Lucky Cheng’s Owner On the Big Move to Times Square

When the city closed the gay bathhouses, others came in and reinvented them. Hayne Suthon led the charge for her family, converting the old Club Baths into a series of restaurants and fun lounges. Cave Canem was a Roman- themed joint that had me on day one. Its conversion in 1983 to the drag queen-heavy Lucky Cheng’s was an inspiration. Owner Hayne was the belle of the ball. Throw together Amy Sacco (before she was Amy Sacco) with a little Susanne Bartsch, and a Barnum and Bailey ringmaster with serious legal schooling and bizness-savvy, and you have Hayne.

All was good until the neighborhood changed. The East Village/LES’s conversion from hipster heaven to dormitories for slaves and students left them without their base. Bachelorette and birthday shindigs filled the Lucky Cheng’s room,and Hayne eyed the new Times Square. A year or two ago, I told everyone in town that her space was available and the best game in town. Now, operators are clamoring for it and deals are done… almost. Someone will make it nice for those who are now around. Money will be spent to pay for the rent, the renovation, and other things. The neighborhood can now support that. Whatever fabulous that comes in will set a bar… a tone for the area. Sutra Lounge, available and nearby, should also be scooped up by entrepreneurs going with the flow.

Hayne will bring Lucky Cheng’s to Times Square – and, therefore, the world – this Monday, the 15th. It’s a dream come true for her and her loyal companions. NYC…just like I pictured it.

How will the new space differ?
The difference is the space. It’s a beautiful and theatrical setting, and it’ll feature a different show-formatting. We’ll seat a little over 300 people with a massive staff of waitresses, bartenders, hostesses, and yes, managers – all of whom will perform. There will be an MC also doing a few numbers, but that part of the show will feature less audience participation and more stand-up comedy. With the high ceilings, the two Asian performers have created costumes with height. They’ll have sequins and massive wingspans. Black lights will be a part of the Asian dance numbers. And Richard Krause’s food is going to be simply ridiculously delicious.

How will your marketing change?
The demographic will change: we’ll have tourists, theatergoers… but most importantly, cast and crew of several shows have discovered us and plan to host very organized events and become regulars for after-work drinks. Although not a destination per se, we need to focus on bringing business through concierge outreach, street teams of queens, and partnerships with Broadway shows. Totally new sales and marketing strategies are being developed.

What is your history with the old Lucky Cheng’s space on lower First Avenue?
My history with that building dates back to 1986, when my family purchased the Club Baths, and demoed the building with up-and-coming graffiti artists who filled and tagged 40-yard dumpsters daily. I transformed it into Cave Canem, Lucky Cheng’s opened in 1993 while I was pregnant with my daughter Josephine , who is now attending Sarah Lawrence. Both Lucky Cheng’s and Josephine have grown up together and are simultaneously graduating to the next level.

Tracey Emin to Light Up Times Square With Unrequited Love

Fiercely brilliant artist Tracey Emin is known throughout the art world for her wide range of works from painting and drawing to video instillations and photography to needlework and sculpture. But whatever medium she’s working in, her pieces always reveal her personal hopes and desires, exposing her failures and longings in a way that’s both heartbreaking and inspiring. And next month, the English artist will have her first American public-art piece in Times Square as she lights up he consumerist hub with neon passion.

At exactly of 11:57 every night, 40 screens—some large, some small—will run her six messages for a span of three minutes, engaging passerby’s with their romantic glow. The messages will "appear digitally animated, as if being written by an unseen hand" and share Emin’s yearning for love and love lost. “I’m really brilliant at unrequited love,” she says. “I haven’t had a relationship for years. It’s totally inspired my work," she told ARTNews.

Take a look at some of her beautiful work that will be debuting next month and read on for more details. 

nnnnsoulnnnnlove

Broadway’s ‘Rock of Ages’ Cast: Where They Rock Off-The-Clock

Where do professional rockers rock? That’s what I asked the cast of Rock of Ages, who rock Broadway eight times a week. Find out where they go and why on their one night off, before the show, and when the curtain comes down. Here’s our list: Where They Rock Off-The-Clock

Is Guy’s American Kitchen Really That Bad?

It’s odd to walk into a restaurant on the day it got incredibly slammed by the New York Times. There is a hush to it, almost as if you are doing something daring and bold for walking through those condemned doors. Last Tuesday, that’s exactly how it felt when I checked out Guy Fieri’s first New York restaurant, Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, which opened two months ago in Times Square.

As we sat down in one of the immense, plush booths, I couldn’t help but wonder if the food would turn out as bad as restaurant critic Pete Wells made it seem in his now infamous NYT review. So, we started with that “blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste” and a caliente margarita. The former tasted like a watermelon Jolly Rancher and the margarita had no heat, but where they terrible? Not really. I mean, I don’t really want to drink a beverage that sweet, but I don’t like appletinis either.

But, many people do like appletinis, and it’s obvious that those are the people Fieri’s restaurant is catering to. Lest us not forget, he opened the 500-seat eatery in Times Square. As to the food Wells complained about, true, the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders aren’t very awesome and lack any hint of smoked almonds or salty pretzel, but they didn’t exude “chewy air.” The Guy-talian Nachos taste like an Italian hero was dumped on chips and heated up, and Guy’s Famous Big Bite Caesar salad proved uninspired and definitely not a “big bite,” but it is a side salad, and on that note, a huge portion.

Actually, all the portions are hefty, just like many Americans want them to be, and the food, while not spicy enough for me and way too sweet, is actually the flavor profile many Americans crave—especially Americans traveling to New York to eat in Times Square.

Last week I ate there as their guest, so on Saturday I decided to pop in on the sly to see if the food remained decent. Short answer: yes. The only real difference was the service, but where during the week it remained quiet, it was packed with people waiting to sit down on the weekend. And of those, not one person I spoke to lived in the city.

At the bar, a woman from Colorado and her 16-year-old daughter waited for a table, they had come to celebrate the teen’s birthday. On my left, an older couple from Philadelphia was visiting and wanted to check out the restaurant because they love Fieri’s show. The woman shook her head and commented on how mean the review was and her husband elegantly pointed out, “This is fun dining, not fine dining.”

No one in the culinary world is really standing up to say Guy’s American Kitchen is a great restaurant, but I don’t believe anyone ever thought it would be. After all, it’s cut from two molds: Food Network stardom, and Heartland Brewery’s corporate model. It’s like Applebee’s or, as the clever mock-paper The Onion pointed out, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.  It’s not a place meant to be taken seriously, and it appears Wells did, or does, or whatever. FierI told The Today Show that he felt Wells had an agenda, and even if that’s true, the real question is, should the New York Times be reviewing a place like this? It’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure: now curious people are flocking to check out Fieri’s spot, for better or for worse. 

The Ten Best Questions Raised In The ‘NYT’ Review Of Guy Fieri’s Times Square Restaurant

My new favorite game is reading New York Times celebrity profiles out loud—sometimes just to myself! Nothing is more fun than really hitting home the super congratulatory, handjob-in-words kind of writing that shows up in the arts section of that paper. But last night I thought I might have a heart attack when food critic Pete Wells published his review of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, a Times Square joint (well, if "joint" can describe a 500-seat restaurant) eagerly visited by Midwestern tourists and bloggers who have given up on ironic dinners at Applebee’s. It’s quite a review. Here were the best lines that I read aloud in varying accents. 

1. "When you saw the burger described as “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,” did your mind touch the void for a minute?"

2. "Were the ‘bourbon butter crunch chips’ missing from your Almond Joy cocktail, too?"

3. "Why is one of the few things on your menu that can be eaten without fear or regret — a lunch-only sandwich of chopped soy-glazed pork with coleslaw and cucumbers—called a Roasted Pork Bahn Mi, when it resembles that item about as much as you resemble Emily Dickinson?"

4. "Any idea why [the watermelon margarita] tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?" [Ed. note: how does Pete Wells know what either of those things taste like?]

5. "If a customer shows up with a reservation at one of your two Tex Wasabi’s outlets, and the rest of the party has already been seated, does the host say, ‘Why don’t you have a look around and see if you can find them?’ and point in the general direction of about 200 seats?"

6. "Has anyone ever told you that your high-wattage passion for no-collar American food makes you television’s answer to Calvin Trillin, if Mr. Trillin bleached his hair, drove a Camaro and drank Boozy Creamsicles?"

7. "Is this how you roll in Flavor Town?"

8. "Somewhere within the yawning, three-level interior of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, is there a long refrigerated tunnel that servers have to pass through to make sure that the French fries, already limp and oil-sogged, are also served cold?"

9. "[W]hen we hear the words Donkey Sauce, which part of the donkey are we supposed to think about?"

10. "Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?"

Soooo, we’re still on for tonight at seven, right?

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Guy Fieri Takes Manhattan

It’s official; starting Monday, Guy Fieri takes New York. After overseeing five restaurants in California and spending two years as the face of the Food Network, the celebrity chef opens Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, his first New York restaurant in the heart of the city: Times Square. His new joint has around 500 seats, three levels, and will feature the food that helped make the frost-tipped chef famous. I pulled Fieri away from grilling up pizzas at his son’s birthday party in order to chat on the phone with the chef about his New York debut. 

What took you so long to get to New York?
I am a California guy. I came to New York before, but I had never spent a long time there. It’s an amazing place with such a strong collection of restaurants. To be honest, not being from the East Coast, you kind of go play ball where you know how to play ball. But the more times I was in New York, the more I looked at it and thought, “Wow, I would sure like to do a restaurant here.” But I didn’t have any roots in the city. Then I met Jon Bloostein, who owns Heartland Brewery. Someone came to me and said Jon was interested in doing a restaurant with me and suddenly we were off running.

Why did you decide now was the time?
You have to do it when it’s the right time, and I wanted make sure I got the right connections, the right partner, and the right energy.

So, you and Bloostein have become quite the pair…
Jon is a mastermind; the dude has got it ten-fold. Jon is so creative, and he goes at everything with such a drive and such a passion. I love seeing someone who runs that hard.

Why Times Square?
Being in Times Square and being around all these types of people—it’s the heartbeat of the city.

Do you feel like the space suits you?
I lost my little sister to cancer a year and half ago and I have a tattoo on my arm for her. When you walk into the restaurant, by the side of the bar, they are doing a chalk mural of this tattoo of mine. There are a lot of pictures of my cars, and a lot of stuff about me. It’s funny the things you will see on the wall, like “love, peace and taco grease.” This is my hangout, this is my casa, this is my gig.

How do you think your restaurant will fit into the New York food scene?
I am trying to make something for everybody but still gives people a lot of culinary opportunities. It’s going to be great food in an eclectic environment. If you are looking for loud and wild, we got that. Quieter, or large tables, or watching the kitchen—we got that, too. We know we are going to have to deliver the real-deal food. We will have to stay focused, but I am confident that we really have sharp players. Two of my culinary guys from my team [in Los Angeles] are there full time. It’s going to be really fun

Will you have any special, signature dishes just for your New York restaurant?
The whole menu is the tough part. When we were designing it, there were 90 items, and then we had to pare down. Now, we got an eclectic mix of pastas, and not your traditional Italian linguine and clams. For example, we have Louisiana pasta with blackened chicken breast. We have spicy onion rings that we hand make, and sashimi tuna tacos in crispy wanton skins. Basically, it’s my style of doing food and it’s all fortified with my Guy Fieri style and flavors.

When people come to a restaurant like this, whether it’s because they are fans of mine, for the food, or just because they’re in New York, I want them to walk away thinking they are taking something back with them. We are also making some custom beers with some great names like the El Jefe. Jon made all these beers in the style we were looking for, and my tattoo artist made all the logos for the beer, like there is a keg that is in a gun. It’s just really cool

Does this new restaurant mean we will be seeing more of you here?
Like crazy. The TV thing is a blessed opportunity, but I am still a chef in a restaurant. I make it to New York once or twice a month, and now, even more. We might get an apartment since the restaurant will be my home base.

Behold, People In Times Square Who Have Less Shame Than That Guy Pooping Inside Sephora

Thinking about going to Times Square for something? Think again, you silly goose. You might have one of these assholes all up in your grill filming an impromptu music video.

These are Casey and Jay and they are rocking out to Otis by Jay-Z and Kanye West in the middle of Times Square. Watch as they rope in unsuspecting tourists, dancing girls in bowler hats, and anti-Semitic Elmo.

 

 

The whole thing is very weird, very New York, and very, very funny. Somebody make sure Yeezy sees it?

Naked Cowboy Puts His Pants On, Runs For Prez

You know that guy who walks around Times Square in his tightie-whities, shaded by a cowboy hat, plucking his bulge-covering acoustic guitar, and posing with tourists? Well apparently he’s running for President of the United States as a member of the Tea Party. The Cowboy, whose real name is Robert John Burck, held a press conference in Times Square yesterday to announce his candidacy.

Burck wore a suit, bashed Obama, and complained about welfare, health care, and immigration. Then reporters made underwear jokes and Burck didn’t laugh. The whole thing is absolutely bizarre, but I think it might be the best thing that’s happened yet with regards to the Tea Party. If the Tea Party endorses this joke of a person as their 2012 presidential candidate it will only further de-legitimize them, especially because the morality of being a naked cowboy doesn’t seem to mesh with The Tea Party’s politics. But even if they don’t endorse him, he’ll still be there to embarrass them. Hopefully he won’t catch pneumonia before election season. Video of the press conference below.