The Tourist Trap Escape: New York’s Alternative Agenda

Friday’s – yeah, that Friday’s – is coming to Union Square, and we’re scared. For us, yeah, but especially for tourists: every year, hundreds of thousands pour into New York, and hit the same, godawful places everyone else does, or worse, the ones they could hit at home. You can’t (entirely) blame them: they don’t know any better, besides which, doing touristy things in New York isn’t the worst way to see this city! Some things – like hitting up a deli, roaming New York’s parks, trying to get a good view of the urban landscape, or taking in the epicenter of the action in midtown – really aren’t to be missed, or begrudged. But why waste away at the same spots, doing the same things that’ve been done time and time again? They’re generally mediocre experiences. We polled our staff panel of self-proclaimed Manhattanites, and came up with a list of alternatives to the turns many a tourist takes wrong. We’ve consciously omitted Brooklyn and Queens, who deserve their own list; for now, here’re your 2009 New York Tourist Trap Alternatives.

Financial District Excursions

Overrated: South Street Seaport. Glorified mall and chain restaurants on Pier 17 overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge have a nice view, but are the same things you can get anywhere else. Take pictures with the big boat and leave. Though the cobblestone on Fulton Street may at first appear quaint, the tweens regurgitated from the mouth of a nearby Abercrombie and Fitch are dealbreakers. Overpriced food, drinks, and tourist friendly boat trips are as disingenuous and quintessentially New York as, I don’t know, Tyra Banks.

Underrated: Staten Island Ferry. 25-minute boat trip services the daily commute for Staten Island residents, and also provides awesome views of the New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan. Turn around and get back on as soon as you get to the other side for a total of 50 minutes of fun. And thanks to our egregiously high taxes, tourists, you get to ride this moving bar for free. Yes, they sell beer, along with a few snacks, as well. Take it at Sunset: it’s one of the most underrated experiences you can have (and creative dates you can take someone on) in New York.

image The best booze cruise in town. Just don’t get marooned on the other side.

Manhattan’s Best View

Overrated: The Empire State Building. $20, average waiting/trip time is two hours. The Observatory is on the 86th floor, where the views look just about the same as they would from any midtown office complex, except you have a giant, grated gate in front of you. Final verdict: anticlimactic. And if you’re going to go to the top of an annoying building, at least make it Rockefeller Center.

Underrated: The Cloisters. Medieval Branch of the Met in Fort Tryon Park in Northern Manhattan. Recommended donation, so admission price is up to you (i.e. free…for assholes) and getting there is straightforward: you must take the A train. The monastery gardens are straight out of some majestic childhood story about a girl in a secret garden and a handsome prince, or something. Either way, it’s an incredible Metropolitan Medieval Museum with a terrace offering unparalleled views of the Hudson and city below it.

The Midtown Epicenter Experience

Overrated: Times Square. Ah, Times Square: hell. Yes, it looks exactly the same as it does in every cheesy chick flick you’ve ever seen it in. No real Manhattanite ventures into the Times Square perimeter unless (A) you got comped a pair of Broadway tickets, (B) in-laws are visiting from Wisconsin or (C) you’re a Summer Intern, lost on your way to the Conde Nast building. Tourists walk slow, the food uniformly sucks, and people are wearing fanny packs. Fan. Ny. Packs. ‘Nuff said.

Underrated: Grand Central. Campbell Apartment and Oyster Bar are valid destinations on their own. New York’s main train depot is also one of the city’s most magnificent architectural masterpieces. The towering, vaulted ceilings of the terminal hold more prestige than the first episode of Gossip Girl gave up. Campbell Apartment has décor of a Florentine palace, even when full to capacity, feels like a hideaway. Oyster Bar boasts an incredible oyster roast, a great place to get clam chowder on a rainy day, and some of the city’s freshest bivalves. Don’t forget to find the “whispering gallery“, where you can talk into one of the curved walls and have the sound go directly to one of your friends, on the opposite side of the room: one of many of Grand Central’s nice little secrets.

image Yeah, dude. We’re sick of this Broadway shit, too. Tell Mom they have Bas-kee-aht at Rose Bar. She’ll be down.

Luxe Manhattan Boozing Spot

Overrated: Hudson Bar at Hudson Hotel. The design’s one part David Lynch, two parts Alice in Wonderland. Though the space might be worth a look, the overall effect gets sullied by a cheesy Euro-crowd, Heather Locklear doubles, and “ballin” popped collars. Uncomfortable chairs, and awkward seating arrangements also detract from this Ian Schrager “gem.” You can do much better.

Underrated: Rose Bar & Jade Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Concession: yes, it gets the celebrity crowd. Yes, the doormen, after a certain hour, turn into Bridge Trolls. And yes: the drinks are pricy. But hands down, no question, the better Schrager alternative is farther downtown, as is everything else these days. Here, the unfaltering velvet sex appeal makes Hudson Bar look like a bad acid-trip. Go before 10 to get a glimpse of the big art (Basquiat, Twombly, and…Schnabel), and why no one gets past the velvet rope thereafter.

Downtown Park Experience

Overrated: Union Square. The history of Union Square is unquestionable: just steps from its bad teenage skateboarders, and its incredible greenmarket, Andy Warhol once kept his factory. Unfortunately, the remnants of this culture dissolved into touristy, bland, and “faux” downtown restaurants like Blue Water Grill and the Ford Model farm team that is Coffee Shop. Shopping, like Babies ‘R’ Us, Whole Foods, and Barnes and Noble make this place no better than your average suburban strip mall. Pile that all on an excess of never-ending construction, the fact that you can barely get on the grass, and the rats running rampant through the parts you can walk? You have absolutely every reason to avoid it.

Underrated: Madison Square Park. Less than ten blocks north of said terrible tourist pit, Madison Square Park sprawls in unmatched serenity, and brims with culinary attraction. Comfortable lawns are cared for, though not overly manicured. The classic New York 45 minute-wait-for-lowbrow-food experience – Shake Shack – supplies afternoons with perfect park bench meals, even at night. For an upgrade, the recently four-starred Eleven Madison Park, Danny Meyer’s haute Indian cuisine destination Tabla, and one of New York’s best BBQ experiences, Hill Country, are just steps from the quiet park.

image If you think this is great, wait until we show you Cherry Tavern. Seriously.

Romantic Central Park Date

Overrated: Horse-buggy rides. It’s a cruel practice, horses smell, they’re expensive, locals will stare at you, it’s cliche, it’s not exciting, and you might as well just take a taxi and tell him to drive slow. Or walk. Also, karma could come around, and one day, those horses might be taking a human-buggy ride. Wouldn’t that suck?

Underrated: Rowboats on the Central Park Lake. It’s cheap, for one thing: $12 for the first hour, $10 for every hour after that, and a refundable $20 deposit, assuming you’re not stupid enough to capsize the boat. You can bring booze (and other assorted libations), and drink them (or smoke them) in the middle of the lake, or under a tree in a “cove.” It’s beautiful, and you can explore parts of Central Park you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. You’re in control, and have you ever been on a rowboat? It’s fun! Go during the week and you won’t experience a wait (unlike every other tourist trap in the city). This is also the best way to catch some sun in the park not on the otherwise overcrowded Sheep’s Meadow. And if you really want to go all out, have their resident Italian take out a Gondola for you: $30 every half hour, but he’ll serenade you in Italian if you ask nicely.

Downtown Punk Dive.

Overrated: Max Fish. Who the hell goes to Max Fish? So many people. Again: who? We don’t know when everyone decided this place was punk, or who they heard it from (Vice, like, four years ago?), but they need to know better: this place is about as pedestrian as the Lower East Side gets. Jersey’s second-rate hipster imports afraid to make their way to Billyburg mix in with kids on teen tours with good fake I.D’s. The pool table’s occupied by LES sleaze trying to take home some of the fresh meat. We’re having none of it.

Underrated: Cherry Tavern. You want sleaze? How about a jukebox that doesn’t even pretend to be remotely interesting (The Strokes, Taking Back Sunday, The Cars, Talking Heads) or drink deals (a $6 Tecate and shot of bottom shelf tequila: the famous Tijuana Special) concieved with the intention of possibly killing the shithead patrons who dare step in here. Bankers, lawyers, punks, assholes, pool sharks, cokefiends, deliquents, outlaws: for some reason, the Cherry Tavern’s managed to keep attracting one of the worst – and most interesting – crowds in town. The later you stay, the younger (and brasher) it gets, so stick around until the wee hours, especially on weekends. Oh, and: on the off chance you’re drunk enough to get a number here, write it down somewhere safe, and make sure you never call it, unless you’re fishing for STDs.

image You are what you eat. Or sometimes, who you’re served by. In this case: bad tongue and dicks.

The Great New York Deli

Overrated: Carnegie Deli or Stage Deli. The service is awful: old New Yorkers who think dishing out contrived attitudes bigger than their deli’s respective tastes? Bullshit. Same goes for the crowds, who enjoy being bossed around by the fake attitude, and the bush-league, overpriced preparations that sold their souls long ago to keep paying the rent and maintaining the brand. Avoid at all costs.

Underrated: Katz’s Delicatessen. In a classically Jewish neighborhood, a classically Jewish deli, one based around ritual and almost pathological habit, where none of the attitude is contrived, the meats are hand-sliced, the Cel-Ray flows freely, and fake orgasms alchemize into epiphanies. Grab a pink ticket at the door, know what you’re going to order at the counter when you get there so you don’t get growled at. Speak it loudly, be confident, and get the only thing – and seriously, the only thing – you really should order: pastrami on rye. Don’t balk when they offer you a taste of the meat on a plate as they slide it down the counter, and when they ask you what kind of pickles you want, you’ll take both, thanks. Get some Cel-Ray, sit down, make sure you don’t lose that ticket, tip graciously, and pad out into the Lower East Side. Breathe that fresh air: you’re still surrounded by tourists, but at least the fanny pack wearing families are far removed from some of the excellent bars in proximity. Hit them, and drink away the New York you wish you knew, and – against all odds – are still trying to find.

[Reporting by Eiseley Tauginas, Cayte Grieve, and Foster Kamer.]

Industry Insiders: Jonathan Pogash @ Campbell Apartment

Over on our Mixology site in the Pros section, we asked the hottest bartenders in New York and Los Angeles to whip up a specialty cocktail while describing their perfect New Year’s Eve. Check out Jonathan Pogash crafting a Mistletoe Martini at NYC’s Campbell Apartment. But that’s not the end of Jonathan’s game; he’s also “director of cocktail development” at the World Bar, the Carnegie Club, Bookmarks Lounge at the Library Hotel, and Madison & Vine.

What do you do? What do you drink? I develop new cocktail recipes for our menus, I train the bar staff and I’m also actively bartending as well. I drink Manhattans and Margaritas How did you get your start? I started out as a bar-back, and then I just became a bartender after that at the Russian Tea Room. From there I moved on to a place called Town, was trained by various people along the way, and just went off to various bars and started getting creative. Then they started putting my cocktail recipes on their menus.

Name three restaurants/bars/clubs you frequent when you’re not working. There are a couple of places I like. There’s this place Death & Co. I like the Pegu Club and then just local pubs. The first two have really great classic cocktails, so if I’m in the mood for that I’ll go there. If I’m in the mood for just hanging out with my friends and watching football and having a beer, than I’ll just go to a local pub.

What is your guiltiest pleasure? Watching the Food and Travel channels alone by myself in the middle of the day What is the worst (most disgusting, worst request, etc.) cocktail you’ve ever had to make? I guess those cheesy shots — like buttery nipples and B52s and all that. My places are not the kind of places that serve shots like those. What’s the worst pickup line you’ve ever heard while tending bar? Ever witness any amazing hookups? I think I’m kind of a dork — people don’t try to pick me up at bars. I’m not really good at figuring that out I guess. Well, one time a customer came up to me and said hey there’s a woman over there. She’s with a man, but would you be able to give her this napkin with my phone number on it after I leave? I said absolutely not.

What celebrity (dead or alive) would you like to share a drink with at your bar? Jack Nicholson, because I admire his work, and I think he would be a fun guy to get a drink with. I like when he talks. What’s your ideal barhopping night in New York? Going to a few places where I might know the people who are working. Like the classic cocktail lounges Pegu Club, Death & Co … there’s a place called PDT. I like going around the East Village and Lower East Side as well, maybe grab a bite. What are you doing tonight? I’m working at Bookmarks Lounge. Using 3 out of 5 of the following ingredients, make me a dream cocktail: grenadine, pepper, tequila, avocado, lemongrass. Go! For the grenadine, I would use homemade grenadine rather than already packaged grenadine. And that’s going to be just pomegranate juice and sugar. I would muddle the avocado with the homemade grenadine, and then I would add the tequila with ice, and then I would add also about half an ounce of lemon juice, and then just shake it really hard. Strain it in a martini glass and call it “Avocado Mayhem.”

How to Mix the Best New Year’s Eve Cocktails

Sure, you’ve been following the fun on our Mixology site, where BlackBook and Grey Goose recruited the best bartenders from New York and Los Angeles to whip up their signature drinks on camera, all while relating their own ideal New Year’s experience. But perhaps you really just want to see those recipes demonstrated point by point, shake by shake? Then check out the collected bonus clips above, which describe and demonstrate each drinkmaking experience in exacting detail. On tap: Cielo, Campbell Apartment, Hudson Bar, and Larry Lawrence in New York; and Ecco, The Edison, and Saints N’ Sinners in Los Angeles. Click the “MENU” button on the video player to access all seven clips. And don’t forget to thank the skilled shooters at Two Penguins Productions for making all this holiday cheer possible in the first place. Chin-chin.

NYE Mixology: Mistletoe Martini @ Campbell Apartment, NYC

BlackBook and Grey Goose continue our joint exploration of the perfect New Year’s cocktail on our Mixology site. We asked bartenders working the shakers at jumping nightspots in New York and Los Angeles to mix up their signature drink, all while relating their own perfect New Year’s. Tonight’s choice: Jonathan at NYC’s Campbell Apartment demonstrates the joy of the Mistletoe Martini.

New York: Top 5 Old-School Bars

imageGlimpse the city as it was before fauxhawks, metrosexuality, and that internets thing.

1. The Campbell Apartment at Grand Central (Midtown East) – Former private office hidden in GCT with flapper-clad staff delivering expert shakers. 2. Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel (Upper East Side) – Named after Madeline creator Ludwig, whose murals enliven one of Manhattan’s classiest drinking experiences. 3. Ear Inn (Soho) – Geek-boy film crews and UPS workers in their fly brown shorts both agree on super- old, super-dark tavern.

4. Old Town Bar (Flatiron) – Oasis of Chicago in Union Square, proudly lubricating the locals since 1892. 5. Tillman’s (Chelsea) – Golden Age Harlem scene schooling us in smooth and sexy.

A New York Day in the Life of ‘Gossip Girl’

imageGossip Girl, affectionately referred to as the Greatest Show of Our Time by New York, is gearing up for Season 2, debuting on September 1. Last season’s ad campaign, OMFG, has reached new heights, turning criticism towards the show on its head by using quotes like the Boston Herald’s “Every parent’s nightmare” on their billboards. Sure, we already showed you the wining and dining, but get ready for the drama and let life imitate art: Take a tour of New York, Gossip Girl style.

Stay The New York Palace. Home base for the Van der Woodsen-Bass clan, the Palace is instantly recognizable as the scene of many an awkward interaction betwixt Serena and Nate, Serena and Dan, Serena and Chuck … well really, Serena and anyone-else-in-the-GG-cast.

11 a.m. Stop at the local Dean & Deluca on 85th & Madison, grab some organic yogurt, and head over to eat your GG breakfast on “The Steps” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, home of the scenes of the many Blair vs. Serena vs. Jenny showdowns.

11:45 a.m. Walk the 10 or so blocks uptown to get a good look at the Russian Orthodox Synod of Bishops, which moonlights as the fictional exterior of the Constance Billard and St. Jude’s School for Boys. Think about Chuck smirking in his scarf.

12:15 p.m. Walk west until you hit Central Park. Head south along the Jackie O Reservoir as you remember Nate racing his cokehead father in the park, Nate and Chuck smoking doobies in the park, and sad sad Serena dialing Dan early in the a.m. while walking in this very same park.

1:15 p.m. Walk, cab, or take your personal town car the 30ish blocks to have lunch at Geisha. Reminisce about the GG pilot and see if you can spot the exact table where Blair and Nate have their first super awkward dinner.

3 p.m. A few blocks away is Blair-favorite Henri Bendel. Stop, shop, and when in doubt think, WWBWD?

5 p.m. It’s got to be happy hour somewhere. Time for drinks at The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal, owned by real life Upper East Sider Mark Grossich. Flashback to the fateful scene where S + N betray B and get it on amongst a medley of champagne bottles, barstools, and a leering Chuck Bass.

7:30 p.m. Dinner at Butter. Start an argument about whether or not Blair really would have fallen for the fake invitation to Butter when she was on the outs, and Jenny was making a run for Queen Bee.

9 p.m. Walk by the fictitious “Eleanor Waldorf” shop on 14th and Hudson, a.k.a. Rubin Chapelle. Cackle as you recall Jenny locked in, alarms wailing. Cackle again when you remember how she outsmarted Blair to get out of that particular caper.

10 p.m. Live it up at Marquee and relive the “truth or dare” scene where Jenny and Blair one-up each other, smashing couples left and right.

11:30 p.m. The Lower East Side is awash with yet more GG hotpots. Walk by Sunshine Cinema, scene of aborted date between Dan and Serena. Keep it local and catch the later show at the Box, a.k.a. “Victrola” on GG. Think of Blair shimmying around on stage in her nightie, then getting banged by Chuck Bass in the back of his car. Yehaw! If luck is on your side, maybe you’ll meet a real life Bassinator Sebastian Nicolas, part owner of the Box.

1 a.m. Roll back to The Palace late night and belly up to the bar at in-house restaurant Gilt to order the infamous grilled fontina cheese sandwich with truffle oil. That’s right — Chuck ordered this sandwich for Serena moments before trying to rape her in the kitchen, and now you can too! (Eat the sandwich that is, not get all rapey.) Gilt has turned fiction into a $50 truffle-oiled reality. Enjoy.

Extra Credit In case you haven’t had enough, feel free to hop boroughs and check out: ● The Foundry, in Long Island City, scene of “The Kiss on the Lips Party.” ● Fictional gallery de Rufus Humphrey, a.k.a. the Front Room, located in real Williamsburg, as opposed to the “Williamsburg” that the Humphreys live in — which is consistently shot with views of the Brooklyn Bridge, real-life neighborhood of DUMBO. ● Communitea, also in Long Island City, the coffee shop where Vanessa works.

See the future with these Season 2 soon-to-be-scenes-of-drama, as the GG crew has been spotted shooting at the following locations:

STKR&L RestaurantPacker Collegiate in Brooklyn Heights ● Fort Tilden BeachRoslyn Claremont HotelPlanting Fields Arboretum

Industry Insiders: Mark Grossich, Uptown Gentleman

Mark Grossich is the refined CEO of Hospitality Holdings, owner of elegant haunts like the World Bar, the Campbell Apartment, Bookmarks and Madison & Vine at the Library Hotel, and the Carnegie Club. He tells us of his mission to bring the sophisticated dram back to New York, holds forth on coke spoon hijinx, and caps off the night with a Shirley Temple.

Point of Origin: I’m from the Midwest, raised in Chicago. I did a lot of things before I came into the hospitality business, like washing the pots and pans in my family’s neighborhood restaurants when I was about 12 — casual places, the names of which I can’t even remember. My background is in marketing, and I have a masters degree from Northwestern, which is how I got into the business. I owned an advertising agency, a modeling agency, and a public relations agency, another owner of which wanted to partner up for a cocktail lounge; he found the location, and I founded what would become Hudson Bar and Books. It was such a success that I transitioned out of the PR business and into upscale cocktail lounges full time.

You also transitioned out of Chicago and into New York. Where I’ve been into it for quite a while now, like 15 years, and have done some interesting things. I built places I’m comfortable going to; it’s nice to have an elegant lounge to go to. They were absent from the New York scene for decades until we brought them back. Lounges then became a part of things here. Hudson Bar and Books was unique 10 years ago … we put sofas where barstools used to be. We had a dress code, so the clientele tended to be better dressed, more sophisticated — and they wanted a more sophisticated experience than dribbling beer on their running shoes. Not only did people read the books — they wanted to buy them! Someone would arrive, pick up a book or one of the newspapers, and read while waiting to meet somebody. Afterwards we created Beekman Bar and Books (that became the first Cigar Bar) and Carnegie Club.

But at the World Bar (in the Trump World Towers, opposite the United Nations), the barstools are so high you have to have hiking equipment to reach them. The Brazilian designer envisioned a stand-up bar, but women don’t’ want to climb the heights. My Portuguese and his English resulted in a particularly high bar, but that’s on our list to change. We did the Patio on East 47th Street, where the initial operators had a coffee bar. We served Moet, instead. The community approached me about taking it over, so I bought the license and got a liquor license. The park district assured us that we were a shoe-in to re-operate there, but we lost the space to operators whose only experience was failure. I have a penchant for the city’s landmarks, so when I was approached by the MTA (the landlord for Grand Central Station) to resurrect the Campbell Apartment, I took a look. We had the right concept for the place, but you should have seen it! The first thing I wanted to do was restore the space, bring it back to the 1920s. (Campbell was one of the money men for Commodore Vanderbilt’s terminus: he took the “corner office” on 42nd and Vanderbilt as repayment). The concept resonated with them, and with the hundreds of millions they were spending restoring Grand Central, another mil was a drop in the bucket. Now, people look at it and say “Wow!”, but the place was a wreck. The leaded glass windows were boarded up; the massive ductwork was hanging from what had been an elegant ceiling; there were workers’ cubicles all over the place. We hired the guys who paint federal buildings here and put them to work as if they were painting the Sistine Chapel, on their backs. We asked Mina Campbell (no relation to the original Campbell) who worked with Mark Birley on his clubs in London to do the restoration we wanted. We matched the colors and patterns of the original room to create an elegant space with the best of service, a quiet space inside city-within-a-city that is Grand Central Station. We attracted a significant destination crowd who wanted to take a train back in time.

Bet you wish you could get your hands on the Cloud Club. I wish. I was up in the Chrysler Building years ago where the Cloud Club was (railroad magnates made an exclusive club at the top of the building where Phillip Johnson’s architectural office is now), but the closest thing we could create in the neighborhood was the Bookmarks rooftop lounge in the Library Hotel at 41st and Madison. We were so successful at it that the owner asked us to take over the restaurant, so now we’re doing Madison & Vine. We’ve resurrected the wine bar, much as we brought back the upscale cocktail lounge. Now it’s time for a renaissance for the wine bar.

Any non-industry projects in the works? We do a lot of charity events, and I’m on the board of the Vanderbilt YMCA and the Grand Central Partnership. The hospitality business is an excellent conduit to all kinds of other businesses because it’s not just a business, but a lifestyle. Because of the World Bar’s proximity to the UN, there are a lot of charity events there. In fact [an artist] has a kind of melt-down fundraiser there, usually on the first Tuesday of the month where she melts weapons into works of art. It’s not like the old days when you were constantly out at every venue. Fortunately, we have 100 employees now, and longstanding people in senior management, so there’s more time to devote to good causes. There’s nothing like starting something, but now it’s exciting in a more businesslike way. Now, it’s a significant entity, so priorities change. We’re always looking for the next great space.

Favorite Hangs: My places, of course! I’m having dinner tonight at Madison & Vine for business, and pleasure, and I’m talking to somebody about a new space over drinks at the Campbell Apartment. But I don’t really drink; it’s business.

Who are your industry icons? The late Mark Birley in England with a long track record of Annabelle’s and the Carlton Club and, of course, Mark’s club. I have tremendous respect for Ian Schraeger — not only has he been a visionary, but he has exhibited impeccable taste. Um, like the “Man-in-the-Moon” with a tasteful coke spoon at Studio 54? It was a great idea at the time, of course both he and Steve Rubell went to jail.

And it’s rumored that he met his next partner, Jeffrey Chodorow, in prison, no? My antennae went up on that one. It’s a rumor everybody’s heard, but Schraeger has transitioned from the hottest place in town to soignee hotels and residential real estate.

Who are some of the people you’re likely to be seen with? Out and about with my gorgeous wife, Elizabeth, and our teenage daughter, Katherine, who is not old enough to drink anything but Shirley Temples. I suppose that having a parent in this business is either a deterrent or an encouragement. Her classmates think it’s cool that we had her Sweet 16 party at the Campbell Apartment.

Projections: More and more we’re actively looking for the next great space, the next best place for an upscale cocktail lounge, the next wine bar. We’d like to strike more management deals with hotels to operate their lounges, and we’re looking through the softening economy to buy existing property that needs help. We’ve become pretty good at this business through the years, and businesses with a lot of vitality that have potential, but are badly run or have cash flow issues, are really attractive to us. I’m living my dream. I love coming to work because I love what I do. My staff is exceptional … I have busboys who have worked with me for 10 years. It’s nice to be able to offer good people opportunities they couldn’t find elsewhere.

What are you doing tonight? Meeting a new possible landlord for cocktails and meeting a possible business situation for dinner. And because my wife and daughter are in Spring Lake, New Jersey for the summer, and as I’m not much of a drinker, I’ll cap off the night with … a Shirley Temple.