Want Some Hanky Panky? Gary Spencer Knows Where To Find It

Friend Gary Spencer has been tasked to carve out a little slice of heaven from mega-club Webster Hall, and brand it as “The Hanky Panky Club.” As creative director, he is opening his ambitious concept with a performance by the New York Dolls frontman David Johansen and my favorite DJ in this world: Paul Sevigny. For me, this is an incredible booking. The influence of the New York Dolls on NYC music, and the direction rock took from their lead, is incalculable. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I wore a suit to an office and listened to jazz. On the way to something somewhere, my cab cut to Park Avenue from another avenue to avoid traffic but got stuck again. As I glanced out the window at the very grey NYC of the early ‘70s, I saw the Dolls stumbling over each other in dresses and such with a wonderful entourage in tow. I had seen a light and got an itch that I have spent the rest of my life trying to scratch.

It was a few years later that the Ramones indoctrinated me into the life completely, but it was the Dolls who showed me the path. Rock and Roll, to its devotees, is a religion. Its anthems rarely get old, and the offerings of ancient bands and rock stars still play well to generations. Rock produced today and a zillion days ago will play well to people who aren’t even theoretical yet. It’s an "old school" genre that still delivers, still sells out stadiums. Gary Spencer is approaching the new Hanky Panky venture with an old- school mentality. I will be there to support and, more importantly, to enjoy a slice of the life I have chosen.

Hanky Panky starts with a bang, with the New York Doll’s David Johansen and my favorite DJ and (perhaps) person Paul Sevigny. Why were they chosen for this grand affair?
Friday is going to be a special night; we’ll have David Johansen from the New York Dolls performing, Paul Sevigny spinning.
I wanted to keep the integrity of not only the space but also NYC, and who better than David Johansen of the Dolls to do that? He’s New York and he’s totally rock and roll. Webster Hall is New York rock and roll history, and we have the club that overlooks it – how cool is that!!! Paul Sevigny is a quality DJ; a guy that really knows his music and is a perfect compliment for the Dolls and the room in general. He’s underrated and he crosses so many eras of music in his set. Plus, he’s an absolute gentleman. Deadbeat Darling will be supporting Johansen;  they are an amazing band whose latest album “Angel’s Share” was produced by Ken Nelson (producer of Coldplay’s “Parachutes” and “Rush of Blood”). Terry Casey, another underrated DJ, will also be spinning and maybe even you Steve, who knows? It’s all a secret!

It’s in but it’s not. The Hanky Panky Club includes the balcony of Webster Hall. Let’s face it… it’s Webster Hall, but a redefinition of part of it. Webster Hall is very music-based. Tell me about the pairings of bands and DJs at The Hanky Panky Club, and the development of a separate brand from Webster.
Lon Ballinger, the owner of Webster Hall, contacted me and said he was looking for a different demographic, a market that he hasn’t been able to tap into, and that he wanted to open the space that was above the main club. After walking through the venue on a Friday night, I was like – WOW – this is incredible; the energy on the main floor was like nothing I had seen in a nightclub for a very long time. Hundreds of people were having a genuinely amazing unpretentious night out. It was refreshing to see, but it was even cooler to see and live it from the comfort of the balcony, which is incidentally attached to – ta da – Hanky Panky!

I really feel that that’s what people will do: they will enjoy all the trappings and service of The Hanky Panky Club but also enjoy the energy that the main room and balcony have to offer, if and when they need it. In pairingup the music on a Thursday, we will have a soul evening, Fridays will be electronic, and Saturdays will be more commercial/house. The bands on these evenings will also reflect the respective genres in the main room. Your career. Tell me about it, and tell my readers about the wonderful nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow.
I was standing in Peter’s nightclub “Stringfellows “ in 1983, and his director of operations Roger Howe approached me and told me he wanted me to work for the company. I had zero experience at the time, but ended up a week later as a bartender at Stringfellows. Later on, I moved on to be the reception manager at the world famous and way-before-its-time Hippodrome. What I always remember from that is when Roger said to the bar manager at the time, “I want Gary to work at the bar,” and the bar manager said “well, we don’t have any positions available.” Roger said “Well find him one.”

Those guys understand image. They know the rest can be taught; they build all their clubs around selling glamour and image. Plus, they know all about programming. He knows his trade. Peter started off in church halls, then booked The Beatles one night and never really looked back.

Peter will always be legendary in nightlife. He understands what nightlife is; it’s fantasy, it’s sexy, it’s escapism, it’s what should be talked about amongst your workmates on a Monday morning after a wild weekend. But not only does he bring all of those qualities to his clubs, he does it with a swagger and a smile, whilst being able to laugh at himself which is a rare but very-much-needed quality in nightlife.

After I worked for Peter, I fell into a very successful modeling career and also produced the Fashion Café fashion shows worldwide. My modeling career led me to New York where I have lived for the past 15 years. Four years or so ago I went back into the hospitality/ nightlife industry and, before becoming creative director here at The Hanky Panky, I worked for Joe Bastianich at Del Posto.  I opened the Rusty Knot for Ken Friedman and was also at private members-only club Norwood.

You told me your approach to nightlife is old school, and you used the word "patience” several times. The need for it …not letting someone who doesn’t "belong" into a party in just because they’re buying bottles… will this fly?
Yeah, absolutely. I think it will fly. If somebody is right for the room and that person decides to buy a bottle, then that’s fabulous. But what I don’t want to do is let somebody in just because they have the money. I’ve seen too many nightclubs ruined that way.

While we’re on the subject, I think service plays a big part as to whether a venue is successful or not. NYC used to be known for its high standard of service, but we’ve gotten so used to everyone coming here for the last 20 years that nowadays, when a cocktail server comes to take your order, it seems like everything is too much trouble for them. Why would anybody want to spend money in an environment like that? That ethic would fail in any other business. The cocktail servers at Hanky Panky will not only be stunningly beautiful, but will also take your order if you are sitting at a table or not. I know many very wealthy people that want to be served fast and efficiently. They don’t want a “table” or a “bottle,” but they don’t want to deal with the bar either – so, they call a server over .

Another problem is that not enough nightlife people are operators in nightlife, so they defer to promotional teams to fill their venues up. Which is fine, but there is no easy fix. It takes just as much effort to fill a room that is promoter-driven as is concept-driven. The difference is that the concept-driven room will probably have far more longevity and be a hell of a lot cooler in the long term, but that’s where the “patience” bit comes into play, and unfortunately the world has become a little too “instant gratification” for my liking.

Tell me about future programming at Hanky Panky and where the name came from.
The evenings will always begin with a live band that will come on at 10:30pm and make way for the DJ around midnight. As I said earlier, we have a soul DJ spinning on Thursdays, so the band will be jazz or soul or maybe even reggae. DJs coming up soon will be people like Christopher Sealy, Bridgette Marie, Tommy D, John Luongo, and hopefully I’ll get some of my English-European mates here as well. And of course, not forgetting your good self, Steve.

When I did the first walk-through – walking up the marble staircase, past the distressed walls – I felt like I was being lead to a naughty secret hideaway. And then I saw this red neon light that was propped up in the corner that said “hanky panky,” and from then on, I immediately named it The Hanky Panky Club. If you read the dictionary definition of the phrase, you will know it’s a perfect fit.

What would you want people to leave HP feeling and thinking?
That they had fun, that they had good old-fashioned fun. That they were served well, and listened to great music amongst good people. There’s not enough of all of that anymore, and I, along with the Hanky Panky crew, intend to change that.

Gary Spencer

Industry Insiders: Vinegar Hill House’s Jean Adamson, Sam Buffa, & Brian Leth

Jean Adamson and Sam Buffa met while both were working at Freemans. Their relationship gave way to sharing a love of the food and aesthetic that formed Vinegar Hill House. Sam is also partners with Taavo Somer in the FSC Barbershop. Six months into their Brooklyn venture, the Vinegar Hill House team found Brian Leth, the chef de cuisine since April, formerly of Prune and Allen & Delancey. Leth excites patron with his locally sourced menu with ethnic flairs.

How did you start in the business? Jean Adamson: I started cooking in Salt Lake City, Utah. I had a fascination with cooking and went to the French Culinary Institute. Then I worked for Keith McNally for nine years at Balthazar and Pastis, but it was too easy there for me. I was just expediting the process, so I said, “I have to get out.” I started consulting for Frank Prisinzano of Frank, Supper and Lil’ Frankie’s. I helped him standardize things. I was getting their recipes in order so that in each restaurant everyone was doing the same thing. A friend then called me to say this guy Taavo Somer was looking for a chef at Freeman’s. Their consistency was really poor, and I’m good at producing large amounts of food at once. They were transferring into the first expansion so they needed a day-to-day chef to run everything. So I worked there for three years, and that’s where I met Sam. Sam Buffa: I was helping Taavo with the basic construction of their expansion. At the same time, the space at the front of the alley became available and I proposed the barbershop idea to Taavo. It’s still sort of my day job. Jean and I, from day one, have had similar interests. I always wanted to open a restaurant but had never worked in the field. I always liked the idea of building a restaurant.

How did you come across the space for Vinegar Hill House? JA: When Sam and I met, we were showing off the cool neighborhoods we knew in Brooklyn. I was living in Park Slope at the time, and the next day my landlord came to me and said the carriage house was becoming available in Vinegar Hill. It’s the house behind where the restaurant is now. I told him that I wanted it and I waited a year for it. SB: I told her to ask him about commercial spaces. Once we got the space it was like, “Oh shit now we have to open a restaurant.”

So you did. JA: When we told people about the location they were like, “No way.” When you’re milling around on a bicycle you just end up here. We opened last November after Sam designed the restaurant. We call the downstairs space “the den” and people rent it out for private events. I was the chef but was looking for a way to segue out. Then this gem, Brian, walked in the door. He’s changed the landscape of the restaurant. I always intended on being a local farms and local produce restaurant and he made that happen. He also wanted Brian wanted a Vita-Prep. It’s amazing watching the stuff he makes with it. Brian Leth: I’m a puree guy.

Where have you worked before? BL: I started cooking in New Mexico. A friend of a friend helped steer me towards a job at Prune and I learned a lot there. Then, I worked at Blue Hill and Café des Artistes. I was at Allen & Delancey for about a year. JA: Brian has a broad spectrum of food knowledge from having worked at so many places.

Are you already thinking about the next project? SB: I think its always on our mind. JA: We want to be solid here before the next place.

Something people don’t know about you? JA: That I’m nice. SB: I used to race motorcycles BL: I’m a serious Scrabble player

What are your favorite places? JA, SB, BL: Hotel Delmonico and Rusty Knot.

How about restaurants? BL: Ippudo, Prime Meats, and wd-50. JA, SB: Sripraphai for Hawaiian pizzas, Roberta’s, The Smile, Joe’s Shanghai for soup dumplings.

What’s on your favorite playlist right now? JA, SB: Lady Gaga and talk radio. BL: The Replacements and Steely Dan.

New York: Top 10 Frozen Cocktails

Macondo (Lower East Side) – Hero to gourmand alkies everywhere, Junior Merino has gone and done it again. His Aguacate and Mescal at Rayuela’s younger, cheaper, funner sis is probably the greatest thing to ever muck up a blender. Creamy fresh avocado, sweet agave nectar, and Scorpion mescal by the frosty, puke-green pitcher. ● Momofuku Noodle Bar (East Village) – The porky ramen bar takes 7-Eleven to school, son, with its watermelon lemonade Soju Slushie. Big gulp a couple and marvel at how all the blond wood is like getting smashed inside somebody’s cool balsa architecture project. Brain freeze! ● Rusty Knot (West Village) – Named after the most disgusting sex act ever, the eponymous frozen mojito is also a kitschy tiki classic. Spotted Pig via Key West is the perfect camped-out cruise — supplement your plastic cup of rum-n-sugar with a pig in a blanket and sunset over the West Side Highway. Only thing missing is Gavin MacLeod.

El Quinto Pino (Chelsea) – Who needs tables when you’ve got frozen basil gin lemonade? The tall, sallow, and icy Pomada manages to complement both the crack-esque sea urchin panini and the cracked-out crazy of the sardined crowd. Throwing drug dealer etiquette to the wind, the first one, unfortunately, is not on the house. ● Brooklyn Bowl (Williamsburg) – Bowling just screams margaritas, doesn’t it, hipsters? New Billyburg pin spot’s Prophet’s Margarita is un-disgusting machine slush with optional fresh strawberry topping. Sixteen lanes for rolling, flatscreens above the alleys, food from Blue Ribbon, swank settees, all distract from frozen ‘rita gutterballs. ● Matsuri at the Maritime Hotel (Chelsea) – Gorgeous, modelicious mega-room throws some bling in the blender. Asti and Riesling class up oxymoronic frozen bubbly known as the Golden Pavilion, served in a flute and floating with gold leaf. Akin to $500 jeans and grilling grass-fed bison. You fancy. ● Rosa Mexicano (Union Square) – Satisfy your equally contradictory posh-Mexican cravings with a Frozen Pomegranate Margarita. Vague Chili’s undercurrent, but like the Big Pepper, doesn’t skimp on el diablo (tequila). Get sloppy enough to be totally, totally okay with $19 chicken tacos. ● Habana Outpost (Fort Greene) – Enviro chic spin-off New Faces Soho café, save a buck on your frozen margarita by bicycling the blender yourself. Flaunt your street cred — shun plain Jane mango and strawberry for vaguely exotic guava. Best recycled-wood picnic table, solar-powered, parking lot drunk ever. ● Daddy’s (Williamsburg) – Who’s yours now? asks the ingenious Margerveza—beer frothed with margarita slush. Goes down dreamy on the small outdoor patio of this little pocket of cool near the borough-slicing BQE. Just don’t get so biquored you lay in the dirt-filled bathtub, nastypants. ● Dos Caminos Soho (Soho) – Join the pretties in the caged patio slurping Prickly Pear Margaritas. Practice looking bored, and later, sober. Try not to dribble on your best after-dark costume. Will require your strongest Pedialite/crushed aspirin hangover cure come manana.

New York: All Points West Music Fest Top Eats & Drinks

For the second year in a row, All Points West will take over Liberty State Park in Jersey City this weekend. For most Manhattan dwellers, the thought of crossing that river is daunting — but with a location just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan, the commute is surprisingly easy and filled with great pit stops. Meet your friends for a pint or a bite at one of these fantastic bars and restaurants near your departure point, and enjoy Jay-Z, Coldplay, Vampire Weekend, The Ting Tings, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on a full stomach. With a seven-beer maximum and lengthy festival lines, you’ll need the pre-party.

Ferry Service (Lower Manhattan) Enjoy the sights and bites of lower Manhattan before catching the Ferry at Battery Park Pier, just south of Castle Clinton. The ferry is $20 if you buy this week; otherwise it’s $25 on the day of the show. Prior to cruising by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, fill up at these lower Manhattan favorites. ● Burger Shoppe – So close to the bottom of Manhattan you can feel the mist off the river. Crowd is largely lunch-breakers and FiDi residents; near empty on the weekends, which means you can pack in you and your posse pre-Silversun Pickups. Nothing really under $10 as far as food fare, but you’ll be spending the same on street meat and beer at the festival anyway. Best of all, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from your ferry.

Gigino – Get into the outdoor mode at this overpriced picnic spot just north of the Castle Clinton National Monument. Rustic Italian food to OD on carbs for your all night dance-a-thon. ● Cordato’s Deli – Guessing that your festival garb borders on grunge, NYC’s most suspicious deli might be your best bet. Dark and dank — how the MI5 might run a deli, but a perfect meet-up spot, as it’s near all of the subways. ● John Street Bar & Grill – Just as grimy as your Nike Dunks will be after an extended MSTRKRFT dance set. Like parallel to an outdoor festival, the elements in this bar are saved by the music — in this case, a quality juke. Greasy bar bites are a great way to start off the day. ● Delmonico’s – For the refined concertgoer. Legendary steaks for the pinstripe set, though it should be fine for the plaid shorts set on any given festival afternoon. Get ready for the day by filling up on a classic steak lunch for $24 if you mention the code “SumSp1144.”

PATH Train (West Village) The environs of the PATH Train at Christopher Street and Greenwich Street or 9th Street will certainly support your eating and drinking habits. PATH stations Hoboken, Pavonia-Newport, and Exchange Place all offer free connections for All Points West ticket holders to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail that will take you straight to the festival. Hop in here before you hop on the train. ● Rusty Knot – You’ll be on the water … might as well get a jump start with this nautically themed bar. Ask bartender Griffin for his special pre-music festival shot: the lethal and yummy pickle backs. Then stumble on over to the PATH. ● White Horse Tavern – Since it’s an arts and music festival, may as well try impress your pals by taking them to the place where Dylan Thomas bit the dust after an eve of boozing, then join in with the rest of the frat party by downing beer by the pitcher. ● Blind Tiger Ale House – The old faithful beer haunt is always a great meet up place. Listing 28 drafts from homey to exotic, plus many more in bottles. There are about as many brews as there are APW festival bands. ● A Salt & Battery – Sure, APW isn’t Glastonbury, but get psyched just the same by plunking down with your mates for some perfect fish ‘n’ chips wrapped in London newspaper spotted with grease. Brilliant, innit? ● Corner Bistro – Wait, how much were those festival tickets again? Luckily there is this joint known for the incomparable Bistro Burger. With everything on the menu less than $6.50, and cheap McSorley’s to wash it down, we’ve hit the penny-pinching mother lode. See you soon, Neko Case!

Hook, Line and Single! Top 10 Places to Pick Up Seamen During Fleet Week

imageIt’s hard to stand out in a city populated by naked cowboys, that screeching guy who wears bird feathers and bells in Union Square, and Mike Nelson. But when the ships dock in New York for Fleet Week and its annual Memorial Day celebration, the Coast Guard and Navy mariners dressed head-to-toe in their white, starched uniforms aren’t exactly subtle. That said, a handy how-to on nabbing seamen might be helpful. (Full disclosure: They’re everywhere!)

Rusty Knot (West Village) – This nautical-themed watering hole is practically on the Hudson, and it has the best dark and stormy mix in the city. Worst-case scenario: You won’t meet a sailor, but there’s an aquarium filled with blowfish! ● Old Town Bar (Flatiron) – Once a safe haven for Manhattan’s old-world editors, this creaky, dark den of drink now serves the best clam roll in the city to the weariest of Navy-gazers. Plus, there’s a man who lives off of the upstairs eating area, and I’m almost sure he’s Cap’n Ahab. ● Ritz Bar & Lounge (Hell’s Kitchen) – Think Village People, not necessarily seamen proper, at this HK schooner-adorned, dimly lit meat market. (On your quest for Fleet Week friendship, expect multiple “seamen” puns from the gay patrons here.) ● Legion (Williamsburg) – There may not be any boathouse boys here, but this East Williamsburg staple has three-dollar “Atomic” pints of beer — and a White Castle across the street. ● Cubby Hole (West Village) – No longer the sanctuary for casualties of the Beatrice Inn door policy, this anything-goes shrine to Madonna and 90s divas will most certainly attract a don’t-ask-don’t-tell group of Fleeters. ● Ear Inn (SoHo) – A late-late-late night restaurant sure to reel in a few Sway castaways looking for cheap, unfussy beer. ● Spring Lounge (SoHo) – There will be no shortage of men in white here. Its microbrewery beer menu is almost overwhelming, and it opens at 8am. ● Don Hill’s (SoHo) – No longer home to Leigh Lezark and her asymmetrical crew of merrymakers, the eponymous venue now has room for the nightlife aquatic. In keeping with the nautical theme, Hill’s will house a live performance by Pisser tonight. ● Central Park Boathouse (Upper West Side) – Overlooking the park lake, the Boathouse is a healthy, hearty mix of geriatrics, homeless passersby and, yep, sailors! Order the swordfish or snapper with melted cabbage. ● Blue Water Grill (Union Square) – http://bbook.com/guides/details/blue-water-grill Part of the Dos Caminos family of restaurateurs, Blue Water Grill employees tweet about the goings-on at their seafood emporium. A sample: “memorial days menus have been finalized- watermelon gazpacho, jumbo shrimp skewers, main lobster, jonah crab boil, tons of sides, etc etc,” and, “recently saw former presidential candidate mike dukakis for what seemed like a formal business dinner with 10+ people, wife was there too.” Ships ahoy!
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New York: Top 10 Late-Night Dining Destinations

imageBecause sometimes a diner just won’t do.

10. Rusty Knot (West Village) – For those butter and salt cravings. 9. The Box (Lower East Side) – A memorable meal for sure; whether you trust what’s on your plate and/or feel like eating after watching the show is another story.

8. Pink Pony (Lower East Side) – Always an interesting crowd at the perpetual hipster-cum-starving-artist hangout, where you can order reliable French-Moroccan bistro grub or just linger with a book and coffee. 7. Henry’s (Upper West Side) – A Columbia University fave, this American bistro’s walls are decked out with culinary poster art from Herman Miller Company’s Summer Picnic Series — a relaxing backdrop for some late-night comfort food fare (mac & cheese, warm goat cheese salad, and pressed sandwiches). 6. Delicatessen (Soho) – Rejected from GoldBar? Shunned at Southside? Retreat to this bi-level spot’s subterranean bar, where you can nosh on artichoke dip while a DJ spins (midnight-2 a.m., Tuesday-Saturday) in the background. 5. 718 (Astoria) – I’ve learned that tipsiness and taking the subway aren’t always a good match. Besides lost cell phones, dropped money, and falling down an escalator, there’s a heightened likelihood of missing your stop and ending up in another borough. N or W train-takers, don’t fret; if you accidentally end up in Astoria, sober up with surprisingly affordable tapas at 718 before giving public transportation another shot. 4. Pastis (Meatpacking District): No matter the hour/day, this eatery is so perpetually packed that there’s often a doorkeeper to control the crowd vying to indulge in good eats with a side of people watching. 3. Elizabeth (Noho) – A fireplace for when it’s cold, a back garden for when it’s warm, a cozy front bar, and a whole lot of black give this spot its sexy, late-night, Carine Roitfeld-esque vibe. 2. Jadis (Lower East Side) – Like ‘inoteca only better, because your panino won’t come with an hour-long wait for a table. 1. Cafeteria (Chelsea) – This oldie but goodie keeps reeling in the Chelsea revelers with spot-on comfort food (yet more mac & cheese, fried chicken & waffles), a downstairs bar, and unbeatable 24/7 hours.

One-Day Tour: Intro to New York’s West Village

Stay: A quaint neighborhood calls for an equally quaint hotel. Abingdon Guest House has the vibe of a small-town bed and breakfast — it’s not for everyone, but its location is ideal for the atypical visitor.

10 a.m. Regular patrons of ‘ino appreciate the dim, cozy bar for an evening glass of wine, but it’s also a perfect breakfast destination. Sit by the front window, read your paper, and order the famous truffled egg toast with a strong shot of espresso.

11 a.m. Set off on a walking tour. Stroll along Bleecker Street for a taste of the neighborhood ‘s eclectic vibe — Marc Jacobs boutiques (there are three of them), record shops, and antique dealers all peacefully coexist. Stop in at Cynthia Rowley for quirky tailored skirts and sweaters. Later, find your way onto Barrow and Morton for picturesque, tree-lined streets and brownstones.

1:30 p.m. For lunch with pretty scenery, head to neighborhood newcomer Kingswood. Aussie-inflected fare, like the Bronte burger, is served within view of blooming magnolias at the nearby Jefferson Market Garden. During the winter months, the interior is enough to keep the eyes pleased — butterflies and an ostentatious taxidermy peacock decorate the space. Or, for a local favorite, try Pearl Oyster Bar. Established by Rebecca Charles in 1997, it’s widely considered the best New England-style seafood shack in town. Sit at the counter for a skate sandwich and crisp glass of white wine.

3 p.m.. Move on over to Greenwich Avenue and get all of your shopping done on one street. Stop at the Christian Louboutin Boutique for a pair of decadent, bejeweled shoes, or Otte, for the latest from Loeffler Randall and 3.1. Phillip Lim. Jonathan Adler for whimsical home decor items like a playful giraffe-shaped sconce or ceramic squirrel ringbox. Finally, pop into travel shop Flight001 for the newest carry-on by Orla Kiely — you’ll need it to lug home all of your loot.

5 p.m. Skip the dreadful line at Magnolia and have sweets with a clean, green conscience. City Bakery’s Maury Rubin is also the owner of Birdbath — an organic bakeshop that‘s sustainable in every way, from its interior (the walls are made of wheat) to its food (organic and local, naturally). Portions are enormous, so share a chewy gingerbread cookie; or, if you’re vegan, go for the banana sesame agave cake.

5:30 p.m. Sports enthusiasts should check out the West 4th Street court, otherwise known as "The Cage", for some amateur basketball. Players can get aggro in such close confines — it just makes the games all the more interesting.

7 p.m. Have dinner at Mas, where acclaimed chef Galen Zamarra changes the menu daily based on what’s in season. Whatever is on the menu du jour is likely to be exquisite, as is the farmhouse meets townhouse vibe of the place.

9 p.m.. For something divey minus the stench of beer and puke, grab a brew after dinner at the Rusty Knot. The nautical-themed bar is a curious juxtaposition of high and low: an evening of 99-cent cans and tiki drinks command a surly doorman and long wait times, while a borderline trashy bar menu (pretzels, pigs in blankets) is cooked up by a talented, pedigreed chef.

Midnight Rev up your evening at the ultra-exclusive Socialista. Its breezy, tropical décor and sexy cocktail menu successfully evokes an evening in Havana. But be warned: Getting in can be a crapshoot.

Late Night Cap off your night with a late visit to Beatrice Inn, the speakeasy cool spot that keeps downtowners buzzing.

New York: Top 5 Best Low-Pretense Newcomer Bar-Bars

image‘Cause sometimes you need a spot where you can just work your patter.

1. Rusty Knot Key West/West Village posh-dive mashup. Commence humming lyrics to “Brandy” now. 2. Marshall Stack The simple, classic appeal of a fuzzed-out power chord. 3. Spitzer’s Corner If Abercrombie & Fitch was a bar — not entirely in a bad way, either.

4. Smith and Mills Industrial charmer feels a little like a longmoored cruise ship. 5. The Volstead Subterranean pseudo-speakeasy lubricating midtown’s best and brightest.

Industry Insiders: Taavo Somer, Rustic Freeman

Freeman’s and Rusty Knot co-owner Taavo Somer talks about his failed busboy career, the proper use of porno paneling, and why he strives for simplicity when doing three jobs at once.

Point of Origin: I moved here when I was 27, for a job at Steven Holl Architects. And my first day was an immediate wake-up call that it wasn’t gonna work out. I had been working in big firms for years, and this was my dream job. And when that disillusionment came, I thought: screw architecture. I’ll do something else. A friend there knew Serge Becker. I thought I’d be a busboy, learn to tend bar. When I met him, he was like, “Why do you want to work in a bar? I have no busboy openings but I have a project.” It turned out to be Lever House, which he was working on with John McDonald, and the designer Marc Newson. Serge didn’t have a trained architect in his office, so he said, “Do this until a busboy position opens up!”

Occupations: I co-own Freeman’s and the Rusty Knot. I was going to throw a big New Year’s party at a club Serge was opening in Brooklyn. The club didn’t open in time, and Serge felt bad, so he introduced me to this space on Chrystie Street. The landlord was cool with the party, but he said we had to use the alley entrance off Rivington. As soon as I saw the alley, the party dissolved, and I wanted to open a café. I already had a concept for a restaurant, and I just put the concept in the space. That’s how Freeman’s came about. The Rusty Knot is a 1950s nautical bar, really mellow, cheap materials, cheap drinks, 50-cent pool table, free jukebox. It’s got porno paneling, you know, fake wood like the Calvin Klein basement ads. The building itself is pretty unremarkable. But if you find yourself being a snob about something, my instinct would be to embrace and explore it, and that’s when epiphanies occur. It’s born from the location on the West Side highway. It’s not beautiful.

Side Hustle: I never wanted to do just one thing. When I was first in New York I was spending a lot of time in NoLita, which back then was really kinda cool. I started going into Selvedge and lamenting with Carlos [Quirarte, now of Ernest Sewn] about the state of New York nightlife, how there’s no Mudd Club. Where was the good rock party? So we decided to throw our own at the Pussycat Lounge. I started making T-shirts. And we sold them at Selvedge. Then we got in trouble, because the owners didn’t know. But they sold out. If I didn’t have the discipline I learned from architecture I wouldn’t be making clothes today. Now, we have Freeman’s Sporting Club. I design suits and shirts. The aesthetic of the restaurant definitely influenced the aesthetic of the clothing and the store itself. There’s also a barbershop in the store, and we just opened another, FSC Barber, on Horatio Street.

Favorite Hangs: Between Freeman’s and the Rusty Knot, there’s only a couple of nights a week that I’m free. I go to the Spotted Pig, because it’s like family there. I usually eat dinner at Il Buco once a week. I still go to Frank and Lil’ Frankie’s once in awhile … I have friends there. I go to a lot of the dive bars that I used to go to, like Joe’s Bar. In London I go to Rules, and in LA, for whatever reason, I like going to Dan Tana’s.

Industry Icons: Luc Levy, who owns Café Gitane. I love his set-up … he’s got his spot, it’s been open for 11 years, one owner … it’s an effortless business plan. Serge Becker, definitely. You could throw out ideas, and if he used it, he’d always credit you. This guy Jason Mclean from the old Loring Café, in Minneapolis. The place had Shakespeare one night, and a gypsy wedding the next, just weird shit happening. Freeman’s got its artichoke dip from there. Sean McPherson and Eric Goode, too. Even though they have a lot of projects, they’re still hands-on and obsessing about doorknobs. When I designed Gemma, I would go antiquing with them and saw just how much they labored over small details.

Known Associates: William Tigertt is my partner for Freeman’s and Freeman’s Sporting Club. My partner at the Rusty Knot is Ken Friedman, who also owns the Spotted Pig and is about to open John Dory. There are a lot of musicians that I love. My friends, kids I grew up with, are in the Hold Steady. I like what they’re doing. Their approach to music, in contrast with what’s happening in the rest of the industry, is really pretty awesome.

What are you doing tonight? I’ll be upstate. I have a house. I’ll just cook and hang out and garden.