NYC Try Outs: Kristina Marino’s Downtown Diaries

Steve Lewis has it right: these are the good ol’ days. They’re good because there’s something for everyone, and you can change your something on any given night. Take Kristina Marino. Her blog, The Downtown Diaries, chronicles all things nocturnal in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn—her own weekly imbiberies are chameleon-like, but they’re also true to herself. She likes a nice local bar where everyone knows her name, she takes chances with new parties, and she doesn’t judge a restaurant by its dress code. Here, her weekly spots to be scene and be sceney.

Name: Kristina Marino Professional Resume: I’m a jack of all trades but am best known for my blog, The Downtown Diaries, and the parties I throw. In my spare time, I’m the Digital Engagement Manager at Mirrorball, aka I get paid to Facebook, Twitter, and blog, all day, every day—be jealous. One Word to Describe Nightlife in New York City: Sceney

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City Loves:Favorite lunch spot: Westville, Schillers, Miss Favela (Williamsburg). • Favorite dinner spot: Rye (Williamsburg), Fette Sau (Williamsburg), Gemma. • Favorite nightlife trend: Wearing whatever the F you want. • Drink of choice: Dark and Stormy’s. • Meal of choice: Any kind of seafood. I love the linguine and clams from Fiore—it’s cheap and delicious but more of a guilty pleasure. • Favorite group of people to bump into: Nicole Wasilewicz (Free Williamsburg), Katherine Kelly, Melissa Widhson, Caitlin Monahan (Darling Cait), Tommy Eichmann (Alexa Ray Joel), Mike Del Rio, Brittany Mendenhall (ChiChi212), Antwan Duncan (I Think You’re Swell), Victor Castro (Wet Paint Photography), Hannah Rad (Sheena Beaston, East Village Radio), the Finger on the Pulse twins, DJ MSB, and a bunch of people no one reading this has ever heard of.

City Gripes:Nightlife trend you loathe: Fake glasses, models, celebrity/socialite DJs, and Aalex Julian. Oh and ladies, if you are not wearing tights in the middle of winter, you need to get your act together. • Drink: Vodka Cranberry • Meal: Street Meat. Food Chains. Dos Caminos. Group of people to bump into: About 50% of the people I see out on a daily basis…New York City is one big incestuous small world.

Her Hotspots:  Honestly, as a blogger, it’s hard to have a hotspot—I am running around the city attending different events, shows, etc. The best part about living in NYC is the variety—it’s all about having options. Here are some basics. Monday: Jane Hotel Tuesday: Le Souk Harem is giving a solid effort. The Bowery, Avenue, Lit, Gallery Bar…I guess. Wednesday: FOTP BBQ Blowout at Good Co, RDV. Thursday: Il Bagatto, Goldbar. Friday: Above Allen, Dram. Saturday: Day & Night, Le Bain. Sunday: Thompson LES pool party, Jelly Pool Parties/ All Saints Pub, Goldbar.

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Every night: Le Bain, Kenmare, Godlbar, or anywhere local—I usually hang at The Commodore, Maracuja, or Spuyten Duyvil. Wouldn’t be caught dead here: Greenhouse, Marquee, SL, Kiss & Fly, Tenjune, Veranda, Above 14th St.

For special occasions: MILK Studios is a great event space.

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Brunch is usually: To eat, I like to stay local. There’s nothing better than brunch in Brooklyn. My friends and I wind up at Lodge more often than not. If I am going to “brunch” to dance on tables and get wasted, then Day & Night it is. 

Where Celebs Go Out: Marc Jacobs, Amanda Lepore, Adrian Grenier, Emma Snowdon-Jones

At David Barton Gym annual toy drive: ● MARC JACOBS – “In Paris, there’s a small club called Montana, and there’s a restaurant called Thiou. Bars I really don’t hang out in. Oh, there’s this great club that happens once a month in Paris called Club Sandwich. And it’s at the Espace Cardin. And everyone gets super dressed-up, so it’s really, really fun. I try to go whenever I’m in Paris, if it’s going on. And we stay out all night and just dance like crazy. And in New York, my favorite restaurants have always been the same. I love to eat at Pastis. I love the Standard. I love Da Silvano. I eat in the lobby of the Mercer a lot, the hotel. I usually go to Pastis for lunch, and there’s a sandwich that was on the menu, but they don’t make it anymore, but I always insist that they make it for me. And it’s really fattening, so I shouldn’t eat it, but it’s chicken paillard and gruyere cheese and bacon. And it’s so delicious. It’s really good. And it’s my weakness. It’s just like the most perfect sandwich.”

● DAVID BARTON – “Oh, I can’t think where I like to hang out in Seattle except my new gym! There’s a great place that just opened up in New York, up on 51st, called the East Side Social Club. Patrick McMullan is one of the partners there. He’s co-hosting with me tonight. Great place; really cool. It’s very old world, kind of like going to Elaine’s, kind of little cozy; sit at a booth; very cool. Love a little place called Il Bagatto, over on 7th between A & B — little tiny Italian place, East Village, kind of a neighborhood place that I go to. What else? I don’t know restaurants. I’m very casual. I’m so not that into food. I mean, I could eat cardboard — I’m just not into food! I like people. I like atmosphere, but I’m just not that into food.” ● AMANDA LEPORE – “I definitely like Bowery Bar and I like Hiro. Boom Boom Room. Just anywhere where everybody is, I guess! [laughs] Novita, I like, my friend Giuseppe. Any favorite dishes? I try not to eat too much! ● PATRICK MCDONALD – “My favorite restaurant in New York is Indochine. It’s been around for 25 years. Jean-Marc, I adore. I love the bar at the Carlyle. I don’t drink, but I like to go there for tea in the afternoon. And I love Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon on Gramercy Park. I love Pastis, Odeon, and everywhere. I like the French fries at Pastis.” ● PATRICK MCMULLAN – “I love going to Waverly Inn downtown. Boom Boom Room is fabulous. That’s really a new, great place. SL, on 409 W. 14th Street, down below is nice. Of course, I have the East Side Social Club that I’m involved with, and that’s great for hanging out in, for eating. Favorite dishes anywhere? Oh, I don’t know, just anything that people recommend. I usually go with what people recommend ’cause most people know what’s good — the waiters know, so I think that’s the best thing. Red wine is good to have to drink sometimes. They have a drink called the Eastsider at the East Side Social Club that’s really good; any of their pastas; their ravioli is great there. What else do I like? That new place that’s open, the English place, on 60th in the Pierre — Le Caprice, that’s a nice place. At the Waverly Inn, I like the macaroni and cheese. It was funny because the macaroni and cheese is about two dollars less than a room at the Pod Hotel, which is where the East Side Social Club is! The Monkey Bar is fun. There are so many cool places in New York. I just go where people tell me to go.”

At elf party for Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe:

● JENNY MCCARTHY – “In Chicago, I would have to say Gibsons Steakhouse still; in Los Angeles, Katsuya, still love that sushi; I’m addicted to it. And in New York, Koi. I’m very trendy and boring, but, hey, that’s where the good food is, so …” ● PERI GILPIN – “In L.A., we like BLT a lot. We have five-year-old twins, so we’re like in bed by nine o’clock — pretty boring. Corner Bakery for soup.” ● CANDACE CAMERON BURE – “L.A., hands down, our favorite restaurant is Gjelina, which is in Venice. And we love Craft; love Michael’s in Santa Monica. Here, in New York, my favorite restaurant is Lupa, which is a Mario Batali restaurant; love it here. And I don’t go to clubs anymore, nightclubs; I don’t ever! At Gjelina, they have a burrata with prosciutto and, usually, a warm pear or a warm peach. I love that! I really love tapas. I enjoy getting a lot of appetizers, more than just a main dish. We, actually, have had our own wine label, Bure Family Wines, for two years, which is at several restaurants, so matching the food and the wine is a big part for us. We’re big foodies” ● DEAN MCDERMOTT – “There is a great bar, Ye Coach & Horses in L.A., on Sunset. I’m so bad at this stuff! Oh, Katsuya, in the Valley, awesome sushi. It’s our favorite place. We go there like three times a week.” ● KEN BAUMANN – “In New York, my favorite restaurant is Il Cortile. It’s in Little Italy, and it’s run by this guy named Stefano, and it’s incredible, phenomenal food. In Los Angeles, my favorite restaurant’s gotta be Cut, which is in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.” ● SHAILENE WOODLEY – “Honestly, I’m not really a club kinda girl. I’d rather go to a local bar with some friends and hang out there. Or just go back to my house and have people come over. I’m more of the congregate-at-my-house kind of chick. I’m 18, so I don’t drink, so I don’t go to bars. There’s a place called the Alamo, which has karaoke and it’s a bar, but we go and karaoke there probably once a week.” ● FRANCIA RAISA – “I’m not a big club person. I really like bars and lounges. In L.A., I like to hang out at Buffalo Wild Wings, watching sports and drinking beer with my friends. I really don’t go out that much. I hang out at home and have my own glass of wine, watching Grey’s Anatomy. Oh, I just tried this restaurant yesterday at Gramercy Park Hotel. It’s a new, Italian place — Maialino. It was amazing. And again, I’m very simple, so I like pizza, and John’s Pizza out here is amazing to me, too. And hot wings I like at Planet Hollywood. I’m obsessed with them!”

At Zeno “Hot Spot” launch party @ MTV Studios:

● SKY NELLOR – “I am a huge sushi fanatic, so I just had Katsuya three times in two days in L.A. What is it about Katsuya? It’s the baked-crab hand roll in a soy-paper wrap. It’s just so yummy. I want one now! In New York, I have a fixation with Bagatelle. I just love the fish and the veggies. Nightclubs, nightlife, oh, my God! Apparently, I’m a really good bowler, so I hang out at Lucky Strike everywhere — Miami, L.A., Kansas! We just had a bowling party, and I won, so … Oh, they didn’t let me see my score. I just kept getting strikes to the point where they were, like, ‘Give her more shots! We have to stop this girl!’ And the drunker I got, the better I got. Clubs — if I’m going to go out, I’m going to go out to dance. And I’m going to go where the DJ is playing. I don’t care what club it is. I went to a dive in L.A., at a party called Afex, just because some of the best DJs were playing that night. Like, I don’t care about the crowd. I don’t care about the scene. I care about the music. I don’t think the venue has a name. I think it’s called No Space. They just move the party around.” ● SUCHIN PAK – “I have a great place. It’s called Broadway East, and it’s on East Broadway. And I love it because it’s a beautiful space, but also it’s literally across the street from my house. That always helps. And then there’s a really fantastic place called Bacaro. Oh, it’s amazing! It’s downstairs. It’s almost a dungeon-like place. The people that used to do Peasant, the wine bar there, moved to this place. I like to say the Lower East Side on East Broadway is where the grown-up hipsters go. For a true Lower East Sider, it may not be true Lower East Side, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved more south than east, and I keep trickling that way.”

At charity:ball for charity:water:

● ADRIAN GRENIER – “Brooklyn. Fort Greene. Habana Outpost — it’s run mostly on solar power, and it’s a sustainable business.” MARK BIRNBAUM “Well, if I do say so myself, Abe & Arthur’s on 14th Street; SL, the new club underneath it. I still love Tenjune. And I like hanging out at home other than that. What about places other than your own? So I shouldn’t say the Chandelier Room, in Hoboken? I really like going to Bar and Books in the West Village — that’s our spot. You know where else I like to go? Miami — the new W South Beach is unbelievable, by far the best hotel down there. The design is incredible; the pool area is very nice; they have good restaurants there — there’s a Mr. Chow’s and the other one is good; the rooms are really nice; it’s very well done; it’s just very fresh, the entire thing; and the artwork is incredible. You don’t feel like you’re in South Beach — not that there’s anything wrong with it — but it’s really, really, really, well done.” ● NICOLE TRUNFIO – “I just found this really cool jazz club in Paris where they still dance to old, rock-and-roll music in partners. It’s a location undisclosed. I don’t remember what it’s called. It’s in the Saint-Michel — it’s just off it. You can jump into a taxi, ‘cause we went to a jazz bar called the Library, but that was closed. So we asked the taxi driver, and he took us to this place. So, I’m sure lots of local French taxi-drivers would know the place.” ● LAUREN BUSH – “Oh, gosh, I’m like so uncool! It’s such an obvious question, it’s so hard … I’m a vegetarian, so I love Blossom restaurant. They have a good, quinoa-tofu dish. It’s like gingery. It’s really good. ● EMMA SNOWDON-JONES – “I love Le Bilboquet because it’s consistent, and mainly wherever your friends are it makes the place. It’s on 63rd, between Park and Madison. I’ve gone there since I was in boarding school. I’d come into the city on the weekends, and I’d go there. I think anyone that’s been in New York as long as I have knows it. That’s a really, bloody long time, sadly. As good as my Botox is, it’s too long!” ● KRISTIN CHENOWETH – “I am an old-fashioned girl, and I still love Joe Allen’s. I go there all the time. And right next-door above, is a place called Bar Centrale, and I go there, too. I was just there last night for three hours. I like the manicotti at Joe Allen’s. It’s excellent!” ● JULIAN LENNON – “Probably the Jane bar and the Rose Bar in New York.”

At launch of S.T. Dupont in-store boutique @ Davidoff on Madison Avenue:

● RON WHITE – “I love the bars in Glasgow, Scotland. You could go sit in a bar by yourself and in five minutes, you’d be talkin’ to 10 people because they’re so curious about anybody that walks in that’s not normally in there. They just want to go talk to ’em and find out what they’re about. They’re just as friendly as they can be. I was there for the British Open, or the Open Championship, as it’s called. And if you go to a bar in New York City, you can sit there for the rest of your life and not meet another person because they’re not really gonna come up to you and go, ‘Hey, what’s up? What are you doing in town?’ That just doesn’t happen here.”

Industry Insiders: Chris Lee, Aureole Ingénue

Formerly executive chef at the decadent GILT restaurant, chef Christopher Lee recently re-opened Charlie Palmer’s legendary at its new location in the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park (that’s him in the photo above at right, Palmer smiling paternally at left). The Top Chef Masters competitor talks about manning the kitchen as executive chef at Aureole, his modest perspectives, and having a green thumb. Aureole will beoffering a 15% discount on all menus until the grand opening benefit gala for Citymeals-on-Wheels on September 15.

How would you describe your occupation? We’re chef-entrepreneurs — business people who create food. A chef’s title these days has expanded from just making food to running and creating a business. I call myself an Average Joe, and I never thought I was God’s gift. As a trade industry, we train ourselves and develop a passion for what we do. I wasn’t born with a palate for this business. I walk to work. I do the same things everyone else does. If I do some things better than others, okay, but I think of myself as a service provider.

Aside from Aureole, what organizations are you affiliated with? Among the philanthropic organizations CityHarvest has the hardest rules, and when we have food waste on some nights, we donate. The idea is that they have certain parameters that are difficult to meet. For instance, when I was at Oceana on every holiday, we used to make holiday meals and drop them off — one-by-one — to the homeless. Now Citymeals-on-Wheels has been a favorite charity of mine for years, and throughout those years we’ve supported them and raised money. It’s a sad thing when elderly or home-bound people can’t feed themselves. I might be there one day, so one motivation for me is to give back to those who might have to be there for me in the future.

How’d you get your start? It’s one of those age-old questions that people ask. In junior high and high school, guidance counselors always asked me what I wanted to do, and from the time I was 14, I was in the restaurant business, busing tables, dish washing, whatever. When it came to going to college, culinary school crossed my mind, but my parents on Long Island really wanted me to graduate from college. So after I did that, I bought a car and drove to California and enrolled in culinary school. I was born and raised here, and I wanted to see the diversity on the west coast. People are different; they talk, live and act differently. I didn’t want to stay where I was comfortable. I wanted a challenge and went as far as I could without leaving the country.

Where are your spots in the city? I have a lot of personal favorites in this city, and I like the rustic world more than anything. I go down to my favorite Italian restaurant, Il Bagatto on Second Street. It’s owned by one of my favorite couples, Beatrice and Leo. Beatrice is cooking in the back of the house, and Leo is out front. She cooked some authentic cuisine and said to me, “Know what makes me different from you? I cook from the heart; you cook to compete.” She really hit it on the head. Even though we all cook from the soul, when you play in the upper tier of the game, we’re all about stars and ratings. Then there’s this woman in Alphabet City who doesn’t care about being better than someone else; she just cares about making people happy. She makes the best lasagna there. I buy two or three extras just to put in the fridge for the week. I’m also a big sushi fan, and Sushi Seki is a favorite of mine. Bar Coastal on 78th and 1st Avenue is fab. The bartenders have great stories to tell, they make amazing frozen drinks, and they make the best chicken in the city.

Who do you look up to? There are so many of them. One of the reasons I came to work for Charlie Palmer is because I admire him. He’s not just a great chef, but a savvy businessman — one of the many reasons we began our relationship. Food and creating something I love to do is as important as learning to run a business. Daniel Boulud is someone I consider to be the “Dad” of the industry. He’s the headmaster — the one who gave us all the answers.

What’s going on in the hospitality industry now? The best thing about food is that it’s evolving all the time, especially American cuisine. We’re developing a soul in this country, a style that is all-American. For awhile, we were jealous of European countries and their cuisines, and American food was soulless. But now we’re developing our own cuisine. Maybe it came a little after Europe, but we’re on track. Now Europeans come here to find out what we know.

Anything that peeves you about American cuisine? I know there’s a place for it, but I definitely dislike the fast-food trend this country. We should be a lot healthier and wiser than to feed ourselves a Happy Meal with saturated fats. That’s been a bad trip from the start. As a realist, I understand the value behind it. For certain people, it may work, but as a country we could do a lot better at offering great, high-nutrition food for a lower price.

What is something that people might not know about you? I live in Brooklyn, and I love gardening. We built our deck out with about 400 pounds of soil in a trough around it. Squashes, jalapenos, sweet peppers, shallots, eight different variety of heirloom tomatoes, cherries, strawberry plants, cucumber. My wife and I are really good at it. When I have time, I like to play golf, and in my retirement, I want to built motorcycles, but my wife won’t let me do that right now. I didn’t have the passion for motorcycling until I was involved with my wife, and when I put it to her, she put a big “NO” on that one.

Biggest obsession? I’m a giant Yankees fan.

What are you doing tonight? Working at . I’ve got a service to go through, every day, I’ve got to go to the kitchen and throw it down.

Photo: Chris Lee with Charlie Palmer by Pete Thompson

Sneaker Guru Bobbito Garcia Brings Pro-Keds Back

You had a streetball / Hip Hop show on an Ivy league jazz radio station. That’s not really a question, more of an observation. And a good one. I had the world’s first-ever talk radio program discussing playground basketball on WKCR 89.9FM. It was called On the Fence, and came on earlier in the evening every Thursday before me and Stretch Armstrong’s hip hop show. I also wrote the first article on sneaker culture in media history, titled “Confessions of a Sneaker Addict.” It ran in Source magazine in 1991. I also hosted the first TV series ever dedicated to sneaker culture, called It’s the Shoes, which ran for two seasons on ESPN. I could go on but I’ll stop there!

What kicks do you have on permanent ice? There is no pair on permanent ice in my closet — everything gets worn at some point! There are definitely joints that only come out on special occasion when they’ll be a good amount of heads that will understand what’s on the feet and can appreciate it.

What’s the illest pair of kicks you ever owned? The illest kicks I might’ve ever owned were the Nike Air Force 1s that I painted circa 1990. I made a white/chocolate store-bought pair and customized them into a pumpkin/white/chocolate creation. Cats were offering me money on the block to do theirs after that! I was years ahead of any brand in terms of doing three-color combos that were off-beat and not team related. It was a good moment. As a kid, my transition shoe from wearing skippies to something official was the Super Pro-Ked. That was in 1975 when I was nine years old. Before that, I was a scrub in the sneaker world!

How do you feel about clubs that frown on sneakers? I don’t feel any kind of way about clubs that frown on sneakers. I just don’t patronize them! Every venue is entitled to their own rules though, I guess. I’ve never been bounced from a club for wearing sneakers, but I’ve been spinning at APT for almost nine years, and I can tell you that the security may at times not let dudes in who are in a suit and wearing shoes! For real! It’s a real chill vibe, and I play soulful dance music, so you kind of have to wear kicks to get your groove on proper and be comfortable, I guess.

What spots do you like to eat and drink at in New York? I don’t drink alcohol, but I love to get my eat on, and there are a plethora of ridiculously yummilicious spots I frequent, including Il Bagatto, Camarada’s, Café Latte, Kiosk, and Strictly Roots.

What’s the most you’d pay for a pair of sneakers? I’ve never spent more than $140 for a pair of sneakers (Lebron VI U. of Akron exclusives), and that was just this year. Before that, my highest was $110 (Asic Gel Nimbus VII). Luckily, most of the brands send me shoes for review in my Bounce magazine “Let’Em Marinate” column.

Best sneaker store in the world? Wow. You’re gonna get me in trouble! That’s hard to say. For me, it’s about stores with friendly, knowledgeable service and a selection that challenges the customer. Sure, there are the tier-zero accounts that get all the exclusives, but then everyone knows about them and there is no surprise factor. I like to take chances, always have, and that’s how I earned my rep in the playground basketball and hip hop worlds for having sneakers that no one else knows. So why do you think I’d tell you where I shop? Hahaha! Goliath on 105th Street, Training Camp on 116th Street off Lenox, and Paragon’s are amongst the stores I currently check up on inventory. The Vault on 8th Avenue between 133rd and 134th streets, too.

You ever think sneakerheads take the shit too seriously? C’mon, man! Read my book Where’d You Get Those? New York City’s Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987 for an in-depth exploration of your question. I can’t retell what I wrote in it any better.

Why should people cop your limited edition Pro-Keds Royal Flash? You give Keds love in your book, but certain heads might think of them as “those kids’ shoes.” Was that perception a pro or a con? I’ve already done collabs, including Adidas for the Superstar model 35th anniversary as well as with Nike for their Air Force 1 25th anniversary. I don’t think I can work with more recognized brands or iconic shoes more than that. I love challenges, and when Pro-Keds approached me about jumping in on the 30th anniversary of the Royal Flash, man … I was more energized about it than the previous ones because I could’ve done the worst color combos and fabrics on my “shell toe” and AF1, respectively, and it still would’ve sold out. Everyone buys those with their eyes closed, they are two of the biggest sellers in the history of the industry. But to do a Royal Flash by Bobbito, and freak it well enough that it would turns heads to want to wear them? Now that’s interesting! Keds were perceived as kids and women’s shoes; however Pro-Keds were absolutely the brand of choice here in NYC during the glory period of playground basketball and hip hop in the ‘70s. When I wear them now, it’s only adults of my generation or older who stop me on the street and say, “What! Where can I cop those? I used to rock those back in the days!” So it will be rewarding to reintroduce a model originally was released in ‘79, but hasn’t been seen since. And my hope, and belief, is that young kids will take to the Royal Flash the same way my crew did. We didn’t see some NBA player endorsing it. It was simply a beautifully designed shoe that had high performance ranks to play in as well. And that’s what sold it. And heads in Harlem ate those up. In all the annals of Pro-Ked basketball history, the Royal Flash was their most flavorful, and functional, sneaker. I professed that in my book when it was released in 2003, way before I knew I was gonna wind up doing a collab!

Sneakerheads and conspiracies go together like stoops and White Owls: That said, why did Bush knock down the towers? We’ll all find out a decade from now when the government papers get released to the public and the agencies continue their path towards just transparency …