Mulberry Project Celebrates Four Years

On New Year’s Eve, the Mulberry Project will celebrate four years of doing boozeness. A space known for its good food and innovative cocktails, it’s a late night favorite for the hipper than thou set. Now, it has a sister in the Greenwich Project and another sibling on the way with 1919.

1919 was the year Prohibition was enacted—people were not legally allowed a cocktail, a shot, or a beer until 1933. See Boardwalk Empire for more information. But people drank anyway in places called “speakeasy’s”—called that because you needed to keep quiet about them less the coppers found them out. I caught up with owner Nick Boccio and asked him all about it.

 New Years Eve is the 4th anniversary of the Mulberry Project. What has worked, what has been tweaked, and where is the project headed?
I feel that we have established a very loyal following at Mulberry Project over the past four years, and our customers continue to come back due to the quality of cocktails and food—and of course the unique and energetic ambiance. One thing we have done consistently over the years is to keep reinventing ourselves and evolving. Whether it’s revamping the interior design and collaborating with local artists or revamping the menu, people can always expect a new and fresh experience at Mulberry Project. I think a lot of our success is also due to our neighborhood-focused approach, and making sure we are always adapting to the market and what our customers want.

 Greenwich Village, east of 6th Avenue (for about 3 blocks) can actually be compared to New Jersey in terms of shoe-gazing and other such shopping (t-shirts, smoke shops, etc). Why did you decide to open a high-end restaurant like Greenwich Project on this block/location and why doesn’t what I just said matter?
I felt that being in the Greenwich Village / West Village neighborhood would allow us to expand our business to reach a new customer base. There are many very successful local restaurants in this area, and this was an opportunity to provide the affluent local residents with a new, upscale dining experience that didn’t exist in this neighborhood. As with all of The Project Group’s venues, our focus is on providing high quality food, service & ambiance that will make Greenwich Project not only a local favorite but also a restaurant with destination appeal.

 Tell me about the menu at Greenwich Project—the presentation and your target audience?
The menu at both venues is contemporary American with European influences. At Greenwich Project the concept is more restaurant-focused with a menu of composed and refined dishes and seasonal specials that reflect the more upscale ambiance and appeal to a slightly more sophisticated diner. Mulberry Project is a more casual cocktail lounge that also offers guests a fantastic food menu ideal for light bites or a full dinner. The dishes at Mulberry are more simplified and great for sharing over cocktails. Our clientele at Greenwich Project is a little more sophisticated and skews slightly older while Mulberry Project attracts a younger, hip demographic.

Tell me about the liquor program at the two spots.
At Greenwich Project our cocktail program is focused on creating well-balanced cocktails using high-quality ingredients, including many syrups & additives that we make in house. We have a menu of “classic cocktails” such as a Dark & Stormy, and a selection of our own signature cocktails created by our head mixologists. At Mulberry Project we have a unique bespoke cocktail program, based on the concept of developing custom cocktails made to order for each guest using the fresh ingredients of the day.

What’s the next project?
Project 1919, (1919 is the year the Volstead Act was passed by Congress). This project is a pop-up that will open December 31st, 2013 and last till March 31st, 2014. It’s The Project Group’s rendition of a “speakeasy, within a speakeasy.” It will be more of a curated cocktail program focusing mainly on stirred drinks and dark liquors. The interior will be very cozy, with warm woods and metal accents. It will be located behind 149 Mulberry Street and you will need a reservation to attend.

The Most Hated and Loved Man’s Birthday & The Vinatta Project Gossip

All the unusual suspects will gather for DJ-club god Michael T’s birthday. I have never loved or hated someone as much as Michael, and that’s in the first 10 minutes every time I meet him. He can be oh-so-sweet and oh-so-sour, but his heart is always in the right place. There was this one time — I’m going to stop there, as we all have stories. He remains my favorite DJ who isn’t named Paul Sevigny. How can someone so ageless have so many birthdays? He’s celebrating two on one day…tonight.

The first of Michael’s birthday parties, according to the invite, is from 8pm till 1am at La Bottega at Maritime Hotel, 363 W. 16th St. The second runs from 11pm till 4am at Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St. There seems to be an overlap, and I suspect that the wily Mr. T is employing one of those Tupac hologram thingys or something like that. I’m always confused if it"s Michael Tee or "T.” In either case I will show up at one of these soirees to celebrate my friend’s fabulousness – probably at Beauty Bar so I can dine at IHOP right after. Michael is so thoughtful like that.

Everybody I know (from some circles) is off to Sundance to overpopulate the tiny hamlet of Park City, Utah. I spent a year there one night. I am being inundated with invites, but everyone knows I gave up the snow years ago. I’ve actually never gone to Sundance, as ski slopes and roller coasters and jumping from airplanes are for my next incarnation. I do love a good film though, and I hear they’re showing some in between, before and after all those parties. Noah and his Strategic Group have taken over some underground garage facility, decorated it, and snazzed it up, and are ready to show all how it is done. I would love to check out Park City Live, the newly renovated hot spot that always books national acts. My pal Kathryn Burns is living her dreams there.

Monday (after BINGO) I will attend the Benefit Concert for Animals hosted by Wesly Wang, Geri Gongora, Dava She Wolf, and sponsored by Alacran Tequila and Forever Young wine at Sullivan Hall, 214 Sullivan St.  The Bashers – featuring musicians from Guns N’Roses, Soul Asylum, X-Pensive Winos, Uptown Horns – and others will lead the way. The Planets will also perform. Bands start at 9:30pm and they’re asking for a minimum of $10 at the door.

On Sunday the rockers will descend on Manitoba’s for the 14th annual anniversary extravaganza. It’s billed as the first great party of ’13 – and I’m a believer (unless someone actually plays that track). It’s running from 1pm to 4am, and is a "15-hour rock and roll party at 100MPH.” There will be munchies and drink specials, and the football games will be shown. Handsome Dick Manitoba and his lovely wife Zoe Hanson will host.

The other day, a reliable source whispered to my always open, rather large and sometimes naive ears that the building where The Vinatta Project thrives was bought by Matt Levine. It simply isn’t true. Matt reports: "I have no involvement at 69 Gansevoort at this time. Let me get The Rowhouse Inn open first before myself and Michael start opening up more spaces in the Meatpacking, haha."

Well, at least my boy got that Rowhouse part right. Rael Petit, a friend of mine and partner and manager over at Vinatta, 69 Gansevoort, asked me to clarify. He’s at Sundance doing diners for his Mulberry Project and Vinatta. I caught up with him before he jetted off. He told me Fridays and Saturdays are slammed at Vinatta with a great crowd listening to resident DJ Mok. He tells me the Tuesday-through-Thursday crowd are filled with the locals and are for my tastes. I’m summoned to check it next week when he’s back. The official line from them is :

“The Vinatta Project opened its doors in November 2011 in the bustling Meatpacking District. In the constantly evolving restaurant statosphere, The Vinatta Project embodies all of the components of a perfect night out–delicious food, complete beverage program, friendly service an a hip yet inviting atmosphere.  The menu features a selection of Contemporary American dishes including Paella Spring Rolls, made with Shrimp, Chorizo, Jalapeño and Smoked Paprika Aioli, Tuna Tartare with a Crispy Wonton and Wasabi Greens and NY Strip, served with Chimichurri, Polenta Croutons and Pickled Red Onion.

Vinatta also features a robust beverage program, complete with hand-crafted bespoke cocktails created by some of the best mixologists in NYC, and a selection of artisan spirits. Vinatta is open for weekend brunch, special events or even catered parties.”

Yesterday,  my very secret whisper-in-my-ear source, who obviously is right most of the time but not all (the price of being fast and first), says that The Shadow space on W. 28th St. has a new operator. Shadow was owned and operated by the old-school, wonderful Steven Juliano.  He, according to my source, has settled on a buyer which my source says is one of the premier operating  groups. I know who it is, but I’m going to double and triple check before I tell you.

Drink Like Churchill at Black Hound Bar and Lounge

Not to bludgeon the speakeasy idea (regarding Wednesday’s post), but, there is a new one in town, and this time, it has popped up in the Financial District. Enter, Black Hound Bar & Lounge, the latest in stealthy craft cocktails by Jeremy Strawn of Mulberry Project and Death & Co, and gourmet bar bites by Mexican chef Antelmo Ambrosio.

The theme runs along the line of literary, political, and artistic greats, which their cocktails mirror in name. This includes an ode to Ernest Hemmingway, and no, it’s not the Hemmingway Daiquiri thank goodness. Instead, drink the Moveable Feast, a Sazerac Rye, Amaro Montenegro and Luxardo Fine combination that begs to for a snack like Ambrosio’s truffle macaroni and cheese or tuna tartare to give it some sustenance.

They also have a Winston Churchill-inspired drink called Painting as a Pastime, which uses vodka, pistachio syrup, ginger and lime. I don’t buy that Churchill would have been particular to this combination given he was more of a brown spirits or gin man, but it sounds good just the same. 

Despite the drink, you might be able to picture Churchill sitting here, given the lounge’s dark wood accents, the ceiling covered in antique mirrors, and the plush leather bar stools big enough to hold his heft. Also, what better place for the former prime minster of England than in the neighborhood dedicated to money and business relations.  Now, you too can make like this great man, or Hemmingway, or any other creative type, and do that other thing they do best, throw one back.