Not all that long ago, New York’s Lower East Side was mostly populated by skint artists, insalubrious rockers, the narcotically challenged and an ethnic mix of people to whom it was just, well, home. There were also only two real places to eat: Katz’s Deli and El Sombrero. You prepped for a four-band bill at the Mercury Lounge with cheap tacos and tequila shots—and attempted to stave off hangovers with a 4 am knish.
Now the neighborhood flaunts Michelin stars and international luxury hotel brands—grumbling about the past won’t change anything. But wildly successful hotelier Sean MacPherson was actually a central figure in the notorious heyday of Downtown NYC nightlife. And his first LES property, The Ludlow—opened in 2014—feels as perfectly Lower East Side as The Bowery Hotel feels East Village (and The Marlton feels West Village).
Admittedly, weekend late nights on the LES can now find one navigating what feels like a casting call for The Bachelorette. But plan right, and you can also enjoy a fabulous Saturday and Sunday here, without ever going north of Houston Street.
Here’s how to do it.
Loft King Room at The Ludlow
Noon: Arrive at The Ludlow, drop your bags, request an upper floor room with a sprawling city view. Take leisurely a stroll, arriving for lunch at Dudleys, a groovy all day affair where you can order everything from rice bowls to cheese toasties to schnitzel salads.
3 PM: Check in, spend a lazy hour flopping around on the extremely comfy bed, while raiding the minibar and taking in the glorious New York panorama.
7 PM: Settle in one of the cushy Lobby Bar sofas, order up grilled oysters and a round of particularly stiff tipples, like the Ludlow Gimlet and the bourbon based Pigalle. Groove to your fave Prince, Talking Heads and Duran Duran classics, which make up the hotel’s retro cool soundtrack.
10 PM: Late dinner at Dirty French, the hotel’s supremely buzzy restaurant, which serves up surprising takes on French classics like Provencal scallops, short rib Bordelaise and duck a l’orange. It’s a particularly electric scene after 9pm.
Midnight: Watch Scorcese’s Gangs of New York back in your room. It’s set in turn of the century LES.
10 AM: Order up room service coffee.
11 AM: Take a walk around the Lower East Side when it’s actually quiet. If the weather isn’t cooperating, pop in to the Tenement Museum for an enlightening bit of LES history.
Noon: Have the hotel book ahead for brunch at the perpetually cool Freemans. Hard to imagine, but when Taavo Somer opened it in 2004, there was nothing else like it (old-timey style, plentiful taxidermy, classic Americana cuisine). Despite the scores of imitators since, it’s still the hippest and the best. Indulge in such hearty fare as baked skillet eggs shakshuka, buttermilk pancakes and stone-ground cheddar cheese grits.
2 PM: Check out the current exhibitions (which at the moment include Nicole Eisenman’s Al-ugh-ories and Andra Ursuta’s Alps) at the New Museum, one of NYC’s most forward-thinking art institutions.
3 PM: Take a caffeine break at Caffe Vita, which, despite the Italian moniker, is actually an export from Seattle, serving exquisitely realized, house roasted coffee.
4 PM: Undertake a uniquely LES shopping spree, including stops at the Odd and Assembly boutiques, and a retro vinyl pilgrimage to Deadly Dragon Sound.
7 PM: Believe the hype with dinner at Ivan Ramen. Start with furikake spare ribs, before moving on to the delectable main events, like chicken dan dan and spicy red chili ramen.
9 PM: Join the local cocktail disciples warming the seats Attaboy, a sophisticated spot lorded over by Milk & Honey alums Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy. There’s no drinks menu…so consider it an adventure and an edification.
9 AM: Have a lazy breakfast of smoked salmon scramble and crispy potato pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company, before checking out and showing up late to the office.
I’m completely confused by this event over at DL‘s rooftop tonight. Starting at 7pm, Cara Quici is presenting a party for the video release of "Fight," which is "the official remake of the Beastie Boys’ ‘Fight For Your Right (To Party)’." Dennis Rodman–yes, that guy–is hosting the event. I was asked if I wanted to ask Mr. Rodman some questions and indeed I may, but I don’t know what to ask. I’m thinking about things like these: WTF?, How could you?, Seriously?, What were you thinking? and maybe What was the food like? I like Dennis Rodman. I liked him as a baller and I like and always chuckle at his post B-ball celebrity career. I am curious to see what the crowd will be like.
Mondays are a curious affair. They can be the best or the most desperately boring. For a million years the smart set gathered at Butter, but that passed and to some extent Catch answers all the questions. For the downtowners, Bingo at Chantelle provides reliable fun from all the unusual suspects.On Monday the 22nd I will surely pop over to Rockwood II (196 Allen Street @Houston) to catch Rudely Interrupted, featuring the glorious Lorraine Lackie and bon vivant, author, scholar, man about town Anthony Haden-Guest. They will be performing songs from their new album. I will be there as I am curious to see what the crowd will be like.
And yes… I must keep my posts short to ease the burden of those over at BlackBook covering for my editor Bonnie Gleicher, who is off somewhere in our world of wonder betraying our trust–probably editing someone else–in some sunny paradise surrounded by? … I’m curious to know what that crowd looks like.
New additions include Andrew Wyatt (of Miike Snow) and hipster-fried R&B pioneer Autre Ne Veut, as well as Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, who is likely worth seeing for the name alone. They will join such performers as Purity Ring, Earl Sweatshirt, d’Eon, Sky Ferreira, Ducktails, Beach Fossils, and the endlessly funky Teengirl Fantasy.
The festival will be hitting some other cities with modified lineups, but you know they won’t be as good. Though who knows? Some magnificent crooner might come aboard in the Vegas leg of the tour.
So it’s the first day of the work week and there are four more days to go. We get it. But why ruminate when you can start to make Mondays the best night of the week? This weekly column is devoted to finding the best events across NYC hosted by individuals and places that are doing amazing, crazy, wild, sexy things on Monday nights. And we’re here to honor them. Here are tonight’s top events.
See something beautiful: Launching tonight is Time Warner Center’s star-studded holiday light display. Twelve 14-foot LED stars will dance and flash to Yuletide tunes, illuminating Columbus Circle. After, grab a cocktail at Warner’s new fourth-floor lounge overlooking Central Park: Center Bar. The light show runs until Jan. 3rd. All the details here.
Do something crazy: At LES nightclub Hotel Chantelle, there’s a legendary weekly game called Drag Bingo that’s attracted people from all across the globe. The celebrity drag hosts – Murray Hill and Linda Simpson – give away ridiculous, crappy prizes (like cat figurines and sheep slippers), and tell saucy stories about their past sexcapades. The best part: in the third-to-last round, winners strip down to just a couple of paper plates to cover up. Feeling adventurous? This is your place. The games begin at 7:30pm and last until 10pm. Happy Hour starts at 7pm. All the details here.
Watch something classic: The Academy Award-winning 1975 crime drama Dog Day Afternoon, starring Al Pacino and directed by Sidney Lumet, opens tonight, 9pm at the East Village’s Anthology Film Archives. Watch the heist go wrong until Saturday the 8th. And when you’re done, have some post-film discussion at international beer haven d.b.a. on 1st Ave. All the movie details here.
Hear something special: In NYC, there’s a deep yearning to hear something that’s truly new, fun, rich, and fresh – and that’s hard to find – but you’ll find it tonight at Rockwood Music Hall, where rising singer and songwriter David Alan Thornton debuts some of his top narrative-infused pop songs with a band of pros, including pop sextet The Dirty Gems’ Mark Sanderlin. Plus, it’s Thornton’s birthday show, making it an especially celebratory night that’s hard to resist – so don’t. The concert starts at 10pm. All the details here.