Lucky Cheng’s Owner On the Big Move to Times Square

When the city closed the gay bathhouses, others came in and reinvented them. Hayne Suthon led the charge for her family, converting the old Club Baths into a series of restaurants and fun lounges. Cave Canem was a Roman- themed joint that had me on day one. Its conversion in 1983 to the drag queen-heavy Lucky Cheng’s was an inspiration. Owner Hayne was the belle of the ball. Throw together Amy Sacco (before she was Amy Sacco) with a little Susanne Bartsch, and a Barnum and Bailey ringmaster with serious legal schooling and bizness-savvy, and you have Hayne.

All was good until the neighborhood changed. The East Village/LES’s conversion from hipster heaven to dormitories for slaves and students left them without their base. Bachelorette and birthday shindigs filled the Lucky Cheng’s room,and Hayne eyed the new Times Square. A year or two ago, I told everyone in town that her space was available and the best game in town. Now, operators are clamoring for it and deals are done… almost. Someone will make it nice for those who are now around. Money will be spent to pay for the rent, the renovation, and other things. The neighborhood can now support that. Whatever fabulous that comes in will set a bar… a tone for the area. Sutra Lounge, available and nearby, should also be scooped up by entrepreneurs going with the flow.

Hayne will bring Lucky Cheng’s to Times Square – and, therefore, the world – this Monday, the 15th. It’s a dream come true for her and her loyal companions. NYC…just like I pictured it.

How will the new space differ?
The difference is the space. It’s a beautiful and theatrical setting, and it’ll feature a different show-formatting. We’ll seat a little over 300 people with a massive staff of waitresses, bartenders, hostesses, and yes, managers – all of whom will perform. There will be an MC also doing a few numbers, but that part of the show will feature less audience participation and more stand-up comedy. With the high ceilings, the two Asian performers have created costumes with height. They’ll have sequins and massive wingspans. Black lights will be a part of the Asian dance numbers. And Richard Krause’s food is going to be simply ridiculously delicious.

How will your marketing change?
The demographic will change: we’ll have tourists, theatergoers… but most importantly, cast and crew of several shows have discovered us and plan to host very organized events and become regulars for after-work drinks. Although not a destination per se, we need to focus on bringing business through concierge outreach, street teams of queens, and partnerships with Broadway shows. Totally new sales and marketing strategies are being developed.

What is your history with the old Lucky Cheng’s space on lower First Avenue?
My history with that building dates back to 1986, when my family purchased the Club Baths, and demoed the building with up-and-coming graffiti artists who filled and tagged 40-yard dumpsters daily. I transformed it into Cave Canem, Lucky Cheng’s opened in 1993 while I was pregnant with my daughter Josephine , who is now attending Sarah Lawrence. Both Lucky Cheng’s and Josephine have grown up together and are simultaneously graduating to the next level.

Can EVR ForEVR Change Midtown?

EVR, pronounced EVER, a new gastro-lounge on 39th St. between 5th and 6th Ave., is set to go with owners who are relatively newbies to the club world. Coming from a legal background, co-owner Alex Likhtenstein has thrown the dice and is nearly ready to go. My pal Carlos Narcisse provides a veteran nightlife presence to affair. The "seam" hood above Herald Square and south of Bryant Park has few residencies and buildings made to order for nightlife. Spaces with high ceilings and solid walls and floors are abundant. EVR has three levels, including a mezzanine and a basement art gallery. Its two bars are built for speed, and there is ample seating for the bottle set. A performance platform dominates the wall opposite the main bar and promises to stir things up. I visited a week ago and was impressed with the flow, spacing, and operational set-up.

District 36 has caused little harm to this neighborhood of offices, wholesale, and retail stores which is basically devoid of people on the big pay-day: Saturday night. Hotel groups are moving in as the area is easy to get to with main drags 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue defining the zone. Public transportation and parking make this an operator’s dream. While all these points are attractive, it is the dearth of other nearby venues and a tradition of nightlife that makes EVR a destination club. Destination clubs must always perform. If you travel outside of your normal path for entertainment, it just has to be good enough to justify the cab fare. Great clubs have existed and thrived off the beaten path. Bungalow 8 was the place to be long before it got surrounded by clubs and lounges. Lotus was a monster hit when the smell of meat still defined the Meatpacking District and the hoes and street folk ran the night. EVR seems to have a built-in fan base who will call it home.

Will strangers come to this strange land? Alex Likhtenstein explains why he will be there… 4EVR.

Why EVR?
I actually didn’t come up with that name myself, but it fits. My good friend Anthony, who’s very involved with the project, said jokingly a couple of months ago, “So you basically want an ever-changing place that everyone will want to go to forever.” His partner Max then said that we might as well call it Ever, and it stuck. EVR looks a lot sexier.

Tell me about your background. How did a nice guy like you fall into this business?
Funny that you should phrase it that way since neither myself nor my principal partner had ever planned on pursuing careers in hospitality. I was a philosophy major in college and planned on pursuing a career in law, while he was a finance major in NYU Stern. We both got into nightclub promoting pretty early on in our college careers, and initially I think that fun was the key motivation. At first we were both hosting separately at nightclubs on 27th street in its heyday, and then one night we were both slow and had to share a table at Cain Luxe. We instantly hit it off as friends, and once we both understood that we were catering to the similar demographic, we started teaming up on projects. It was that next school year we decided to look at things from more than a “let’s go out and get wasted with our hundred closest friends,” perspective and realized we could make some serious money.

We started expanding, building a team, and ended up taking full bar deals at venues on the weekends. Mind you, at this point, while the money was great, we were still doing it more as a side gig while pursuing our respective career goals. It was not until last year, when Ian Magid started hating his finance job and I started to get very disillusioned about the current law market that we began to think of the realistic possibility of a more long-term stay in the industry. In January we were approached by an operator about a new project in Midtown that needed someone to head the marketing and promotions. We fell in love with the potential of space (it was a vacant office space at the time) and of the area. So rather than taking a job, we countered by offering to buy the place.

Do you think that the hood’s experience with District 36 helped or hurt your chances of obtaining a license?
I don’t think District 36 affected us very much in terms of licensing because we’re a completely different animal. District 36 is a huge venue that, from what I understand, was created primarily for large-scale EDM shows. We’re an intimate gastro-lounge with an interactive concept.

What do you mean by "interactive concept?”
One thing that has consistently bothered me about New York nightlife is that while one might assume that the most exclusive and high-end venues and parties are also the most fun, the opposite is often the case. And that’s not to say that many of these high-end places can’t be fun, or are never fun. Many of them have perfected an amazing formula and those people who aren’t really in the scene are consistently wow’d by the sparklers and the bottle parades and the celebrities. But the people in the scene – the models, the consistent clients, the promoter groupies (male and female) – are often the ones you see bored on their cell phones. And why shouldn’t they be? They’ve seen it all before.

What we’ve always wanted to do was create an atmosphere where a high-end crowd can feel comfortable, really letting loose on a consistent basis; in other words, a place where everyone will be part of the party rather than just watching it. To do this, we’ve been working on programming that includes constant interactive performances and acts to engage the entire crowd, not just whoever spent the most on a table. This interactive focus, coupled with our delicious mixology, unique décor, and dynamic music, will create an all-encompassing and unique experience for our customers. You are surrounded by offices. How much does the after-work crowd figure into your bottom line?
The after-work crowd is the backbone of our business model. We’re not under any illusions about the area we’re in; it’s not Meatpacking, and all the special programming and branding that we’re putting in to make us a real destination place won’t be cheap. Our strong after-work programming will be essential in both our long and short-term success. We’re in a perfect area for after-work, and I really believe that by bringing a little downtown to Midtown, we’ll have an amazing after-work following. Moreover, we’ll be one of very few places in the Garment District catering to the fashion crowd, which will be a huge draw.

With that being said, the neighborhood is quiet on Saturday nights, no after-work scene. What will your programming be like?
We hope that our interactive concept and client relations will set us apart and create the destination. But while the neighborhood can be quiet right now, I think there’s a lot of untapped potential in the area. There are some great high- end hotels in the area, like The Setai and Bryant Park Hotel, there’s a beautiful boutique hotel being built just three storefronts down from us, and I’ve been hearing a lot of rumors about other hip places opening up in the neighborhood in the coming year. So while it may not be Meatpacking, we will make sure to make the EVR experience one that’s worth a trip to Midtown. I think we’re very much pioneering what has the potential to be the next ‘it” area.

What does the place look like? What is the seating like? I hear you have a zillion TVs and a small stage.
When you walk in, you see the main dance floor and the mezzanine level, with a unique performance platform on your upper left side – the bar is on your right. Past the bar is the DJ booth, the banquettes, and the couches on the main floor, with modernist eclectic furniture in the mezzanine. We designed the place to best facilitate what we are trying to accomplish. Comfort level is important, and that’s why we opted for larger, more comfortable tables rather than just squeezing in as many as possible.

For the décor, we wanted to keep a lot of the raw elements of the space intact, which resulted in a high-end industrial style that our designer dubbed “rough-luxe.” Majestic 20-foot tall columns, bold architectural beams, and texturized walls are grazed with indirect lighting. Blackened steel, copper metal mesh, and ebonized, reclaimed-wood are used as the primary finishes, resolving many of the new architectural elements, such as the facade and the bars. The existing concrete floors have been sandblasted and coated in a highly polished epoxy resin. Metallic-embossed leather covers the banquettes, and industrial copper barstools surround the bar. A dramatic wall is clad in a geometric composition of copper, amber, and smoked mirror panels, and the main lounge features a cubist- inspired mural depicting the female form in the "EVR”-changing movement.

As far as TVs, we only have them behind the one-way mirrors that are behind the bar; this allows us to turn them on when it’s appropriate, and hide them when it’s not. The only other TV-like things that we have are our projection screens, but those are strictly for corporate events.

Pineapple-Caramel Margaritas & A Taco Shack Hit NYC Today

What did I just hear? The sound of acoustic guitar music and pork belly sizzling on an open grill? Yes. With today’s opening of Tequila Park, the new tequila and taqueria at the Hudson Hotel, NYers are offered an evening of sipping strawberry-mint and pineapple-caramel margaritas, holding a maple-braised taco in one hand and kimchi shrimp nachos in the other, and reclining into a sea of throw pillows –  all to the sweet sounds of live, acoustic guitar music and a 20-foot outdoor movie screen playing black-and-white classics.

With 40 kinds of tequilas and an actual taco shack doling out Sriracha cheese steak and tuna tacos, Tequila Park is basically that place you go when you 1. Can’t afford to go to Mexico 2. Are sick of eating pasta and 3. Have a “thing” for sexy, scruffy acoustic guitar players.

Get the inside-scoop on Tequila Park, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

This Week’s Miami Happenings: Easter Brunch At The Ritz, BrazilFoundation, Greek Opens In Midtown

SUNDAY: Easter Brunch Gets A Makeover At The Ritz
Easter celebration gets a posh upgrade thanks to the holiday shenanigans The Ritz-Carlton South Beach has in store for this Sunday. The Bistro One LR serves brunch, which will include a holiday-inspired buffet complete with a raw bar, meat carving stations, champagne cocktails, and chocolate homage to the Easter bunny. Still have room for more? The celebration continues at DiLido Beach Club, where the purchase of a bottle of Moet Ice champagne or two bottles of rosé will get you a pound of free stone crabs.

Easter brunch is happening at The Ritz-Carlton South Beach (1 Lincoln Rd, South Beach) on Sunday the 31st. For details, check out the listing in BlackBook Guides.

TUESDAY: BrazilFoundation Gets Sexy At Vizcaya
Wanna hit on the future Victoria Secret angels in training or scrutinize the legit bombshells who already earned their wings? Arguably the sexiest altruistic undertaking this side of the equator, the BrazilFoundation is holding its second annual gala at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens to generate resources for the community-led initiatives, while showing off some of its homeland’s best-looking assets.

BrazilFoundation Miami’s second-annual gala is happening this Tuesday at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (3251 S. Miami Ave., Coral Gables.) For tickets, visit the official website.

NOW: Greek Bites Debut In Midtown
Midtown’s international culinary line-up in is adding a Hellenic joint to its eclectic mix: Kouzina Greek Bistro. The Bistro promises to serve an authentic fare, thanks to a mash-up of herbs, extra-rich olive oils, honey, and pungent kalamata olives executed by the chef Alexia Apostolidi, who arrived from Greece literally last week.

Kouzina Greek Bistro (3535 NE 2nd Ave., Midtown)is open now. For details, check out the listing in BlackBook Guides. 

Know every inch of this city by visiting BlackBook’s Miami City Guides. Be the first to know about the latest openings & events in NYC by signing up for the weekly BlackBook Happenings email. 

Delmonico’s Dresses Down to Spread Its Reign: Q&A With Owner Dennis Turcinovic

When brothers John and Peter Delmonico opened the first Delmonico’s in Downtown Manhattan in 1827, they helped pioneer fine dining in the city. As one of the top establishments of its time, the famous steakhouse created what are now classic dishes including lobster Newberg, baked Alaska, and of course, the Delmonico steak.

Over the years, the original Delmonico’s changed hands and buildings. Now, it’s owned by Dennis Turcinovic, who just opened Delmonico’s Kitchen, a more laid back version of the iconic fine dining joint. This is just the beginning of a chain of Delmonico’s as they plan to open locations all across the world. I chatted with Turcinovic to find out just what he has in mind.

What does it mean for Delmonico’s to open a more casual eatery?
We are so excited to bring the history of the original Delmonico’s to Midtown. Even though Delmonico’s is my home and where I was raised, I wanted to create a certain ambiance at Delmonico’s Kitchen, a place that is louder, hipper, and has a spin on the modern techniques of cooking. When I’m not working, I tend to go to places where I can wear a jacket, jeans and cool sneakers. That’s what we want to offer our customers.  I wanted to use the Delmonico’s brand and the long-standing history we have so people know they’re going to get a good meal and a good experience.

How does it relate to the original, iconic location?
Delmonico’s is not your father’s steak house. Our goal was to recreate the downtown classics in a chic, modern way uptown. You’ll notice our light fixtures are transcendent of a historic steakhouse however paired with modern placard wood, gold painted accents, and deep red upholstery, We’ve collided both the old and new world. As far as food, you’ll find many of our signature dishes invented at Delmonico’s on our menu at Delmonico’s Kitchen, but with an updated twist. For example, our classic Eggs Benedict is transformed with the addition of a crab cake, quail egg and d’espelette hollandaise. We also took some dishes that were invented at Delmonico’s but never made the menu downtown and put a modern twist on them. One of my personal favorites is the Pan Roasted Gianone Chicken Marengo. We’ve added shrimp and hen egg to the recipe for a unique collision of flavors.

I hear you want to expand worldwide, what brought this on?
Working in the Financial District for 15 years, I have met many notable, influential and inspiring people. The Delmonico’s brand is so well known that no matter where you go out to eat, there is always a connection to the restaurant’s iconic history. I remember walking into a butcher shop about 10 years ago and seeing a Delmonico’s rib chop. I asked the butcher where it came from and he said an iconic restaurant. The sense of pride I had at that moment gave me the inspiration and desire to build and expand upon such an already powerful brand. New York has nearly 47 million foreign and American tourists visit each year. Everyone wants to experience all the wonders of the city from music to arts to cuisine. Expanding Delmonico’s worldwide would allow patrons to experience a piece of culinary history as well as New York and American history. 

What areas do you want to open Delmonico’s in first? Why?
We want to start opening Delmonico’s Kitchen locations in larger domestic cities such as Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and Washington DC. We want to keep the integrity and history of the restaurant, so we plan to keep control of the brand and hope to partner with larger brands and hotels for support.

Will you keep the signature items on the menu?
We will absolutely continue to preserve Delmonico’s history by keeping some of our signature items on the menu.  Delmonico’s wouldn’t be Delmonico’s without the Delmonico Steak, Lobster Newburg or Baked Alaska.

What makes Delmonico’s so special?
Delmonico’s is a family owned and operated business. Some of our waiters have been with us since before I was born. Everyone who is part of the original Delmonico’s has a sense of pride and passion for the restaurant and that’s something we don’t see too often these days. Every day that I go to work, I’m keeping a piece of history alive. 

How did the downtown Delmonico’s weather the storm?
Delmonico’s felt the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. The lower level of the restaurant suffered from flooding. A couple of our private dining rooms were flooded and caused equipment to move around. We immediately hired a crew and even though we didn’t have power for days after Sandy hit, the crew and myself were working with a generator to ensure we would be able to get the restaurant open as soon as possible. We opened our main dining room and bar on November 9 and we are almost complete with the re-build of our lower level.

Afternoon Tea, Reinvented at The Lambs Club

Take everything you know about teatime and throw it out the window, because The Lambs Club in Midtown has added a chic and modern twist. 

“This area is very deprived of places to have a business meetings, and we were thinking about the best way to service our guests,” said The Lambs Club co-owner Margaret Zakarian. “Sometimes you want a coffee or tea, but not with so many courses.”

So instead of a towering display of finger sandwiches, crumpets, and fruits, the team at The Lambs Club now offers small plates by chef and co-owner Geoffrey Zakarian, executive chef Eric Haugen, and pastry chef Bjorn Bottcher. You can choose one selection for $6, three for $16, or if you want to go all out for your afternoon tea, $29 gets you six of the 11 plates. The delicate choices include a beautiful smoked salmon buckwheat blini, tuna tartare, egg salad, petits fours, vanilla bean panna cotta, and of course, buttermilk scones served with clotted cream and house-made raspberry jam.

For teas, the elegant dining room has stuck to the same ones by Le Palais des Thés that they opened with, save for two new grand crus. If you don’t know what a grand crus is, think of it like the fine scotch of the tea world, and at $8 per small pot of their Darjeeling Mission Hill or the $12 for Thé Noir Jukro, you can see why. On the regular, $6 menu you can choose from a refreshing pot of Thé des Sources, made with mint, bergamot, and rose; or go for the caffeine-free Rooibos a la Camomile or their iced tea, which utilizes tea ice cubes so that your beverage won’t get watered down. 

No matter how you take your tea and scones, it’s nice to have refreshing way to do it. Plus, you get to actually see and smell the tea blends before you choose your brew. With any luck, this will just be the push tea needs to become the next hip thing.

Pie Face Set to Take Over Manhattan

Americans are just starting to understand what makes the Australian-style handheld pies so popular down under. Now, with the quickly expanding company Pie Face launching its second of eight new shops planned, in Manhattan, there will be no mystery left.

“If you are going to try something new, New York is a good place to start,” said co-founder and CEO, Wayne Homschek. “We believe what we are doing is like nothing else out there, and, it strikes a chord with people.” He added, “We do meat pies, which are just potpies you can carry around.”

The first Pie Face opened in January in Midtown, and now, said Homschek, they will be opening their second one next month in the same area. More shops opening in November, December, and January 2013—all in Manhattan, will follow this.

“We are focusing on Manhattan because we think there is a huge opportunity here to have a lot of stores,” said Homschek. “Eventually, we will be national.”

Aside from the actual pies, the unique thing about Pie Face is the hours. It is a quick-stop-shop that stays open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and caters not only to lunch goers but also to the drunken crowd stumbling home from the bar. They make breakfast pies with eggs, sweet pies with flavors like key lime and pumpkin, American-flavored pies like southern barbecue, and classics, including chunky steak and chicken-mushroom, which, said Homschek, are the most popular options both in Australia and the states. Another way Pie Face distinguishes itself from other fast food joints is through the quality of their products. Each pie gets made by hand at a facility in Brooklyn, a place, added Homschek that can support at least twenty more stores.

“It’s all made from scratch and when you taste it, it’s the real stuff,” said Homschek.

The only other places in the city to get meat or veggie pies are Tuck Shop and Dub Pies. Homschek said Pie Face makes theirs a little different by using the skills of his brother-in-law cum pastry chef. Instead of a thick, buttery crust, the one at Pie Face is lighter and more like a croissant.

But, just because it tastes fancy doesn’t mean the pies are expensive. Right now, you can buy a little pie for $2.75 or three for $7.50. A large pie goes for $5.95, and, for a couple extra dollars you get a stack of mashed potatoes and peas on top.

Social Eatz Brings NYC’s Only Korean Brunch: Q&A With Angelo Sosa

A little over a year has passed since Top Chef contender Angelo Sosa opened his Asian-fusion joint Social Eatz in Midtown. Now, the chef brings breakfast to the table, and most importantly, he brings breakfast ramen. I caught up with Sosa to find get the skinny on brunch and to see how a year of social eating has treated him.

After a year of running Social Eatz, how do you feel about where you are at?
What’s amazing about Social Eatz is the evolution. We’ve upped the ante on the menus, the food program, and even the space itself. I’m very proud of everything we’ve accomplished so far and I’m really looking forward to restaurant’s future. 

Are you working on any new projects?
My philosophy is to just take one day at a time and focus on nurturing what’s in front of me. 

Like brunch? What made you decide to add it to the menu?
I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and after my recent trip to Korea I wanted to introduce additional dishes at Social Eatz. Typically for Asian food, early in the day you’d just go to dim sum. So, we wanted to take Asian flavors and the concept of gathering for breakfast into the typical brunch setting.

How does the new menu reflect your concept?
We recently introduced some big changes at Social Eatz, and the evolution and growth has been amazing. Our Korean-inspired brunch is a key part of this evolution, and in many ways, it reflects our original concept of applying eastern flavors to typically western foods.

Is this really the only Korean brunch in the city?
This really is a western-style brunch with all Korean flavors. At least, we haven’t found another one yet. 

What’s your favorite thing about brunch?
I associate brunch with being very family-oriented. It’s the perfect time to connect over a casual meal with those who are close to you. 

What do you usually get for brunch?
I think our breakfast ramen is just killer. 

Can you recommend any breakfast spots?
I’m a big fan of small places and neighborhood type places. For me, Cafe Henri in the West Village is the epitome of a small neighborhood restaurant with amazing food. 

New York Openings: STK OUT, Francesca, The NoMad

STK OUT (Midtown West) – Gourmet-to-go keeps midtown worker bees in lobster wraps and truffle aioli burgers.

Francesca (Lower East Side) – Spanish tapas and Basque wines, brought to you by the folks from Frankies Spuntino

The NoMad (Flatiron) – Seasonal French dining across five posh rooms.