New York Openings: Salvation Taco, Cocina Economica Mexico

New York has gone from a Mexican food wasteland to a flourishing scene in just a handful of years. Things have heated up so much that chefs from way north of the border are throwing their sombreros in the ring. Newcomers Salvation Taco (pictured) and Cocina Economica Mexico let authenticity play off of creativity. Partnering up with Mexican-born chefs ensures the cooking stays legit.

Gastropub legend April Bloomfield may hail from the West Midlands, but she’s developed a taste for taquerias. With her Spotted Pig partner Ken Friedman, she’s now serving Mexican at the Pod 39 hotel. Gamy meats carry over, with crispy pig ear, pork belly and pineapple salad, and lamb tongue tortas all making the menu. Tacos push boundaries, employing naan for cover, or stuffed with roast cauliflower and curried crema. Roberto Santibañez of the Fonda restaurants adds his expertise to the kitchen. There’s a ringer on the cocktail side, too, as Sam Anderson of Hotel Delmano crafts drinks that are as original as the food. The Sonora Old Fashioned blends tequila, chili-honey, and grapefruit bitters with bacanora, the rarest of the agave liquors. Décor goes whole hog on the Mexican theme. A carved fruit and veggie wall looks cribbed from Carmen Miranda’s hat. Terracotta floors, tile tables, and circa-1919 brick walls keep the balance of the space warm.

Chef David Bank is Thailand born and raised, but he’s embracing the spirit of Mexico. His sous chef at Land Thai Kitchen, Pedro Hernandez Perez, has inspired a southward look. Together the two chefs are putting creative slants on Mexican front-room family restaurants. At Cocina Economica Mexico, tacos come stuffed with everything from cactus to octopus to beef cheeks. Entrées are split between casseroles and the grill. The market-driven menu finds combinations like shrimp braised in chipotle, or short ribs stewed with the herb hoja santa. The beverage side stays just as authentic, with mezcal, tequila, and Sidral Mundet soda on offer. Prices are economical, just like the Land mothership. The space itself is small and homey, with a hand-lettered sign, varnished plank ceilings, and folky carved heads. There may be hope for the Upper West Side yet.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; 7 New York Restaurants Where Western Chefs Make Eastern Food; The Top New Year’s Eve Parties in New York]

Into going out? Then download the free, GPS-enabled BlackBook City Guides app for your iPhone or Android and always know the best spots to hit, wherever you are. And if you want to stay on top of all the major openings and events in New York or your city of choice, sign up for BlackBook Happenings, a fun, informative, non-spammy email newsletter with the latest and greatest goings-on, delivered to your inbox every Monday.

The Ultimate CMJ Neighborhood Guide: Our Top Recommendations

Mapping out a schedule for the CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival is an overwhelming logistical nightmare. Over five days, bands and DJs all over Manhattan and Brooklyn perform for 20 to 60 minutes a pop, and the marathon keeps going. Un, deux, trois, bang, bang, bang. So if you are at a loss for where to begin, here’s a proverbial play-list that includes recommendations on what to see, and where to unwind, wind-up, and grab a bite between sets. We had to restrain ourselves a little, so check under Williamsburg, the East Village, and the Lower East Side for the best this weekend has to offer (starting tonight).

Lower East Side

Acts to Catch: Thursday: Sun Airway, 10:45 PM at Piano’s Light Pollution, 9:00 PM at Cake Shop The Feens, 10:00 PM at Crash Mansion Friday: K Flay, 9:00PM at Fat Baby Saturday: Neon Indian, 8:00 PM at Bowery Ballroom Miracles of Modern Science, 11:00 PM at Fat Baby BRAHMS, 12:00 AM at Piano’s

Where to Hide Between Sets: The Back Room Gallery Bar Painkiller

Where to Find Nourishment: Antibes Bistro Freeman’s Frankie’s Sputino Les Enfants Terribles Schiller’s Georgia’s East Side BBQ

If You Need to Trash a Hotel Room: The Hotel On Rivington Thompson LES

THE EAST VILLAGE/ALPHABET CITY

Tune-Age: Thursday: Two Door Cinema Club, 9:00 PM at Webster Hall Caveman, 10:15 PM at Lit Lounge Lawrence Arabia, 10:50 PM at Bowery Electric Friday: Hall of Justus, Kosha Dillz, Rebelmatics + special guests, 12:00 AM–3:00 AM at Bowery Poetry Club Designer Drugs, 1:30 AM at Webster Hall Saturday: Care Bears on Fire, 7PM at Bowery Poetry Club

Where to Sip: Heathers The Cabin Down Below Holiday Cocktail Lounge Where to Fill-Up: Artichoke Basille Pizza & Brewery The Bourgeois Pig Crif Dogs Hummus Place Whitmans Veselka

Where to Crash: Cooper Square Hotel

WILLIAMSBURG

The Music: Thursday: Soft Black, 10:00 PM at Union Pool The Blow, 10:30 PM at Music Hall of Williamsburg Friday: Priestess, 10:30 PM at Union Pool Kids of 88, 11:00 PM at Trash Bar Everything Everything, 11:30PM at the Music Hall of Williamsburg Saturday: The Class Machine, 11:45 at Trash Bar

Grub: El Diablo Taco Truck Zenkichi Walter Foods Kenny’s Trattoria

A (Maybe) Low Key Drink: Hotel Delmano Royal Oak Fresh Kills Clem’s

Sleep it Off: Hotel Le Jolie

Industry Insiders: Ben Pundole, Hospitality Sweet

Ben Pundole received an unorthodox education at The Groucho Club, London’s infamous members-only haunt. The entertainment honcho for Morgans Hotel Group opted out of a traditional university education, becoming instead the general manager of the Met Bar at the pioneering Metropolitan Hotel in London. It was there that he befriended Madonna, who later introduced him to hotel and design icon Ian Schrager. He also worked with Amy Sacco at Lot 61 in New York, then moved to Morgans to open Skybar in South Beach and the neighboring Florida Room at the Delano with Lenny Kravitz. In total, he balances his time between 14 properties. Most recently, he partnered with GoldBar mastermind Rob McKinley to construct Good Units, a raw events space under the Hudson Hotel in a former YWCA gym.

Background: I’m from London. I’ve been in the States for almost 11 and a half years now. I started off when I was 18 at The Groucho Club wheeling in wine deliveries, changing light bulbs and cleaning chef’s dirty laundry. I became a bartender and later a manager. Then, I worked at a sister restaurant, 192 in Notting Hill.

On life at The Groucho: I really had no idea what The Groucho Club was. One of my mother’s friend’s son was a chef there and got me a job. I was the lowest of the low when I started there and I loved it. I ended up not going to university because I found my location in life there. One night, Damien Hirst pulled himself over the bar and dragged me to the floor and poured tequila in my mouth. Then, he poured the rest of the bottle of tequila on my face.

On befriending Madonna: It was very, very strange and peculiar. She came into the bar one night completely unannounced. The Met Bar was small and all the tables were filled with people I just couldn’t move. I think I had Pierce Brosnan at one end and maybe Kate Moss and Jude Law and their whole crew on the other and hip people smashing around in the middle. She came in and I greeted her. I said, “Hi. I’m Ben. I’m the manager and I’m terribly sorry, I can’t give you a table right now. If you want to take a seat at the bar, I’ll make you a drink.” So, she and her friend sat at the bar and I made them drinks and I had a drink with them. She seemed to like the fact that I wasn’t just putting her in front of everybody else that was already there. Then, she came back a few times. When I was 23, she flew me out to L.A. to go and have dinner with some friends of hers. It was all fairly weird. She took a liking to me.

On meeting design heavyweight, Ian Schrager: I had a very fortuitous introduction to him by Madonna. He took me under his wing. I helped him when he was opening bars and throwing events, doing parties and promotions, marketing and whatever he needed me to do. I was his run-around kid. He’s a genius. He invented the whole way we stay these days. He left Morgans to open up the Gramercy Park Hotel. I stayed with Morgans and for the past two years, I’ve been the Vice President of Entertainment. I oversee, support, and develop partnerships, nightlife, marketing strategies, produce CDs. But I still make tea too.

On the contemporary definition of the term ‘Boutique Hotel’: Things got lost in translation. I honestly don’t think there’s a definition anymore. It’s a phrase that’s been overused, misused, and misconstrued. It certainly made sense when this type of hotel was born in the late ‘80s. It was more kind of luxury, lifestyle, and design oriented. Now, it seems like every hotel is like that. So, I don’t think there is a particular boutique market. Ian, obviously, does it very well. Andres Balazs does it well. The Thompson Group. I think Soho House does it very, very well. Although they’re slightly different.

On Good Units: It gives us real creative freedom. Usually, we build a hotel and we put the chair in place and that’s where the chair stays for years. That’s the way it goes. However, Good Units is a mobile space. It’s this 6,000 square foot space with an amazing mezzanine and a double high ceiling in the main room. It’s very much like a venue—similar to the Williamsburg Music Hall or Bowery Ballroom. Everything can be moved in and out, whether it’s the bars or the furniture. We opened with the 40th anniversary of Interview Magazine. Then, we did a great partnership with Patricia Fields and Susan Bartsch. We had an Erykah Badu performance there. We recently had a Twestival as well.

On the vices that come with a career in nightlife: In London it’s far more of a business whereas here, it’s more of a lifestyle. I think there are different levels of involvement. I think a lot of the reason that people get into nightlife and events is that they can live a certain way.

On the Florida Room: I met Lenny Kravitz when I was working at the Met Bar and I later approached him about this project. It was certainly not something I just wanted him to put his name on. He’d just started this design company, and I thought, “The last thing I want is for it to just be a bar with Lenny’s name on it.” But he was really involved with everything from the design to the glassware to uniforms to the music. If I told him I didn’t like something about the proposed design, he came to the office and defended his design or we came to a happy conclusion together. He’s a true artist. I didn’t know what Florida Room was. Lenny said that his aunt had a Florida Room. When he was growing up, it was where all the adults would go and drink and listen to music. The kids weren’t allowed in. Once he told me that, I thought it was a brilliant name.

Go-to’s: My favorite bar of all time is Hotel Delmano. I like Franny’s on Flatbush Avenue and Five Leaves. I like Soho House as well.

Industry Insiders: Russ Manley, Vintage Connosieur

Russell Manley started his first Tommy Guns salon at the age of 23 in Brighton, England. He then moved on to open another wildly popular location in London’s Soho and made the move to New York’s Lower East Side a year and a half ago. Walking into the Ludlow Street location feels like taking a step back in time. The salon is adorned with leather upholstery; nickel, mirror and glass cabinets and marble throughout. Vintage light fixtures are the icing on the cake. A peek inside after the jump.

On the first location: In Brighton there was an old barbershop that had been open since the ‘20s that closed down. I bought the whole interior of it—the cabinets, the chairs, everything. At that time in salons, the look was gold and gilt interiors. I just wanted the kind of aesthetic of a comfortable barber shop and have it for guys and women. We put the interior of the original barbershop in the site we found in London. At the time, no one else in London was doing that. It was laid back and comfortable. We didn’t want stylists that would look you up and down to make sure you were cool enough to come here.

On his first years as a stylist: I started by doing friends’ hair and not having any idea what I was doing. At the time it was a late-punk, early new romantic, and I decided it was what I wanted to do for a career. I went away to an apprenticeship, learned how to do it properly, and then went from there.

On avoiding hair cutting disasters: It was pretty straightforward when I started. I bought myself a pair of clippers and it was just a lot of shaved on the sides and long on the top and the crimp. It was all very basic.

On the move to NYC: I’d worked 17 years in London so it was time to have a challenge. I didn’t want to open another salon in London. I had friends that lived and worked in New York, so I was traveling back and forth seeing them. New York is a lot cheaper than London, although I wouldn’t have said that ten years ago. New York has changed a lot and for the better. It’s a fun place to be and I thought it’d be a good test to see if our concept in London worked here. We’ve been open 15 months now and luckily that seems to be the case. It gets busier and busier with each week. It’s getting a good rep and about 60-70% of our clients are actually women.

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On trends in facial hair: For a while there were a lot of guys getting mustaches. Definitely no goatees. Don’t do that. Thank god that fashion passed.

On British v American salon visitors: To be brutally honest, the British clients don’t tip! That’s the biggest difference. It’s surprising though, there isn’t a whole lot of difference culturally. It’s very similar. I don’t know if that’s because of the media crossing the Atlantic so easily in terms of magazines. Probably because we’re in the LES—I bet if we were uptown it would be different. But the LES is very similar to the other areas we are in London.

His worst habit: Saying the word “cool.”

Go-to places: Moto in Brooklyn. Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg—it’s not a hotel; it’s a bar. Walter Foods in Brooklyn. Double RL on Prince Street.

Lessons in Getting Funky: Chromeo’s Dave 1

David Macklovitch makes up half of the Montreal-bred, synth pop duo Chromeo, with his counterpart, P-Thugg (a.k.a. Patrick Gemayel). In the music world, he’s known as Dave 1: A dude who’s simultaneously studying for his PhD at Columbia, and getting read to drop an album next summer as a follow-up to 2007’s majorly-hyped album Fancy Footwork. Chromeo is playing one show this fall on October 16th at Irving Plaza to promote the mix they put together for the !K7 Records’ DJ-KiCKS series. And fortunate for Chromeo fanatics who simply cannot wait around until next summer, eager for some new tunes, the single “Night By Night” will be release through Green Label Sound on Wednesday, September 23rd for free download. We caught up with Dave 1 during mandatory study hours while he took a quick break from the books to talk about chicks and muzak (smooth rock, if you will).

What are you up to today? I’m at Columbia University, studying at the library. I’m working on my dissertation for a PhD in French Literature.

When are you delivering your dissertation? Hopefully in December, but at the latest in May.

How are you enjoying it? Good, good, it’s sort of stressful. Anybody who writes a dissertation goes a little crazy so, I think I’m there. I’m feeling a little bit of that but I gotta do it.

How have you been balancing working on your PhD and your music career? It’s been hard over the last couple of years, but by now I’m used to it and I’ve always done music stuff on the side. It’s gotten a bit harder but I just do one or the other and that’s pretty much it. Now, I’m working on the new Chromeo record and we have the !K7 Records’ DJ-KICKS series release and I’m going to do a lot of touring over the weekend so it’s always both.

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Are you going to give some previews of your new material during the October 16th DJ-KICKS show at Irving Plaza? I think we’re going to do that the Eagles’ “(I Can’t Tell You Why”) cover that we did on the DJ-KICKS album. And then we’re going to do another song, which is on our next record, and it’s probably going to be the first song that we’re leaking or releasing for free in the fall. I guess it’s like a preview of what our next records going to sound like, I mean, it’s not too far off of the last one. Our influences haven’t been changed dramatically. The new stuff we’ve been working on is maybe a little more like late ‘70s than of just ‘80s. There’s a bit of a ‘70s flavor and maybe a classic rock element here and there but it’s still our recognizable sound. It’s hard to talk about it because we haven’t finished but for us it’s mostly about trying new things.

And what about the subjects of your songs? It’s always chicks. That doesn’t change much.

What should we be expecting in terms of sound? This album is a little more like, Kenny Loggins, with the Kenny Loggins Michael Mcdonald thing. We’ve been listening to a lot of rock bands when they had to do the mandatory disco record, you know. Like when the Rolling Stones did Miss You and when KISS did, I Was Made For Loving You. There’s a hidden clumsiness to those records. They’re just classic rock groups that wanted to get funky because they were being pressured to, and the results were often very endearing. I think that has influenced the new stuff we’ve been working on a little bit.

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Have you been pressured to get funkier? No. When we started working on this album, P was really into a smooth rock phase. But really into it. He was going beyond Ken Loggins. His stuff was sounding like, Air Supply or something. It got a little out of control and I was like, “Don’t forget that for most people we’re a dance band so we’ve got to put that element into it.” It’s about balancing it all out.

Have you incorporated any new gadgets? We ended up buying a new keyboard. We’re always kind of refurbishing our synths collection because everything we do is with analog synthesizers and analog drum machines and all this vintage gear so we’re always buying new pieces of equipment that get incorporated into our songs right away.

Stories about songwriting for this album? An interesting thing about this new record is that we load it all, or most of it just on piano or on vocals and then we transform the song into your typical Chromeo song but we’ve been writing them a lot just on the piano. I think that’s a new thing for us.

Are you sick of playing any of the songs from Fancy Footwork? No

You still love all of them? I like them. Every time I play them it just reminds me of how proud I am of what we accomplished on the last record. It’s a modest accomplishment because we didn’t sell that many records but considering where we came from before and how things changed for us, I’m very proud of it. Where do you hang out in New York? I don’t go out that much, but my little brother across the street in Williamsburg, so we hang out in little restaurants in our neighborhood.

Any in particular? I like Diner. I like Marlow & Sons. That Hotel Delmano place is fun, here and there. There’s a place I like in Chinatown called Bacaro. I also like subMercer.

Now, I’m going to give you subjects for songs and you have to give them titles. Okay, that’s easy.

The first scenario is that you accidentally buy your girlfriend a vacuum for her birthday and she finds it offensive how you view her role in the household. That song would be called “Suck It Up”.

The second one is you fall in love within the first two miles of a cab ride with the female driver. That would be called “Love and Cab Fare”.

The third one is you buy a pair of jeans, you think they’re amazing, you walk around the store and all the sales people are telling you how great you ass looks but when you bring them home you realize you bought girls jeans. Yeah, that’s tough. That song would be called “In-jean-ue”.

New York Opening: Donnybrook

On the exterior white walls of new Lower East Side gastropub Donnybrook, a credo written in black cursive reads: “Home to lively debate and raucous revelry.” Right. Hey Donnybrook, instead of telling us what kind of bar you want to be, why not just be it? Show, don’t tell. But still, there’s no denying that once inside, the place looks smashing. A towering wall of glowing bottles backs the bar, replete with all the bourbons of the world (or at least it seems that way). Variety is the spice of drinking, and the Donnybrook folks know it.

So how do the bartenders get to that old bottle of Sazerac, right at the tip top, far left? With a rolling library ladder of course, which adds as much academic cred to this place as it does to Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg (trend alert?). Along with the ladder, the tables are concoctions of castaway wood from an 18th-century Bronx bar, but — but! Lest all this old school charm fool you, know that this Sunday, a plasma TV screen was broadcasting a very un-non historic NFL game. Is Donnybrook on its way to becoming a sports bar for the bridge and tunnel set? Stay tuned.

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New York: Top 5 Ways to Celebrate Bloody Mary’s Birthday

Blood flows in the in the streets of New York City today — Mary’s blood. It’s the 75th anniversary of the sanguine spirit, and to celebrate, TGIF’s Times Square location is selling Bloody Marys at 1933 prices — a recession-friendly 99 cents. But if you’re not game on pushing through crowds to get there, here are some other NYC spots guaranteed to satisfy your thirst for blood.

1. Prune (East Village) – Popular brunch spot with eleven kinds of Bloody Marys, including the “Green Lake” garnished with wasabi and a beef jerky swizzler. 2. Great Jones Café (Greenwich Village) – The Cajun Mary, a spicy ode to the blessed Virgin, will kick your brunch up a notch, Emeril-syle. 3. Madiba (Fort Greene) – With all that ‘Yes We Can” hoopla, you may be tempted to order the Obama Mamma at this South African Brooklyn spot, but he already got your vote, and that’s enough. Opt for Kiki’s Bloody Mary, a mix of vodka, horseradish, hot pepper sauce, lime juice, and the rest.

4. Tabla (Union Square) – I don’t know about you, a drink called the Masala Mary is a must-try. Secret ingredient is not so secret anymore: pickled onions. Sorry guys. 5. Hotel Delmano (Williamsburg) – There is nothing out of the ordinary about this Billyburg cocktail joint’s Bloody Marys, but the bar itself is so unbelievably chill that every drink has something flawless about it.

Industry Insiders: Socialista’s Jeffrey Trunell

Socialista gatekeeper Jeffrey Trunell on working the door for a former doorman, club owners who scowl, and why Perez Hilton isn’t on his list.

Point of Origin: I moved to New York in 1996 to be an actor. I started working at Coffee Shop. I was a bar back and I didn’t know anything. I was just a kid from Philly. I started bartending, worked at a lot of hotel bars: 60 Thompson, the Hudson, and subMercer right when it opened. I remember that was the first place where cocktails were $15. Nowadays if you’re not charging $15 a drink you’re nothing, but back then it was like a science experiment. My voice would always choke when I told a guy he owed me $30 for two drinks.

Occupation: I was working at La Esquina as a bartender and started to work the door there part-time. [Socialista owner] Armin Amiri was getting ready to open up and still didn’t have someone for the door. He’d been working the door at Bungalow 8, and I think it was the last thing he wanted to think about, the last piece of the puzzle so to speak. It is cool having a boss who used to be a doorman, because he understands. There’ve been situations where I haven’t let someone in who I was supposed to — and at another place they’d tear my nuts off — but Armin gets it, he understands.

Side Hustle: I’m still an actor. I lived in LA for about three years. I worked some out there, but I missed New York. It’s hard. A lot of actors I know who used to work a lot are struggling. I came back because I wanted to do more theater. I do commercial work, which isn’t as fun but it can pay really well. I just turned 30 so, you know, now’s the time. Favorite Hang: Right now, I like a jukebox and a pool table. I don’t drink much, but when I do, I usually just want a beer. I live in the East Village so there are lots of places like that — like Lucy’s and some good dive bars on 5th street. I have a friend who works at Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg which is a good spot. I’ll go to the Beatrice Inn or 1Oak, but you end up seeing a lot of the same faces from Socialista. Then I feel like I’m on the job!

Industry Icons: I think Armin does a great job because he has a vision and he takes it seriously. [La Esquina owner] Serge Becker has great taste, plus he’s very even-keeled. You never see him freak out at anyone or even scowl. I think he understands that the whole thing is a process.

Known Associates: I’m not terribly impressed with celebrities, partly because they are so seemingly unimpressed. Strangely enough I get really excited over journalists. War journalists in particular. I met James Nachtwey and Michael Ware — that was amazing. I had the opportunity to hang around with these two photojournalists based out of Africa when I was working with a non-profit called Soft Power Health. Marcus Bleasdale and Finbarr O’Reilly. Fucking studs, man. Check out marcusbleasdale.com and finbarroreilly.com, then go to perezhilton.com. Then you tell me why anyone gives a rat’s ass about how much weight so-and-so has gained.

What are you doing tonight? Working, man. Then going to the beach tomorrow with my family for a few days.

Photo by Lucas Noonan