BlackBook Staff Picks: Dining, Drinking, Shopping, & Staying

Here at BlackBook, we pay a lot of attention to where cool customers go out — bars, clubs, restaurants, shops, hotels, you name it. So why not flip the frame and let you see where we go out? Here’s a periodically updated, exhaustive list of hotspots currently favored by everyone at BlackBook, from the mighty bosses down to the humble interns, from the charming local lounges around the corner to the jet-setting temples of luxe living. ● Creative Director – Jason Daniels, The Odeon (NYC) -American Psychos down salmon and steak frites, but the real scene’s on the sidewalk. ● Vice President, Content – Chris Mohney, Agua Dulce (NYC) – Festive outpost feels like Miami, F-L-A.

EDITORIAL ● Senior Editor – Nick Haramis, Motor City Bar (NYC) – Front like you remember how to drive and these 8 Milers might let you hang. ● Features Editor – Willa Paskin, Mayahuel (NYC) – Tequila temple where patrons pay homage to the goddess of agave. ● Writer-at-Large – Alison Powell, Peppermill (Las Vegas) – Vegas institution pushes diner food in front and romantic cocktails in the back. ● Nightlife Correspondent – Steve Lewis, Serpentine (NYC) – Patrick Duffy’s legendary scene uncoils in west Chelsea. ● Assistant Editors – Ben Barna, Jupiter Room (Montreal) – Drink your face off for cheap and dance ’til it aches. Cayte Grieve, Blackstones (NYC) – Foster Ethan Kamer, Joseph Leonard (NYC) – Elegantly distressed Village charmer serving up three solid meals a day. Eiseley Tauginas, Barrow Street Ale House (NYC) – College sports fans and West Village regulars cram into cozy confines. ● Copy Editor – Michèle Filon, Back Forty (NYC) – Manure-free urban farm sates virtuous, albeit rare, healthy food cravings. ● Editorial Interns – Molly Gunn, PDT (NYC) – Somebody told, but still a nice sophisto surprise behind the grunge of Crif. Megan LaBruna, Mercury Lounge (NYC) – Catch a future indie rock god at this rite of musical passage. Toren Curtis, The Vagabond (Miami) – Great indie scene. Even better music. Ashley Simpson, SPiN New York (NYC) – Marginally-more-athletic alternative to beer pong gets its own private club. Averie Timm, Downtown Cipriani (NYC) – Über-scene congregation of A-list supermodels, art stars, and financiers. Food, too. If you care. Annie Werner, Antone’s (Austin) – This revered blues club’s namesake did more for black-white relations than the Oreo cookie. Hillary Weston, The Four-Faced Liar (NYC) – Greenwich Village-proper pub is something out of Middle Earth, or Docklands. Either way: the real deal.

ART ● Art Director – Amy Steinhauser, Mizu Sushi (NYC) – Popular lunch spot for Flatiron media types needing to bitch. ● Assistant Designer – Serra Semi, Momofuku Ssäm Bar (NYC) – Chef-of-the-minute David Chang fancies up Korean burritos and gets avant-garde after 6pm. ● Photography Assistant – Stephanie Swanicke, Canal Room (NYC) – Jersey hordes in the house, but discreet famous faces still rock all night. ● Freelance Designer – Krista Quick, t.b.d (NYC) – Sleek and chic lounge in the heart of Greenpoint.

FASHION & BEAUTY ● Market Editor – Bryan Levandowski, Shang (NYC) – Toronto-bred Susur Lee takes on nouveau Asian small plates at the Thompson LES. ● Fashion Assistant – Wilson Mathews III, Dylan’s Candy Bar (NYC) – King-sized candy shop hypnotizing children and torturing adult waistlines in the UES.

BLACKBOOK MEDIA CORP ● Chairman – Bob Hoff, Voyeur (LA) – The inspiration is Eyes Wide Shut…so yes, there’s lots of leather. ● CEO – Ari Horowitz, Nikki Beach (St. Barts) – An escape into paradise in the middle of, well, paradise. ● Associate Publisher – Brett Wagner, Barrio Chino (NYC) – Chino Latino tequila bar serving up 50 kinds of that devil stuff. ● Director of Finance and Operations – Joe Friedman, Brooklyn Bowl (NYC) – Rock and bowl will never die. ● Corporate Counsel – Drew Patrick, Tournesol (NYC) – Coq au vin and crème brûlée? Oui! Oui! ● Executive Assistant – Bridgette Bek, Tu Lan (San Francisco) – Word-of-mouth dingy treasure serving good, cheap Vietnamese food in a downright crappy location.

ADVERTISING – ● Senior Account Executive – Dina Matar, Ilili (NYC) – Upscale Lebanese moves miles beyond falafel. ● Account Executive – Brian Kantor, Lillie’s (NYC) – Victorian pub with just enough antiquery to make you feel grand. ● Executive Director, BlackBook Access – Gregg Berger, Indochine (NYC) – French-colonial greets uptown-cum-downtown diners. ● Advertising Director – Michelle Koruda, Shorty’s .32 (NYC) – Josh Eden under-promises and over-delivers at this Soho charmer. ● Detroit Account Executives – Jeff Hannigan, The Lodge (Chicago) -Ye old typical Division Street cheese, but always a shameless good time. Kristen von Bernthal, Hudson Bar at Hudson Hotel (NYC) – Acid-trip décor. Sit on a log and rest your drink on a gnome head. ● Midwest Account Executives – Susan Welter, Hopleaf Bar (Chicago) – Andersonville’s best bar. Belgian beers and food meet in a place that’s too smart to be too cool and vice versa. Andrea Forrester, Coast Sushi (Chicago) – BYOB meets the sea at this high-quality Wicker Park sushi spot. ● Southwest Account Executive – Molly Ballantine, Rustic Canyon (LA) – Leave it to the upper-cresty West-siders to show everyone else up with their moody, fashionable darkwood and cream take on the ubiquitous neighborhood wine bar. ● Northwest Account Executives – Catherine Hurley, Coi (San Francisco) – The apotheosis of both the molecular gastronomy trend and the sustainable food movement: ethereal, futuristic flavors in a serene environment. Shawn O’Meara, Nopalito (San Francisco) – ● Sales Coordinator – Celia Ballou, Pink Pony (NYC) – Pseudo-bohemian bistro that’s better for people watching than, like, eating or whatever.

MARKETING ● Marketing Manager – Julie Fabricant, Bottega Louie (LA) – Proof that Downtown is still gentrifying. ● Partnerships & Promotions Manager – Andrew Berman, K & M (NYC) – Former perogie factor converted to current meat market for the indie-rock set. ● Interns – Cristina Girgis, Barbounia (NYC) – Tony Medi with good bones. Interior is all about the arches. Alexandra Vickers, The Slaughtered Lamb Pub (NYC) – Magical enough to overlook the horror movie gimmick.

DIGITAL ● Director of Development – Daniel Murphy, Max’s On Broadway (Baltimore) – Ahhh, good old Max’s I remember you well…well what I can remember anyway. ● Lead Architect – Matt Hackett, Caracas Arepa Bar (NYC) – Arepas, seventeen ways. Venezuela is for carb lovers. ● Developer – Bastian Kuberek, Greenhouse (NYC) – NYC’s first Green club tries to make bottles and models sustainable. ● Developer – Dan Simon, Hudson Terrace (NYC) – Rooftop pleaser for drunk summer afternoons. ● Designer – Matt Strmiska, Uchi (Austin) – Thoroughly inventive and delectable sushi in vibrant environs, compliments of lauded chef Tyson Cole. ● Developer – Sam Withrow, The Knockout (San Francisco) – The vibe is blessedly lawless,prolifically musical and down right hedonistic. Peep tall cans and a sweaty dance floor. ● Quality Assurance Engineer – Sunde Johnson, Melt (NYC) – Brooklyn brunch spot becoming the standard for neighborhood dining. ●Mobile Developer – Otto Toth, Alloro (NYC) – Cacio e Pepe peeps get creative on the Upper East.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Bob Hoff, Voyeur (LA). Ari Horowitz, Nikki Beach (St. Barts). Eric Gertler, Matsuhisa (Aspen) – World-famous Nobu chef brings incredibly tasty, stylish, pricy sushi to Aspen. Joe Landry, SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills (LA) – Phillipe Starck and Sam Nazarian mind meld to create a papparazzi-inducing modern luxury hotel in (well, near) BH. Irwin Lieber, Fishtail by David Burke (NYC) – Fresh seafood in the UES by celeb chef David Burke. Dan Pelson, Marea (NYC) – Hopes for a high tide abound at Michael White’s temple to Italian seafood. Barry Rubenstein, Bryant & Cooper (Hamptons) – While it may be trying a little too hard for a classic old-time-y vibe, the steaks are nonetheless quite good. Jack Sullivan, The Raleigh Hotel (Miami) – The local equivalent of LA’s Chateau Marmont.

Ilili’s Glory & Cameron Douglas Postscript

I’m not sure how to pronounce the name of the flat iron restaurant Ilili. I don’t know the origins of its name. Alls I know is that I had dinner there the other night with publicist Kelley Blevins and a special friend, and it was great. I’m not sure if my blog readers read BlackBook magazine as well; I have an article in there every month. I and all the other people associated with the magazine are asked each month to list their current favorite hangout. My entry from the August issue was “Nightlife Correspondent Steve Lewis Ajaxx (NYC).” Ajaxx was the rooftop restaurant/lounge my partner and I were designing for Greg Brier at the Stay hotel in Times Square. It’s Tokyo 2050 graffitti design has not seen the light of day due to tip-toeing by economy-influenced decision-makers and all sorts of bureaucratic bureaucracy.

These staff picks are done way in advance, and Ajaxx was due mid-June. Getting things open in this town is not easy, and Ajaxx’s reality will be next spring. I’m offering Ilili as my substitute pick. I spent an evening having the most wonderful meal amongst trendy adults — a group that more and more new establishments are catering too. Hotel Griffou was refreshingly age appropriate for a an old codger like me.

I worked with Kelley Blevins at Palladium and Tunnel and Spa and Life and all my good joints. He used to be a promoter-type person, but his PR-based approach brought great events and fabulously frocked people to the fray. He has consulted over the years with companies like Dolce & Gabbana, Emporio Aarmani, H. Stern, Bulgari, Diane von Furstenberg, Salvatore Ferragamo, John Varvatos, and architects Ricardo Bofill and Alison Spear. Back in the day he was working for that fabulous lolipop company, Chupa Chups, and we had them coming out of our ears. He promoted several hotels — 60 Thompson and Cooper Square in New York, the St. Augustine in Miami, and Gregory Peck’s Crescent Hotel group based in Los Angeles, among others. Kelly is one of those movers and shakers that the public rarely hears about, even though they’re aware of the brands he’s pushing. He invited me down with a fervor. He believes in Ilili and made a believer out of me.

The joint is beautiful. Architect /designer Nasser Nakib’s design stunned me. Rich woods, soft lighting, and an innovative pattern that repeats on the walls, floor, and ceiling has raised the bar for future Lewis & Dizon projects. Chef Philippe Massoud brings a modern Lebanese cuisine that made me full but not stuffed. There were so many things to choose from, such an assortment of flavor and texture, that I hardly got a word in over dinner — and that rarely happens. I even had a glass of wine, and I never do that. The large dining room with ceilings that must be 16 feet high will host parties like few rooms can. Phillipe had many a moment at joints I ran, and he has an eye and an ear for sound systems. Ilili has a great one, and I can’t wait to attend a special event. I don’t write many puff pieces; I have walked by Ilili about 2oo times without considering it. Now if you’re looking for me, you know where I’ll be.

The tragedy of the Cameron Douglas arrest is playing out as predicted. The story seems to be that the addicted spawn of stars turned to selling some to use some. He had been cut off from the family money, but the need for speed remained. A person close to the action told me “he hasn’t made a rational decision in years.” It’s the same old story — a fight for love and glory, then a hard crash to the pavement as three of his street associates ratted him out for a softer ride. The only question remaining is whether the feds want him to lead them to his sources — rumored to be California-based — or will they just let the media frenzy of a trial be a great deterrent for America’s youth. A long sentence in a bad place could be their plan. If he is lucky, they will ask him to give up his supplier in return for a lighter punishment. Supporters offer that he’s “not a violent guy” and that “his addiction is a disease best dealt with in a facility for people in need of treatment.” They say “he shouldn’t be held responsible” for the inevitable need to deal drugs as a result of his long-term addiction.

Yet despite the addling affects of drugs, there is no doubt that Cameron knew what he was doing was wrong and absolutely illegal. He also knew he had choices. Cameron was born with a silver spoon that could keep the Hotel Ganesvoort — where he was busted — in cutlery for a century. My source tells me that the family strategy was to “let him bottom out as everything else had failed,” and “no matter what we tried, he continued to hang out with those lowlife friends of his, and look what happened … they got busted and ratted him out.” I was asked why I didn’t recognize him right away as I surely knew him. I answered that he was heavy and ghost-white, and there wasn’t a great deal of life in his eyes. He used to have a light in those eyes. It used to sit just in front of his eternal sadness. Now I’m afraid sad is all that’s left.

New York: Top 10 Middle Eastern Restaurants

imagePasha (Upper West Side) – Though its name often gets it confused with Ibiza import Pacha, the only similarity the spots share is that they’re both perpetually packed. Bargain prices, friendly service, and a quaint atmosphere make the wait for a table bearable. ● Tanoreen (Bay Ridge) – Though Astoria gets most of the attention when it comes to Middle Eastern food outside of Manhattan, this Brooklyn restaurant’s hodgepodge of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean eats puts Bay Ridge on the map. ● Le Souk (East Village) – Sure, the crowd’s a little on the boisterous B&T side, and you’ll come out reeking of hookah smoke. But if you’re looking for some ladies to fill out your harem, this is the spot.

Ilili (Flatiron) – Swank setting, thumping house beats, and a $35 dinner menu that includes two appetizers, entrée, and dessert. ● Halal Chicken & Gyro (Midtown West): Buying food out of a truck, car, or cart is always a smidgen sketch, but the ever-popular Halal Chicken and Gyro cart on 53rd and 6th takes food-cart rice and chicken to a new level – not only won’t you get sick from it, you’ll want it even when you don’t have those low-standard, late-night drunken munchies. ● Ali Baba’s Terrace (Midtown East) – When the weather hits 75, there’s no better rooftop to enjoy Middle Eastern fare. ● Sahara’s Turkish Cuisine (Murray Hill) – Sahara’s takes a healthful approach to Middle Eastern food — all meat and fish are char-grilled without butter, salads are topped with lemon juice and olive oil, traditional cold appetizers like yaprak sarma (stuffed grape leaves) are purchased fresh and cured in-house, and their “rice” is actually a blend of bulgur wheat, minced vegetables, and dill. ● Turkish Kitchen (Kips Bay) – Arguably the most well-known Middle Eastern joint in the city, best enjoyed during weekend brunch hours when you can chow down on unlimited gyros, chargrilled ground lamb patties, chicken kebabs, filet mignon, bulgur pilaf, and more. ● Kebab Café (Astoria) – The chef/owner of this Tony Bourdain-approved spot will get even the most unadventurous to eat (and enjoy) cow’s feet and lamb’s brain. Yes, you can still get your hummus and baba ganouj. ● L’ybane (Midtown East) – Go for the “Imperial Assortment” — essentially a chef’s tasting. About $40 buys you 14 dishes, including chickpea fritters, meat-stuffed pita, hummus, tzatziki, moussaka with eggplant and cheese, and two-day-marinated meat skewers.