Top 10 Spots for a First Date

Variety is key when you are testing the waters of love and lust. To some, love is motivated by how fat one’s pocketbook is. To others, it’s based on where one is able to get a reservation at peak time on a Friday night. Whether your leading lady is a tastemaker with a tiny appetite, or your gent is a sucker for the sauce, there’s a hotspot that’s all the bang for your buck, and a watering hole that may just lead to a bang.

The Little Owl (New York) – Small hotspot where you can view the West Village through rose-colored window panes. A savvy choice for a date in the know, but let your date know you chose it for the greenmarket menu. Swoon. ● Mistral (Los Angeles) – Intimate space, low lighting, the smell of French cuisine, and love is in the air. Couples relish the dark corners. A vast wine list and pared-down menu means easy first date decision-making. Opt for fries over the spinach side; the soft light helps you seem sexy, but it will do nothing for a green tooth.

Nemo (Miami) – Don’t waste this space on someone you’re lukewarm for. Rack up first-impression points with the serious atmosphere at work here. Not too pretentious, but tasty and hip: She just might find a way to thank you after the meal. ● The Bourgeois Pig (New York) – A jump-off point for daters to test the waters before committing to a bite to eat, though perfect as a post-dinner stop when things are going well. Champers, chocolate, cheese make eating sexy as hell. ● Smith & Wollensky (Miami) – Fab first date spot even if your date isn’t a carnivore. For light fare, opt for the cocktail/oyster combo — though the view is the only aphrodisiac needed. Great food, stiff drinks, and unrivaled panoramas of the ocean and the Miami skyline. ● Casa Tua (Miami) -There’s the intimate speakeasy feel that helps to make an impression, especially if your date is young and impressionable. Lamps hang from banyan trees in the garden, inviting atmosphere is conductive to great conversation and even better make-out sessions. Plead your first-date case to the members-only bouncer and see if you can’t stretch out the evening. ● Casa La Femme (New York) – If you’re the dating type that needs a few props, this all-inclusive date spot is loaded with shiny distractions. Tent city flaunts belly-dancing beauties and unbeatable signature cocktails to spice things up. Décor is richly detailed, bearing a genuine elegance to mask the cliché sexiness of it all. ● Little Door (Los Angeles) – Deserving of its reputation as THE place to go on a date — whether you speak fluent or just cinematic French, mais oui. The courtyard will help you fall in love, the sexy candlelight will make you fall in lust, and the extensive drink list will take care of anything in between. ● Mayahuel (New York) – The goddess of agave may be on your side for a modern-day Spanish inquisition. Speakeasy vibe with serious, sexy decor, and food to match. Creative cocktails will impress mixology minors; opt for small, shareable plates and cozy up in a carved-out booth. ● August (New York) – For a date of the handholding variety, turn to this claustrophobic cave restaurant. In the fall, intimate garden and sweater weather inspire premature cuddling, which could lead to other things more mature. ● Bowery Hotel (New York) – Pretend you’re somebody as you whisk your date through the golden doors propped open by smiling bellhops. Good for blind dates, it’s a cozy spot where you can get closer, or direct your attention to Cameron Diaz getting blitzed at the bar. Swill red wine on vintage chairs, surrounded by downtown “it” people. It’s all very very, even if your date is very boring.

Industry Insiders: Rochelle Gores, Winning Big at Arcade

Rochelle Gores, owner of Los Angeles boutique Arcade, on working long days, saying bye bye to boho-chic, and the year of expansion.

Where do you go out? I love Foxtail, a new club in LA. Cut is a great restaurant that I love to go to for a good steak. One of my favorite restaurants that I’ve been going to for like 18 years is Mistral. It’s in the valley. The owner is Henry. I actually really like 1912 in the Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s very casual and just a nice bar to go to.

What’s your favorite aspect of owning Arcade? The buying, obviously, is one of the greatest parts, because that’s the product, and that’s the branding of the company. I am constantly overseeing the big picture and how it’s going to grow. Last year’s focus was creating the boutique, and this year, it’s launching it into doing private label and possibly into another boutique and growing as a brand. I’m really excited about that.

Who are two people that you admire in your industry? There have been so many great women in my industry. Obviously, Coco Chanel. She was the first one to put a woman in pants, and the first person to put a bag over the shoulder as opposed to carrying it in the hand. I look up to her for innovative ideas. Donna Karan is an amazing businesswoman. Stefani Greenfield from Scoop is amazing in the aspect of retail and buying. And then, my father Alec Gores on the business end.

Trends you love in fashion? Color. People are really into bold color in fashion and accessories. People are loving accessorizing everything from earrings to bags to necklaces and layering things. I think my favorite trend is going back to femininity and sophistication. And going back to that 1920’s woman.

Trends you hate? I’m really liking what I’m seeing because it’s going away from boho-chic, which I really didn’t care for. I really like where things are going. That is what Arcade is all about, feminine, womanly, beautiful, a sophisticated, very ladylike look.

One thing that people may not know about you? I work 18 hour days. I think that may shock people.

What are you obsessed with right now? I’m getting married in May so I’m obsessed with my wedding. The ceremony will be at my dad’s estate in Beverly Hills, and the reception will be at the Beverly Wilshire. I’m getting my dresses made by Herve at Carolina Herrera. I am also obsessed with the jewelry collection that I do with Neil Lane. We do these diamond letters. I wear my “R” every day, and the girls in the store wear the letter “A” for Arcade. It’s called Neil Lane for Arcade, and all of the pieces are one of a kind. I’m excited to expand with him.

What’s on the horizon for 2009? This is the year of expansion for me. I’m looking to expand through online selling, doing my own brand, and opening another store. I’m looking to expand into a larger empire.

What’s your favorite item in the boutique right now? My bathing suits. They’re fantastic. I have all Brazilian bathing suits. I have Rosa Cha, I have Lenny. And we’re one of the only places in LA that sells them.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? Buying cosmetics. I’m very girly in that way.

What are you doing tonight? I’m in New York. We’re going to Charles on Charles Street, and then to Bijoux and Southside.

Industry Insiders: Seth Greenberg, Mogul Multitasker

Capitale’s Seth Greenberg on the origins of bottle service, taking over Boston, why Parisians bite New York style, and who really invented bottle service.

Point of Origin: The Paradise Club and Stitches [were my first properties, both in Boston]. Both needed pre-function, so we moved Stitches to an independent location. Then we expanded Paradise by opening M-80 in the old Stitches site. So we moved Stitches to a new location, about a mile away, so now Stitches had a big space. A comedy club in the back, and a little restaurant bar/lounge up front. And now M-80 was connected to the Paradise Club. After about a year, we expanded, then eventually gutted the entire facility so M-80 had both buildings. Then we expanded M-80 to New York, opened Conscience Point in Southampton, and created M-80 in the summer.

When I graduated from college, I was 21; by the time I was 30, I owned 10 nightclubs in Boston, and from there I decided that I really needed a restaurant in Boston, a Euro-themed restaurant; so 12 and a half years ago, I opened a restaurant called Mistral, which is probably still one of the highest grossing restaurant in the city. And about 9 years ago, I assisted my partner in Mistral with the development of XV Beacon. I came to New York about six years ago looking for a project, and I was presented with the [Capitale space] through a friend. The gentleman who had optioned this building was planning to turn it into a nightclub, and I said, before you do that, why don’t you consider doing something a little more high-end than a nightclub. So he came up to Boston with me, stayed at the hotel, had dinner at Mistral, went to one of my clubs, and we made a deal.

We realized that the best business model for this property [Capitale] is to just operate strictly as catering and events. I sold my last club in 2005 in Boston, and have since been focused on high-end hospitality. We opened another event space in New York on 42nd between 11th and 12th avenues in the beginning of this year called Espace. And about a year and a half ago, I bought a building in Boston called the Ames with my friend Richard Kilstock, and we did a deal where Normandy Realty and the Morgans Group, where Morgans is going to manage the hotel, and I’m going to still operate the food and beverage myself. And that’s slated to open next summer.

Occupations: I consider myself more of a hospitality executive now, focused on food and beverage. Currently my venues are Espace, Mistral, the Ames, and Capitale.

Side Hustle: I advised Jason Binn [of Niche Media] on the launch of Boston Common.

What got you interested in magazines? I was a promoter in college, and I had approached Jason and said it would be a great idea to launch an Ocean Drive in Boston. But first he became a part of Hamptons, then he did a deal with Gotham, and over the years he always said, “One day when I come to Boston, we’ll do it together.” At this point he has such an enormous infrastructure, he just needed someone local to help facilitate the magazine. He opened Boston Common and Capitol File at the same time. We set up Mistral and XV Beacon as a kind of ground zero for the magazine, hosting lunches and dinners with clients, and then we did a pre-opening party. We host five cover launch parties a year.

It seems like you’ve been involved in pretty much every facet of the nightlife industry. Which is your favorite? When I was younger, I was out so much. I just loved it. I just wanted to be out all the time. I always said I was good at what I did because I was out. My clients were my guests and my friends. But now, my lifestyle has changed; I don’t want to be out every night, I don’t drink. I just want to stay healthy, I want to stay fit, stay focused. I want to focus on developing more real estate, and hopefully putting my own hospitality projects in that real estate. And that’s my focus for the next ten years. I don’t want to go backwards.

I still love the marketing side, I still love hosting parties, but now it’s just different. A Boston Common party starts at 8 p.m., and it’s over at 11.

Favorite Hangs: In New York I love going to Rose Bar, I love going to dinner. I’ve been going to Gemma a bit in the Bowery, I love Craftsteak in the Meatpacking. I like Tao, Nobu. And if I go clubbing, I go to Marquee. Noah Tepperberg is one of my best friends, I have to support Noah. In the Hamptons, I love going to Sunset Beach. Saturday nights I never go to restaurants; five or six friends will invite each other over for different brunches or dinners. On a Friday I like Savanna’s every once and a while. I try to go to different spots.

Industry Icons: Andre Balazs and Ian Schrager. Ian came from the nightlife side, but really the operations side, and he really created some amazing spaces. Ian’s hotel company is now owned by Morgans Hotel Group; I think their projects are timely and beautiful. Same with Andre, he’s done some great work. I think the Mercer is beautiful, I think the Gramercy Park Hotel is beautiful. They’ve both had some projects I’ve been really impressed with.

Known Associates: Noah [Tepperberg] and Jason [Strauss of Strategic Group] are two of my dear friends. I’m good friends with Jeffrey Jah, I like Jeffrey a lot. I’m friends with Danny A, Richie Akiva and Scottie [Sartiano of 1Oak], and Mike Satsky [of Stereo].

Jeffrey Jah claims to have invented bottle service. What do you think of that? That’s really ridiculous. I was doing bottle service way before anyone knew what it was.

So you invented bottle service? I didn’t invent bottle service; it was being done in Europe for years. When I was 29 years old, I was in the south of France, and you’d go to a table at Saint-Tropez and Cannes, that was the European way. You get a table with a group of friends, you get a bottle, and they bring you mixers, and a bucket of ice, and that was normal for twenty years. So maybe [Jeffrey] was one of the first people to bring it to New York, but we were doing it in the Hamptons, certainly, 13 years ago. At M-80 in Boston, we had bottle service, back around 1990. I grew up in Miami Beach, and when I was high school and used to go to the Cricket Club, which had bottle service.

Do you think New York nightlife is dead? I think there’s a symbiotic relationship between nightlife and fashion and celebrity. And it’s shifted over the years from bars to dance clubs to restaurants to lounges. It’s continually cyclical. And what’s predominant in New York right now is hip-hop, which is affecting the way people dance and what’s more comfortable for nightlife. Certainly lounges are more appealing than big nightclubs today, and maybe a lot of it has to do with the music. There’s a fashion that goes with it [hip-hop culture] too. New York was the first city where you started playing hip-hop and people started wearing sneakers. The look of New York sort of changed. The New Yorkers would show up at Fashion Week in Paris wearing jeans and sneakers and everyone would look at them saying how déclassé they were, that they didn’t know how to dress properly. And now you see that as a fashion trend in Europe as well. So I think New York has always been ahead of the curve.

Projections: Right now the hotel in Boston, The Ames by Morgans, is slated to open next summer. I’m co-developing a property in Chelsea, yet to be named, similar to the deal I have in Boston where I’ll end up operating the food and beverage, and we’ll have a big management company involved. XV Beacon is 61 rooms, and I learned how to develop a hotel properly by observing and assisting my partner in Mistral. The Ames is 115 rooms; the hotel in Chelsea is closer to 500 rooms. So I’m moving up in the world.

Do you have any overseas expansions/projects lined up? I’ve been approached by some different groups to get involved in some projects in the Middle East, but until things are signed, there’s really not much to talk about. But I’m looking pretty closely at Dubai. But we want to grow our infrastructure first. In Europe, nothing in the immediate future.

What are you doing tonight? Tonight I am training Muay Thai, and then I am going to a friend’s rehearsal dinner. And then I’m meeting Michael Bolton. I’ve been training martial arts for at least twenty years.

Sounds like you’re pretty good at scouting trends before anyone else. I guess so.

Photo: Gerry Lerner