New York: Top 10 Places to Maintain an Eating Disorder

imageAs a self-respecting woman — or, for that matter, a New Yorker (one who, naturally, is trying to stand her fiscal ground in these tough economic times) — I’m the first to say that eating disorders are unattractive on a physical, medical, and emotional level. However: this is The Big City, sweetie, and sometimes a girl’s got to stop, look around at all the gorgeous people surrounding her, and put down the pomme-frites, possibly followed by a pull-the-trigger trip to the commode. That being said, everyone loves going out to dinner here, and does it often. It’s an unavoidable part of our culture, and a way for us to leave behind the nightmares of work and stress in place of good conversation, good friends, and a stomach/liver satisfied with food/tasty libations (the ones we keep down). So here’s a time-tested list of ten places where I’ve had a thrill without eating anything, where Shaq-sized Amazon beauties are found sipping glasses of champagne or drowning their hunger with empty vodka calories.

10. Indochine (NoHo) – Patrons match the aesthetically pleasing decor — Asian, dark, slimming — at this downtown haven for uptown clientele. Rexos flock to find future sugar daddies to provide their size-0 Chanel skirt suits and whisk them away from the degradation of downtown to the lock-jawed, botoxed Upper East Side.

9. Pastis (Meatpacking District) – While I’ve personally succumbed to the temptation of Keith McNally’s croque monsieur, this place is always filled — if not synonymous — with fellow non-eaters sipping French reds over conversations about what faaaabulous Carrie Bradshaw-as-criterion lives they lead (it’s that over, but people still flock there). When it’s nice outside, the place goes al fresco, with outdoor seating right on the sidewalk for you to bring your teacup kickdog with you (he’s rexo too). This is great for sitting and surveying the countless models strutting up and down lower Ninth Avenue, like watching the giraffes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. But with booze.

8. Tao (Midtown) – I still get mass text messages inviting me once a week for “model dinner” here. Seriously. The only time I went, the table was covered with a delectable feast for the entirety of the night. Who dared touch the fruit from the tree of life/Asian fusion from the kitchen cooked by unfairly underpaid immigrant Latinos? No one, except for Marcus Schenkenberg, who would take a bite after each of us ignored his blatant attempts to get us into bed. Sorry Marcus, but at least you had a full stomach. We didn’t have to try to puke at that.

7. Bagatelle (Meatpacking District) – The Kiss & Fly crew love beautiful girls — I mean, who doesn’t — but the ‘Bag’s a solid sure shot for finding exceptionally hot thinnifers at the pomade-slick bistro. Opt for looking at the cocktail menu. No need to suffer through reading what they make in the kitchen — too many calories (and words, for you newly imported Eastern European IMG signees).

6. Merkato 55 (Meatpacking District) – This MePa hotspot is known for its beautiful crowds and African dining. This is perfect for the aspiring model-actress, because Africa’s a starving nation, and you’re an aspiring member of a starving nation, albeit, a different, more blinged-out one. Merkato’s awesome for getting together with friends — if you can get a table — talking shit on the New York’s Eurocentric socialite set (and their shipping magnate heir boyfriends, who you’re sleeping with), and watching the Beautiful People pass you by. Quick! Run downstairs to Bijoux! Hide and cry your Oliver Twist-like hunger out in a dark, low-ceilinged corner! Emerge upstairs for Saturday Brunch Parties, where you can find the dumbest fat wallets in the city (anyone who buys a magnum at 2 p.m. just so they can watch sparklers shoot out of it? Easy mark.).

5. Upstairs at Cipriani (SoHo) – The infamous Bellinis flow freely here, yielding drunken, juiced-up models ready and eager for a good time. Upstairs is a lounge area fully equipped with all necessities — bar, bathroom, quality paper towels. It’s dangerous to go here on a totally empty stomach, though: those stairs can be daunting, so make sure to eat some wet saltines before climbing them.

4. The Waverly Inn (West Village) – The TMZ-flanked spot known for its mysterious celebrity draw and exclusivity is a home away from home to many far-from-home models and their faux followers: agents, producers, casting directors, and whoever else couldn’t get in on the merits of their “normal” status. That’s what you get for not having a translucent body. But the Waverly has actual celebrities, and thus, is high-class. You have to at least appear like you’re eating something. Get the salad. It’s probably the only thing you can afford anyways.

3. Butter (NoHo) – Conveniently located across the street from Indochine, Butter’s been around for a while and has perfected its magnetic draw for young, beautiful, and fake-ID carrying NYU coeds. Being thin is a necessity for gratis entrance gratis; the irony that the place is named “Butter” often escapes its Olsen Twin-aping crowds. However, I’m sure if you have enough cash (or bravado), the chef will be ecstatic to have you taste their less-prepared dishes that many members of Butter’s clientele resist ordering. Mainly dessert.

2. The Stanton Social (Lower East Side) – I celebrated my birthday here two years ago, and it still is one of the best times I’ve had. The plates are small and made to share, and because my roommate Sean was sitting next to me, I hardly even saw the food — it went directly into his stomach. Boys like to eat! Seriously, though, the space is great for a wild night out. Upstairs is an upbeat and fun lounge area, chock-full of good memories. It was here that my friend and I — we look nothing alike — made a very drunk Adrien Grenier feel like a jackass for calling us twins and demanding a threesome. We will not “hug it out,” bitch.

1. Norwood (West Village) – Little brother to Soho House serves powerful men about town, their leading ladies of the week, and the neurosis that fall between his deep-seated self-consciousness and her existential pain (which is besides that of her digestive system, often conveniently soaked in saline water and diahrretics). Last time I went here, I met an agent ready and willing to supply the “needs” to “quench my thirst.” I’m not sure if he was talking about a signing, a drink, or some other sleazy agent euphemism I don’t really want to know about. He did not however, offer me any food. Maybe he was hinting that I didn’t really need any. It might hurt, but at least it’s honest.

Industry Insiders: Unik Ernest, Nightlife Philanthropist

Unik Ernest, owner of Merkato 55 and Bijoux, blazes the path from Haiti to South Beach to New York nightlife don, stays grounded in a world where champagne bottles could feed entire villages back home, and dishes on his hot Art Basel party and the star-studded Inauguration Day event he’s cooking up in Washington DC.

What are some other places you like to hang out at in New York? Cipriani Upstairs, I like to go there. Sometimes I go to Pravda, because I live next door. I like to go to the gym. If I’m not working out then I’m listening to music. Or I’ll travel to Paris, to Hotel Costes, Plaza Athenee. I go to Barcelona a lot, but mostly I just like to walk around and not go out that much when I’m there.

What are some other places you like in the rest of the world? I like Brazil. I like Argentina. I stay at the Faena Hotel in Buenos Aires. I love London. I enjoy the south of France, from Cannes all the way to St. Tropez. Sometimes I’ll drive from Monaco to Milan. So pretty much that’s it.

Do you do events and parties all around the world? Definitely. In Paris we did a Diesel a party a few years ago. I just did a party for Ungaro this past Fashion Week. Sundance we’ve done events. We did a party for Lionel Richie in London after his concert. I took my friends out [after the concert] to a friend’s home, and it was like 100 people, really nice. I did a party in Cannes for the premiere of Ocean’s 13. A party for Denise Rich in St. Tropez on a boat. I did a beautiful party for aSmallWorld in St. Tropez at somebody’s house, right next to Club 55. I’m going to Miami for Art Basel [this week]. I have a party there, and David Bowie and Naomi Campbell will be showing up for that. And I’m doing the election party in DC on Inauguration Day.

Tell me more about the Washington DC event you are organizing. As we all know, this is the most historic event in America in many, many years. An African-American guy in the White House is incredible. I’m putting a committee together with will.I.am, John Legend, Spike Lee, Usher — many people will be involved in the event, and it’s going to be very VIP. It’s going to be two nights, the night before Martin Luther King Day and then on Inauguration Day, a closing party to celebrate the inauguration of our new president.

Are you inviting Obama? Well, I am working with a lot of people in his camp, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to be busy! Then again it’s going to be something really meaningful. So we’re going to do something like New York invades DC, tastemaker-meets-celebrities-meets-politician party. It would be great to have Obama there, but I doubt it. I’m being realistic. He’s the President. He could have come to my party two years ago more easily I think!

Where did you get your start? South Beach, Miami. For four years I was a bar back, and when I would finish working, I’d go out almost every night in South Beach. So one of the club owners, whose partner was Mickey Rourke, asked me and my friend Dimitri [Hyacinthe] if we wanted to do the Wednesday night party. And I didn’t have any idea about promotion — I used to just go party. So next thing I know, we were doing the party, and the party was packed. What I did was I took to the street and just told everyone to come to my party, and it worked.

Yeah, pre-text messages. Old school. Yeah I didn’t have a fax machine, I didn’t have any technology, it was pure hustle. It was based on if people liked your personality or they liked your energy, and they just show up. And it worked. We did the party for like a year and a half, two years, and at one point I said to myself, “What am I doing in Miami?” Every day you wake up, go to the beach, and then you do the parties, but there’s nothing to show for it — there’s no career, there’s no tomorrow. So I said, you know, I’m gonna go to New York. I always had this thing for New York. It’s the place to be. So I said, you know what, let me give this a shot.

So my boy — who’s a big talker, used to be a promoter at Nell’s and Supper Club [in New York] — and he said, “I’m running shit in New York. If you guys wanna come, I’m gonna put you up, and I’m gonna put you under my umbrella.” So basically when we came here, because we were from Miami, we were already kind of ready, because of the way it works with the model scene. The season [in Miami] is over in like April or May, then everyone clears out. By the time we came to New York, everyone had already come here. So when we were getting on the street, we would come up with the most beautiful girls. We had our first New York party in June. By September, we had a big party going at Tilt on Varrick Street, where Culture Club is now. We had Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes. And eventually we had [the Wednesday night party at] Serafina in 1999/2000.

You guys owned Lafayette Street. Exactly. It was a dead street besides Indochine. I was already doing a massive party at Chaos on Wednesday night, and my business model was Bowery Bar, so I went to Serafina restaurant [on Lafayette Street] and decided to do dinner in the front and take the back room and turn it into a lounge. We did that for two years, and it was the most successful party seen to this day in New York. That party pretty much gave us the recognition that we needed to move to ownership. Even back then, Serafina wanted us to be partners with them, but we weren’t too sure. Then we got the offer from my previous partner at PM. He told us he had this space in the Meatpacking District, so why don’t you guys come in and be partners and we’ll help raise the money and we’ll help do the concept together. PM lasted for like five years. And when our lease was almost up, we got a good offer to get out, so we sold the lease, and kept the name if we ever want to do PM again. That’s what happened, then afterward we move to Merkato 55.

How did you get involved over here? The landlord always liked us. When the previous place was open, they weren’t doing good business. And the owner asked Aramis, our door guy, if we wanted to take over the place. Since we had to sell PM, we had to do something right away. Basically we came in, and we were looking for people to partner up with, and thinking about what kind of scene would be good for this place, what kind of concept we could do here that would be different, so we came up with the idea for African.

How did you get in touch with Aquavit chef Marcus Samuelsson? Marcus was looking at this place too at the same time as us. But Marcus didn’t have money to put into this place, so we brought Marcus in as a consultant. He gave us the concept. So we went ahead and did this place. It is challenge to do something at this time, of the year especially with the economy. We’ve been getting a lot of good response, people calling from all over the world to see us here. So we’ve got a great lounge downstairs [Bijoux], and we use it for events, and also for people to come and relax. It’s been good.

You have the rights to PM? Are you gonna try to do it somewhere else? Yeah it’s been less than a year since PM has been closed. We have another space that we own, and we may take PM there.

Who are some people that you admire in this industry? I love the guys at Serafina. I love what they have accomplished and their brand. Paola Pedrignani who was gutsy to take Amaranth over to the Upper East Side. Of course you have the old school guy like Ian Schrager. Anybody in this business wants to become like that guy. He set the bar so high, so if you eventually want to become a hotelier or own a resort, you definitely have to look at the blueprint he’s laid out for all of us.

Is that a career path you see yourself going on? I love my business, to be honest. Sometimes you get tired, because you have to work at night and during the daytime. Anybody who has to work at night has to work during the daytime. You have to entertain people. I wake up early in the morning to make sure everything is prepared for the day. In the afternoon, I have lunch meetings, book events, preparing for like two or three months from now. And at night, people want to see you. My friends are like lawyers, doctors, they have a tough day at work, they want to let off steam out. So I have to see them, which means I have to be there at night. I stay till like 4 a.m., but sometimes I sneak out at like 2. But that can take a toll on you. You can call me 24 hours a day. If I can’t talk to you, I just won’t pick it up, but you never know who is going to call. I know sometimes you have to make time for yourself and your family. But if you choose to be in this business, you are married to it. The good thing about me is I don’t drink and I don’t do drugs. But if you are on this schedule everyday, it doesn’t matter if you drink or not, it’s still tough.

Is being sober a big advantage? Oh yeah, 100%. I’m sure there are some people who are smart, they can drink, do drugs, then drink coffee and they are still good at what they do. But I feel if you have a clear mind, your thoughts are more together. But besides doing nightlife, I have a charity, so that gives me perspective.

Tell me more about that. I took a school in my country [Haiti]. There’s 172 kids to be exact, and we give them a meal every day, as well as all the materials they need for school, including uniforms. The organization has been around for one year, and it’s called Edeyo. It means “I will help them” in Creole. So we have two big events coming up, an art exhibit by the kids, to enjoy some of their beautiful art. We have some photographers and other artists giving us some beautiful pieces. So we’re doing that here on December 9. And also in January, we are doing a big event on January 8 with Milk Studios, with Nigel Barker, who went with me to Haiti and we took pictures. I came from Haiti to America to having this good life to throwing all these parties and all these dinners. If you come from my background, forget about anything else, you have food and a roof over your head and anything else is just icing on the cake. There’s people right now, all over, that don’t even have anything to eat. I always tell people I’m not doing this thing to get recognition, I’m not doing it for gratification. I’m doing it because I came from that situation. I’m the guy that’s lucky.

Known Associates: If someone knows me, they know I am a solo guy. So whenever I can take time out by myself I gotta do it. But the people I do business with are Francois who is a guy I met in Miami, and he came to New York to start working for me. My brother Kyky [Conille] who is my partner. Dimitri Hyacinthe, my partner. Michael Pradieu is the co-founder of the foundation. Those are my core guys.

What are you doing tonight? I’m going to cook at home. I love to cook. I’m making rice and beans probably like with veggies. I love to eat out, but when you have your own place you have to eat food you cook yourself. Just to get ready for the night you have to cook at home. So I’ll do that and then come to Merkato 55 to work.

Industry Insiders: Downtown Fixture Sebastian Nicolas

Sebastian Nicolas’ path to downtown party prince has been meteoric and mostly unplanned. From karaoke at Cipriani Upstairs to his new digs at the Box, the normally press-shy nightlifer holds forth on his past, present, and future endeavors.

Point of Origin: I was born in Sweden to Chilean parents, then moved around Spain, lived in Easter Island, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. My sister ran a catering company in Chile that did the catering for all the big arena shows that came to Chile, as well the country’s first upscale fusion restaurant, Route 66. A lot of the people involved with the restaurant had worked in New York with Douglas Rodriguez, who owned Patria and basically invented the Nuevo Latino cuisine. That experience opened up my eyes to this crossroads of many interests like music, art, food, ambiance and made me fall in love with this industry.

Eventually I wound up at Columbia University to study Political Economy, and that’s when I started going out downtown to take a break from the hectic class schedule. I met Giuseppe Cipriani one night being out at Cipriani Downtown. The lounge Upstairs had been open for about a month, but he was looking to diversify his brand, so he hired me to help with that, and that’s how I got my start professionally in this business as far as New York. I came up with the karaoke idea on Sunday nights because I went to karaoke a lot at Sing Sing in the East Village with [Swedish top model] Caroline Winberg, a good friend of mine. And her birthday was coming up, so I decided to have a karaoke party at Upstairs and it took off from there.

Occupations: After Cipriani, I did a very fun one month event for the 2006 World Cup called Cuervo Mundial at the Soho Grand hotel, as you know, since we were partners in that. It was a World Cup viewing party in the hotel yard, we had a great time, open bar for an entire month. What drew me to that event, in addition to my love for soccer, is that it was interactive. Soccer is like that, because you’re supporting a team. There’s a third element there, aside from the alcohol and people. After that, the Box.

Why the Box? Because basically at that point the New York scene felt a little sterile. Anything could have exploded. It seemed like people wanted something different, something more. I was trying very hard at the time to do the final show at CBGB’s, which was about to close, and then I thought it would be cool to do the next CBGB’s, similar to the Box but more music driven. And since I’m very good friends with Serge Becker, we talked, and Serge had this idea for the Box. Come to think of it, actually, Moulin Rouge had the idea for the Box, right?

Any non-industry projects in the works? I don’t see a separation between the industry and other interests or endeavors. We label things, but it’s all interconnected. Your office is your restaurant and vice versa. For example, I was executive producer on a movie called Frost that was at Slamdance this year, and that’s something that I definitely see myself more involved with down the line. I also wrote a script, though I cringe when I hear myself say that. Don’t put that in!

Favorite Hangs: I like to go to new places with something different and new to offer, and I also like places where I feel I’m part of a family, which is why I like La Esquina and the Box. I like to eat at Buenos Aires in the East Village. I also like places that feel intimate but with positive energy. Exclusivity doesn’t have to be negative. I think Beatrice Inn has accomplished that. I like the way they operate it.

Industry Icons: Keith McNally, because I admire his focus and patience in creating a place with a story. He takes his time to develop places. Economically he’s successful but more importantly his places have soul. He found the balance between the money side and the other more important elements. Serge Becker, of course. What attracted me to the Box was that I wanted to work with Serge. I felt comfortable around him, he’s an artist. He appreciates life in a way I admire. He’s a different type of person than you typically find in this industry. I admire Giuseppe Cipriani’s hard work and the specific niche he was able to find and tap into. I admire Ian Schrager’s vision. These are all people and qualities I admire, regardless of whether or not we have the exact same taste or not.

Who are some people you’re likely to be seen with, other than every model in the city, of course? Never! In general there are people I tend to identify with. [Musician] Diego Garcia is a good friend of mine. You know, people who have a similar background, like you, [Kemado Records boss] Andres Santo Domingo. My Swedish friends. Now I happen to be surrounded by music people. That’s why my upcoming project is music related. Because I’m interested in music, in learning more, and so it’s an extension of where I am in life right now. It’s organic.

Projections: My latest project is tentatively called House Party. It’s at a private loft space on Bond Street. It’s hard to define exactly, because there’s a mix of many things I like happening there. It’s part art gallery, part performance space, part party space. A lot of my friends helped me put it together, from donating furniture to art to labor. So far I’ve been doing very low-key parties for friends. Very soon I’m going to start having some really incredible musicians and bands performing there, and some of the footage will be available online. We have a great producer, lots of incredible talent lined up. Some of the artists I know, some are friends of friends, and some are coming from my partnership with [a major music magazine].

What are you doing tonight? I don’t know, what are we doing? What is there to do?