biggie, Major Lazor, Rick Ross, Jay Z and ’90s R&B. There might be a moment when Rihanna comes on and the host starts dancing to “Work,” which infectiously inspires the rest of the restaurant to begin moving their shoulders, as well. What else would you expect from a staff outfitted in straight up jump suits?

Oh, and the food is great, too. Order their signature Whole Sasson Chicken For Two. It’s the best in the city.

A Lower East Side Staycation: The Ludlow Hotel


Not all that long ago, New York’s Lower East Side was mostly populated by skint artists, insalubrious rockers, the narcotically challenged and an ethnic mix of people to whom it was just, well, home. There were also only two real places to eat: Katz’s Deli and El Sombrero. You prepped for a four-band bill at the Mercury Lounge with cheap tacos and tequila shots—and attempted to stave off hangovers with a 4 am knish.

Now the neighborhood flaunts Michelin stars and international luxury hotel brands—grumbling about the past won’t change anything. But wildly successful hotelier Sean MacPherson was actually a central figure in the notorious heyday of Downtown NYC nightlife. And his first LES property, The Ludlow—opened in 2014—feels as perfectly Lower East Side as The Bowery Hotel feels East Village (and The Marlton feels West Village).

Admittedly, weekend late nights on the LES can now find one navigating what feels like a casting call for The Bachelorette. But plan right, and you can also enjoy a fabulous Saturday and Sunday here, without ever going north of Houston Street.

Here’s how to do it.


1431 Ludlow Hotel

Loft King Room at The Ludlow


Noon: Arrive at The Ludlow, drop your bags, request an upper floor room with a sprawling city view. Take leisurely a stroll, arriving for lunch at Dudleys, a groovy all day affair where you can order everything from rice bowls to cheese toasties to schnitzel salads.
3 PM:  Check in, spend a lazy hour flopping around on the extremely comfy bed, while raiding the minibar and taking in the glorious New York panorama.
4 PM:  Pop out to contemporary galleries like Richard Taittinger, Rachel Uffner and Marianne Boesky, to get a vibe on the burgeoning LES art scene—which has been stealing the conversation away from Chelsea. Stop in for a naughty souvenir at Babeland.


Taittinger Gallery

Richard Taittinger Gallery


1495 Dirty French/The Ludlow

Dirty French at The Ludlow
7 PM:  Settle in one of the cushy Lobby Bar sofas, order up grilled oysters and a round of particularly stiff tipples, like the Ludlow Gimlet and the bourbon based Pigalle. Groove to your fave Prince, Talking Heads and Duran Duran classics, which make up the hotel’s retro cool soundtrack.
8 PM: Do early cocktails at the sceney Leadbelly, or catch the next indie darling at the Rockwood Music Hall.
10 PM: Late dinner at Dirty French, the hotel’s supremely buzzy restaurant, which serves up surprising takes on French classics like Provencal scallops, short rib Bordelaise and duck a l’orange. It’s a particularly electric scene after 9pm.
Midnight: Watch Scorcese’s Gangs of New York back in your room. It’s set in turn of the century LES.



10 AM: Order up room service coffee.
11 AM: Take a walk around the Lower East Side when it’s actually quiet. If the weather isn’t cooperating, pop in to the Tenement Museum for an enlightening  bit of LES history.
Noon:  Have the hotel book ahead for brunch at the perpetually cool Freemans. Hard to imagine, but when Taavo Somer opened it in 2004, there was nothing else like it (old-timey style, plentiful taxidermy, classic Americana cuisine). Despite the scores of imitators since, it’s still the hippest and the best. Indulge in such hearty fare as baked skillet eggs shakshuka, buttermilk pancakes and stone-ground cheddar cheese grits.


Freeman's Restaurant NYC



New Museum Bowery NYC

New Museum


2 PM: Check out the current exhibitions (which at the moment include Nicole Eisenman’s Al-ugh-ories and Andra Ursuta’s Alps) at the New Museum, one of NYC’s most forward-thinking art institutions.
3 PM: Take a caffeine break at Caffe Vita, which, despite the Italian moniker, is actually an export from Seattle, serving exquisitely realized, house roasted coffee.
4 PM: Undertake a uniquely LES shopping spree, including stops at the Odd and Assembly boutiques, and a retro vinyl pilgrimage to Deadly Dragon Sound.
7 PM: Believe the hype with dinner at Ivan Ramen. Start with furikake spare ribs, before moving on to the delectable main events, like chicken dan dan and spicy red chili ramen.
9 PM: Join the local cocktail disciples warming the seats Attaboy, a sophisticated spot lorded over by Milk & Honey alums  Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy. There’s no drinks menu…so consider it an adventure and an edification.



9 AM:  Have a lazy breakfast of smoked salmon scramble and crispy potato pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company, before checking out and showing up late to the office.


1471 Ludlow Hotel

The Ludlow

Isa Gets New Chefs and Brunch

When Taavo Somer opened his Brooklyn restaurant Isa during the fall of 2011, gourmands flocked to get a taste of chef Ignacio Mattos’s eclectic menu. Eric Asimov of The New York Times described it as having a “complementary primitive aesthetic,” and he wasn’t alone in being charmed by the Williamsburg haunt. Yet, despite the reviews, Isa shut down this June after Mattos and other chefs left.

Now the popular shop is up and running again, but, while the owner, space, and name of the restaurant remain the same, the menu, brunch, and chef are different. Actually, there are two new chefs:Preston and Ginger Madson,a husband and wife team from Peels and Freemans. Their latest menu reflects Somer’s desire to have more of a rustic and hearty type of restaurant with a Mediterranean spin.

“Isa was always meant to be a cozy, neighborhood dining destination,” said Preston. “With the new menu, I’m trying to have something for everyone so no one feels excluded, and people that live in the neighborhood can come in and have a good meal a couple times a week.”

This means the new menu is more versatile than the original dishes, which involved items like deep-fried sardine bones and meals based on color. For brunch, the Madsons are sticking with the comfy and cozy vibe and have added Mediterranean-style plates of oven-baked eggs on polenta with pesto and tomato sauce, caramelized grapefruit, and sourdough pancakes with whipped ricotta. Don’t skip the drinks either: their beverage menu features dill-infused gin, bay leaf-infused vodka, watermelon juice, Sun Chai tea, and a cocktail called the Dayboat Swizzle, which involves absinthe, almond, and lime. Yum. But don’t take my word for it; starting tomorrow you can taste the goods yourself. 

When Naming Peels, Taavo Somer Did Not Consider the Internet

Peels, that new Freemans spin-off on the Bowery, is a beautiful, bi-level space. Every detail – from the menu font to the artful manner in which the waiters fold your bill – is designed to heighten your experience. If you’ve been here or to Freemans, then you know: aesthetics first, food second. It seems, however, that Taavo Somer and crew might have a small problem on their hands, just slightly out of their jurisdiction, that they might want to look into.

On Sunday night, we decided to check out Somer’s Southern-inspired diner, so we did a search for it on Google Maps. The result was a near-total appetite killer, the very last image you want in your head before going to eat dinner:


Somer might want to get that checked out. It’s also the first thing that pops up on Google search, now that you mention it. But if you’re looking for Peels, don’t image search it, unless gagging is your thing. We understand the connection between the word ‘peels’ and the word ‘anal warts’ – but if you’re a restaurateur of Somer’s stature and reputation, don’t you think this might be something you oughta resolve? We’re just saying.

Where Celebs Go Out: Christina Ricci, Leigh Lezark, Eva Amurri

Christina Ricci at the Whitney Art Party: I like Da Umberto and Il Buco for pasta, the Peking Duck House for duck. ● Leigh Lezark of Misshapes: Kenmare, they make really good gnocchi. I do like the brunch at the Tribeca Grand. ● Eva Amurri: Jumbo’s Clown Room in L.A. is super fun. I also love to have a drink and get something to eat at Gjelina, which has amazing tuna crudo and really good vegetable sides and pizza.

Chris Benz: The 18th floor of the Standard, the Boom Boom Room. Kenmare is amazing. ● Geordon Nicol: Kenmare and La Esquina. I love the corn there. ● Maggie Grace: Gjelina in L.A.. My favorite dish there is the burrata. ● Ivanka Trump: Well, now my favorite restaurant is Quattro. I’ve been living there, I love it. There’s an amazing cod that I love, and there’s a beet and goat cheese starter. ● Jennifer Esposito: I love going to Tartine, a quaint little French bistro right by where I live. I like the omelettes. ● Paul Sevigny: Daniel—get the whole tasting menu. ● Kim Carnes at the Songwriters Hall of Fame” Awards gala : We went to a wonderful restaurant, Freemans, last night. It was incredible! I’m a vegetarian, so my favorite is any vegetarian dish. ● David Foster: I just went to a restaurant on Second Avenue and 84th Street. God, it was amazing, I wish I could remember the name of it! Ask my lawyer, Alan Grubman, he was there last night. We had pasta.

Group Dinner Lottery

Organizers of big group dinners have it rough. The individual is subjected to the whims of 5 to 15 people or more, often on an email chain where the last suggestion paired with a witty retort or clever anecdote about the level of attractiveness of the staff at such-and-such restaurant wins. Well, screw it. If you volunteer to organize a group/birthday/going away/welcome home dinner, use this new fool-proof method and eliminate haggling amongst potential dinner-goers. It’s not complicated. It’s a lottery, but unlike the New York state variety or credit card roulette, in this game of chance everyone wins. Write down each restaurant on the list below on a separate piece of paper, shuffle ’em around, and pull from a hat. First restaurant wins. It’s not complicated, it’s just science. Bon chance!

Bacaro Sit in the cavernous basement wine cellar for a candle lit evening that’ll mask the group’s escalating inebriation. Make a private party reservation if you have a large group and get your own Phantom of the Opera-inspired room.

Abe & Arthurs Sure, it’s a little sceney, but the menu is pretty easy for everyone. They have Spinach & Artichoke dip, fish, pork, steak and pasta, and salads for girls who don’t eat. It’s also a one-stop shop in that you can take the crew directly downstairs to SL. Just remember, no physical activity for 30 min after eating.

Scuderia Let’s face it, Da Silvano is for your parent’s friends. But during the summer, the outdoor sidewalk seating just crushes it (in terms of awesome-ness). Scuderia has a younger vibe and your friends will thank you after a night of 6th Avenue people watching and catching up.

Gemma Easy to book a biggun’ as long as you plan ahead. They’ll forget the ‘no reservations’ policy if you have a group of 12 or more, and they prefer to arrange a prix fixe menu for you and the gang.

The Smith East Village American Brasserie with a photo booth in back! Just in case you get bored with the seating arrangement.

Barbuto Groups of ten or more can reserve the kitchen table and sample the chef’s tasting menu. Way cooler than the way the proletariat does it.

Freemans Reservations for 6 or more, and nothing says celebration like escaping the city rush up Freemans Alley and stepping into Narnia/Hogwarts/The Wardrobe/Whatever mythical realm you prefer.

Dumont For groups up to 15, the Williamsburg hotspot reserves the breathtaking terrace, and if you’re smart, you’ll request the ‘treehouse’, that rises above the garden and gives your party a little more privacy.

Los Feliz Tri-level taquería has plenty of room to accommodate your rowdy group, plus their lounge stays open until 4am, so the odds of getting kicked out early are nearly impossible. There are also 150 tequilas in stock here, in case you want to set some sort of record.

Alta The seasonal tapas menu is extensive, and there’s no food envy as everything’s share-able. If you’re feeling aggressive, order “the whole shebang” for $420. It is one of everything on the menu, and no one will go home hungry. Request the upstairs area through the kitchen for super secluded private dining.

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.

BLACKBOOK MEDIA CORP ● Chairman – Bob Hoff, Voyeur (LA) ● CEO – Ari Horowitz, W South Beach (Miami) ● Associate Publisher – Brett Wagner, Da Umberto (NYC) ● Director of Finance and Operations – Tim Umstead, Aquagrill (NYC) ● Corporate Counsel – Drew Patrick, El Ay Si (NYC) ● Executive Assistant – Bridgette Bek, Manhattan Inn (NYC)

EDITORIAL ● Creative Director – Jason Daniels, Morimoto (NYC) ● Vice President Content – Chris Mohney, This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef (NYC) ● Senior Editor – Nick Haramis, Freemans (NYC) ● Features Editor – Willa Paskin, The Sackett (NYC) ● Writer-at-Large – Alison Powell, Jean Philippe Patisserie (Las Vegas) ● Nightlife Correspondent – Steve Lewis, subMercer (NYC) ● Assistant Editors – Ben Barna, LeVack Block (Toronto), Cayte Grieve, Vince (NYC), Foster Ethan Kamer, Sel De Mer (NYC), Eiseley Tauginas, Maialino (NYC) ● Copy Editor – Michèle Filon, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink (Miami) ● Editorial Interns – Megan LaBruna, Crash Mansion (NYC), Averie Timm, Madiba (NYC), Hillary Weston, Les Halles (NYC), Annie Werner, DBGB (NYC), Ashley Simpson, Barcade (NYC), Michael Jordan, Destination Bar & Grill (NYC)

ART ● Art Director – Amy Steinhauser, Union Pool (NYC) ● Assistant Designer – Serra Semi, Five Points (NYC) ● Photography Assistant – Stephanie Swanicke, Provocateur (NYC) ● Freelance Designer – Krista Quick, Fornino (NYC)

FASHION & BEAUTY ● Fashion Editor – Christopher Campbell, Grand Sichuan International (NYC) ● Fashion Interns – Jillian K. Aurrichio, Greenhouse (NYC), Anabele Netter, Il Buco (NYC), Nicole Applewhite, Vanilla Bake Shop (NYC), Deanna Clevesy, Tao (NYC)

ADVERTISING ● Senior Account Executive – Dina Matar, Blue Duck Tavern (Washington, DC) ● Executive Director, BlackBook Access – Gregg Berger, Charles (NYC) ● Advertising Director – Michelle Koruda, Supper (NYC) ● Detroit Account Executives – Jeff Hannigan, The Lodge (Chicago), Kristen von Bernthal, Pukk (NYC) ● Midwest Account Executives – Susan Welter, Old Town Social (Chicago), Andrea Forrester, Tuman’s (Chicago) ● Southwest Account Executive – Molly Ballantine, The Tar Pit (LA) ● Northwest Account Executives – Catherine Hurley, Flora (Oakland), Shawn O’Meara, Nopalito (San Francisco)

MARKETING ● Marketing Manager – Julie Fabricant, Eponymy (NYC) ● Partnerships & Promotions Manager – Andrew Berman, Bozu (NYC) ● Interns – Adam Meshekow, Ronnybrook Milk Bar (NYC), Kayla Gambino, Grom (NYC), Marie Baginski, Stir (NYC)

DIGITAL ● Director of Development – Daniel Murphy, Standard (Miami) ● Developer – Bastian Kuberek, Greenhouse (NYC) ● Developer – Dan Simon, Hudson Terrace (NYC) ● Designer – Matt Strmiska, Uchi (Austin) ● Developer – Sam Withrow, Phone Booth (San Francisco) ● Quality Assurance Engineer – Sunde Johnson, Ginger’s Bar (NYC) ● Mobile Developer – Otto Toth, Alloro (NYC)

‘Shutter Island’, Ron Jeremy and ‘How to Make It in America’

A business trip to Miami and its not New York cold climate was supposed to give me a much needed break from everything. Instead I came back more agitated than before to a pile of work that had only gotten bigger in my absence. Feeling my stress, my dear friends basically dragged me from my desk to see the new Martin Scorsese, Leonardo Dicaprio flick Shutter Island. The complexities of the plot and the ambiguous ending did the job. I machinated over the ending, seeking internet chatter and clues and this had the Effect of a Prozac.

But just as I was getting my groove back, distress cried out from my blackberry . A text took me to a different, desperate reality. A friend of mine was correctly dragged to the psych ward at Bellevue. I was tasked to visit. A one-visitor-at-a-time policy left me in the psych ward’s holding area, where one prisoner/patient who was handcuffed to a wheel chair immediately lost it and started screaming at the top of his lungs. He then proceeded to bang his head violently against the wall. For literally a minute nobody even looked. It was business as usual.

Soon other inmates started to get agitated and the authorities took the poor fellow to the “blue room.” Really nice doctors and nurses came to chat with the people around me, who were seeking meds and food for what ailed them. One seemingly nice and sane fellow told me that the headbanger probably was seeking the better meds available at Bellevue. “He didn’t want to go to jail tonight. It was too late to get processed. He’d rather just sleep and be himself here.” Through glass windows people with Albert Einstein’s hairdo and Kramer’s walk stared at me and into space. Some smiled at me. deep secret smiles or sad smiles or “soon you will be in here” smiles. I lowered my hat over my eyes to the exact point where I could still see them without attracting their interest. In a rather chilling moment, reminiscent of the film I just saw, a doctor came to me and said, “Now, how can I help you today?” I swore to him I was just visiting a friend as his trained smile and “I’ve heard this all before” eyes fumbled to believe me. I fumbled for my visitor’s pass and he went back to his flock. When my sad friend and I finally chatted he assured me that where I was was way better than where he was.

I met up with porn pal Ron Jeremy who is in town for a bunch of meetings. Ron and I were born a month and a couple miles apart and attended the same college and share common and uncommon friends. We’re going to go to Lit’s 8th anniversary soiree tonight. A zillion DJs and a creative crowd will descend on this bastion of grungy fun to celebrate and hope. Lit is, as we mentioned here before, the subject of intense scrutiny and legal actions. Targeted as one of the clubs where smoking was prevalent, the jury is literally still out on its fate. We all hope for the best as 50 peoples’ jobs and the cultural importance of both the club and the attached Fuse gallery are at stake.

Last night’s episode of How to Make It in America had to be watched. The show, which fairly accurately describes how to make it in New York, features places and people all to familiar to me. Nightlife locations like Freemans and 1Oak are the background for this very NY scene series. It’s been described as an East Coast Entourage and that seems fair.

Mark Wahlberg produces both shows. Mark used to be a regular at my clubs and was always a gentleman. When I was at my lowest point I remember him stepping up to help. How to Make It in America also features my old friend and club manager Donal Lardner Ward, who I still call Donnie. I spoke to Donnie after I saw the show. I asked him about his role on the series.

“The pilot was made before I was hired. I actually pitched the guys getting the break of being invited to sit with Varvatos and then getting placed so far at the end of the table they might as well have been in another joint. Shit like that happened to me all the time when I was coming up, trying to meet show biz people. So close yet so far. It’s a fun gig, good group, trying to make something true to New York.”

He went on to talk about working with the show’s amazing Luis Guzman and other crew. Donal is one of those people I always talk about. They work in clubs year after year, pursuing their career, their dreams. Without a vibrant nightlife they could not survive. Castings and meetings are unpredictable and during the day. The entertainment crowd needs to work at night until they can support themselves. When a club closes these people desperately pound the pavement or are forced to head back to the wilderness. Donnie was my manager, who jumped in to become my chef one hectic New Year’s eve. He fed Grace Jones and hundreds of others who never suspected he was to have a bright future in showbiz.

After Donnie I caught up with My friend Eli Morgan Gesner, who is a creative consultant for the show. Eli ran the crew that occupied the skateboard ramp I had put in the Tunnel back in the day. I had seen Eric Goode put a small half pipe in Area as part of an installation. The one we placed in the Tunnel was four times the size. Eli supervised the whole thing, maintained the ever-chipping wood and made sure the young skateboarders were in control. Harold Hunter was there, as well as some future bold face names. Eli told me, “Ha! I miss that ramp. I built it. It’s funny. I helped make the movie Kids and I’m skating and I’m skating that very ramp in that scene in the Tunnel. I’ve always wanted to work in film, just got distracted with making skate board companies. How to Make It is a project I’m really proud of. I think it’s a fun and accurate depiction of life hustling in NYC.”

Towards the end of the show my ex, Nicole Pope, appeared as Jon Varvatos’ assistant’s secretary. She had a line and looked amazing. I replayed it 20 times. We’re great friends again. She makes her money in clubs as she pursues her passion acting. I facebooked her in Paris where she is shooting a movie. She was filled with glee that I caught the show. One of the ways Nicole and Donal and Eli and thousands of other talented people can make it in America is if they have jobs, night jobs. Mr. Mayor please stop closing down clubs or making it impossible to keep them viable. An experienced club investor told me that opening anywhere else in this country, you deal with a business climate that encourages you to open and has a “how can I help you?” attitude. For the most part you take in as much money and you don’t have constant harassment from city agencies. He asked me why he should continue here, why should he bother? My answer “because this is where we live” satisfied him … for now

Hangover Survey: The Rusty Knot’s Party Bus

Ah, yes: The Rusty Knot. It’s The Spotted Pig and The Breslin owner, hotspot-alchemist Ken Friedman’s ingenious tribute to east coast beachside nautical dives, at the lovely “maritime” locale of the West Side Highway and West 11th Street. This sometimes presents a problem for partygoers who want to get themselves over there, since it is a bit of a trek to the coast, as it were. Friedman, ever the innovator, has decided to enlist the services of a “party bus” — and my new favorite website — to carry a group of drunk, potentially costumed revelers to his establishment.

(‘DiggThis’)The bus includes free beer, dancing, and — yes — people who’re actually in costume. It stops in Williamsburg (Bedford and 7th) and the East Village (1st Ave and 1st Street) twice a night before making its way to the West Side Highway, where it pukes out a bunch of drunkasses into the Knot. As this was the USS Rusty’s maiden voyage, we figured it’d be worth perusing the Internets to pick up reports of how it went. And how did it go?

Via Eater, EV Grieve filed the following report:

Two people were waiting to board. Three more people hustled across First Avenue… other passengers included three-four people who were waiting inside at One and One…and three guys who arrived on skateboards. So 12 by my count. No one was in costume. And only two people sort of squealed while boarding.

But by the sound of it, the Williamsburg pickup might’ve had a little more luck. Behold, the power of Twitter:


Some revelers had questionable (or possibly: reasonable) expectations for the USS Rusty, who may have been disappointed.


Everybody who’s designer Justin Thomas Kay’s somebody can be found in one place: Drunk on Friedman’s bus, obviously.

image Brooklyn-based DJ Chris Hires clearly has no regrets about the evening.


Old Man (William) Tigertt, Friedman’s fellow hot spot resto owner (Freeman’s), notes the contextual insanity before him as the USS Rusty has its “Land, Ahoy!” moment, and as any good operator would, eggs them on.

From the sound of it, we might be required to set sail, ourselves. Tune in next week, as we see what the fate of the USS Rusty holds for drunk, raging partygoers who dare sail the treacherous concrete seas that are Lower Manhattan.