Burger Friday: NYC’s 3 Best Burgers For Your 3-Day Weekend

Memorial Day is all about burgers. Burgers of every kind – juicy, veggie, dripping, spicy, charred. Burgers know no limits. And in honor of the national holiday that is National Burger Month, I’m devoting this extra-special Burger Friday to Memorial Day. In fact, I’ve created a three-day Memorial Weekend burger itinerary for you, simply to ensure that you devour only the best burgers all weekend long, every day. Dig in:

The Bronte Burger from Ruby’s: This burger is the star of the show at Australian-American spot Ruby’s in the middle of Nolita. Probably because it’s a sensory parade; you’ve got a thick hunk of beef, topped with fresh, local tomato and lettuce, creamy mayo and cheese, and a sweet and tangy chili sauce – sandwiched between a toasted ciabatta bun. Exclamations after the first bite known to include: "oh my," "what the…" and "Holy Mother."

The Black Label Burger from Minetta Tavern: Mosey down Greenwich Village’s tucked-away Minetta Lane and get served a $26 burger of prime dry-aged beef with caramelized onions on a toasted soft bun alongside pommes frites. You’ll feel French in no time.

The Off-The-Menu Burger from Brindle Room: This discreet burger is adored, yet it’s a strictly "ask the waiter" deal. What makes it special? The aged ribeye that’s ground into the steak, and its ruthless simplicity. Gotta love a good secret.

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Photo: Yelp.

Finally, Gramercy Gets Funny Food

There is nothing funny about the Gramercy—that is until now. Thanks to the founders of Cringe Humor, brothers Paul and Cris Italia, Patrick Milligan, and David Kimowitz, the neighborhood now has something to laugh about at The Stand Restaurant and Comedy Club. And, thanks to the skills of chef Seth Levine, they also have something to decent to eat.

“Gramercy is the sort of neighborhood that appreciates good food, and comedy…well, they didn’t have it,” said Cris Italia, who has been managing comedic talent for twelve years. “We didn’t want to serve the regular comedy club food like mozzarella sticks.”

The menu Levine has put together for the club meshes comfort food with bar classics. For example, instead of Cris’s loathed cheese sticks, they turn the dish into a caprese salad with fried buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, tomato, and a balsamic reduction. Other menu items also play to the brother’s Italian roots, like the slightly spicy tuna tartar cannolis, fried ravioli, and Peking duck pizza. They also serve a super secret pretzel bread that comes on things like the steak sandwich, hamburger, and soon, will be a bread bowl for their chicken pot pie. All this you can get upstairs before the show, and downstairs they offer smaller plates like the gooey tater tot nachos, which are comedic in their own right. Soon, said Cris, they plan on doing different tater tot-based dishes each night. I just hope the comfort food won’t upstage the talent.

The cocktail program at The Stand came from the consulting minds of Cameron Dale and Mark Noonan from Minetta Tavern. They took twists on classics like putting brown sugar in the Old Fashioned, as well as making an array of signature cocktails including the warming 3rd Avenue with Bulleit bourbon, lemon juice, and house-made five-spice honey syrup.

Their ginger and gin drink The Boozler pays homage to comedian Elayne Boosler,who is just one of many faces that may be popping in. The night I was there, Comedy Central’s Kurt Metzger took the stage. Other comedians that have or will perform includeJay Oakerson, Artie Lange, and Jim Norton.

“So far we have been lucky,” said Paul Italia, who works in commercial real estate by day. “People have come in for the comedy and discovered the restaurant and vice versa.”

Photo by August Young

The Mussel Pot Previews Tonight: Owners Talk

I used to be 3’6″ but I grew out of it. Alex and Leo Baskin used to work in the club side of the business, but grew out of it. Now they are now poised to open a new restaurant, The Mussel Pot. It’s located at 174 Bleecker, just a few doors east from LIFE, where I used to hang my hat. Exit strategies for club types are as necessary as the smile on a bottle waitron’s face. Most don’t have one, and many get trapped in a young man’s game. Twins Alex and Leo Baskin filled joints as well as anyone in the business, but like myself and countless others, there comes a time when the you look around the room, and want to be someplace else. Inseparable since birth, they partnered up with restaurateur Michael Caridi, and have put what they have learned to another good use.

When I opened LIFE, there were concerns that the ‘hood was too commercial, too touristy. What we found was that the location, just 1 block north of Houston and just a hop from Soho, the West Village, the East Village and Nolita, was perfect. Bleeker Street was a direct feed off 9th Avenue and the west side. Foot traffic and great public transportation ensure a a bunch of covers on most nights, and packed houses on weekends.

That was before Alex and Leo tapped into the hundreds of thousands of friends who have grown up (well, most of them) and now find their evenings spent at nice restaurants with friends, family, and significant others more rewarding than clubbing. They all used to be 3’6″ as well. The Bleecker street strip and its quaint side streets have always been blessed with great little restaurants. It seems to be on the upswing. They’ve got executive chef Ronnie Esposito, formerly of NYY Steaks at the Stadium, doing the food. It’s basically a pound of farm raised mussels in a pot, with a couple dozen sauces to choose from. There’s a full menu for those who don’t go there. The Mussel Pot will open for press types tonight, and I’m a press type and will attend.

How did you make the transition from nightlife clubs to restaurant? Alex: To us it was a natural progression, an evolution I guess. I think it was always in the back of our minds that some day we wanted to do a restaurant. When you deal with nightclubs, it’s a very specific demographic of people that you target. But with restaurants, well everybody eats right?

What skills do you bring to the restaurant? Alex: Our 15 years of marketing knowledge. I think we understand the ability to create an atmosphere that people can enjoy themselves and feel comfortable in. We actually designed most of the place ourselves, from picking the mirrors, lighting, furniture and colors. We wanted the place to be classic and inviting. Also, our partner Michael Caridi got the Peter Lik gallery to hang some of his amazing photography in our place, and use it as a show room.

What are your responsibilities? Leo: Besides the obvious marketing and promotions, being an owner/partner you have to oversee everything.

How much did you learn building this restaurant? Leo: We had crash course about the food biz in the last 6 months—everything from kitchen equipment, to health codes, to food costs, and the like.

At what point did you guys want to get out of club business? Alex: We’ve been wanting to do something else for a long time. We did music for a while, which was fun. We actually took some time off here and there, but the club business kept pulling us back in. When this opportunity came up, we jumped on it.

Do you think the restaurant business is easier than the club business? Leo: Not at all. It’s different, yet similar in a lot of aspects. The hospitality aspect of it is similar but there’s so much more to deal with when food service is involved.

Are you guys looking for a different demographic then nightclubs or did other factors play into you decision into finding this spot? Leo: Were not looking for a club crowd. We want all types of customers. We looked at a lot of different spots in different locations. We felt this location would be a good starting point. Also, we love that we have a sidewalk café and a back garden. It’s in a great neighborhood—very diverse. We plan to open a few more of these. Our concept is “Mussels in over 2 Dozen different international sauces. Good wine, beer & cocktail list.”

How did the name come in to play? Alex: Well the Mussels are served in a pot, plus we felt it had an instant familiar appeal to the name. It sounds like you’ve heard of it before.

Has the neighborhood changed in the last 10 years? Leo: It’s one of the oldest and most nostalgic areas in NY. All the classics are in the neighborhood, and a lot of great newer spots too. Lupa, Dos Caminos, Minetta Tavern, Arturo’s, John’s of Bleecker, and Murray’s Cheese are all with in a few blocks from us. Bleecker Street is prime real-estate.

Also with NYU always expanding, I think introducing a new food savvy generation to our concept is exciting for us.

Donald Glover Takes Us Around His New York

We’re driving down Broadway on our way to Opening Ceremony when Donald Glover spots a Gap. “I just did one of those,” he says, pointing to a window-size ad of Anja Rubik in jeans and a pair of black heels. “We shot it outside on the hottest day of the summer, and we had to pretend like it was cold. I was literally fucking boiling, wearing all of these different layers.”

Although hyperbole is part of Glover’s charm, things are in fact heating up for the Los Angeles-based, 27-year-old star of NBC’s Community, who graduated with a degree in dramatic writing from NYU before becoming a staff writer for 30 Rock. On Community, Glover, who also records rap albums as Childish Gambino, plays Troy Barnes, a jock who says things like, “Girls are supposed to dance. That’s why god gave them parts that jiggle.” Even if Troy isn’t the sharpest knife in a drawer filled with takeout cutlery, Glover’s show continues to be recognized as one of the smartest on television.

Like Arrested Development and Freaks and Geeks before it, Community has a devout if modest following. “I think the network believes it’s a DVD show,” Glover says. “They’re also banking on it doing well in syndication, because, honestly, it’s not the kind of show that people rush home to watch at 8 o’clock on a Thursday. We appeal to a younger, busy demographic. There’s a ‘Save Community’ group on Facebook, which is kind of dope but also kind of unnecessary. It’s not like the studio guys at NBC will say, ‘Isn’t that sweet? At least 2,000 people really want Community to stay on the air!”

Glover’s phone rings. “Oh, look, it’s Joel McHale,” he says before answering his series costar’s call. “Did you catch the shit he pulled with Hoda and Kathie Lee on the fourth hour of Today?” A few hours earlier, on live television, the morning show hosts asked McHale why they’re so often the objects of his derision on The Soup, McHale’s own show, to which the comedian, drinking scotch from the bottle, replied, “Have you seen your show?” Later this evening, Glover and McHale will perform a sold-out stand-up comedy show at Carnegie Hall, but first Glover—or “Darnell,” as Tina Fey referred to him on a recent live episode of 30 Rock—spends some time exploring a community of his own.


Ace Hotel – 20 West 29th Street, 212-679-2222 The Ace is my favorite hotel in New York. I like how snooty the writings on the walls are. They’re funny, as if a teenager did them, like, “You think you’re so fucking hot because you’re in a hotel.” I like the bar, and I like that the Breslin is attached to it. Basically, it’s a one-stop shop. When I want to be alone, I stay at the Greenwich Hotel (377 Greenwich Street, thegreenwichhotel.com). Ace is where I stay when I want to party. I’ve gone to SNL after-parties here, where everyone gets sloshed, although it’s definitely not the ’70s anymore. Kenan [Thompson] is always the highest, but most of the cast have kids and families. We don’t have a Farley or anything. The most fun I’ve ever had at one of those things was the night that Kanye was on the show last year. Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Chris Rock were all there, and I almost cried when I saw Jay-Z. I’ve never felt that way before in my life. It was too much.


The Jane113 Jane Street, 212-924-6700 I’ve only been here once, pretty inebriated, with Jessica Conrad, a friend of mine who writes for SNL. It definitely has a weird, The Shining vibe to it. Many prostitutes have been strangled here. [Glover’s phone beeps. He checks his Twitter account.] I get about 50 messages an hour, mostly from middle-aged gay men and Filipinos. I remember a lot of the faces of the people who tweet at me. I was at a bar recently, and I went up to a girl and said, You’re on Twitter. You said you had a dream about me. What happened in that dream? Last night I was really drunk in the Lower East Side, and so I got a bunch of messages, like, “Just saw Donald stumbling out of a bar.” If I weren’t a comedian, I’d probably be worried about what people think of me, but I don’t really give a shit. I’m always drunk-tweeting. I’m always doing something stupid in public. [I ask if he follows the Twitter ramblings of Courtney Love.] I didn’t even know she tweeted! I saw her perform earlier this year at the Bumbershoot festival in Seattle, and I was expecting her show to be a fucking fuck dumpster. But she really blew me away. Her voice sounds like a trashcan hitting all the right notes.


Minetta Tavern – 113 MacDougal Street 212-475-3850 I came here the last time I visited New York. I got the invite from somebody really famous, but I can’t remember who. I used that celebrity’s reservation—they can apparently always go in here—to get a meal and it was great. I remember sitting next to this buff, blond, white polo shirt-wearing Aryan guy who had a woman on either side of him, and they all sat in their booth talking about business. It was like something straight from a Lacoste ad.


A.P.C.131 Mercer Street 212-966-5851 Gillian [Jacobs, from Community] and I go shopping together at the A.P.C. store just off Melrose in Los Angeles. I help her out by convincing her to buy stuff. She doesn’t like to spend a lot of money, and so she needs someone there to tell her she looks good in the clothing. I prefer shopping at this one, though, because it’s bigger and has more stuff.

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Opening Ceremony 35 Howard Street, 212-219-2688 I’m really into this Comme des Garçons cardigan, even if it is for women. I love clothes, and I always think it sucks that I can’t wear the same thing on different talk shows. I’ve got a really nice Marc Jacobs suit, which I wore on Leno, but when it was time to go on Ferguson, everyone told me I couldn’t wear it. I always end up talking about girls who I think are hot—Mila Kunis, Rihanna—on talk shows. I have a whole section on my website devoted to sex. I try to keep up with it, but I’m really picky because I want nice pictures, like hi-resolution shit.

Photography by Alexander Wagner.

Michael Kors Opens on Bleecker Street

In anticipation of today’s opening of Michael Kors’ new lifestyle store at 384 Bleecker Street in New York’s West Village, Michael has been counting down his top 20 favorite Village spots on Facebook, including BlackBook favorites Aedes De Venustas, Little Owl, and Minetta Tavern. In response, we thought it only fitting to pick out some of our favorite MK goodies. After the jump, what we’re currently coveting.

Fulton Moccasin, $98. image

Hamilton Quilted Accessories, $68-$348. image

Faux-Fur Front Vest, $130. image

Striking Up Friendships

A working weekend kept me hot, bothered, and a little short on steam. But I was able to attend the Carrera Sunglasses party on the fabulous roof at 505 West 37th Street. The roof—some 40 stories over the Javits Center, train yards, and the Port Authority Bus complex—is so high that it made those places seem romantic. A pal asked me what that place across the Hudson River was, and I replied “America.” New York did seem far away from America this week, with the World Cup bringing so many accented tourists to the haunts I hang in. The Carrera event had a slew of downtown types who followed GoldBar honcho John Lennon and downtown PR flack Dana Dynamite uptown. I chatted up a very nice Whitney Port, who I was told is in that show The City. Watermelon, cold cans of Café Bustelo, and clear views of places I rarely want to see up close kept me happy for hours. I visited an apartment downstairs where they hid the swag, and I was told that the one bedroom with those views goes for $2200 a month. Almost cheap enough to forget the $15 cab fare to anyplace I’d like to be. Still, I think there will lots of fabulous events at this sweet spot.

An expensive yellow limo returned me to downtown where I belong, at the behest of Fuse Gallery/Lit bigwig Erik Foss. I attended the art opening The Hole Presents Not Quite Open for Business, “A conceptual group show of unfinished art, unfinished poems and unfinished symphonies.” When Jeffrey Deitch split to be the director of MOCA in L.A., it left the presenters confused as to what to do next. Some funding problems and an artist not quite ready to show was turned into a positive thing, as artists were asked to show their work in the stage it was in, a caught-with-your-pant-down approach to curating. The result is a fun, thought provoking, and unpretentious good time. I joined Erik Foss over at Lucky Strike and watched him have a snack. Erik is just back from Mexico City where he brought his Draw show. I hadn’t been to Lucky Strike in a long time. A friend of mine who used to work there was killed in his apartment many years ago, and it stirred up bad memories.

Mike “Seal” used to be my head of security over at Life, and his untimely death under mysterious circumstances made me wonder. When you go out to eat or play, you don’t necessarily need to be reminded of sad things. Lucky Strike wowed them back in 1989 when it first opened. Like all Keith McNally joints, it has an energizer bunny type of energy and the basic bones to last forever. The service, the staff, the design, and the fare are timeless and I felt good to be back. I still visit Pravda, Odeon, Pastis, and Balthazar from time to time, and his other entries Minetta Tavern, Morandi, and Schillers are magnificent machines. I am currently building in his old Nells space, trying to create something worthy of its lore. Pulino’s opened in my hood a little bit ago and although it wasn’t reviewed well by one prominent critic, the crowds have voted it a winner.

I will be DJing at the other Lucky Strike, the bowling alley and lounge on far West 42nd Street. The occasion is the birthday bash for Noel Ashman, who was at one point the operator of the Nells space when it was Plumm and NA. The invite reads “National Academy of Television, Arts and Scienes… Emmy Awards along with…” And it goes on to list Chris Noth, Patrick McMullan, Damon Dash, and a slew of others. Grandmaster Flash, Jamie Biden, Ethan Browne, and DJ Reach will join me on the wheels of steel. In the left corner is the logo for adult entertainment company Wicked. There’s hosts like Richie Romero, Brandon Marcel and Matt de Matt listed as well. Every time I write about Noel, a slew of haters come out of their holes and hovels to spew dirt. I am always asked why do I write about him. Noel has made a ton of omelets over the years and I guess in the process has broken his share of eggs. I personally have never had a bad experience with him and the naysayers are always of the suspicious variety. The diversity of the people on this invite and the crowds that will attend speak well of him. I am always asked why do I write about him. The answer is short and sweet. He’s my friend.

Where Celebs Go Out: Sarah Palin, Andy Samberg, Judd Apatow

Sarah Palin @ the Time100 gala: It would be Double Musky in Girdwood, Alaska! ● Andy Samberg: Momofuku. ● Harvey Weinstein: I like Nobu downtown. ● Suzy Orman: Carmine’s, either on 44th or on Broadway, uptown. My favorite dish is the chicken scarpariello, I love it! ● Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann: Katsuya!

David Chang: I just had amazing cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at Per Se. So if you’re [at the Time Warner Center], there’s no reason to go anywhere else. ● Neil Patrick Harris: Oh,I’m a big Batali fan. His are some of the best Italian restaurants I’ve ever been to, in my life. ● Jack Dorsey: I really like the the Boom Boom Room. Minetta Tavern is my favorite restaurant. It’s in my neighborhood. Everything on the menu is amazing. I love it. They change it so frequently. ● Jamie-Lynn Sigler at the opening party for Prime KO restaurant: I’m not much of a partier anymore. It’s more [about] a place where I can hear the people that I’m with. I live in L.A. I go to friends’ houses for game nights. Dan Tana’s is one of my favorite restaurants. Recommended: chicken parm. Izakaya restaurant–it’s Katsuya, but it’s more low key. My favorite dish there is baked crab hand roll. ● Dann Florek: Ouest–I’m a big fan of Tom Valenti’s. His signature dish is a braised short rib. You can’t have it too often. His salad is the best I’ve had on the Upper West Side. The dressing is the best–I think it’s a red wine parmesan vinaigrette. I also like Bar Bao and Calle Ocho. ● Jason Binn, founder of Niche Media Holdings: We’re a big fan of Joey Allaham. We had a staycation in Manhattan. We stayed at the St. Regis and went to the Oak Room.

Where to Enjoy Meatless Mondays

When the temperature rises, Shake Shack beckons. Thick, juicy burgers with crispy lettuce and fat tomatoes in a light paper wrapping in the middle of Madison Square Park. When the temperature drops, I start to fantasize about Minetta Tavern, sliding up to that cozy bar, getting my lips around that Black Label Burger. Am I a burger-a-holic?

Not in the least, but I am quite romantic about my meat. But like all great loves, it’s an imperfect relationship- a toxic one at times. Read this tale of carbon terrorism about my boyfriend. The major research report found the mass production of meat creates “notable negative impact on human health, the environment and the global economy.” Not a very healthy relationship and if I have access to this information, along with a plethora of awesome vegetarian restaurants around town, why do I keep going back like an abused spouse? Well, enough is enough. If I can’t kick my addiction to Lil’ Frankie’s Meat Ragu entirely, I might as well explore Paul McCartney and Paltrow’s “Meatless Monday” alternative.

Environmental Concerns Related to Eating Meat: ●The livestock sector, including feed production and transport, is responsible for about 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. ●Animal waste is another troubling concern. “Because only a third of the nutrients fed to animals are absorbed, animal waste is a leading factor in the pollution of land and water resources, as observed in case studies in China, India, the United States and Denmark,” the authors of the study wrote. ●One less meat-based meal a week helps the planet and your diet. “It requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. For each hamburger that originated from animals raised on rain-forest land, approximately 55 square feet of forest have been destroyed.” ●Treehugger’s Ready, Set, Green points out to locavores, a meat filled diet affects the planet regardless of how beef is raised since it’s an energy-and water-intensive food to produce. Simply put, diets lower in any kind of meat create a smaller footprint.

Health Concerns Related to Eating Meat ● You’ll save yourself a heart attack! Dr. Esselstyn’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease documents his 100 percent success rate for unclogging people’s arteries and reversing heart disease by administering a vegan diet. ● Meat can cause cancer as outlined in The China Study, a book by Dr. T. Colin Campbell that The New York Times called “the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.” The book’s main supported fact: “No chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.” Scary. ● You’ll be thinner! I think it has to do about paying attention to what you are shoveling into that mouth of yours, but on average, vegans are 10 to 20 percent lighter than meat-eaters.

So as bathing suit season approaches and we begin to make changes in our lifestyle and the way we procure information, why not try out Paul McCartney’s Meatless Monday with a few of these awesome Veggie spots? Have any more suggestions? Email me at Cayte at BBook dot com. Angelica Kitchen (East Village)– Neighborhood veggie powerhouse is the anti-Mickey D’s. Atlas Cafe and Bakery (East Village)– Vaguely Morrocan East Village bakery houses many a tasty vegan treat and heavy hangover. Ayurveda Cafe (Upper West Side)– Low-key vegetarian café designed to soothe your urban stresses. Blossom (Chelsea)– Way more stylish than its culinary kinfolk, the crunchy healthnuts here totally shower on the reg. Chennai Garden (Gramercy)– Top-shelf vegetarian Indian, bottom-rung price. Dirt Candy (East Village)– They’re vegetables. Get it? Dirt. Cand…nevermind. Josie’s (Murray Hill)– Lots of glowing girls fresh from NYSC, nibbling on oven-roasted free-range chicken, tofu duck, and Japanese yams. Life Cafe NINE83 (Bushwick)– Mom and Pop feel with a hipster spin. Pukk (East Village)– Funky East Village vision of an all-vegetarian future. Pure Food and Wine (Flatiron)– Say goodbye to a future of pacemakers and a gut the shape of China. Raw food is real food. Wild Ginger (Williamsburg)– Sedate spot for cruelty-free Asian eats.

Gastro Gamechangers: Keith McNally’s Pulino Plans Go Public, Now Hiring

Keith McNally’s the celebrity and buzz-magnetized brain behind New York’s SoHo standby Balthazar, the center of gravity in the Meatpacking District, Pastis, the Lower East Side’s de facto cafeteria of the young and moneyed (Schiller’s), and The Hardest Table in Town of the moment, Minetta Tavern. Every opening of his is an event, and even when a restaurant of his doesn’t blow away the critics, it still packs ’em in nightly (see: Morandi). Problem is, they tend to be just out of the price range of New York’s young and hungry. Until now, or soon, as Pulino — McNally’s pizza place — is coming, and it’s coming downtown, to Bowery below Houston. Today, Pulino chef Nate Appleman twittered that he was hiring. Even better, NBC Local tossed Pulino’s plans on their website. What’s it (maybe) look like?


Per Matt Duckor at NBC:

One of the most prominent features highlighted in the plans is the massive, semi-circle bar adjacent to the kitchen, which should prove useful for neighborhood drop-ins. Other discoveries include: 1) The bathrooms are located in the cellar like they are at McNally’s nearby spot, Schiller’s, though they don’t appear to be unisex. 2) While the restaurant seems to sport a closed kitchen, the plan depicts a completely open pizza station, so crowds can potentially witness live, Appleman dough-tossing magic.

And Appleman dough-tossing magic we’ll await. Nate Appleman’s formerly of A16 in San Fransisco, who he left two months after winning his 2009 James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef. He’s only the second chef to open a McNally joint since Jodi Williams at Morandi who isn’t Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr, McNally’s kitchen lieutenants at all his other properties, (and we all know how Jodie’s tenure turned out: ugly). Needless to say, the anticipation’s been high, and this just upped it.