Lure Team Continues to Bait People In With New Mexican Joint

Jumping the boat, but not their boat-shaped restaurant, the folks behind Lure Fishbar and Burger & Barrel have caught on to the Mexican trend that has swept the city. Enter El Toro Blanco, which opened yesterday in the West Village.

The soft orange light, concrete floors, warm wood furniture, cool tiled walls, and deep, half moon-shaped booths give the new joint a sleek, Mad Men-meets-Spanish-lunchroom vibe. However, the sliver of a shiny, black-topped bar in one corner brings the décor to the modern world, and the list of over 75 tequilas and mezcals puts it right on par with other Mexican bars around like Mayahuel, Viktor & Spoils, and Empellon Cocina.

Of course, El Toro Blanco doesn’t stop at drinks. They offer an array of pan-Mexican dishes executed by head chef Josh Capon and consulting chef Scott Lindquist, including Lobster Puerto Nuevo, tuna tartare tacos, Salmon Parillada, and their Sonoran Cheese Crisp, which is made with Mexican cheese, poblano rajas, roasted tomato, and epazote. They also have a guacamole bar and are cooking up a whole roasted goat wrapped in banana leaf that gets slow roasted for six hours and that, according to their website, may become the Sunday special.

Based on chef Josh Capon’s track record, the success of Lure Fishbar, and the photos they have posted of the dishes, all of El Toro Blanco looks pretty special, Sunday or no. 

SUPERBURGER: Burger Battle Royale with Cheese

Eleven chefs have answered the call this year for the sixth annual SUPERBURGER (aka Hamptons Burger Bloodbath) competition at the Montauk Yacht Club this Saturday, and all are in it to win it. For the first time, this formerly invite-only event is selling tickets, giving your average Joe Lunchpail a chance to rub greasy elbows with the cognoscentis of ground chuck and watch as dreams are fulfilled, hopes are dashed, and burgers are eaten.

Headlining the event is Emile Castillo from The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien, with competitors Seamus Mullen of Tertulia, Zak Pelaccio of the Fatty Crab, PJ Clarke’s Mike Defonzo, Sarah Simmons from City Grit, Harold Moore from Commerce, Alex Stupak of Empellon, Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly of Fedora, and PJ Calapa from Sweet Afton. Also present will be last year’s runner-up Jesse Gerstein, James Ramsey, and Ryan Solien of the Montauk Yacht Club reppin’ the host venue. Last but certainly not least, Momofuku Milk Bar’s own Christina Tosi will be concocting madcap confections for dessert. Sitting in judgment of these aspiring meat Michelangelos will be Pat LaFrieda (owner, LaFrieda Meats), Lee Brian Schrager (founder and director, Food Network South Beach and NYC Wine and Food Festival), Spike Mendelsohn (Good Stuff Eatery, and Top Chef contestant), Kate Krader (restaurant editor, Food & Wine Magazine), and Josh Capon (executive chef, Lure Fishbar and B&B Winepub).

Event sponsor Amstel Light is bringing the beer, Pat LaFrieda’s has the meat, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka will supply the higher octane imbibables. Tickets aren’t cheap, but even at $135 a pop, you’re still getting more high-concept burgers than you can comfortably eat, free drinks, and the chance to be a part of burger history. For tickets, go to eater.com/superburger. We start fasting Thursday.

A Real Bloodbath in the Hamptons

“What time does this bloodbath actually start?” asked a young woman hovering by a grill in the Hamptons’ East End. Flesh was burning and blood cooked as people waited anxiously for the fourth annual en vogue cook-off, The Hamptons Burger Bloodbath, to officially begin. But there were no fisticuffs or knife fights at this year’s culinary mayhem (nor any fellatio mishaps, or accidental snorting of Ajax in the kitchen). Everyone in attendance appeared to be in jubilant-spirits as the event, which has gained serious momentum since it started, began heating up in the August afternoon. “It gets bigger and better every year. We have five great burgers this year,” said Ben Leventhal, managing editor of NBC’s lifestyle content and the host of the afternoon. “It should be interesting to see who wins.” What’s the competition? A simple concept born of simple food: hundreds of free gourmet burgers, four judges, five contestants both local and professional, and nearly two hundred animated guests primed to indulge in some of the finest burger eating on Long Island. All of the contestants were instructed to cook with the same beef, sponsored by Pat LaFrieda, and all were encouraged to customize flavors and add fixings as they saw fit, so long as they hewed to this year’s theme: Beach Burger.

This invite-only feast lasted for several hours and was set on traditional red and white-checked picnic tables that were spread across the spacious lawns of an exclusive summer beach home. Photos snapped, smiles were exchanged, and bottled drinks of every blend were handed out—including the very appropriate sponsor item BluePrint cleansing drink for an after burger colon wash. Everyone here knew everyone’s name (there was only one stranger). A few guests had even gone to grade school together.

By the time the grills were raging, word whipped around the party that the press was floating about, and the crowd became instantly quotable. “I ate so many fucking burgers last summer,” mentioned Joanne Wilson, a blogger who’s been “involved with the internet for years. I write about everything. I’ll write about this event too.” Perhaps she’ll allude to the lack of recycling bins at this year’s party?

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One man asked if there was sufficient material to write about. “Are you getting what you need?” he asked. He then filled in the silence with, “I’m sure you’ll get what you need. How many beers deep are you?”

From across the yard, Josh Capon shouted, “I’m starving. Let’s eat already!” Mr. Capon, 2009’s Bloodbath Burger champion and head chef at Lure Fishbar in Soho, believes that a good burger represents”a lot of love and a quality product.” Mr. Leventhal echoed this sentiment, adding his thoughts on what distinguishes one burger from another. “It’s not just the condiments. It’s the intangibles, too. Today should be fun.” The four panel judges sat at a table with a tightly woven crowd eagerly awaiting their response. The lineup included Pat LaFrieda, the supplier of the meat, Kate Krader editor at Food and Wine, Lee Schrager of the Food and Wine Festivals, and the aforementioned Josh Capon. “It’s going to be a difficult choice this year,” added Lee Schrager. But in the end it was house resident Mo Koyfman and his classic American burger that won the competition. The crowd rallied in applause, and he absorbed every bit of their adulation.

His winning treat was responsibly dressed in local tomato, pickle, lettuce, American cheese, ketchup, and Dijon mustard (subtle subversion), all stuffed between a lightly-grilled bun. His intent was to stir up judges and guests’ nostalgia, and ultimately to remind everyone that Americana wins again. But the other burgers had their own unique flavors, too: house resident Cobi Levy (of Charles and the hotly-anticipated tapas spot in the old Beatrice space) concocted a spicy Asian burger; Joe Tremblay of Sag Harbor’s Bay Burger brought out their Bleu cheese Bacon favorite; New York City’s new American restaurant, Whitmans, represented by Larry Kramer and Dan Hartwick, put together a ‘’juicy Lucy” stuffed with pimento cheese; and Westside NYC’s restaurant, bobo, featuring chef Patrick Connolly, unloaded a unique corn-squash spread for their bun.

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The attendees continued to discuss their favorite burgers well after the panel doled out its decision. One young woman sparked up a heady conversation about the famous cultural critic Jean Baudrillard. (Perhaps the beef excited her imagination?) She said she found it fascinating how Baudrillard depicted modern American life as merely a series of illusions that will slowly disappear.

As the August light began to fade, the crowd dispersed to various after and after-after parties. Smoke rose up from the smothered coals.

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These Restaurants Will Make You Thin

What are the thin people really eating? The British Journal of Nutrition just published a study this month saying that the trimmest people, those who weighed the lightest, flaunted the slimmest waists, and were proud owners of the smallest hip circumference, had the highest levels of omega 3 fatty acids in their blood. After investigating the commonality, I found that these people were in fact not freebasing flaxseed oil. They were, however, loading up on foods that were rich in omega 3s — grass-fed beef, flaxseed, soy, salmon, etc. No one knows for sure what omega 3s do for the diet exactly … they may stimulate hormones that make you feel full, and they have been shown to improve circulation, which can also aid in weight loss and reducing inflammation. Whatever the case, you can get slim while you dine in New York this weekend; head to a few of these “healthy” joints to load up on the good stuff.

Salmon This cold-water oily fish is optimal for omega 3 intake, and these restaurants are extra careful on choosing their fish. If you’re worried about that whole mercury poisoning thing, take heed: Harvard’s School of Public Health reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the benefits of fish intake far outweigh the potential risks. Petrossian (Midtown West) – Perhaps the Carnegie Hall scene is a bit on the hoity-toity side, but the Guatemala shrimp & smoked salmon, salmon roe salad, and premier smoked salmon served with toast points, crème fraiche, and fresh dill are all delish and good for your waist, One If By Land Two If By Sea (West Village) – Feel great on your romantic date by imagining your ass is shrinking with every bite of your smoked salmon. Blue Ribbon Sushi (Soho) – Double your pleasure with a menu that’s heavy in salmon and soy — another omega 3 favorite. Sake tataki, salmon tartare, and that sake shiso salmon with shiso are some to sample. Lure Fishbar (Soho) – A great seafood hot spot, the salmon tartare and grilled salmon with spaetzle, peas, smoked onions, and herb vinaigrette make everything about the resto well-rounded, so your midsection won’t be.

Flaxseed Though is sounds like something health nuts go nutty for, flaxseed is six times richer than most fish oils in omega 3s. The Pump (Flatiron) – Get your flaxseed on with the Pro-Omega shake, a mixed fruit, apple juice, acai, flaxseed oil, and whey protein concoction that is not as scary as it sounds. Actually, I would venture to call it yummy. Organic Avenue (Lower East Side) – Organic health food emporium where you can add flaxseed to just about anything. Try the flax-full fiesta chips.

Grass-Fed Beef Beef fattened on grass is typically waayyyy healthier than all the other crap out there. Now that restaurants know that we now know this, they’ve upped their game. Here are a few restos that get it and get it right. Craftsteak (Chelsea )- Superchef Tom Colicchio’s flesh venture does meat right, and just because the beef is priced by fattiness doesn’t mean it will go straight to your hips. Savoy (Soho) – Their hamburger, made from divine grass fed beef and served with French fries and house ketchup, is pitch perfect. Blue Hill (Greenwich Village) – They have their own farm. You have to guess the Blue Hill Farm veal with broccoli rabe, roasted potatoes, and string beans is true to its name.

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New York: Top 10 Places to Spot Robert Pattinson

Robert Pattinson was here in New York for a while, where, like a mirage of tousled sex, he dodged fans while flitting from hotel to bar to hotel. If the young gentleman can ever again summon the courage to return to Manhattan — and its chorus of “OHMYGAWD ITSEDWARDILOVEEDWARD ICOULDJUSTDIEEEEEEEE” — here is a list of his favorite places to hide. Stalk away!

Pearl Street Diner (West Village) – According to this man’s Twitter account and this blogger’s mobile photos, the no-fuss West Village eatery was closed on July 15 when it became a filming location for Pattinson’s new movie. When asked for comment, Pearl’s cooks said, “We’ll never wash our hands again.”

Gemma (East Village) – Late last month, Pattinson was spotted dining at the Bowery Hotel restaurant with his blonde Remember Me co-star Emilie de Ravin — which makes sense, because the place is dark, sexy, and features “Late Night Bites.” ● B Bar & Grill (East Village) – Pattinson was once spotted exiting the East Village eatery and mega-patio at 1:30 in the morning after a night of pizza and Peroni with a crew of friends that included Calvin Klein firebrand Eva Mendes. ● The Cabin Down Below (East Village) – In celebration of a friend’s birthday, Pattinson reportedly spent a night holed up in this small model-and-rock star hang in the East Village. At the very least, even if he’s not here, you’re guaranteed to lock eyes with a Stroke or Agyness Deyn. ● Don Hill’s (Soho) – This one doesn’t exactly count, because the 23-year-old actor was on site filming a scene with Remember Me co-star Tate Ellington. Still, in its sweaty Squeezebox heyday — and its subsequent rebirth as the home of the MisShapes’ weekly debacle — this would have been a can’t-miss for Pattinson. ● Il Cantinori (Greenwich Village) – Pattinson was seen noshing on a Caprese salad and veal entrée in this dimly lit Greenwich Village hotspot. (His merry band of masticators added a modest $50 tip to their $350 bill.) ● Black & White (East Village) – Pattinson was instantly noticed by an anonymous fan when he walked into this oft-packed East Village bar. Allegedly, after three beers, he was overheard saying, “I need to stay away from women born after 1988 … ” ● Lure Fishbar (SoHo) – Not surprisingly, this SoHo seafood abattoir is an underground affair, and rumored to have hosted Pattinson during his New York retreat. ● The Stanton Social (Lower East Side) – For its “A Night Out With …” column, The New York Times brought director Catherine Hardwicke and her vegetarian cash cow to this tri-level Lower East Side restaurant, where the group sampled Chef Chris Santos’ macaroni-and-cheese and fish tacos. Later, they headed over to the nearby Death & Co, of which BlackBook said, mistakenly, it’s “vampire-free, at least as far as we can tell — it’s dark in here.” ● Cafe Gitane (Nolita) – The breakfast offerings here are unparalleled, the people-watching perches impressive and close friends say they saw Pattinson here. But they also swear that I look cool in hats.

Industry Insiders: 1Oak’s Woodsmen

At the tastefully burnished 1Oak, four vastly different drivers are at the wheel. Richie Akiva, Jeffrey Jah, Ronnie Madra, and Scott Sartiano, partners in the timeless, game-changing venue. “You have a southern boy here, a bred New Yorker, a Canadian and an Indian” says Akiva, one quarter of the 1Oak braintrust. The diversity of its management has proven to be key in building 1Oak’s wide-ranging clientele. “We wanted 1Oak to bring nightlife back to what was fun about New York” he says. “An eclectic mix of people — gay, straight, artists, celebrities, yuppies, blacks, whites.” The result? A $3 million lounge filled with everyone from Jay-Z to Giorgio Armani to Union Square skateboarders, and happily turning a huge profit. “The fact is,” says Sartiano, “we’ve paid back 110% of our investments in one year.” Avowing that culture could never be wiped out by a weakened Wall Street, Akiva harkens back to the disco era: “I sometimes refer to myself as the new Steve Rubell.” Here, the gentlemen talk the talk to shed light on how they walk the walk. How did you guys all come together? Scott Sartiano: I think we all met and we all came together working at the same place — called Life — years ago. It was maybe the last great nightclub. We all just sort of kept tabs on each other for years. Then Richie decided to open up Butter, and he asked me to get involved with him. Then we asked Ronnie to get involved, and it just kind of grew from there. Richie Akiva: It was a good working relationship that we had together. I had asked him to start something on a Monday night, because that was our slow restaurant night. I told them, “I think should really start a party,” different from all of this stuff that was going on in New York City that was just like, way commercial.

What kind of stuff? RA: I’m not going to say names of places, but other people that were running their parties and running their clubs in New York were making it really overhyped. And since we started as a restaurant, I thought we could keep it more exclusive than a bar, and not whore it out as a full-on club. Eventually everybody else involved at first kind of fell off the map as we were doing this party, because I guess they just couldn’t hack it with us. And Ronnie, his relationship with us grew stronger as everyone else’s kind of disintegrated. He stuck with us for so long, and he’s a very loyal guy, and he’s very good at what he does, and he matched us and what we do, very well. Ronnie Madra: Well, we’re friends first. Do you think that has a lot to do with your business success? RA: Yes, I think our friendship is important. I think what has the most to do with our success is that we’re all really different. We have similar friends that run in the same circles, but we also have our own lives and our own friends, and our own people that support us and love us, and take care of us. So, it’s kind of like we bring all these people together, and since we’re all different, and coming from different worlds, it went well. I find, from my point of view, that there seems to be a lot of backstabbing, and just poor business ethics, in your industry. Do you think that trust is a big element of the reason why some places work out and some places don’t? Is it that working dynamic which ultimately has a lot to do with the success? SS: Well, I have to say, we come from a different school in a way of doing business in this industry. We come from a time where your word is your word, and a handshake is where the trust is. There were no contracts. I think the newer people in this business — they’re the ones that are more back-stabbing than anybody because they didn’t start where we started. This business has gone through a huge change, and before, it was more about your word and a handshake was everything, and if you didn’t trust that, it wasn’t good. Going on that, how has your point of view on basically the climate of the nightlife industry changed now, compared to when you first started? RA: First, it’s not about the quick hit, you know? I love what I do, so does he [points to Madra]. You have to love what you do, and if that’s the pattern that you put yourself into, I think it will be great. I love walking through those doors at night, knowing everything is lined up perfectly, from start to finish. SS: I think it’s gotten way more corporate. The whole business is built on relationships. If you screw somebody over at age 22, at age 32, you’re not going to be friends with them, so it’s like you lose a potential client-friend-customer, for life. And I think a lot of guys would do that — they’re usually young guys who are new to the business. We’ve been doing this for over 10 years, and we’ve built ourselves as a business. We have guys who went from being a bar back, to bartender and now he’s a manager of the club, and he is doing it well. You find people to grow with. Anytime that you screw somebody over in friendship, or business, it ruins this business. And you see a lot of people who have maybe a two-, three-year lifespan in this business, but they’re not around longer than that. RA: I think people took the handshake more seriously than they take a contract, these days. SS: And we don’t use contracts for people who work with us. And everybody else, they sign contracts. It’s like, do you want to imprison someone? Or force them to come to your place when they don’t want to be there? The whole purpose of a place being successful is to get people to want to come and have a good time. So now you’re going to pay somebody who doesn’t want to be there, you’re going to make those people sign a contract? It’s backwards. What do you guys think of the current economic times? Not business in general, but what you see as far as the clientele coming in, or the way people are approaching the idea of nightlife, spending money on alcohol and going out? RA: I can speak for myself — I kind of live in a bubble over here. I don’t really go to many places anymore that I don’t own, and the only effect I see is the corporate business tour, and the marketing dollars, and the corporate dollars, and the sponsorships. In terms of our regular day-to-day business, we haven’t really taken a hit. RM: There was times in New York when it wasn’t driven on people to present their credit cards at the door to get in. We didn’t say, “Oh, okay, we’ll just bank people at the door, and have them come in and take their money.” SS: We don’t have a bottle minimum. RA: We never said, “This is how you get in. This is buying your way into the club.” We wanted it to be back to something that was really fun about New York, you know, an eclectic mix of people — gay, straight, artists, celebrities, models, yuppies, blacks, whites — whatever it is, we wanted them all through those doors. It’s not like you’re pigeon-holing yourself into this, “Oh, that’s a yuppie club, or that’s a hip place.” People have been saying that because of the economy, we’re destined to go back to pre-Giuliani New York: people going out a lot more, and staying out until much later, and basically getting back to a certain level of debauchery. RA: I do see that, without a doubt, I see that. Like I said, I can’t say for any other place, because I don’t really go to many places, but I can see the energy is getting better. There’s a new attitude focused onto going out again. I think alcohol is up, and a lot of things are going down, so it has a lot to do with it. I think people lost a couple million dollars, or this, or that, and they don’t mind going out and spending a little money at night just to forget about the economy, and let loose a little, and let their aggression out, in terms of fun. You have all pretty much said that you don’t really go out to other places. Jeffrey, I know you are pretty vocal about never setting foot in other clubs. The question that comes to mind is how you are able to gauge the competition, or the atmosphere that other places are bringing to the table. Or, is the idea of being involved with competition just sort of stifling? Jeffrey Jah: I read a lot, but mostly I feel that I depend on Scott, Richie, and Ronnie — they go out a lot. I don’t go to other clubs, but I go to other restaurants, and other bars. To me it sends a message that if I’m at somebody else’s club, it shows that my club isn’t hot. So you’re not going to see me sitting at another club. RA: But also, like we said before, we’re very dependent on relationships we’ve built in the past. Jeffrey’s relationships go back 15, 20 years, and they still support him. And they’ve gotten bigger themselves. So, he has his ear to the street, and they tell him what’s going on. JJ: But I also rely on people that aren’t in the business. Twenty years ago and today, you still see creative people, these young artists, young designers, young photographers — those people don’t go away. The models come and go, the girls come and go, the young guys come and go, but people in the arts — they’re here for the long run. They have more of a creative run. Take a stylist. They start out as a young assistant to a stylist, and by the time they’re 25 they’re a stylist, at 30 they’re a senior stylist, at 35 they’re an editor, and by the time they’re in their 40s, they either become a fashion director, or a creative director. They’re here to stay. And they might be more interesting and they have their own context, and their own sense of style, and that is timeless clientele to you … JJ: And I think that’s what we all agree on, and we take pride in. When other people are doing things way more corporate than us, we’re doing things way more artistic. And the people who we know and who come to our place. If Richie doesn’t know one person, Scott will; if I don’t know, Ronnie will know. So, between the four of us, you’re going to find that one of us will know one of those people. And because of our ages we span different generations. RA: So, that’s and edge, you know? You have Southern boy, over there, and Canadian, and an Indian. What the fuck? How did that happen? How the fuck did four guys like us get together? I was actually talking about that the other day. You guys all bring a different perspective and point of view because of where you come from your roots. RM: Yeah, that’s part of the key, because when decisions are made here, there’s never anything done unilaterally. There’s respect enough to say, “You know what — ” SS: ‘”You know more about this than I do, so you take care of it.” RM: I’ll never say, “Richie, this is what you should do,” when he knows exactly what to do, and it’s his area of expertise. RA: If one of us is tired, than the other one is working harder; if one of us is sick, the other one is there ten times more. There is, obviously, an incredible amount of design in the space, and attention to detail. Do you guys ever think that the great attention to detail that’s gone into this place was ever lost on the clientele? JJ: Hundreds of times. RA: We’d been doing the clubs for so long, and from being at everyone else’s clubs, and working, and making other people millions of dollars over the years, we thought, “What can we take, and what can we learn, from all the mistakes they’ve made?” We decided to really pay attention to detail and say, “You know what? It’s all about the details, at this point.” It was a complete decision, from the beginning, to pay attention to detail. Some people are oblivious to the details, but the people who matter, and the people who understand design and taste, and class — they understand. SS: People go out to nightclubs all over the world. You sit in a Ford, and then you’re in a Bentley the next day — you notice the difference. Even if you’re not really looking for it, even if you aren’t an expert. We want our place to be nicer than every where else, we want it to raise the bar, we want people to come here and say, “Wow, that place is really nice.” That’s where you notice it a lot; it’s not here, it’s when you go somewhere else. RA: We never wanted it to feel like a nightclub with lights, and flashings, and strobes, and all that craziness. We wanted an older person in their 30s, 40s, 50s — 60s, even — to accept this place. I had Giorgio Armani in here not too long ago, and he stayed all night. His assistant says, “Armani’s never stayed at a club this long in his entire life. He doesn’t even stay at Armani Privéin Milan that long. He’ll come for a drink.” But here he didn’t want to sit down, he stood in front of the table all night just looking around. And he was in awe. JJ: Same with Dolce and Gabbana. RA: Yeah, and Armani had to go to the Oscars the next day in L.A., and he stayed until 4am; he stayed literally until we turned the lights on. He said everyone in New York was at 1Oak, and he said it was the best place. I mean that night was very crazy. We had Leonardo DiCaprio here. See, when you look at 1Oak, it doesn’t look like a club, it looks like someone’s home. You’re not being thrown into a nightclub atmosphere. You want to stay. What are you guys really impressed with right now, in terms of restaurants? SS: I like Waverly. RM: I like the Minetta Tavern; it’s actually very nice. JJ: But I’m really old school. I go to the same places. I go to Bar Pitti. RM: We’re creatures of habit. We’ll go to like, Blue Ribbon Brasserie. SS: I go to the Spotted Pig. RM: Lure Fishbar. I like to go where we can listen to music and just hang out. RA: We go to Butter all the time. Monkey Bar. I check out everything when they open to see if I like it. RM: Other clubs don’t impress us, really. I walk into a club, and we’ll dissect it completely. “Oh, they didn’t do this right, they didn’t do that right. How could they do that?” It’s insane, in a way. But that’s why it’s hard when we go out. So, how do you guys go out an let loose? RM: Not in New York. JJ: I leave the country. RM: We go to Europe, or somewhere else. We’re very different when we’re not in New York. RM: Here, we are in the service industry. We’re all in hospitality mode. JJ: I’m 40 years old — I wouldn’t live two minutes, after 25 years, if I didn’t love what I do. RA: You’re 40? Damn, old man. I’m right behind you.

What are some of the projects you guys can talk about now? SS: We’re trying to open more Butters, as well. We have one in North Carolina. It will probably be complete in September. What made you attracted to North Carolina? SS: I’m from there, so it’s kind of almost like a personal project with the developer. JJ: This guy’s the Mick Jagger of the Carolinas. RA: The Southern heart-throb. North and South. SS: We’re just focused on really, here, with the economy, and everything. I think we’re all really happy, and we’re fortunate with how well this place is doing, and how well our hard work is paying off. The recession is kind of filtering out the corporate backstabbers that you spoke about in the business. RA: I think that’s really what the recession has proven: All the real artistic people, all the people who are doing something cool, and fun, and new, and real — they’re going to be around for a while, and I think the people that just come in don’t really understand the business, or have just decided one day that they want to open up a club just because they had money, or just because they wanted to be cool, those are the ones that are going to fail, and I think the recession is weeding out all the bullshit. Back in the 70s, when there was disco, and Steve Rubell, and the people in that industry, today have earned themselves a certain notoriety; it’s legendary. I know it’s hard to look at the work you guys are doing, in hindsight right now, but do you think you guys aspire to that kind of iconic nightlife representation? RA: I sometimes refer to myself as the new Steve Rubell. RM: [Laughs] I’m going to start calling you Richie Rubell. RA: No, I’m serious, I am the new Rubell. SS: I think more than anything else, sometimes, it’s hard to step outside of yourself and say, “Wow, what I did is really cool,” or, “Wow, we’re living in a moment.” Sometimes, when I’m in a cab and I’m saying, “Take me to 17th and 10th Avenue,” and the cab driver says, “Oh, 1Oak.” I know it sounds stupid, but when you hear from someone that’s never really been to our place, that really knows nothing about it, to have heard about it, that kind of makes you say, “Hey, what should we do next? What are we going to call it? What’s it going to look like?” I think years from now, I will look back and say, “Wow, that was a lot bigger than anybody had ever done before.” At the same time, the one thing about us is that we’re fighters, and we want to do good things and be successful, and when you do that, you always strive to be better tomorrow than who you are today. And as great as that is, I think we all have much bigger plans than just Butter or just 1Oak. What are your aspirations? SS: We plan on doing hotels, and resorts, and luxury condominiums, and things like that. And we’ve had these ideas in the works that we’ve had for a long time. It doesn’t stop at just 1Oak, it’s going to continue to grow. Everything’s been a step further, from the day we started; we take one step back, and two steps forward. RM: But we are aware that things are working well for us, especially with everything else going on. We all wake up and say, “Wow, luckily, our place is doing really well.” There’s a lot of places that people think are doing really well that aren’t. RA: And just to add, we’re kind of like a band. We’re kind of like a U2 band, you know, like, none of those guys do the same thing — we play bass, we’re on guitar, we’re singing, we’re drums. There’s a mutual respect, and there’s a talent and there’s a team, and I think the team is what makes it stronger, because we’re not going to be this one-dimensional group of guys, all going for the same shit like it’s a competition. RA: I actually have something to say, I have something to add. We have been a little bit cocky, because we’ve done well, but the fact of the matter is that we’ve paid back 110% of our investments in one year. And that’s very hard to do, for any other place, in the worst economy. And that’s why I wanted to tell you we paid 110% back, because we’re a little bit happy, in a good place, in our minds, because everyone, since this recession started, has been cutting people, has been firing people, closing — so while everyone is like this, we’re moving up.

Photo by Scott Pasfield

Rioja Restaurant Week: Spanish Sauce on the Cheap

imageFrom April 26 to May 2, New York’s getting an obscure holiday — Rioja Restaurant Week. It’s like Normal Restaurant Week, but instead of being inspired merely by New Yorkers’ inherent desire to eat fine foods on the cheap, it throws oenophilia into the mix. La Rioja, an autonomous region in northern Spain, produces a full range of wines … rosés, reds, whites. Riojans claim their wine pairs better than any other in the world, and to prove it, they’ve set up a bunch of deals with a few participating restaurants all over Manhattan to get the word out.

For example:

● A 25% discounted bottle of Rioja at Stanton Social, Veritas, and The Mermaid Inn.

● A $50 prix-fixe at Chinatown Brasserie, Tailor, and Flex Mussels.

● Call for changing Rioja specials at Lure (where you can also use your BlackBook iPhone app to get a sweet happy hour deal), Smith’s, Las Ramblas.

Industry Insiders: Chris Santos, Stanton Street Star

Chris Santos of the Stanton Social on his love of dives, Apothéke owner Heather Tierney, and why thinking too much detracts from dining.

Where do you go out? Well, I’m kind of a dive bar kinda guy both in drinking and for eating. I mean, I obviously enjoy a good Jean Georges or Per Se as much as the next guy, but I like sort of the hole in the wall-y kind of places. One I really love a lot is in Brooklyn. It’s called Franny’s. It’s on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. A really simple rustic Italian, you know, wood-coal pizza and great appetizers and a beautiful garden in the back. On the outskirts of Park Slope basically, near the Manhattan Bridge. I’m a big fan of Back Forty, which is a small little bistro on 12th Street and Avenue B that does just a really outrageous burger and great roast chicken, and you know, simple crispy nuggets and simple, simple rustic comfort food. I’m a sucker for Strip House on 12th and University. It’s like my favorite steakhouse in the city. There’s a lot of crushed red velvet, bordello-y kind of vibe. And they’ve got great wine, and their steaks are, bam! They do a great job with their steak sauce. I go there monthly.

What do you do at Stanton Social? My title is executive chef and owner. My day-to-day life is hectic right now … in addition to this we are trying to get another restaurant together. I am working on the Stanton Social Cookbook. I am consulting for a restaurant group that’s going national. They’re rolling out 50 restaurants nationwide, and I am rewriting all their menus for them. I was in Las Vegas all summer helping my partner open the restaurant in club Lavo. I have two partners: Peter Kane, who in addition to this he owns Happy Ending bar, and he was the guy who opened Double Happiness, which closed just recently. And my other partner is Richard Wolf, who owns Tao, Tao Las Vegas, Lavo, Rue 57.

You rave about the vibe and loyalty in your kitchen at Stanton Social. Where have you worked that had a stressful vibe? I opened Rue 57, which is a French rotisserie on 57th Street. I was the sous chef, and Sam Hazem was the chef. He was the head chef at Tao for a really long time, and now he’s working to partner with Todd English. But that was just constant stress and drama, and you know it was a really teeny tiny kitchen, putting out enormous numbers.

It seems like if you’re doing more like the low-key, under the radar places; how come your restaurant’s high profile? I’m just lucky I guess. It’s really just upscale versions of street food and comfort foods. We’re not doing anything esoteric here. We’re not really challenging diners. I mean, I like to be challenged, but mostly I don’t. I want to go somewhere and be taken care of, and I want to be able to look at the menu and just kind of understand everything.

Name two people that you particularly admire in the industry. Would it be corny to say my partners? I really admire Josh Capon, who’s the chef at Lure Fishbar. He’s kind of an under-the-radar guy. And that’s kind of an under-the-radar place. He’s a fantastic cook. He was born to be the guy coming out of the kitchen in the white coat, just charming a table. I have a lot of admiration for Heather Tierney. She used to be a food writer at Time Out. She now owns a cocktail bar — Apothéke. She owns Burger Shoppe down on Wall Street, which is like a burger restaurant. She has her own dining concierge service where you’re basically a member, and she gets you reservations in hard to get places. She’s really young — she’s in her twenties, and she’s really passionate about food — and we’ll go out to dinner and just talk about, “Have you been here, have you been there?” We’ll talk about the industry. She’s just super motivated.

Name one positive trend or aspect you see in the restaurant industry. Affordable dining. I see a lot of restaurants opening (in Brooklyn especially) a lot of neighborhood restaurants that are serving really quality food. There’s this place called Buttermilk Channel in Carroll Gardens that just opened. That’s really amazing. Frankies. When I went to Europe — which was like ten years ago — I came back with the feeling that the big restaurants, the name restaurants, the three-star restaurants, Michelin-rated restaurants … I felt they were no better than anything that you could find in New York City. In other words, the top New York City restaurants were better than the top restaurants that I could find in Europe. But I also thought that where they had it on us, all over the place, was the little, tiny neighborhood restaurants and pubs. The food there was so awesome, and you didn’t have that in New York. That is a positive trend. You go down any little street in the Village now and walk into a 40- or 50-seat little Italian trattoria where the food is solid.

What’s changed as far as the restaurant industry goes in New York in the past year? How it’s affecting me directly? You know, we’ve had very ambitious plans to run a restaurant that’s twice the size of this. And we have this space, and we have a lease, and a year ago when were ready to pull the trigger, it would have been a couple of phone calls and a couple of dinners to raise all the money that we needed because you know our track record, not just at Stanton Social, but with my other partners as well. Basically everything any of us have ever done is successful, and everyone’s gotten their money back, and everybody’s making money. You know the investors here are doing very well, and we got the space back in record time. The difference is people now are hesitant to part with the money they have in the bank, with everything that’s been going on. Even though we have a great location, and we have a great track record, and when we open the next place it’s going to do very well. There are people that are so shell-shocked about what’s happened on Wall Street that they just aren’t necessarily willing to keep investing, so that’s something I think that’s really changed. I think you’re going to see the growth of the industry and openings and whatnot coming to a halt.

Do you think people are going to stop going out to dinner? People are going to stop going out to dinner Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I think you’ll still get your Thursday, Friday, Saturday night diners. You’ll still get your Sunday bruncher. And Monday night you’ll get your after-work crowd.