“Inside New York Eateries” Exhibit Explores New Yorker’s Reservations

When I was working in the restaurant industry some odd years ago, I relished the time just before opening. Servers and managers went out back to smoke and bitch and I would stand in the dining room looking out over the polished silverware in the fading afternoon light. The room looked like an empty, half-lit stage just before opening night. Wijnanda Deroo’s third solo exhibit, Inside New York Eateries, presently showing at the Robert Mann Gallery, articulates this moment in a photo series that documents New York’s culinary institutions as they sit empty, before the evening’s cast has taken a seat. Along with views of Milon and the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant—all standing eerily silent—the series also captures beloved, now-shuttered venues.

When I’m out at a restaurant, I barely notice the actual space itself, focusing instead on table conversation, entrees, a famous face a table over, or background music. That’s why it’s surprisingly gripping to see these places void of the energy we use to identify a place, consciously or not. Seeing Deroo’s photo of the now-closed Tavern on the Green is uncanny because of the restaurant’s relationship with the New Yorkers who know its history – and how it came to close.

We’re proud when we see our street corner in a movie scene; we can place ourselves at an empty table in Deroo’s shot of Delmonico’s. It’s both aspirational and territorial—which, in itself, is the magic behind New York’s nightlife at the heart.

Wijnanda Deroo’s Inside New York Eateries will run until January 29th at the Robert Mann gallery. Pop in before your customary dinner reservation.

Photo: The Oak Room, 2009, from Robert Mann Gallery.

Music for Clowns: Rock & Roll Circus Tonight

Being a huge fan of both carnies and rock music, it almost feels as though I cooked up the Rock & Roll Circus in my own hazy, Peppermint booze-flooded head. Put on by the enduring Big Apple Circus, Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and featuring performances by the likes of Japanther, Ariel Pink, and Amazing Baby, the two-day event, held at the 40,000 square foot Lincoln Center (like fashion week for rockers!) is not only a reality, it’s also FREE. Well, at least half of the musical extravaganza is free: Tonight, the circus will be open for public exploration. Venture into the ridiculous circus tent, which includes bars sponsored by Belvedere as well as shows by Japanther, The Pharmacy, Voxhaul Broadcast, The So So Glos, and the Electric Tickle Machine. I haven’t received confirmation yet regarding swag bags, but with sponsors like Jet Blue and Pop Chips, and photo opportunities from Impossible Projects (of Polaroid fame), I’m guessing there will be opportunities galore. The event was produced in order to draw attention to the progressive music community, and tomorrow’s lineup – sadly not gratis, though well worth the price – is nearly as good as the food vendors.

Although former headliner Ok Go had to cancel last minute, I have to say their replacement is an even better choice. Ariel Pink will take over headlining duties tomorrow night, alongside Amazing Baby, Saint Motel, Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Aska. However wonderful the musical performances may be, the fact that the famed Big Apple Circus will be performing is the cherry on top. Contortionists, balancing acts, jugglers, and acrobats will fill the ring, performing to Ariel Pink’s “Round and Round.”

Other reasons to go: Van Leeuwen’s Ice Cream Truck, Mexicue, and Asia Dog will fend off munchies after local fave, Six Point Brewery, creates them.

Date: Monday, January 3rd/Tuesday January 4th. Time: 7PM, shows at 8PM. Price: Monday – Free/Tuesday $25 for Mezzanine, $30 for Ringside

Top 10 Nightlife Openings of 2010, From the Internets

I’m a big fan of the end-of-the-year round-ups that pop up during this in-between week of internet trolling. Sam Sifton, my crush at The New York Times put out his toplist, “A Critic’s Choice of Restaurant Newcomers,” which included Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Park gem Maialino, and The Breslin, a place that seems like it has been part of the fabric of NYC restaurant culture forever. One of my favorite no nonsense city blogs, Grade “A” Fancy, elected to round-up some of the greatest New York City bar and restaurants losses of 2010 in an intriguing video format. We already had our own formulated opinions on the best places we’d gotten drunk at in 2010, but were curious to see what venues garnered the most interest from readers based on end of the year web traffic results for BlackBook’s New York guide. Here we present our overall snapshot of interest in NYC nightlife venues—the Top 10 that opened in 2010.

Top 10 New Openings Based on Reader Interest

Provocateur Originally garnering backlash for having an untrained door staff and odd new door policy, Provocateur won over people looking for a more clubby, Euro scene in 2010.

Le Bain Naked photos surfaced from their opening night in June, and who doesn’t like a little NSFW nudity?

Bedlam Add Anderson Cooper relations and non-crazy celebrity sightings (SJP, for example) to a cozy Alphabet bar and you’ve got the new star-slumming spot.

Top of the Strand Any new rooftop boite is enough for people to take notice in the throes of spring. Add in set designer Lydia Marks of Sex and the City fame to the back story and you’ve got every Carrie wannabe in town popping in for a Cosmo.

The Bunker Club Excavate an old civil war bunker underneath 9th Avenue with the help of the Beatrice’s Matt Abramcyk and you’ve got buzz.

Good Units A thriving event space with emphasis on art, under-the-radar DJs and bands was the perfect edition to the Hudson Hotel’s interesting family.

Panda Beloved bar Passerby was replaced and supported by former regulars and ex employees who stayed committed to making the night jump off. Even master Joe Latimore came back from his hiatus in SF to open this two-room joint off Delancey.

Kastel People were excited for this sleek lounge in the back of Trump SoHo, and our Steve Lewis noted its quiet confidence and subtle sexiness backed by Trump money.

Bar Above Cabin AKA Black Market Cabins are everywhere these days and this untitled neighbor to the Cabin Down Below, with oysters and burgers and drinks, piqued interest in parties looking to get peaked in 2010. And then confused them on the internets by having trouble settling on a name.

Penthouse 808 Nightlife in Long Island City! This terrace lounge sprawling atop the Ravel Hotel got locals excited with jazz nights and DJs on the weekends, and got City residents amped for an alternate view of the skyline.

A Bunker Wonderland: A New Tuesday Party @ Bunker

I can think of very few things I’d brave these kinds of elements for, and tonight is on that short list. Pour one out for your stranded New York comrades (some not able to get a flight back into the city until New Years Eve) at Bunker tonight, where BlackBook and myself will be hosting a cozy little table underneath the frozen city. Have a hot toddy, strap on those winter proof Rachel Comey lace up booties and kick off Tuesdays at Bunker Club tonight. Because no one is really working this week anyway. Details after the jump.

Cure your cabin fever and celebrate the awkward in-between time after Christmas and before New Years, where we’re forever stuck in childhood.

Hosts: BlackBook’s Cayte Grieve Matt Kays William Vitiello

DJ: Josh Madden & Franco V

In Which I Wonder About the Future of the LES

Today I fawned over a collection of old New York imagery from the late 1800’s through the end of the last century that The Museum of the City of New York recently released, wondering what corner bar now stands where an old city tenement had endured. The cache of images left me feeling wistful about the latest on the Lower East Side’s kill list, as it was recently announced that on top of Max Fish and Pink Pony’s imminent closings, Mars Bar will shutter in 2011 as well. Architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable was famous for her outspoken 1963 New York Times article on the demolition of the original Penn Station in favor of Madison Square Garden, called “How to Kill a City.” She wrote: “Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.” It’s hard to be both a New York nostalgist and also feel positive about change and progress in the city, but are the cookie-cutter developments set to replace Mars Bar things that we really want?

image (Via Curbed). The current plan in place for Mars Bar is a 12-story, 60-unit building by BFC Partners (shown above), who have solidified relocation agreements with the current Second Avenue residents, though they have not yet negotiated such a contract with Mars Bar. Plans may include a 2-year closure for the ramshackle bar, only to reopen as a glossy version of its former self.

While many have expressed concern for such a loss, one person gung-ho for the development is owner Hank Penza, who told the Times: “They won’t choke me, I didn’t get off the boat yesterday with a pound of spaghetti in my hand,” noting that he was likely to “ultimately get a space that’s three to four times the size.”

When explaining the lure of Mars Bar, Nate Freeman of the New York Observer states it best: It’s a bit of a sore thumb on Second Avenue. Mars Bar is garish and gross; it’s on a street that’s so clean you could have a blanket-less picnic with your tofu from Whole Foods, which is conveniently located right next door. Mars Bar is loud, dirty, and full of unapologetic malcontents, seemingly of another age; outside people pass by, quickly and looking down, on their way to buy a bottle of Riesling and some organic kale for the night’s salad. Mars Bar serves up cheap whiskey and cancer; directly around the corner, Daniel Boulud serves up House-Made Pappardelle “Gourguignon” at DBGB. Mars Bar is not a nice place, and this is what makes Mars Bar one of the best.

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It’s one of those places I made sure to pass while walking with people who had never been south of 14th Street (or to New York in general) so I could get a decent read of them by their reaction (usually either “What a cool building,” or “Is this a safe area?”). Many people could never understand what a perceived eyesore like Mars Bar could mean to a neighborhood, but the loss seems more about the principle—a hallmark of change that belongs to every generation, whether they’ll learn from it or not. Demolishing Penn Station in 1963 proved to be so traumatic to New Yorkers that a preservationist spirit overpowered the modernist aesthetic of the time inspiring Mayor Robert Wagner to sign the 1965 New York City Landmarks Law, creating the Landmarks Preservation Commission we know today.

I’m not saying that Mars Bar should be preserved; I’m not one of those people who claims that the Lower East Side is dead, either. There is no comparison between tearing down one of the greatest Beaux Arts buildings in New York and shuttering a few crumbling venues—but a collection of these institutions add up and amount to the overall feeling that pervades a neighborhood, and ultimately, a city. I’m just wondering if we can experience hindsight, if the ongoing battle between preservation and modernity will once again influence how proactively New Yorkers become involved in envisioning the future of their ideal city, like they were once inspired to do (post-Penn Station projects that were halted by concerned New Yorkers included a parking lot in the middle of Central Park, and plans to build a Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would have paved over Greenwich Village and what is now SoHo). As one blogger writes in regard to the supposed modernity of Penn Station reconstructed all those years ago: “I’d like to go back in time, drag the architects into the present, and ask them: what, you thought we would all be wearing George Jetson jumpsuits, queuing patiently for the Atomic Express? The reality is a waiting room with insufficient signage, a great hall that isn’t, and a Hudson News thronged with balding guys, ties askew, furtively paging through battered porn mags.”

Courvoisier & Jason Littrell’s Holiday Mixology at MPD

Nearly every spot in town was fêting one thing or another last night, and Derek and Daniel Koch’s new boîte, MPD, was not left out. The reason for the seasonal imbibing: Courvoisier’s casual evening of delicious fare, cocktails, and a chance to sample the newest offerings from Courvoisier: The Connoisseur Collection and L ‘Essence. More so, for me at least, it was a chance to get schooled in festive cognac mixology. I’ve never really figured out “the right way” to drink Courvoisier, so it was interesting to see how Courvoisier could be used as not only a major mixology component, with master cocktail crafter Jason Littrell serving up detailed cognac drinks, but also as a cognac aficionado’s best friend. That is, straight up—specifically with the release of L’Essence, a limited edition blend of 100 eaux-de-vies aged 60 to 70 years (priced at a cool $3,000 per Baccarat-designed decanter), as well as the release of two aged bottles, Courvoisier 12 and Courvoisier 21.

Jason Littrell is a rockstar in bar culture, earning the Star Chef Rising Star Award this year after working under the likes of Sasha Petraske of Milk & Honey, White Star, and Little Branch fame before joining the cocktail dream team at Death & Co., his current post. Aside from sipping on a $3K cognac, Littrell offered up creative and festive cocktails, paired with out-of-the-box ingredients. His favorite below:

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Edith Piaf Served over ice. Courvoisier VSOP Pear Brandy Vanilla Syrup Lime Juice Angostura Bitters

All Aboard NYC’s Nostalgia Trains

After stumbling through the rain yesterday in a mood that only stumbling through the rain can illicit, I descended the stairs at the 2nd Avenue F train stop to behold a festive sight: The cultish holiday “Nostalgia Train” docked at the Uptown platform. Instead of carrying rain-weary, impatient passengers, it was filled with folks passing around steaming cups of cocoa and cider and dressed in 1930’s garb to reflect the era in which the retro trains (still the originals) were running on New York’s subterranean tracks. The trains were in service from 1930 until 1977, and the transit authority will be rolling out the vintage fleet every Sunday through December 26th. While many of the passengers were there for a makeshift holiday party, the train runs with regular service on the M line between Queens Plaza and the 2nd Avenue stop in Lower Manhattan. How’s that for an impromptu holiday party? Schedule and details after the jump.

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Apparently there are several models, but the one I boarded was a green model from 1931. There were vintage ads and ceiling vents (some cars even have ceiling fans) and a proper conductor to announce when to watch out for the closing doors. It was much louder than what we’re used to, and because of its wider construction, it felt wobblier and boxier.

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You can catch a ride on these classic R1/9 subway cars at stations along the weekday M line between Queens Plaza and 2 Av. You can board at train stops found here.

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Let’s Compare Danae Cappelletto & Amy Sacco’s Boyfriends

Many of the women I meet in nightlife only make me long for Amy Sacco. There are plenty of women present who give it just as good as the guys, but there are also plenty of women who realize they’re a minority in the after-dark world, and carry themselves with a sort of defensive air accordingly, as if I need to be reminded. Which is why I was excited to see Page 6 Magazine‘s profile of Danae Cappelletto, the talent behind Travertine and the new club-entry XIX. Unfortunately, while the article directly compares Cappelletto with Sacco, the points of comparison veer away from the powerhouse ladies’ nightlife resumes, focusing instead on all-important questions like who they’re dating and what they wear.

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It’s fun if fluffy stuff, certainly, but if we’re crowning the heir to one of the most notable nightlife impresarios in recent memory, perhaps heftier points of interest are in order? What is Travertine’s effect on nightlife? How might it be mimicking Bungalow 8’s takeover of the Chelsea West Side? How is their celebrity following comparable? What obstacles have the two women overcome? Pointing out who Cappelletto and Sacco are dating while neglecting to look at the cultural impact of their endeavors reminds me a little of this. Then again, it’s just nightlife.

Is this the Darby’s Official Menu?

By now, everyone and their mother has attended a tasting at The Darby. And while plenty has been written on what the menu will look like, a source tells me that no official menu was ever distributed at said tastings because “they were still ‘tweaking’ it.” We don’t know for sure if this is the “official” menu for the late bloomer (they said they were officially opening last night, but “officially” seems like a strong word). What we do know is that one of our interns happened upon this, a menu, and that it happens to say “The Darby New York Established 2010” at the top, it happens to be printed on card stock, and she happened to have happened upon it at The Darby in a very wrinkled/stained state. Call it happenstance! Check out the menu in question after the jump.

If what we are looking at is in fact The Official Menu, I’d like to note that it seems a bit off-color to be handing out flimsy paper menus to guests who are about the shell out $30-$42 for their mains, $125 for a Shellfish Platter, and $100 for a Seared Dry-Aged Tomahawk Steak for Two. Hopefully they’ll encase it in some ritzy red cover, but even then I’d still be wanting some kind of mind-blowing attention to detail. My ‘Darby’ dress has been sitting in my closet since Labor Day in anticipation of the opening.

So without further adieu:

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Here is the menu in its original state:

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Scott, Richie, and Alex Guarnaschelli: You’ve taught us a valuable lesson in patience. We’re on the edge of our seats.

The Darby Menu

Shellfish Platters Darby Plateau $75 Plateau Royal $125

Oysters Beau Soleil $23 Bluepoint $23 Oyster of the Day MP Little Neck Clams $15 ½ Maine Lobster $23 Chilled Shrimp $16

Appetizers Steak Tartare with Cucumber and Sherry $24 Darby Waldorf Salad $15 Yellowfin Tuna and Foie Gras on Toast $24 Oysters Rockefeller (6) $24 Ceasar Salad $17 Grilled Octopus with Cucumber, Dill, and Red Wine $21 Tuna Tartare with Hazelnuts and Hen-of-Woods $22 Soup of the Day $12

Charcuterie Mixed Charcuterie $25 House-Cured Bacon $9 Chicken Liver with Crispy Shallots $8 Ferrel Salami $8

Caviar Service American Caviar 75 oz. Imported Caviar MP

Main Courses Flattened All-Natural Chicken Breast $32 Ricotta Ravioli with Beets and Truffle Oil $25 Seared Colorado Lamb Rack $42 Grilled Striped BasS (typo included on printed menu!) $30 Slow-Cooked Wild Salmon $30

Side Dishes Roasted Brussels Sprouts $8 Sauteed Potatoes & Tomatoes $9 Onion Rings $9 Marinated & Chilled Tuscan Kale $9 Three Cheese Macaroni $12 Sweet Potato with Golden Raisin $8 Chilled Beets with Scallion $8 Crispy Red Thumb Potatoes $9

Dishes for Two Seared Dry-Aged Tomahawk Steak $100 Lobster Newburg 2 ½ lbs) $100

Surf and Turf Seared Filet Mignon $45 Add Seared Shrimp $20 Add Buttered Lobster $25

Desserts Candied Apple Tart $15 Darby Sundae $15 Baked Alaska $15 Darby Cake of the Day $14 Dark Chocolate & Walnut Torte $15