GoogaMooga Gets Fantastical With Themed Roberta’s, The Spotted Pig, & Gabe Stulman Pop-Ups

GoogaMooga – Brooklyn’s May 17th-19th food/music fest with the really great toilets – is adding themed, fantastical pop-ups from Roberta’s and culinary greats April BloomfieldKen Friedman, and Gabe Stulman to their carnival of all things fried, buttered, sprinkled, and alcoholic. 

Roberta’s – the Bushwick pizza joint with a cult following – is going Elizabethan, debuting their "Urban Renaissance Faire" – fit with hunky knights and fair maidens, and platters of medieval bites. Freshly-hunted turkey legs? Spare ribs from a barn hog? Perhaps.

Foot-long sausages, German pastries, and bubbling beers, are at the German beer garden pop-up known as "The Spotted Pig Haus," dreamed up by  The Spotted Pig’s chef/co-owner April Bloomfield and co-owner Ken Friedman. And if you still have room…

Gabe Stulman is going Americana on us, bringing his Wisconsin upbringing to his pop-up "Little Wisco Seafood Boil & BBQ." The restauranteur behind such West Village greats as Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey’s Grocery, and Fedora, is stocking his with boiled crawfish, barbecued shrimp, and wholesome games of bocce ball and bean-bag toss. 

All these delectable food worlds can be yours for the price of $15-$20, drinks not included. But do get drinks. And do go to the bathroom many times. Many times. Because believe me: they have really great toilets.

Get the scoop on GoogaMooga, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here

April Bloomfield Saves Us With Tacos

This past holiday season our savior was April Bloomfield and business partner Ken Friedman who brought Salvation Taco to the Pod 39 Hotel in Murray Hill. In this religious-icon-filled space, you won’t find Bloomfield’s notorious British-done-well cuisine that she is famous for at the Spotted Pig. Nor will you find a seafood theme like her other hotel restaurant, the John Dory Oyster Bar, which is in the Ace Hotel in Flatiron. You will, however, find Bloomfield’s notorious nose-to-tail mantra prevalent, much like it is at the Breslin, with dishes like lamb’s tongue torta and crispy pig’s ear. 

Fonda chef Roberto Santibañez advised the team on the nuances of the menu, and you can see his Latin American influence in dishes like the braised short rib torta, cauliflower with curried crema taco, and the pork belly and pineapple salad. “It’s a taco place that’s not Mexican,” Santibañez told Zagat. “It’s a New York mix of all sorts.”

To drink, bartender Sam Anderson, who created the cocktail list of Pod 39’s rooftop bar, manages the list of beverages that get served tableside, or at the restaurant’s long, fiesta-tinged bar. 

The name Salvation Tacos stems from the building’s previous tenant, a Salvation Army. Though, nothing is second hand or second rate, but for $3 a taco, you can still get a great deal.

Hangover Survey: The Rusty Knot’s Party Bus

Ah, yes: The Rusty Knot. It’s The Spotted Pig and The Breslin owner, hotspot-alchemist Ken Friedman’s ingenious tribute to east coast beachside nautical dives, at the lovely “maritime” locale of the West Side Highway and West 11th Street. This sometimes presents a problem for partygoers who want to get themselves over there, since it is a bit of a trek to the coast, as it were. Friedman, ever the innovator, has decided to enlist the services of a “party bus” — and my new favorite website — to carry a group of drunk, potentially costumed revelers to his establishment.

(‘DiggThis’)The bus includes free beer, dancing, and — yes — people who’re actually in costume. It stops in Williamsburg (Bedford and 7th) and the East Village (1st Ave and 1st Street) twice a night before making its way to the West Side Highway, where it pukes out a bunch of drunkasses into the Knot. As this was the USS Rusty’s maiden voyage, we figured it’d be worth perusing the Internets to pick up reports of how it went. And how did it go?

Via Eater, EV Grieve filed the following report:

Two people were waiting to board. Three more people hustled across First Avenue… other passengers included three-four people who were waiting inside at One and One…and three guys who arrived on skateboards. So 12 by my count. No one was in costume. And only two people sort of squealed while boarding.

But by the sound of it, the Williamsburg pickup might’ve had a little more luck. Behold, the power of Twitter:

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Some revelers had questionable (or possibly: reasonable) expectations for the USS Rusty, who may have been disappointed.

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Everybody who’s designer Justin Thomas Kay’s somebody can be found in one place: Drunk on Friedman’s bus, obviously.

image Brooklyn-based DJ Chris Hires clearly has no regrets about the evening.

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Old Man (William) Tigertt, Friedman’s fellow hot spot resto owner (Freeman’s), notes the contextual insanity before him as the USS Rusty has its “Land, Ahoy!” moment, and as any good operator would, eggs them on.

From the sound of it, we might be required to set sail, ourselves. Tune in next week, as we see what the fate of the USS Rusty holds for drunk, raging partygoers who dare sail the treacherous concrete seas that are Lower Manhattan.

Ken Friedman Gives Us a Tour of His Speakeasy To-Be

Ken Friedman first dropped the idea of opening a Tin Pan Alley-themed speakeasy in the basement of the Ace Hotel earlier this month in the Flatiron Newsletter. Yesterday, we stood in the subterranean space with Friedman himself, and I can tell you that the project is most definitely a go. The famed restaurateur is riding some kind of hot streak: Locanda Verde is thriving in Tribeca and upstairs at the Ace, The Breslin has effortlessly established itself as one of New York’s buzziest eateries.

After facing resistance from a mosque across the street, Friedman was forced to nix plans of a dive bar in the townhouse next door to the Ace, who then presented him with alternate offer. “They said look, pick another space in the hotel to do your dive bar, we owe you one,” says Friedman. “And so I started poking around the hotel, and I discovered what looks like it must have been an old speakeasy or something. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but it was like a place where people used to gather once upon a time.”

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On our way down, Friedman got lost a few times and had to ask various hotel staff members to remind him where the space was. That’s how hidden it is. The good news is there’s a direct entry that leads downstairs from Broadway. Clearly no one had been there in years before Friedman, but once inside, it was easy to see Friedman’s vision come to life. Brick arches crest the walkways and industrial, exposed beams keep the whole thing standing. The space is structurally dynamic, a catacomb with multiple rooms, nooks and corners hidden about. It’s all very downstairs at La Esquina. And every few minutes or so you can hear the subway rumble by.

On top of the Tin Pan Alley theme first mentioned in the newsletter, Friedman is also eyeing a turn-of-the century boxing motif. “James Breslin was a real boxing nut and used to box at Madison Square Garden, then a few blocks away at Madison Square Park, ” says Friedman of the hotel’s legendary previous owner. “He built a boxing ring in the basement of the hotel, and the longest boxing match in history was in the basement of the Breslin Hotel, so we may honor of that. This guy ‘Jersey’ Joe Walcott beat somebody, so I was thinking we could call it Jersey Joe’s.” Construction is already underway, and Friedman is looking at a Spring to early Summer opening. “It already looks the way it should look, so we’re not going to do much.”

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Bombing The Breslin’s Lunch Menu: A Solo Mission on Opening Day

And it’s out of the gate: Chef April Bloomfield and restaurateur Ken Friedman — the team behind perpetual West Village hotspot The Spotted Pig, and recently deceased seafood destination The John Dory — have opened up shop in the Ace Hotel with The Breslin Bar. After plenty of delays, the place is now serving breakfast and lunch as of today. After the jump: the lowdown on lunch service, menus, sightings, and a run-in with Mr. Friedman himself.

I grabbed a seat at the bar with a copy of today’s Post; at 2pm, the place was fairly packed. Saddled up to the lunch menu. Ordered: the mixed salad with anchovy dressing, the beef Tongue sandwich with lentil soup, a side of fries (malt vinegar and sea salt crisps), and an iced tea. Tragically, my phone battery died out after about five minutes, so I had to preserve part of my meal for posterity (or at least: pictures back at the office). The waitress was nice enough to jury-rig some tinfoil and a brown bag from the in-house Stumptown Coffee.

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The salad was the first to arrive, though it wasn’t the side salad: they brought me the Caesar salad that was supposed to go to the guy next to me, though I was a little hungry and didn’t notice. After I dug in for about two minutes, one of the bar staff kindly noted that it wasn’t my salad, and they’d bring the side salad too, if I wanted. Whoops. No worries: the Caesar was pretty great, nice, meaty fork-and-knife lettuce pictured. None of this small chopped romaine bullshit. In spite of the lone anchovy placed squarely on top of the salad, and the promise of “anchovy croutons,” the anchovy taste wasn’t overpoweringly strong, and was balanced by the light, peppery bite of whatever those leafy sprigs were.

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Getting up to leave, at that moment: Eater owner Lockhart Steele, who had the lamb burger (“great”) and Grub Street/Gawker/Out/New York Times freelance-about-town Joshua David Stein, who was sitting down with Ken Friedman for a quick word. I caught Friedman for a moment, too: Ken’s been having some issues with his neighbors across the street — a mosque — who take issue with The Breslin serving pork and liquor, which is against the laws of Islam. Friedman (who’s in compliance regardless of their grievances) compromised by lining the front of the Breslin with trees in planters that cover the windows about halfway up. “I was up at 7:30 this morning buying these things in the Garden District.” The nice irony to all of this? The trees now lining the front of The Breslin’s giant windows give the restaurant more of the Ace Hotel’s natural, northwestern-born feel. But Friedman quickly jumped off to greet some other friendly faces in the restaurant — a handsome guy named Todd, who may or may not work in the food industry, who’s Page Six sighting I was maybe reading just as Friedman jumped up to greet him there with two other guys. Before he skated off, Friedman promised that the John Dory would, in fact, be re-opening in a location to be announced.

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The mains arrived: the beef tongue sandwich arrived on had a nice, crunchy bite to it, and the tongue — instead of your typical deli-thin slicing — was almost a patty, from which a hit of strong, garlicky, beefy flavoring emerged on each bite. It was glorious. The malt vinegar and sea salt fries were nice, sausage-sized bites, but a little overly salted, though that could be dealt with after a little fork scraping of the salt flakes that stayed on top. Ketchup had to be asked for, and there was a heated discussion about ketchup-distribution procedure between what appeared to be the bar manager and a server. No mayo came with it, which for gastropubby food was a little surprising, as was the fact that the guys next to me got some without asking. With the sandwich came a perfect-sized, half-cup portion of lentil soup that had a nice few droplets of oil sitting on top; it maybe could’ve used a dash more salt, but considering the fries, I was good. Only service issue besides the ketchup was the iced tea — basic, offered with simple syrup — which took until the main arrived to get refilled.

The receipt came, and the salad charge wasn’t there … nice. Total, without the salad charge, with tip: $36 for one lunch (sandwich, fries, iced tea), which was more than enough to be full and take home. The salad was just an order to see what they could do with vegetables, which was, naturally, a savory, spicy shindig.

Other notes: music ranged from Outkast, to B.I.G., to Wilco. Place stayed at a nice noise level the entire time. If I’d crunched my time, in-and-out would’ve been thirty to forty-five minutes. Dinner service hasn’t started yet, but it’s forthcoming.

Verdict: Small service kinks and slight (but: subjective?) salt issues to be worked out; then again, it’s British bar food. Salt’s the name of the game. Fatwa on Friedman is over for now. The new Battle of The Breslin’s gonna be getting a two-top for 1pm lunch, which, from the looks of it, will be well worth whatever effort’s put in to doing so. Next mission: Breakfast. Menu below:

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New York Opening: Ace Hotel at $99/Night

Seattle hipster hotspot the Ace Hotel is ready to take on the boutique hotel game one city at a time; they already have Portland, and now, with openings in Palm Springs and a New York location, are quickly vying for a piece of the hot-crash-spot pie in vacay locs across the country (though: Palm Springs? Really?). Both of the new outposts are going to be offering a special opening rate (New York at $99/night, Palm Springs at $89/night), which — all things/regular room rates considered — is an incredible steal, especially since the price of a room at a place like the Ace is going to shoot up by at least 100% a month or two after they’re done with any kind of soft opening.

And chances are — at least with the NYC location — rates will rise another 100% after that once the as-yet unnamed Ken Friedman/April Bloomfield (of Spotted Pig and John Dory fame) restaurant opens inside the hotel. Some awesome shots of the place from Apartment Therapy, via W. We placed a call to the Ace to find out what’s up with the $99 rate; they’re taking a limited number of reservations during April and May. Again, may we suggest to any and all chic hotel geeks: get on it, now.

Industry Insiders: Taavo Somer, Rustic Freeman

Freeman’s and Rusty Knot co-owner Taavo Somer talks about his failed busboy career, the proper use of porno paneling, and why he strives for simplicity when doing three jobs at once.

Point of Origin: I moved here when I was 27, for a job at Steven Holl Architects. And my first day was an immediate wake-up call that it wasn’t gonna work out. I had been working in big firms for years, and this was my dream job. And when that disillusionment came, I thought: screw architecture. I’ll do something else. A friend there knew Serge Becker. I thought I’d be a busboy, learn to tend bar. When I met him, he was like, “Why do you want to work in a bar? I have no busboy openings but I have a project.” It turned out to be Lever House, which he was working on with John McDonald, and the designer Marc Newson. Serge didn’t have a trained architect in his office, so he said, “Do this until a busboy position opens up!”

Occupations: I co-own Freeman’s and the Rusty Knot. I was going to throw a big New Year’s party at a club Serge was opening in Brooklyn. The club didn’t open in time, and Serge felt bad, so he introduced me to this space on Chrystie Street. The landlord was cool with the party, but he said we had to use the alley entrance off Rivington. As soon as I saw the alley, the party dissolved, and I wanted to open a café. I already had a concept for a restaurant, and I just put the concept in the space. That’s how Freeman’s came about. The Rusty Knot is a 1950s nautical bar, really mellow, cheap materials, cheap drinks, 50-cent pool table, free jukebox. It’s got porno paneling, you know, fake wood like the Calvin Klein basement ads. The building itself is pretty unremarkable. But if you find yourself being a snob about something, my instinct would be to embrace and explore it, and that’s when epiphanies occur. It’s born from the location on the West Side highway. It’s not beautiful.

Side Hustle: I never wanted to do just one thing. When I was first in New York I was spending a lot of time in NoLita, which back then was really kinda cool. I started going into Selvedge and lamenting with Carlos [Quirarte, now of Ernest Sewn] about the state of New York nightlife, how there’s no Mudd Club. Where was the good rock party? So we decided to throw our own at the Pussycat Lounge. I started making T-shirts. And we sold them at Selvedge. Then we got in trouble, because the owners didn’t know. But they sold out. If I didn’t have the discipline I learned from architecture I wouldn’t be making clothes today. Now, we have Freeman’s Sporting Club. I design suits and shirts. The aesthetic of the restaurant definitely influenced the aesthetic of the clothing and the store itself. There’s also a barbershop in the store, and we just opened another, FSC Barber, on Horatio Street.

Favorite Hangs: Between Freeman’s and the Rusty Knot, there’s only a couple of nights a week that I’m free. I go to the Spotted Pig, because it’s like family there. I usually eat dinner at Il Buco once a week. I still go to Frank and Lil’ Frankie’s once in awhile … I have friends there. I go to a lot of the dive bars that I used to go to, like Joe’s Bar. In London I go to Rules, and in LA, for whatever reason, I like going to Dan Tana’s.

Industry Icons: Luc Levy, who owns Café Gitane. I love his set-up … he’s got his spot, it’s been open for 11 years, one owner … it’s an effortless business plan. Serge Becker, definitely. You could throw out ideas, and if he used it, he’d always credit you. This guy Jason Mclean from the old Loring Café, in Minneapolis. The place had Shakespeare one night, and a gypsy wedding the next, just weird shit happening. Freeman’s got its artichoke dip from there. Sean McPherson and Eric Goode, too. Even though they have a lot of projects, they’re still hands-on and obsessing about doorknobs. When I designed Gemma, I would go antiquing with them and saw just how much they labored over small details.

Known Associates: William Tigertt is my partner for Freeman’s and Freeman’s Sporting Club. My partner at the Rusty Knot is Ken Friedman, who also owns the Spotted Pig and is about to open John Dory. There are a lot of musicians that I love. My friends, kids I grew up with, are in the Hold Steady. I like what they’re doing. Their approach to music, in contrast with what’s happening in the rest of the industry, is really pretty awesome.

What are you doing tonight? I’ll be upstate. I have a house. I’ll just cook and hang out and garden.