Restaurants with the Best Nighttime City Views

Yes, we know: Le Jules Verne at the top of the Eiffel Tower. But assuming you’re not proposing this time around, here are eight other international top spots to enjoy breathtaking views while you fill your belly.

Restaurant Georges at Centre George Pompidou, Paris: By the time you hit the third set of escalators going up to this museum’s roof, it should be clear you’re on your way straight to the top. Enjoy a drink on the terrace and watch the Eiffel Tower scintillate, then settle into the modern, aluminum-lined space for delicious takes on French classics, like the champagne-poached cod.

Rhodes 24, London: Located in the City of London’s tallest building, Tower 42, the restaurant has held onto its Michelin star since 2005, for Gary Rhodes’ traditional British cuisine, privileging quality products over fancy preparations, and letting the view add the sparkle.

WP24, Los Angeles: Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has become so ubiquitous, it’s refreshing to see him get back to what he does best: modern, Asian-inflected cuisine that made him famous. Opened in 2010, WP24 was named one of the best new restaurants in America by multiple critics, not least for the spectacular view of the LA skyline from the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton hotel.

A Voce Columbus, New York: The panoramic view of Central Park, accented by the glittering whirl of Columbus Circle, is only slightly more all-encompassing than the delights of chef Missy Robbins’ pasta dishes, which are delicious enough to eat every day and deceptively simple enough to make you think you actually could.

The View Bar, Sao Paulo: The 30th-floor lounge of The View Bar is as exciting inside as the city view is outside, with visitors mingling happily with Brazilian locals over a coupe of champagne, and couples sharing a meal of small plates with local influences.

Michel’s, Hawaii: About to celebrate its 50th year this January, Michel’s at the Colony Surf on Waikiki claims to have the island’s best view, both of the ocean waves and the lights of Honolulu. Live music, fresh fish, and some of the world’s best sunsets make this destination justifiably famous.

Aqua, Hong Kong: Victoria Harbor at night is the focal point of every major building that has access to it for a reason — the multicolored lights and visually thrilling skyline add glamour to rooms that are already luxe. Aqua’s combination of Italian and Japanese food is appropriately international for the setting in the luxury shopping development One Peking Road.

Top of the World, Las Vegas: Located in the Stratosphere (literally; that’s the name of the tall building towering over the Strip) this restaurant prides itself on creating a menu of American classics with unique accents—as unique as the restaurant’s own signature feature, which is the entire space’s 360 degree revolution every 80 minutes.

Pro Bowl in Hawaii Like a Middle Finger to the Mainland

Believe it or not, Hawaii suffered just as much as every other state during the recession. The eight major islands had to brainstorm on how to continue wooing hordes of tourists across the Pacific, at a time when everyone was looking for cheaper options inland. But now that the Pro Bowl is taking place in Honolulu, Hawaii might have a shot at offsetting their financial losses. Because, if you think about it, the entire show will basically be one long advertisement for the Aloha state.

According to a report by KHON-2 News in Honolulu, the event will bring in about $28 million in tourism. Furthermore, the islands will continue to benefit for perhaps years when millions of viewers book tickets after seeing their dream vacation televised right before their eyes. Anyway, most of the states will be freezing during the telecast, so thanks, Hawaii, for rubbing it in our faces. Just like a team wins a game—good timing and strategy.

* Yes, we meant Pro Bowl.

Honolulu Guide: Top Chinatown Bars for Hipsters

Chinatown has always been the best place in Oahu to find trouble. In the 1940’s, when prostitution was legal in Honolulu, the majority of working girls resided in Chinatown, attracting hoards of soldiers in search of last-ditch diversions before shipping out. Aiding their search for companion vices, tattoo parlors and bars flourished in the area. After a recent neighborhood rejuvenation project, Chinatown has become the epicenter of Honolulu’s art scene, hosting “First Friday” art walks every month in the hopes of attracting the tourist population. Luckily, the neighborhood still has an undone feeling that attracts a younger crowd—Hawaiian hipsters, music lovers—that enjoys the seedy historic bars and crumbling warehouses. The locals liken it to NYC’s East Village in the 70’s and the 80’s, and while I say not quite, it’s still pretty great.

The promoter trend is big here. Hotspots change nightly and theme nights are big. Chinatown gets relatively packed during the monthly “First Friday” events, and promoters work overtime to lure newbies to their respective bars, plying them with drink specials and performances. Any other night can be hit or miss, but since nearly every bar has a story, there will always be a local bar fly or indulgent bartender around to share some local lore. Here are a few of my favorite Chinatown bars, which I stumbled upon while wandering through Chinatown with our Sailor Jerry crew and Atlanta rockers the Black Lips.

The Mercury Bar 1154 Fort Street Mall This swanky dive bar is a inconspicuous gem located in a back alley. It has a 70’s lounge vibe that’s punked up with local art hanging on the walls, a regular DJ, a small stage, and an equally intimate dance floor dotted with arty hipsters. It’s where we celebrated Sailor Jerry’s 100th Birthday, outfitted with an open bar of Sailor Jerry rum, a tight door, and a secret performance by the Black Lips. It was also where I found out that Honolulu kids don’t just stand around at shows, bopping their heads to the beat. They dance, jump around, throw beer, and crash into each other. Sounds scary, but it’s actually awesome. image The Mercury Bar in the middle of the Black Lips show. image Alley signage.

Smith’s Union Bar 19 N. Hotel St. Smith’s has been serving up cocktails since 1935 and is still a kitschy hit in town. Fat old men in Hawaiian shirts slump over the green bar during the early hours, and there’s a classic bartender that begrudgingly serves up beer, whiskey, and a can of pork and beans if you so please. Later on in the night a younger crowd swarms the place, favoring the classic rock juke and Hawaiin decor. It reminded our crew of Holiday Cocktail Lounge dressed in luau drag. image Ultra-modern sign for Smith’s. image At Smith’s, L to R: Inked Magazine‘s Rocky Rakovic, Ian Saint Pé and Cole Alexander from the Black Lips, and myself.

Thirtyninehotel 39 N. Hotel St. When it’s empty, this place is a Stanley Kubrick brand of odd. Inside it’s all club: white walls, sparse decor, red disco lights moving to the beat of weird trance music. Outside there’s a lovely rooftop terrace, where insider-y nightlife folk begin their night out. Later, when the place packs it in, the Kubrick-ness is diminished and dancing ensues. I was told that the space was the site for live sex shows back in the ’40’s, and they found an old archived permit dating back to the ’30’s for a carousel bar that oscillated while patrons sat drinking their mai tais. image

Indigo 1121 Nu’uanu Ave. Located next to the historical Hawaii Theater, this bar puts on the Ritz and somehow still manages to draw the hipsters. Swank martinis are served up with small plates like goat cheese wontons in a glowing green atmosphere. The secret lies within the stage: if you build it, they (the hipsters) will come. Apparently the music booker is great, curating shows with cutting edge local bands. image

Bar 35 35 N Hotel St. While Indigo lured hipsters with the stage, Bar 35 hooks them with their vast beer selection. With 100+ items on the brew menu, there are more specialty beers and micro-brews in this place than one little island can handle. Throw in comfy counches, organic pizza, and jazz-themed bar, and you’ve got Alligator Lounge for sunnier days. image

Main Photo: The Black Lips at Mercury Bar by Tracy Chan

Stewed, Screwed, & Tattooed: Sailor Jerry’s Hawaiian Legacy

Astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan is credited with saying, “You have to know the past in order to understand the present.” The people behind Sailor Jerry have clearly taken the advice to heart, modeling the iconic brand’s 100th-birthday Hawaiian celebration after the idea. Sailor Jerry is backed by people who love the rum, but who also love its storied past, taking great measures to introduce the continental US to the life and times of Sailor Jerry and the huge cultural impact wartime-era Hawaii had on the world. It’s been fascinating to visit the Tiki Supper Clubs and see classic sailor ink (both of which are experiencing major comebacks in pop culture), and it’s surprising how closely they’re related. Homeward Bound: The Life and Times of Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry, does a fantastic job outlining this connection, and recalls the era and artistic legacy of Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, the father of the old-school tattoo.

The book is released today, in honor of what would have been his 100th birthday. The coffee table book is an accompaniment to the critically acclaimed cult film Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry, by the talented and whip-smart Erich Weiss (who is also on this trip, acting as an unofficial oracle for all things Sailor Jerry). The book contains 128 pages of unseen photos, ephemera, and essays collected during the making of the film, and explains the way tiki and tattoo culture made it big around the world.

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Most interesting to me was the amazing collection of photographs of Pacific sailors lining up to get “Stewed, Screwed, and Tattooed” at Sailor Jerry’s shop at 1033 Smith Street in Oahu’s Chinatown. The images characterize the mentality of the time — miles from home and ready for war, fueled by devil-may-care attitudes and a lust for life, the sailors found solace in the bars and tattoo shops in this raucous port-side neighborhood. It was the place to go to meet prostitutes, get drunk, get their customary tattoos, and “sow their oats” during the daylight hours before lights out on the island.

Tonight we’ll be celebrating what would have been Sailor Jerry’s 100th birthday with a party and performance by the Black Lips in Sailor Jerry’s old stomping ground, a neighborhood that’s by all accounts still bustling. Nothing, though, compared to the vintage images from the film below.

Aloha from Oahu’s Pink Palace of the Pacific

A girl sitting next to me on my flight to Hawaii was returning home to Oahu. She was, I learned, originally from Jersey, but had taken a vacation to Waikiki four years ago and elected not to get on the return flight home. It was love at first sight, and she’s been living on the islands ever since. As soon as I deplaned, I understood why. Though I’ve only been here for a few hours, there’s something very special about Hawaii. Every inch of the island looks like it was carefully surveyed by someone with a keen eye for detail. My hotel, The Royal Hawaiian — known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific — was one of the very first hotels established in Waikiki, and seems to embody this spirit of hospitality and respect for tradition. And then some.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is one of the flagship hotels for Hawaiian tourism, opening in 1927 after the government’s “Waikiki Reclamation Commission” began widening streets, building bridges, and draining the island’s duck ponds, rice paddies, and taro patches in 1907. Development accelerated after World War I, and $4 million dollars went into the hotel, a looming, pink, Moorish-style destination situated on 15 acres of beach. Legend has it the opening ceremony on February 1st, 1927, was lifted straight out of a Frank Sinatra flick, with supper-club style dinner and dancing, concerts, and a beauty pageant. During World War II, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel became home to sailors returning from war patrols.

Hotel Overview image

1. Tradition There’s so much detail in and around The Royal Hawaiian. All guests receive a piece of banana bread on their bed as part of their traditional welcome roll-out, which also includes a flowery, pun-filled lei. There’s also the weekly “Aha Aina” celebration, which pays homage to Helumoa, the legendary playground of Hawaiian royalty. It kicks off with the sound of a pu (conch shell) to announce the feast as storytellers explain the significance of lei-giving and taro, followed by a dramatic performance of hula and song.

2. Swim with Dolphins Feed and touch dolphins up close. Enough said.

3. Water Sports Both the Royal Pool and Helumoa Playground, which features two freshwater swimming pools, are steps away from the beach — and both are visible from my balcony. Fun Fact: the Helumoa name came from a giant rooster named Ka’auhelemoa, said to have scratched the ground at the feet of King Kakuhiewa in the 16th century. Kakuhiewa, taking this to be a sign from the gods, planted 10,000 coconut trees in honor of the occurrence—and many of these trees’ descendants still survive in the area. A guest tipped me off to the The Royal Hawaiian Beach Boy Program, in which the “Beach Boys” teach surfing, paddleboard, and canoe.

4. Eating and Drinking Open-air dining, snacking in a beach front cabana, putting on the ritz for a fancy/casual evening: anything goes when it comes to food and drink in the hotel. The pretty and traditional Mai Tai Bar boasts major mixology masters and emphasizes organic ingredients. Fresh seafood caught just around the corner (at Pier 38) is offered at Azure Restaurant, and the Surf Lanai Restaurant is a causal, beachy eatery.

Since I’m here to get a sense of the 20th-century Polynesian style fads that influenced Sailor Jerry and his trendy tattoos (or the other way around), I’ve been watching a lot of vintage Hawaiian video footage from the 40’s and the 50’s. Check out this vintage documentary called Over The Sea To Honolulu, made around 1950 during Hawaii’s travel boom and heightened Tiki-culture interest. Think: the ultra popular Trader Vic’s, a Mad Men-era Hurricane Club.

Travel Dispatch: Honolulu’s Sailor Jerry Turns 100

Chances are you’ve been seeing a lot of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum around town lately: it was the heavy pour at the AllSaints pop-up pub during the Jelly Pool Parties over the summer; it reunited the Greenhornes for a show back in September; its iconic logo was celebrated with the launch of a Sailor Jerry Pin-Up Calendar with Inked magazine just a few weeks ago; and you’ve probably had it in one of your custom cocktails at mixology bars like PDT or The Andaz — the Cellar Door cocktail is one to try. Well, it just so happens that Sailor Jerry is celebrating the 100th birthday of their founding father, legendary tattoo artist and “Class-A Pirate” Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins. It also happens that the celebration and historical dedication will take place in his hometown, which, lucky for me, is Honolulu, Hawaii.

Because of tonight’s impending blizzard, I’m hopping a plane a day early so as not to miss out on the three-day birthday party taking place around Oahu, Hawaii, Sailor Jerry’s stomping ground. He settled in Honolulu’s Chinatown after spending his youth hopping freight trains cross-country. Collins learned the art of tattooing from a man named Tatts Thomas, and after spending considerable time practicing on other drifters like himself, he sailed the Pacific Ocean and landed in Hawaii.

Though the brand itself isn’t terribly old (Sailor Jerry became a brand in 1999), it’s history is incredibly rich. Ed Hardy was directly influenced by Jerry’s art and self-branding. Sailor Jerry pioneered a unique style of folk art that symbolized an important part of American History, a part I’m due to learn about on this celebratory trip. Through a sailing expedition to the WWII-era tiki bars on Keehi Lagoon, a historical tour of the storied Moana Surfrider Hotel — which offered rest and relaxation to weary soldiers — a trip to Pearl Harbor, and an exploration of the debaucherous, back-alley district in Chinatown known as “Hotel Street,” where Sailor Jerry took up shop, I’ll be introduced to the origins of an American way of life that we still see traces of today.

15 Best Airports for Wi-Fi

Wireless internet service at airports is becoming more rule, less exception. Google has embraced the holiday spirit by distributing free Wi-Fi at 47 U.S. airports until January 15, 2010. And several airlines have begun to offer wireless service on board flights, ensuring that jetting won’t hinder your daily routine of stalking your exes on Facebook. In a recent survey by American Airlines and HP, 47% of business travelers indicated that Wi-Fi was more valued than food during their flight. People are looking to stay connected with the outside world, especially while in transit. While many airports now offer wireless, some are better at it than others.

1. Philadelphia International Airport – Check your Gmail while scarfing a cheesesteak — free wireless for diners within the food courts. Current students also have the privilege of free Internet access if they show their IDs at the Airport Information Counter. And on Saturdays and Sunday, wireless service is free for everyone. Outside of the airport, Philly once had plans for covering the entire city with wireless, until Earthlink dropped out of the agreement due to economic complications in February of 2008.

2. Phoenix Sky Harbor – No, it’s not a mystical village in a “Final Fantasy” game, but its connectivity is free and completely real. In 2005, Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon launched a free airport wireless project. Since then, Sky Harbor has never looked back. The signal is strong on both ends of the security checkpoint, near the shops, and at many of the gates. Given that both the mayor and city council collaborated on this project, residents hope that a citywide connection could soon be in the works.

3. Portland International Airport – Portland International Airport has free wireless within 70% of its complex, including some spots outside of secure areas. Users can log in with a VPN (Virtual Private Network) if top-secret info is required for their profession. Furthermore, the airport offers ample power outlets throughout its facilities, making it an ideal location for web surfers. But outside of the airport, Portland has become more disconnected. Recently, the city lost its free MetroFi wireless service due to financial complications.

4. McCarran International Airport – Feeling down after losing big in Vegas? Rest assured, McCarran Airport is there to lift your spirits (or at least give you the opportunity to continue gambling online). With seating and electrical outlets galore, McCarran is #3 on Forbes’ list of “Top Most-Wired Airports.” In addition, there are various free Wi-Fi hotspots within the city itself, distributed throughout shops and restaurants.

5. Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport – Way back in December 2003, Ithaca’s Tompkins Regional Airport was distributing free wireless through Clarity Connect services. Nowadays, Wi-Fi can be accessed anywhere within its terminals free of charge, no strings attached. For those hapless enough to leave their laptops at home, computer workstations are available with 15 minutes of free access near the café and gift shops.

6. JFK International Airport – While most airports of JFK’s size are rather stingy when it comes to Internet service, JetBlue’s 6th terminal offers free Internet access. This section of JFK is relatively new, having reached completion a little over a year ago on October 22, 2008. The new Wi-Fi section is consistent with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plans to increase connectivity throughout the city’s public areas.

7. Eastern Iowa Airport – Cedar Rapids- Free Internet is distributed throughout the Cedar Rapids airport thanks to Dynamic Broadband, which also delivers its services in parts of the Midwest, ensuring that the farmlands can easily be connected to the country’s urban centers. If you’re web-hungry enough to pull out your laptop while taking a ride, public buses around the airport offer Internet access to their riders as well.

8. Honolulu Airport – Pacific-bound travelers may find themselves at this intersecting crossroads of the States and the Orient. It may take some scouting, but Gate 13 at the Honolulu Airport offers free Wi-Fi. Those in the know say that you can also successfully “mooch” a signal near the Continental President’s Club and Northwest World Club across from Gate 12.

9. Denver International Airport – Jeppesen Terminal’s A, B, and C concourses distribute Wi-Fi in the vicinity free of charge. The city itself has its own share of free Wi-Fi hotspots in its busiest centers. As of April 17, 2006, the 16th Street Mall and Skyline Park of downtown Denver offers free Wi-Fi, thanks in large part to the city’s nonprofit Downtown Denver Partnership.

10. Louis Armstrong International Airport – Although this Louisiana airport is still trying to reach its original pre-Katrina service capacity, it has maintained free Wi-Fi in concourses A, B, C, and D. Originally, state laws prohibited the use of free broadband, but the city circumvented this ban after the state of emergency declared in Hurricane Katrina’s wake. With the state of emergency lifted, several groups like BellSouth moved to shut down the free service. Earthlink stepped up with a $15 million planned investment to take over the city’s service and build a network within a 15- to 20-mile radius. As of 2008, the Earthlink project was dead … but given current trends, there may be hope for its revival.

11. Harrisburg International Airport – For passengers, free access is as simple as selecting or typing “SARAA” as their preferred network. Left your laptop behind? Not a problem. The Harrisburg Airport offers plenty of Internet kiosks within its facilities, where you’ll be able to forward cute cat pictures before catching a red-eye. The city itself had aspirations for free Wi-Fi coverage as early as 2003 for 2nd Street and the Capitol complex. Unfortunately, logistics stymied these efforts, and they were put on hold.

12. San Antonio International Airport – Travelers can pick up a decent (and most importantly, free) Wi-Fi connection throughout most of the airport’s terminals. In 2007, the San Antonio City Council approved a plan to build a municipal wireless network throughout the city’s downtown areas, thanks to aid from AT&T.

13. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – Sea-Tac is offering free wireless for the holiday season until January 15, 2010 (compliments of Google). Furthermore, the Port of Seattle is hoping to extend these benefits beyond the January 15 cutoff. We think that this is an appropriate plan for a place ranked #1 on Forbes’ “Top 30 Most-Wired American Cities”.

14. Orlando International Airport – With free Wi-Fi hotspots located within its parking lot and public areas, Orlando makes flight delays bearable. The city itself is ranked number four on Forbes’ “Top 30 Most-Wired American Cities” due to the high percentage of homes with high-speed Internet access and high Wi-Fi hotspots per capita.

15. Mineta San Jose International Airport – The NorCal vs. SoCal Wi-Fi debate rages on throughout the state of California. While there may be no clear winner, San Jose certainly gives NorCal a boost, thanks to its prestigious history as home to some of the world’s largest tech companies. As of May 30, 2008, Mineta San Jose Airport has offered free Wi-Fi services to travelers coming through the South Bay. Terminals A and C have excellent Wi-Fi offerings, with the exception of their baggage claim areas, which are currently dead zones.

Continental Passenger Micturates on Seatmate

imageIf confused, look it up. Much like a blackout-drunk college freshman, Jerome Kenneth Kingzio seemed to have forgotten where the toilet was on his Continental LA-Honolulu flight. So he decided that any old place would do. Unfortunately for his 66-year old seatmate, he unzipped and unloaded directly on her lap. The defiled woman was innocently watching the in-flight movie on the six-hour flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, where she was headed for a scuba vacation.

No word on what Kingzio wanted to do in the idyllic islands, but whatever it was, his plans have now changed to include three weeks of jail time in Honolulu. U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo Jr. said the woman reported that not only was her entire vacation ruined, but she continues to suffer emotionally from the incident. His excuse? He had been drinking. You don’t say.