Everyone knows the name Jean-Michel Basquiat. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, he became one of the world’s most influential artists, responsible for revolutionizing the New York art scene by popularizing street art and promoting a radical, political message. But before his paintings were selling for $110,000,00 at auction, Basquiat was living as a homeless teen in NYC’s East Village.
A new documentary, Boom For Real, explores this pivotal time in the artist’s life, which undoubtedly impacted his work and career. From the prevalence of drugs, crime and violence that he witnessed (in the documentary, director Sara Driver shows how his famous tag “SAMO” came from Basquiat seeing the “same ‘ol shit”), to his experiences with class struggle, these themes were at the center of the artist’s work until his untimely death in 1988. While most of the other films about the painter, like Tamra Davis’ 2010 Radiant Child documentary, touch on Basquiat’s career and the effect he’s had on contemporary art, Boom For Real sheds light on his life before fame, and how those experiences shaped him as an artist.
Not all that long ago, New York’s Lower East Side was mostly populated by skint artists, insalubrious rockers, the narcotically challenged and an ethnic mix of people to whom it was just, well, home. There were also only two real places to eat: Katz’s Deli and El Sombrero. You prepped for a four-band bill at the Mercury Lounge with cheap tacos and tequila shots—and attempted to stave off hangovers with a 4 am knish.
Now the neighborhood flaunts Michelin stars and international luxury hotel brands—grumbling about the past won’t change anything. But wildly successful hotelier Sean MacPherson was actually a central figure in the notorious heyday of Downtown NYC nightlife. And his first LES property, The Ludlow—opened in 2014—feels as perfectly Lower East Side as The Bowery Hotel feels East Village (and The Marlton feels West Village).
Admittedly, weekend late nights on the LES can now find one navigating what feels like a casting call for The Bachelorette. But plan right, and you can also enjoy a fabulous Saturday and Sunday here, without ever going north of Houston Street. Here’s how to do it:
Loft King Room at The Ludlow
Noon: Arrive at The Ludlow, drop your bags, request an upper floor room with a sprawling city view. Take leisurely a stroll, arriving for lunch at Dudleys, a groovy all day affair where you can order everything from rice bowls to cheese toasties to schnitzel salads.
3 PM: Check in, spend a lazy hour flopping around on the extremely comfy bed, while raiding the minibar and taking in the glorious New York panorama.
7 PM: Settle in one of the cushy Lobby Bar sofas, order up grilled oysters and a round of particularly stiff tipples, like the Ludlow Gimlet and the bourbon based Pigalle. Groove to your fave Prince, Talking Heads and Duran Duran classics, which make up the hotel’s retro cool soundtrack.
10 PM: Late dinner at Dirty French, the hotel’s supremely buzzy restaurant, which serves up surprising takes on French classics like Provencal scallops, short rib Bordelaise and duck a l’orange. It’s a particularly electric scene after 9pm.
Midnight: Watch Scorcese’s Gangs of New York back in your room. It’s set in turn of the century LES.
10 AM: Order up room service coffee.
11 AM: Take a walk around the Lower East Side when it’s actually quiet. If the weather isn’t cooperating, pop in to the Tenement Museum for an enlightening bit of LES history.
Noon: Have the hotel book ahead for brunch at the perpetually cool Freemans. Hard to imagine, but when Taavo Somer opened it in 2004, there was nothing else like it (old-timey style, plentiful taxidermy, classic Americana cuisine). Despite the scores of imitators since, it’s still the hippest and the best. Indulge in such hearty fare as baked skillet eggs shakshuka, buttermilk pancakes and stone-ground cheddar cheese grits.
2 PM: Check out the current exhibitions (which at the moment include Nicole Eisenman’s Al-ugh-ories and Andra Ursuta’s Alps) at the New Museum, one of NYC’s most forward-thinking art institutions.
3 PM: Take a caffeine break at Caffe Vita, which, despite the Italian moniker, is actually an export from Seattle, serving exquisitely realized, house roasted coffee.
4 PM: Undertake a uniquely LES shopping spree, including stops at the Odd and Assembly boutiques, and a retro vinyl pilgrimage to Deadly Dragon Sound.
7 PM: Believe the hype with dinner at Ivan Ramen. Start with furikake spare ribs, before moving on to the delectable main events, like chicken dan dan and spicy red chili ramen.
9 PM: Join the local cocktail disciples warming the seats Attaboy, a sophisticated spot lorded over by Milk & Honey alums Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy. There’s no drinks menu…so consider it an adventure and an edification.
9 AM: Have a lazy breakfast of smoked salmon scramble and crispy potato pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company, before checking out and showing up late to the office.
Tonight marks the opening of Galli’s second outpost, a restaurant where getting up from your chicken parm to dance, generously poured Gavi in hand, is standard. Galli’s been attracting a fashion crowd from the get go, first on Mercer Street, and now on the LES. Behind the restaurant are Steven Gallo, chef, and Karen Gallo— you may know her from lusting after the shoes and bags she designs.
To celebrate opening night, Karen has put together a playlist for BlackBook, a sample of what’ll be playing at Galli.
“Why do we play this music? This is the music I grew up listening to and everything I design and everything I do has a reference point. This music becomes the starting point for us at Galli. For example, the Beastie Boys…this corner is [where the cover for] Paul’s Boutique [was photographed]… we have to play it!”
Wallpaper in the bathrooms featuring sketches by Karen Gallo, caricaturing staples at the restaurant.
Galli LES is located at 98 Rivington Street at Ludlow, New York, NY
What LES establishment is taking over the old Hope Lounge? It’s rumored that the new Williamsburg spot will sell food and charge a cover, so it could only be from the loins of a select few LES establishments. The management and venue name has yet to be announced, but I’d say Eater guessed right by calling out Libation, the Midtown-esque club and resto on Ludlow. I received a friend suggestion on Facebook today from Stephen C. Maly, a partner at Libation. He suggested I add someone named “Good Co.” Nope, not a website, or an organic movement or Gwyneth’s new GOOP– it’s a new bar under construction at the address of 10 Hope St. Yep, the old Hope Lounge locale. Here are some sneaky peeks of the early stages of Good Co. after the jump.