EMM Group Opens The General, A Sure-Fire Hit

I’ve was invited to the friends and family opening of The Generalthe new restaurant from EMM Group at Bowery and Spring. EMM is Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum, and Michael Hirtenstein. They are the force behind Abe & Arthur’s, CATCH, CATCH Roof, CATCH Miami, Lexington Brass, SL, SL East, Tenjune, Chandelier Room, Revel Nightlife, FINALE, and Bow, and lots of other stuff. Bow and Finale are the other parts of the Spring and Bowery space that once housed Boulevard and Crash Mansion. Executive chef Hung Huynh of Top Chef fame offers up modern Asian cuisine in a red-chaired gilded wallpapered paradise. All the inside-info is here.

Opening up this time of year is interesting. Most operators look to open in the early or late stages of spring or fall, and with 300 seats, there will be a lot of kinks to be worked out. Groups like EMM have fewer kinks than most.  Opening now allows the place to hit its stride as the nice weather and affluent snowbirds return. They can do no wrong in my book. The General stretches the Bowery strip from its previous above-Houston Street border where joints like Daniel Boulud’s DBGB, Gemma, Peels and many others serve neighborhood residents and well-heeled visitors. This is not the Bowery of my youth. Little Steve Lewis trivia: my great uncle was one of the famed Bowery Boys.

Most clubs reported near-normal attendees for the week after New Year’s but much lower revenues. People went out but seemed to be tapped or burnt out.  For all except for the very top operators, New Year’s Eve is a loss when you account for the naturally slower nights preceding it and the after-effects. I’m still beat up from all the rushing around, and Christmas bills are still being paid. Getting me out requires special coaxing.

Many people obviously get terribly drunk on New Year’s Eve and try hard to slow it down for a couple of weeks. Then there are those resolutions which often include a step back from the boozing. My resolutions always end in a vow to break all my resolutions ASAP. We are still enjoying tourist dollars, but those will fade away as vacation bucks tend to fly to warmer climates this time of year. The cold keeps people in and, well, you get the idea.

EMM group is way ahead of this game. They have a built-in clientele that’s enamored with all their other joints. CATCH is still more than killing it, and the word "NEW" is always a sure draw. The General, a NEW offering from an established hospitality group enters as a sure thing. I’ll keep you posted.

Isa Gets New Chefs and Brunch

When Taavo Somer opened his Brooklyn restaurant Isa during the fall of 2011, gourmands flocked to get a taste of chef Ignacio Mattos’s eclectic menu. Eric Asimov of The New York Times described it as having a “complementary primitive aesthetic,” and he wasn’t alone in being charmed by the Williamsburg haunt. Yet, despite the reviews, Isa shut down this June after Mattos and other chefs left.

Now the popular shop is up and running again, but, while the owner, space, and name of the restaurant remain the same, the menu, brunch, and chef are different. Actually, there are two new chefs:Preston and Ginger Madson,a husband and wife team from Peels and Freemans. Their latest menu reflects Somer’s desire to have more of a rustic and hearty type of restaurant with a Mediterranean spin.

“Isa was always meant to be a cozy, neighborhood dining destination,” said Preston. “With the new menu, I’m trying to have something for everyone so no one feels excluded, and people that live in the neighborhood can come in and have a good meal a couple times a week.”

This means the new menu is more versatile than the original dishes, which involved items like deep-fried sardine bones and meals based on color. For brunch, the Madsons are sticking with the comfy and cozy vibe and have added Mediterranean-style plates of oven-baked eggs on polenta with pesto and tomato sauce, caramelized grapefruit, and sourdough pancakes with whipped ricotta. Don’t skip the drinks either: their beverage menu features dill-infused gin, bay leaf-infused vodka, watermelon juice, Sun Chai tea, and a cocktail called the Dayboat Swizzle, which involves absinthe, almond, and lime. Yum. But don’t take my word for it; starting tomorrow you can taste the goods yourself. 

4 Out of 5: Elliot Aronow on New York

Elliot Aronow is co-founder and creative director of RCRD LBL as well as the host and producer of chat/variety program OUR SHOW with Elliot Aronow with guests like James Murphy, Vampire Weekend, Das Racist, and Adam Green. This is his take on four places he likes, and one place he doesn’t.


Grahame Fowler – "If my TV project OUR SHOW had a shop where you could smoke out in the back, play rocksteady, and talk about clothes all day, it would probably look a lot like this mod-inspired West Village spot. The owner is an old skinhead and Northern Soul fan and stocks incredible British brands, many of which are exclusive to the store. This is the big boy step up from Fred Perry swag, Oi!"

Brooklyn Tailors – "Beautiful, functional, and flavorful bespoke suiting and shirting from my main man Danny Lewis.  From your first medium grey ‘it’s my best friend’s wedding’ jump off to your ‘live a little’ blue sharkskin Saturday night martini special, they’ve got you covered. And don’t even get me started on the spread collar shirts, the button down oxfords, the just-right ties, and the cotton trousers. Go! Tell them Elliot sent you."

Book Thug Nation – "One of the best used bookstores in Brooklyn, that most book-loving of boroughs. My punk bros told me a dude from Cometbus is the owner, so that’s even more reason to support. Excellent for vintage-ish editions of classics, philosophy reads, and of course zines! Plus they have a rad cloth print of African rulers hanging up near the register. Dope all around."

Half Gallery – "Cool little spot that features a lot of big time cats like Ed Templeton, Taylor Meade, and this dude Terry Richardson showing their works. The crowd is always sweet, which is a big plus since the place is very, very small. Good date spot too, young bucks."


Pulino’s – "As a punk rocker I have a strong and historically grounded hate for anything new within a three block radius of the former CBGBs, especially the restaurants (shout to the shrimp and grits at Peels tho). Consider Pulino’s, the culinary equivalent of the dormitory-style condos that surround it, to be the white man’s curse on the neighborhood. To be fair the breakfast pizza is kinna good, but I just don’t support this spot on general principle. Not punk, not tasty. Go to Lil Frankie’s instead."

What’s Behind NYC’s Hottest Restaurant Clientele?

Eater’s‘s recent post, “The 12 New York Restaurants With the Hottest Clientele,” was pretty spot on. I, too, have noticed the overflow of pretties as I patiently tried to nurse my hangover at Peels; I’ve checked out the front table at The Smile; and I’ve unsuccessfully tried to keep my date’s attention at La Esquina. (Which is crazy, because who can even see in that dark cavern?) In any case, there are reasons—good, plausible reasons, I tell ya!—why gorgeous cats congregate at these locales. Check it.

Peels Anything this closely related to anal warts means people are getting it on. Also: people who stick together like some kind of secret society are usually pretty—just ask cheerleaders—and the people who vie for their attention usually have low self-esteem but fancy themselves pretty, too. I mean to reference Adam Platt’s take on the kind of tight-knit crowd that frequents restaurateurs William Tigertt and Taavo Somer’s Freemans and Peels: “And although I never had a really bad dinner at Peels, I never enjoyed anything close to that clubby, clannish sense of occasion that makes Freemans such a unique place to eat,” Platt wrote. Sort of like saying he doesn’t want to hang out with Peels because she’s the Prom queen, right?

Rubirosa Leave it to Angelo Bianchi, former gatekeeper of the Beatrice Inn, to attract his attractive friends and former Bea clientele to his (delish, truly yummy) Nolita pizza spot. Even Eater admits Bianchi is curating Rubirosa’s cool, without actually admitting it: “Think Chloe Sevigny/Paul Sevigny types.” Those “types” happen to be proprieter/proprieter’s sister of the Beatrice Inn.

The Smile Eater says “The real hotties can be found between 1:30pm-3:00pm, Monday-Thursday.” That’s when owners/rugged cowboy babes Matt Kliegman & Carlos Quirarte drop by. Coincidence?

The Lion “In this super-VIP lounge, you might see Gwyneth and Chris, Matthew and Sarah Jessica, and maybe a Ronson or two.” No kidding, Eater. Those special-people types can also afford to pay for their $105 steak. You know who else can? Pretty, young women on the arms of Amex-wielding men. Oh, and trust-funders—who can also pay to pretty up. So, yeah. Also, in the vein of “birds of a feather flock together,” the art that adorns The Lion’s walls comes from the personal collection of this woman: image

When Naming Peels, Taavo Somer Did Not Consider the Internet

Peels, that new Freemans spin-off on the Bowery, is a beautiful, bi-level space. Every detail – from the menu font to the artful manner in which the waiters fold your bill – is designed to heighten your experience. If you’ve been here or to Freemans, then you know: aesthetics first, food second. It seems, however, that Taavo Somer and crew might have a small problem on their hands, just slightly out of their jurisdiction, that they might want to look into.

On Sunday night, we decided to check out Somer’s Southern-inspired diner, so we did a search for it on Google Maps. The result was a near-total appetite killer, the very last image you want in your head before going to eat dinner:


Somer might want to get that checked out. It’s also the first thing that pops up on Google search, now that you mention it. But if you’re looking for Peels, don’t image search it, unless gagging is your thing. We understand the connection between the word ‘peels’ and the word ‘anal warts’ – but if you’re a restaurateur of Somer’s stature and reputation, don’t you think this might be something you oughta resolve? We’re just saying.

New York Openings: Bettolona, Bill’s Bar & Burger, Peels

Bettolona (Harlem) – Bettola expands with homemade pizza and pasta inside a rustic Manhattanville spread. ● Bill’s Bar & Burger (Midtown West) – Second location of Steve Hanson comfort food haven thinks big in Rock Center. ● Peels (East Village) – Second floor dining room is finally open at Freemans’ new Bowery spinoff.