Whether you’re sipping on a custom cocktail in New York’s finest mixology bar or relaxing with beers at your nightly hangout around the corner, the dim lights of the establishment are sure to eschew your eye to what’s hiding behind the curtain—or in this case, behind the bar. The woman who served up the fancy drink you’re enjoying or the man who pours your favorite pint every night, or whoever’s doling out your alcoholic pleasures, is sure to have a story of their own. And as the renaissance of the bartender only becomes more prevalent, the more we find ourselves asking: just who are these people that float in and out of our nights?
Back in the day, lobsters were fertilizer and fish bait. Even into colonial times the meat was considered worthy only of servants and prisoners. Fast-forward to contemporary NYC and fresh lobster is all but a fetish. Low-key seafood spots are proliferating. The meat is a luxury. The atmosphere is casual. And there’s a nostalgic connection to summers and the seaside. Newcomers Lobster Joint and Kittery of Brooklyn are prime examples of why seafood shacks are the new black.
Greenpoint and Rockaways sensation Lobster Joint has taken on a prime slice of East Houston. The spot skews quaint, with picnic tables, whitewashed walls, and natural light streaming in from the skylight. Order off the hand-lettered menu and settle in for seriously fresh fruits of the sea. Lobster rolls are signatures, made in two styles: warm Connecticut, or New England with herb mayo. There are ample alternative rolls, too, from clam to crab to crispy oyster. If you want the full feast, opt for a dinner, complete with corn, potatoes, coleslaw, and a pound and a half of succulent lobster.
Vacationland comes to Carroll Gardens with the opening of Kittery of Brooklyn. A corner spot with ample yardage does its best impression of Maine coastal dining. Ayuh, they’re serving lobstah rolls, with meat shipped straight from Kittery. Borders broaden with a selection of sustainable ocean seafood, fished from Maine all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. New England native Josh Moulton helms the kitchen, drawing on memories of early Down East years (recent stints at Monkey Bar and Union Square Café make for a high-wattage résumé). Nautical-themed digs are a reminder that the Atlantic is just a short hop on the F away.
Photo by Erin & Camera/Flickr
Paso Robles, a town of 22,000 on California’s Central Coast where the actor Josh Brolin has a horse ranch, lives, and spent his formative years, owes its existence to an accident of plate tectonics. In ancient times, Salinan Indians stopped there, where cracks in the Earth let sulfur-charged waters bubble through the crust to form thermal springs. They called the place simply “Springs.” In 1797, the Spanish—lured by the heathens and hot water—founded a mission. Soon, the Indians were either assimilated or destroyed, and a steady flow of pioneers, gold-seekers, almond growers, ranchers, and consumptive Californians in need of a soak replaced them.
When Brolin was growing up in Paso in the early seventies—before he awakened lust in the hearts of a generation of gum-popping tweens, before he got lost in the brambles of what he calls his “lean years,” before he finally came in from the cold—the hillocks, valleys, and ridges of Paso Robles were covered in prairie grass, horse tracks, and little else. Barbed wire, perhaps, and the wide open spaces of cowboy vowels. “I don’t know why,” Brolin tells me, “but in Paso everybody sounds like they’re from Texas.”
Brolin might be referring to what the comedian David Cross once called “redneck voice,” the twangy rural accent that spans the Mason-Dixon Line and stretches from coast to coast. But the line is also about as good a gloss of the actor as you can get: Brolin is a Hollywood star but he seems real country. Few actors can summon the ghosts of the unvarnished American West as well as he can, and yet few actors can claim a Hollywood lineage as illustrious as his. The dusty air of a threadbare life clings to him, and yet his father, James Brolin, is James Brolin, the famous actor. Tumbleweed seems to trail his footsteps, and yet his stepmother, Barbra Streisand, is a fairly well–known singer and actress. His gristle and growl seem ground–in from a life of long rides through mountain passes, yet Brolin has ridden that bronco called fame—sometimes getting bucked off but always getting back on—straight since the age of 17, when he debuted as Brand, Sean Astin’s heart-throbby older brother in The Goonies. Remixes of his famous kiss with Kerri Green in a cave litter YouTube like so many dead stock cans of New Coke, hissing for release.
But that Josh Brolin—face unbeaten by Santa Ana winds, limbs not yet thickened with age, voice pinched and overall just a little silly—is not the Josh Brolin of today. The Josh Brolin who walks into The Monkey Bar in New York City early one April morning seems to have wandered off the back lot of a mythic American past. He lopes with the slightly pigeon-toed, bow-legged gait of a cowboy. His arms, unusually long, pendulum slowly. Even his goatee, so often the facial hair of a clown, does little to besmirch the handsomeness of his face.
Much of this unshakeable cowboy aura is due to Brolin’s role as Llewelyn Moss in Joel and Ethan Coen’s No Country For Old Men, a role so perfectly fit it uncovered what felt like the real man. Much of this is due to Brolin’s not inconsiderable skill as an actor. Much of it is determined by our own need for an American hero who wears denim, not Spandex, and who hides his face not behind a mask but under the shadow cast by the brim of a Stetson. But how much of it is true?
Josh Brolin, a man of 44 who lives with his second wife, the actor Diane Lane, on a horse ranch in Paso Robles and plays the young Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black 3, owes much of his current fame to an accident of skeletal structure. “There’s no way, looking the way I look, not to try to find a niche for me,” Brolin says. “I have this Easter Island skull,” he says, tapping at it with his thick finger, “and I can see casting directors say, ‘Thank God we have a man. There’s not many left.’” That skull, with its broad brow so often furrowed, square jaw oft clenched, and deep–set eyes always squinting, seems to be custom built to convey the forebearing silence of the American man.
But physiognomy is the source of only half of Brolin’s weathered, wind–bitten looks. The man has lived hard enough to blister paint from the rails. He got his first tattoo, of his initials, on his back at 14. He got his second, his initials in Korean, covering up his first at age 16. But his troubles began when he left Paso. “When I moved down to L.A. after The Goonies, I had this country identity. But what was I supposed to do, walk around in cowboy boots?” One can almost hear the opening riff of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” and see an 18–year–old Brolin strolling down the 405 in a pair of stingray ropers.
Instead, Brolin went punk. He covered up his initials with a tattoo of a tiger, got Jesus tattoed on one arm and an Indian on the other. He wore a Mohawk and fell in with a group of SoCal punks in a band called Rich Kids on LSD. “I was just trying to be something,” he explains, “to find some weight.” He partied hard, with all the chemical implications partying hard in Santa Barbara in the late ’80s brings, and acted in one terrible film called Thrashin’ about a skateboarder. “It was a very self-destructive group, and it was a self-destructive time,” he says. “Basically 80 percent of the guys that I grew up with died.”
Brolin’s fate diverged from his cohort when he had his first child, Trevor, at age 20 with his then– girlfriend Alice Adair. “I went from the Paso ranch to Santa Barbara punk to becoming a dad. And as soon as I had my first kid, I started shedding the weight,” says Brolin.“I didn’t need it anymore.” Though he was saved from imminent destruction, his career, for a very long time after that, was mired in the character–actor twilight.
From recent accounts of Josh Brolin’s career, one might imagine that he did nothing between The Goonies and No Country except putter about his ranch, mend fences, and practice staring into the sunset. He did in fact do all of those things, but he also was working as any other working man might: non-stop. The longest break between movies was only three years, and projects, though spotty, were constant. “I went through 20 odd years very frustrated,” he says, his voice gaining a slight edge. “I didn’t make a lot of money and there were some years that were really, really tough.”
As Brolin toiled in bit parts in genre films, time—relentless time—and the California sun lacquered his skin, kneaded deep furrows around his eyes, and eroded the weight he had clung to as a young man. He gradually built a niche for himself, playing the sorts of western men with whom he had spent his childhood, and with whom he spent his days, but of whom he knew he never was. When faced with the question, Brolin sharply replies, “I am an actor, that’s what I do. I don’t pretend to be something else.”
At age 31, he began to have his tattoos removed. First Jesus, then the Indian. “I needed to be weightless,” he explained. He began to lose himself in roles and conversely began edging toward the flame. His future grew brighter. In 2004, Woody Allen cast him in Melinda and Melinda. In 2007, Robert Rodriguez tapped him to play Dr. William Block in Planet Terror, one-half of the Grindhouse double feature he directed with Quentin Tarantino. Brolin played a police detective in Paul Haggis’ In the Valley of Elah, a critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful story of friendly fire. That same year, the Coens cast Brolin as Llewelyn Moss, and the accolades began to accumulate like dust on the broadside of a barn. Thus the second coming of Josh Brolin began. Or, at least, that’s how the story goes. Ask Josh Brolin and Josh Brolin narrows his eyes and squints at you, and a little bit of his natural goofiness turns hard. “I was basically written off as a blue–collar actor, a guy who just made a living who had a dad that made a living and had some fame early on,” he says, “to a guy who they wanted to praise and say, ‘Wow the Coen brothers found him! He came out of nowhere and his career was almost over and they saved him…’ I find it a little insulting.”
The shadow of Llewelyn Moss,which one is tempted to call the apotheosis of Brolin’s career, looms over Josh Brolin like any masterpiece does its creator. It’s an inheritance and a burden. Since No Country, Brolin has stretched himself to the limits of his craft. He won critical acclaim for the murderous Dan White in Gus Van Sant’s Milk. He lost himself deeply in the soul of the 43rd president in Oliver Stone’s biopic W. To transform himself into a younger Agent K for Men in Black 3, Brolin disappeared to a cheap motel in Sonora and practiced Tommy Lee Jones’ Texas-via-Harvard lilt for three weeks. “There’s actually nothing followable about his accent,” Brolin admits. “It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve heard.”
Yet, it seems all Brolinania tumbles back to the cowboy, the grunter, the American hero. His angle of repose shall evermore by Llewelyn Moss and, for an actor whose goal is weightlessness, that the character has become a millstone around his neck is frustrating. “There are movie stars that everybody raves about if they do something a little bit different. But if you present yourself as somebody who’s willing to go in any direction and all the way in that direction, a lot more is expected of you,” Brolin says, his voice growing louder. “It’s like the dad who never shows up, and then when he does show up, people are impressed. But for the dad who is always there, when he’s not there one time he gets shit for it.” The point is, Brolin is no deadbeat dad and always shows up.
The San Andreas faults run 25 miles east of Paso Robles. It cuts between a schoolhouse and a water tower on Highway 49, as it has for millennia before the schoolhouse, the highway, or the water tower were there. There have been many earthquakes in the area, but none in recent memory have been as bad as the 2003 San Simeon earthquake. It occurred at 11:15am on December 22 and registered 6.5 on the Richter Scale. Brolin says, “That was the worst I’ve ever experienced.” Paso Robles was severely damaged, and two women were killed when a building collapsed on them in the downtown area. “Paso is near a triple fault line, and it’s crazy that people live there,” says Brolin with the blur of fatalism and pride of someone who counts himself among the crazies.
But, of course, if there had been no fault line there’d be no thermal waters, and if it were just hills, stands of oaks, and alluvial planes with no springs, Paso Robles would be nothing at all. The creation of the thing holds within it seeds of its own destruction. Brolin is working to make himself scarce under the depth of his characters, to escape the legacy of his bones, to undo the straightjacket of his weather-beaten skin. Today Brolin’s Jesus is nearly gone, and the Indian has disappeared. The tiger is still on his back, but age has softened its roar. Brolin is more weightless now than he’s ever been, but he’s also never been more substantial.
Photography by Jenny Gage and Tom Betterton
Styling by Christopher Campbell
When Richard Gere went looking for a nice place to enjoy his horsies on an afternoon, he stumbled on Bedford, New York. The village’s proximity to New York City, its genial, upscale population, and acres of open land, make it irresistible to equestrians. After spending time there, Gere and his wife Carey Lowell decided to open their version of the good life to the public. Their hotel, The Bedford Post Inn, has become a local institution, hosting holiday parties, weekend getaways, and weddings, as well as something as simple as a great Sunday brunch. They’ve brought on significant new staff within the last year or so, including executive chef Jeremy McMillan, who loves partnering with local farmers to stock his pantry, and general manager Oscar Henquet, who’s bringing his background in hotels like the St. Regis and the Four Seasons, and restaurants including The Monkey Bar and Rouge Tomate, to a much more intimate scale. Just two months into the job, we checked in with Henquet to get his first impressions of his new property:
How would you characterize the overall feel of your property?
Luxurious Relais & Chateaux property set in a wooded area in the heart of Westchester, under an hour away from Manhattan.
What are some of its unique design features?
It’s a unique historic property that dates back to the 1860s. Carey Lowell and Tiffany Vassilakis did all the interior design and have created a magnificent property. Most rooms have working fireplaces, all original wooden beams are visible, and some rooms have beautiful terraces overlooking the property.
What’s the best dish on the menu?
Fagotelli with fontina fonduta, chestnuts and shaved truffle.
Which room or suite is your favorite, and why?
Room 7 is my favorite. It’s very spacious, lots of daylight, California King bed, overlooking the woods.
What’s a special amenity or service guests should be aware of?
Guests who stay with us at the Inn receive complimentary yoga classes. We also offer in-room spa treatments. And we wake you up in the morning (at a requested time) by knocking on your door with with French-pressed coffee and some delicious breakfast treats.
Where do you send guests for a great excursion from the hotel?
We send guests to the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation for hiking, and the Yellow Monkey Village in Cross River is great for antique shops.
What’s the best neighborhood to shop in your city?
Local shopping is best in the village of Katonah or in Chappaqua. Greenwich is nearby as well.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen happen at the hotel during your time there?
So far every day has been special at Bedford Post. The unexpected snowstorm in late October that cut us off from the outside world for brief a moment created a magical picture. Since we have a working generator we quickly became a safe haven not only for our inn guests but also for the local community. It was amazing to see it all come together. Recently we had a guest who flew in the famous Troisgros family for a special event to cook alongside our chef Jeremy McMillan, which was a special moment for all of us at the property. And then there are the endless guest stories, but their stories are safe with us, as that will make them come back time after time again.
Charming Australian Heathe St. Clair is the proprietor of Bondi Road, The Sunburnt Cow, and new Upper West Side outpost, The Sunburnt Calf. He has that jovial, Down Under wit and good spirit, which surely helped him develop a name in New York’s unforgiving hospitality industry after moving across the globe to pursue acting at the Atlantic Theater Company. As a struggling actor, he worked at Isabella’s, Box Tree, Monkey Bar, and The Captain. He also ran an uptown restaurant called Maison. The Calf, as St. Clair calls it, has been open since April 1st. Against expectation, it looks like the Upper West Side was fully ready for the influx of rowdy Australians and all-you-can-drink weekend brunches. More on the new joint after the jump.
Backstory: I came here to study drama. I got an agent and I was going out and auditioning and stuff for a while but at one point I just realized I needed to move on from that. Then I studied martial arts; I had a martial arts business for a while. I taught kickboxing which, you know, sort of doesn’t blend well with the bar business. I didn’t do any bar business for a few years, but it’s always sucked me back in. Always. A friend of mine was involved with marketing Paradou in the meat packing district and they needed someone to come in and help with the wine program, so I started consulting on that. I ended up working there for awhile. By then I was really actively seeking a space for the Sunburnt Cow.
On difficulties of doing business: We’re trying to get our air conditioner turned on, which is a major issue in the city. It’s not easy doing business in New York. Everybody is running very, very slowly, even though this is the fastest city in the world. There are three departments involved in getting an air conditioner turned on and nobody wants to give you an answer.
On the UWS: We found a great space: It’s two floors, a really beautiful space. And we’ve tricked it out pretty nicely. I’m hoping it’s going to work out the way we want it to, but you never know in New York. I have been living up here for months now while I’ve been building this place and there’s nowhere to go out up here, unless you’re a college kid. They’ve got some great frat bars, but you don’t see that good downtown music. We’re trying to bring a bit of that downtown vibe up here, by bringing some of our DJs to play music. I used to get drunk up on the Upper West Side when I worked at Isabella’s fifteen years ago.
On the new menu: I didn’t have a lot of money when I first started the The Sunburnt Cow and we were limited by the space. We didn’t have enough money to put a dishwashing station in so we served food on paper plates. Once we made enough money back, we put in another station and had a dishwasher and plates. But in the beginning, we were serving this amazing gourmet food on paper plates. It went over pretty well, but obviously you don’t want to be doing that forever. When we built Bondi, I had a chance to build the kitchen, so I built it around the menu. For this neighborhood, I think we’re right up there, probably at least 8 bucks cheaper than anybody else. If you visited where I grew up in the Outback of Australia, when you went to a pub, your mom was cooking and dad was serving the beers. And I always stay true to that, but we’ve done a little bit more here.
On All-You-Can-Drink brunch: That’s something I’d like to call my idea, but it’s not. I’ve always made my money working in restaurants and bars, but I always tried not to work on Sundays, to hit up a Sunday brunch. I used to go to drag-queen diner Stingy Lulu’s. They did an all you can drink bar with a transvestite show going on Sundays. I thought, Wow this is a great concept. So when I opened The Cow I was like, I’m gonna do that here. It took me awhile to build it up though. I walked around Tompkins Square Park with baskets full of orange hard-boiled eggs that were stamped with the Sun-Burnt Cow logo and glued to our flyer. I did it everyday for a long time. It took me a couple of years to build it up, but now, all three places are pretty packed.
Ratio of Australians to non-Aussies on staff: Everybody’s Australian. Well, from Australia and New Zealand. We’ve got one New Zealander right now. We take New Zealanders, but we want to try and keep it as authentic as we can. I mean, I sponsor a lot of people to come from Australia. We’re always looking for people that want to get involved. If you show the right spark, you get sponsored, and then there’s a chance to get points in the business and that sort of thing. It’s part of the fun. Someone was just saying that everyone was so friendly and that they have good energy. I mean, it’s not the easiest thing. In Australia, you’re gonna get great food, but in general the service is pretty poor. Sometimes it can be quite hard to find good people. I try to find people who have grown up in the industry. We try to create a good work environment which eventually trickles down to the customer. I think that the important part of management is treating your staff well so they treat your customers and each other well.
On The Cow’s namesake: Bessie. I was a little boy and my mom loved animals. My sister is actually a horse dentist. There were always animals that our mom would rescue. We had this cow and one day it wasn’t around and I was told that it got sunburnt. I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. I believed it, but it turns out we actually ate the cow. I didn’t find out for years. Bessie’s calf was called Bruce and that inspired the name for the new restaurant.
Most popular dish at The Calf: I like the grilled crispy chicken dish. I think that’s going to be really popular. I was actually drunk when I thought of that one. I was sitting at the bar and we were brainstorming back and forth. And I just saw this dish. It came to me and I was like, yeah, we’ve got to do that. And it worked out really well. We put a citrus rub on the chicken and it’s grilled crispy and finished in the oven. It’s served over a terrine of garlic, Portobellos, potatoes, endives, and a fennel puree that holds it together. It’s topped with fava beans and fresh grilled corn.
Go-to places: I quite like Little Branch. There’s a jazz sensation there and the drinks are good. My friends just opened up this place next to The Cow called Summit Bar, a cocktail bar. I love going there. I really enjoy Jean Georges, but I’m a pretty low key guy these days.
At David Barton Gym annual toy drive: ● MARC JACOBS – “In Paris, there’s a small club called Montana, and there’s a restaurant called Thiou. Bars I really don’t hang out in. Oh, there’s this great club that happens once a month in Paris called Club Sandwich. And it’s at the Espace Cardin. And everyone gets super dressed-up, so it’s really, really fun. I try to go whenever I’m in Paris, if it’s going on. And we stay out all night and just dance like crazy. And in New York, my favorite restaurants have always been the same. I love to eat at Pastis. I love the Standard. I love Da Silvano. I eat in the lobby of the Mercer a lot, the hotel. I usually go to Pastis for lunch, and there’s a sandwich that was on the menu, but they don’t make it anymore, but I always insist that they make it for me. And it’s really fattening, so I shouldn’t eat it, but it’s chicken paillard and gruyere cheese and bacon. And it’s so delicious. It’s really good. And it’s my weakness. It’s just like the most perfect sandwich.”
● DAVID BARTON – “Oh, I can’t think where I like to hang out in Seattle except my new gym! There’s a great place that just opened up in New York, up on 51st, called the East Side Social Club. Patrick McMullan is one of the partners there. He’s co-hosting with me tonight. Great place; really cool. It’s very old world, kind of like going to Elaine’s, kind of little cozy; sit at a booth; very cool. Love a little place called Il Bagatto, over on 7th between A & B — little tiny Italian place, East Village, kind of a neighborhood place that I go to. What else? I don’t know restaurants. I’m very casual. I’m so not that into food. I mean, I could eat cardboard — I’m just not into food! I like people. I like atmosphere, but I’m just not that into food.” ● AMANDA LEPORE – “I definitely like Bowery Bar and I like Hiro. Boom Boom Room. Just anywhere where everybody is, I guess! [laughs] Novita, I like, my friend Giuseppe. Any favorite dishes? I try not to eat too much! ● PATRICK MCDONALD – “My favorite restaurant in New York is Indochine. It’s been around for 25 years. Jean-Marc, I adore. I love the bar at the Carlyle. I don’t drink, but I like to go there for tea in the afternoon. And I love Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon on Gramercy Park. I love Pastis, Odeon, and everywhere. I like the French fries at Pastis.” ● PATRICK MCMULLAN – “I love going to Waverly Inn downtown. Boom Boom Room is fabulous. That’s really a new, great place. SL, on 409 W. 14th Street, down below is nice. Of course, I have the East Side Social Club that I’m involved with, and that’s great for hanging out in, for eating. Favorite dishes anywhere? Oh, I don’t know, just anything that people recommend. I usually go with what people recommend ’cause most people know what’s good — the waiters know, so I think that’s the best thing. Red wine is good to have to drink sometimes. They have a drink called the Eastsider at the East Side Social Club that’s really good; any of their pastas; their ravioli is great there. What else do I like? That new place that’s open, the English place, on 60th in the Pierre — Le Caprice, that’s a nice place. At the Waverly Inn, I like the macaroni and cheese. It was funny because the macaroni and cheese is about two dollars less than a room at the Pod Hotel, which is where the East Side Social Club is! The Monkey Bar is fun. There are so many cool places in New York. I just go where people tell me to go.”
At elf party for Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe:
● JENNY MCCARTHY – “In Chicago, I would have to say Gibsons Steakhouse still; in Los Angeles, Katsuya, still love that sushi; I’m addicted to it. And in New York, Koi. I’m very trendy and boring, but, hey, that’s where the good food is, so …” ● PERI GILPIN – “In L.A., we like BLT a lot. We have five-year-old twins, so we’re like in bed by nine o’clock — pretty boring. Corner Bakery for soup.” ● CANDACE CAMERON BURE – “L.A., hands down, our favorite restaurant is Gjelina, which is in Venice. And we love Craft; love Michael’s in Santa Monica. Here, in New York, my favorite restaurant is Lupa, which is a Mario Batali restaurant; love it here. And I don’t go to clubs anymore, nightclubs; I don’t ever! At Gjelina, they have a burrata with prosciutto and, usually, a warm pear or a warm peach. I love that! I really love tapas. I enjoy getting a lot of appetizers, more than just a main dish. We, actually, have had our own wine label, Bure Family Wines, for two years, which is at several restaurants, so matching the food and the wine is a big part for us. We’re big foodies” ● DEAN MCDERMOTT – “There is a great bar, Ye Coach & Horses in L.A., on Sunset. I’m so bad at this stuff! Oh, Katsuya, in the Valley, awesome sushi. It’s our favorite place. We go there like three times a week.” ● KEN BAUMANN – “In New York, my favorite restaurant is Il Cortile. It’s in Little Italy, and it’s run by this guy named Stefano, and it’s incredible, phenomenal food. In Los Angeles, my favorite restaurant’s gotta be Cut, which is in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.” ● SHAILENE WOODLEY – “Honestly, I’m not really a club kinda girl. I’d rather go to a local bar with some friends and hang out there. Or just go back to my house and have people come over. I’m more of the congregate-at-my-house kind of chick. I’m 18, so I don’t drink, so I don’t go to bars. There’s a place called the Alamo, which has karaoke and it’s a bar, but we go and karaoke there probably once a week.” ● FRANCIA RAISA – “I’m not a big club person. I really like bars and lounges. In L.A., I like to hang out at Buffalo Wild Wings, watching sports and drinking beer with my friends. I really don’t go out that much. I hang out at home and have my own glass of wine, watching Grey’s Anatomy. Oh, I just tried this restaurant yesterday at Gramercy Park Hotel. It’s a new, Italian place — Maialino. It was amazing. And again, I’m very simple, so I like pizza, and John’s Pizza out here is amazing to me, too. And hot wings I like at Planet Hollywood. I’m obsessed with them!”
At Zeno “Hot Spot” launch party @ MTV Studios:
● SKY NELLOR – “I am a huge sushi fanatic, so I just had Katsuya three times in two days in L.A. What is it about Katsuya? It’s the baked-crab hand roll in a soy-paper wrap. It’s just so yummy. I want one now! In New York, I have a fixation with Bagatelle. I just love the fish and the veggies. Nightclubs, nightlife, oh, my God! Apparently, I’m a really good bowler, so I hang out at Lucky Strike everywhere — Miami, L.A., Kansas! We just had a bowling party, and I won, so … Oh, they didn’t let me see my score. I just kept getting strikes to the point where they were, like, ‘Give her more shots! We have to stop this girl!’ And the drunker I got, the better I got. Clubs — if I’m going to go out, I’m going to go out to dance. And I’m going to go where the DJ is playing. I don’t care what club it is. I went to a dive in L.A., at a party called Afex, just because some of the best DJs were playing that night. Like, I don’t care about the crowd. I don’t care about the scene. I care about the music. I don’t think the venue has a name. I think it’s called No Space. They just move the party around.” ● SUCHIN PAK – “I have a great place. It’s called Broadway East, and it’s on East Broadway. And I love it because it’s a beautiful space, but also it’s literally across the street from my house. That always helps. And then there’s a really fantastic place called Bacaro. Oh, it’s amazing! It’s downstairs. It’s almost a dungeon-like place. The people that used to do Peasant, the wine bar there, moved to this place. I like to say the Lower East Side on East Broadway is where the grown-up hipsters go. For a true Lower East Sider, it may not be true Lower East Side, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved more south than east, and I keep trickling that way.”
At charity:ball for charity:water:
● ADRIAN GRENIER – “Brooklyn. Fort Greene. Habana Outpost — it’s run mostly on solar power, and it’s a sustainable business.” ● MARK BIRNBAUM – “Well, if I do say so myself, Abe & Arthur’s on 14th Street; SL, the new club underneath it. I still love Tenjune. And I like hanging out at home other than that. What about places other than your own? So I shouldn’t say the Chandelier Room, in Hoboken? I really like going to Bar and Books in the West Village — that’s our spot. You know where else I like to go? Miami — the new W South Beach is unbelievable, by far the best hotel down there. The design is incredible; the pool area is very nice; they have good restaurants there — there’s a Mr. Chow’s and the other one is good; the rooms are really nice; it’s very well done; it’s just very fresh, the entire thing; and the artwork is incredible. You don’t feel like you’re in South Beach — not that there’s anything wrong with it — but it’s really, really, really, well done.” ● NICOLE TRUNFIO – “I just found this really cool jazz club in Paris where they still dance to old, rock-and-roll music in partners. It’s a location undisclosed. I don’t remember what it’s called. It’s in the Saint-Michel — it’s just off it. You can jump into a taxi, ‘cause we went to a jazz bar called the Library, but that was closed. So we asked the taxi driver, and he took us to this place. So, I’m sure lots of local French taxi-drivers would know the place.” ● LAUREN BUSH – “Oh, gosh, I’m like so uncool! It’s such an obvious question, it’s so hard … I’m a vegetarian, so I love Blossom restaurant. They have a good, quinoa-tofu dish. It’s like gingery. It’s really good. ● EMMA SNOWDON-JONES – “I love Le Bilboquet because it’s consistent, and mainly wherever your friends are it makes the place. It’s on 63rd, between Park and Madison. I’ve gone there since I was in boarding school. I’d come into the city on the weekends, and I’d go there. I think anyone that’s been in New York as long as I have knows it. That’s a really, bloody long time, sadly. As good as my Botox is, it’s too long!” ● KRISTIN CHENOWETH – “I am an old-fashioned girl, and I still love Joe Allen’s. I go there all the time. And right next-door above, is a place called Bar Centrale, and I go there, too. I was just there last night for three hours. I like the manicotti at Joe Allen’s. It’s excellent!” ● JULIAN LENNON – “Probably the Jane bar and the Rose Bar in New York.”
At launch of S.T. Dupont in-store boutique @ Davidoff on Madison Avenue:
● RON WHITE – “I love the bars in Glasgow, Scotland. You could go sit in a bar by yourself and in five minutes, you’d be talkin’ to 10 people because they’re so curious about anybody that walks in that’s not normally in there. They just want to go talk to ’em and find out what they’re about. They’re just as friendly as they can be. I was there for the British Open, or the Open Championship, as it’s called. And if you go to a bar in New York City, you can sit there for the rest of your life and not meet another person because they’re not really gonna come up to you and go, ‘Hey, what’s up? What are you doing in town?’ That just doesn’t happen here.”
So, are restaurants really the new nightclubs? Check out these multitasking contenders.
● Minetta Tavern (Greenwich Village) – A night at Minetta, complete with Barry Diller, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Harvey Keitel sightings, spawned this thesis. Your visit will confirm all the copious booze, packed interiors, and loud soundtracks of a nightclub, but you’ll also be served top brasserie eats. ● Hotel Griffou (Greenwich Village) – Stealth-posh scene-stealer serves up vintage dishes, but the elaborate array of intimate rooms is just as big a draw. Big enough to draw Leo, Chloe, and Kanye, among a glut of bold-faced names. ● Monkey Bar (Midtown East) – Graydon Carter’s latest monkeyshines lays down a hierarchical supper club scene, with banquettes for the literary elite and tables in the pit for you. Oysters named for Rockefeller, meatloaf named for Ephron. But it’s all about the scene.
● The Waverly Inn (West Village) – High-wattage crowd in low-wattage light, with cozy, clubby feel that preserves the charm of the original. Still unlisted digits; go bathe yourself in the self-congratulatory vibe of the inn crowd inside. ● Charles (West Village) – Exclusive enough to start its run behind papered-over windows. But that’s how the peoples wanted it, and the unlisted number and email-only ressies just make this loungey supper spot all the more desirable. ● Delicatessen (Soho) – Corner attraction rocking enough lumber to show up a Lowe’s. Steers focus away from the food and onto the scene, which is tight, attractive, and ready to put away a few fancy-pants cocktails. And maybe eating. ● The Stanton Social (Lower East Side) – Lofty, tri-level space is sleek and energetic; draws in the Yorkville types looking to experiment with “ethnic” food. On the nightclub side, the music’s loud enough to make a Pacha DJ wince. ● Buddakan (Chelsea) – Stephen Starr’s sixth-borough export still catering to overflowing MePa mobs scarfing down fusiony fare. Stunning, mansion-esque space delves deep. Able to accommodate every single person heading over to Kiss & Fly and Tenjune later, all at once. ● Double Crown (Greenwich Village) – AvroKO design masters follow up Public success with vintage vibe, sprawling space. Come colonize another stretch of the Bowery and let the pretty people distract you from the just so-so food. ● bobo (West Village) Ring the downstairs doorbell for Boho-Bourgie dinner party scene. Kitchen still not fully sorted, but that’s alright with the frisky crowd lounging about the elegant townhouse digs.
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
Graydon Carter — editor of Vanity Fair and owner/savior/matchbook-maker at the Waverly Inn — has come to the rescue of yet another beleaguered New York restaurant. Word has leaked that Carter, along with a pair of partners, has purchased the Monkey Bar in the Hotel Elysée.
Troubled venue owners should look to Carter as a magnet personality fit to rejuvenate any property. Shall he creep further up the Upper East Side? Perhaps the bar at the renovated Mark Hotel? Or maybe kick the dowagers out of Bemelmans? Perhaps most importantly, will he continue his crusade as the Rosa Parks of indoor smoking?