Rock & Rock and Vodka in Iceland, Magic Monday at Tammany Hall

Our post-BINGO Monday night crawl, which almost always ends up at Joe’s Shanghai, took a detour this week. Dana Dynamite, that Sailor Jerry Rum P.R., was intent on meatballs – and a man my age knows to never get between a gal and her cravings. Shoot, I ended up married a couple of times to women that could have done better following that advice for me. Amanda was a willing lemming as well, as we vowed to follow Dana off any cliff. Waylaid at the door of Tammany Hall by my old friend and newish manager Christine Jennings, my stop-and-chat had the girls wandering into Mission Chinese Food, 154 Orchard Street. I’ve seen the lines and heard the news about folks from Momofuku and Blue Hill Farm and the Mission Chinese San Francisco joint that the NYC spot was all the rage. It was 11pm on a Monday night and the dapper maitre d’ told us 20 minutes. Seemed like a plan.

It was red hot chili peppers meets Mean Mr. Mustard and Steve vs. the Volcano. Hot stuff! Dana was doing her thing and telling me all about this Icelandic Vodka, Reyka, and this rock and roll festival. I was all ears, as my mouth and nose were too numb to be of use. The Icelandic Airwaves Music Festival will whisk Dirty Projectors, Of Monsters and Men, Sigur Rós, and 70+ other bands to that fiery rock with those sexy people October 31 – November 4, 2012. They say it’s “the hippest long weekend on the annual music-festival calendar.” This is Reyka’s second year in a row sponsoring this thing and there has been an online screening process to choose the bands, called “Breakthrough at Airwaves.”

Today is the last day for bands to submit tracks to www.Reyka.com. "Two bands, selected by the festival will win a weeklong trip to Reykjavik, including travel and lodging, and get to perform alongside some of the most exciting and inspired names in music." They’ll announce the winners August 14th. Iceland in November gets, like, 16 hours of night – perfect for Goodnight Mr. Lewis. I’m just saying.

Anyway, after surviving the ridiculously delicious but way too spicy meal, we decided to pop into Tammany Hall to check out the infamous Magic Monday soiree. It’s been running six months now and Christine and Ky told me all about it:

"Breedlove performs every week, along with the guest bands booked by Ky. The party starts at 10pm, is always free, and there is an open Bud Light bar for the first hour, which happens to be Breedlove’s beer of choice."

Ky impressed me. She seems to have those musical chops that are so rare in this biz. Managers are a dime a dozen, door people maybe a quarter, and I wouldn’t go past two cents for a waitron or bartender. They are all replaceable in hours. A person who can book bands and get it right…now that’s a rarity. We’ll be back, but this time we’ll opt for the meatballs.

Get Lucky In NYC Every Night Next Week

This is not false advertising. Starting Monday, April 29th, you can get lucky every night of the week, which is a basically impossible feat in NYC (unless you’re a 21-year-old, freckle-faced, college girl majoring in English, with too many evenings free and lots of insecurity issues). For seven days, you can drink unlimited Bombay Sapphire East Gin cocktails with lemongrass and St. Germain mixed by Iron Chef Morimoto, dance to house tunes spun by scruffy, downtown DJs, and gorge on pinched, pillowy, lamb-filled dumplings made by Mission Chinese Food chef Danny Bowien. And while you’re at it, get lucky with any one you meet. The cause: LUCKYRICE, the 4th annual festival honoring all things Asian (that you can chew and sip) all across NYC.

Some stops along the way include a cocktail feast at The Bowery Hotel lead by eight of NYC’s top bartenders and Iron Chef Morimoto, a “Filipino Fiesta” at The James Beard House hosted by chef Leah Cohen of Pig & Khao (which boasts a BlackBook-obsessed, delicious brunch), and a Night Market at The Maritime Hotel, where 20 Asian spots serve their top dishes in bohemian cabanas à la the chaotic, night market experience in Asia.

Intrigued? Excited? Hungry? Then snatch up the last couple of tickets to LUCKYRICE. 

And (ahem), please tweet at me if you get lucky, thanks. 

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

New Restaurants Turn To Potential Patrons To Open Their Doors

When the Tribeca restaurant The Elevens opens its doors this fall, it won’t be all thanks to an angel investor like Bobby De Niro, a partner in nearby Nobu, or a deep-pocketed industry player like Jeffrey Chodorow. First–time restaurateur Scott Kester raised a significant chunk of the $1 million capital needed to open the 65-seat restaurant and bar by offering neighbors the chance to become permanent “seatholders,” a position which entitles them to priority reservations and lifelong discounts. The cost? $500. “We thought it would be a good idea to build a community at the same time as raising capital,” explains Kester, who attracted 150 seatholders and hopes to enlist a few hundred more before the opening.

The Elevens is just the latest example of a restaurant turning to its (future) regulars to open its doors. As banks reduce access to large-scale loans and traditional restaurant investors take fewer risks, restaurateurs are looking to their communities and to a growing swath of micro- financing sites to raise money. They do it through Kickstarter, using the crowd-funding site to raise money in exchange for promised gifts and rewards. And they do it through Kickstarter emulators like Credibles, a site founded early this year that allows supporters to pre-pay for meals and services; Small Knot, which facilitates small loans from supporters in exchange for perks like private party invites or cooking lessons; and Lucky Ant, which solicits funds from neighbors living in the same communities as the businesses. “I can’t imagine spending money on a coffee shop in Portland, Oregon or Dallas, Texas,” says Lucky Ant founder and Lower East Side resident Jonathan Moyal, “but I’d be happy to fund one here.”

While Kester promised his neighbors seats at the table, that’s small fries compared to what Eric Fenster, the owner of Berkeley, California restaurant Gather, promised before it opened in 2010. Fenster and his partners raised the $2 million to open their eco-friendly restaurant (located inside a “green” community center) by recruiting 62 friends and neighbors as investors. Each committed a minimum of $5,000 [Berkeley!]. Though the return on investment for the restaurant industry is notoriously dicey, the cost of entry made it easier for first–time investors to get involved, and it offered the restaurant a built-in customer base. To raise an extra $20,000 in working capital right before the opening, the owners sold discounted pre-sale gift certificates. All the fundraising paid off. Soon after it opened in 2010, the restaurant won Esquire’s Best New Restaurant award.

Many chefs and budding investors find restaurants the perfect place to align their capital with their values. Anthony Myint, whose award–winning San Francisco restaurants Mission Chinese Food and Commonwealth both have formal partnerships with charities, included charitable donations as one of the perks during his successful $12,000 Kickstarter campaign for Commonwealth. He eventually raised about half the capital needed for the restaurant through the public sphere. Meanwhile, George Weld, the owner of Brooklyn breakfast favorite Egg, turned to Slow Money, a loosely organized group of investors focused on building sustainably minded businesses, when he started to raise money for his new restaurant Parish Hall. “Slow Money is more interested in making sure that we have a solid mission statement and actually do what we said we would do in terms of using local foods,” Weld explains. “It felt like a collaboration instead of trying to screw each other over.”

Lower East Side’s Yunnan Kitchen Shuns Assimilation

Barely a month has passed since Erika Chou opened the buzzed-about Yunnan Kitchen, her first restaurant on the Lower East Side with chef Travis Post formerly of Bklyn Larder and Franny’s in Brooklyn. Their menu features, you guessed it, food from the Chinese province Yunnan. Inside the 60-seat Clinton Street restaurant, you can spot hipsters and neighborhood regulars alike sitting under the faux tiger skin on the wall or at the community table.

“We wanted to introduce more people to the beauty of the region and its food,” says Chou, over a steaming plate of meaty trumpet mushrooms. “Each province has its own cooking style and in New York we have a lot of Cantonese and Sichuan food.”

Heck, nearby you can get Cantonese at Congee Village or Hop Kee, and for Sichuan try Old Sichuan on Bayard Street.

Here, while they try to use as many seasonal and local ingredients as possible, the cuisine remains solely Yunnan. Says Chef Post: “These are very pure flavors, not fusion food,” says Post. “It makes me so crazy when I see harissa in Thai curry.” For Chou, who grew up in North Carolina, food played a strong roll in her childhood, which pushed her to where she is today. "Food is such a big part of my culture and my family,” she says. “I remember walking around the aquarium when I was a little girl and my mom and grandma were talking, thankfully in Chinese, about how to cook each fish.”

Before she opened Yunnan Kitchen, Chou worked at the Standard Grill, where she started as a bus girl and eventually moved up the ladder to manager. When she decided to go the restaurateur route, Chou chose the Lower East Side and the long abandoned 99-cent store to house her project. She found Post on Craigslist and opened in beginning of May this year.

Unlike San Francisco’s much lauded Mission Chinese Food, which serves "Americanized Oriental Food," Yunnan Kitchen’s mission is purity and, in that, it is Mission Accomplished.

Mission Accomplished: Danny Bowien’s Chinese Food Wins in New York

As I chow on last night’s leftovers, my mouth tingles in memory of chef Danny Bowien’s Sichuan pepper-heavy dishes that he serves at the new Mission Chinese Food on the Lower East Side. Now, here is a man who not only knows how to play with traditional Asian spices, but has also figured out a way to make take-out Chinese hip. But don’t tell him that. “A lot of people have labeled us that way, but we are working away from that,” the long-haired chef says. “We are tying to make something at appeals to us, and is something we want to go to our day off.”

Bowien first made the scene with his original Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco, which he opened in 2010 inside a dingy Chinese restaurant. Since then, the quaint joint has caused quite a commotion in the foodie scene as Bowien has won not only an Eater Award, but also a page in GQ and an appearance on The Martha Stewart Show. And how do New Yorkers take this young upstart’s move to the East Coast?

“Tonight is the slowest it’s been since we opened last week,” the hostess told us after explaining that on Tuesday night there was a 45-minute wait for three people. “There have been lines waiting for us when we open at five.” Luckily, they kindly offer a complementary Narragansett, which hungry patrons eagerly tapped from the keg sitting under the neon menu board.

“This is crazy, the overall reception, this just doesn’t happen and I feel very blessed,” says Bowien. “Overall, chefs and cooks have been so overly supportive, which is a big deal since I had never opened my own restaurant, let alone one in New York City.”

The menu remains nearly the same as the west coast one, with easily recognizable Chinese items like the dish that started Bowien on the path of Chinese food, tongue numbing mapo tofu. Funny enough, before his San Francisco restaurant, Bowien, who is a Korean from Oklahoma, had never cooked Chinese food before. “It’s not like rocket science, it’s like cooking.,” he says. “If you can make a slow cooked meat sauce, that’s petty much what mapo tofu is. You kind of just plug these ingredients in and make it.”

About his move east, Bowien told the New York Times in February, “We could have opened another one here in San Francisco, but I love New York, the way it pushes you. It inspires me so I wanted to come to New York.” Now, Bowien jets between coasts and, in two short years, has gone from a fine dining cook to restaurateur making waves. Enough waves, that opening week Daniel Boulud popped in and in and whipped up an omelet, which you can watch below. This sense of support and camaraderie blew Bowien away, especially since it’s exactly what he is going for.

“We are trying to create a sense of community here,” says the young chef. “Like two of your favorite bands playing together. It’s not just about one person it’s about a lot of people.”