Group Reconsiders Plans for a Pop-up That Only Serves Death Row Last Meals

Tables and electric chairs?

The anonymous creators of Death Row Diners Club, a London pop-up that, for £50, proposed to serve guests inmates' last meals, all "without the nasty execution bit," now are "shocked and saddened" by Twitter's nearly unanimous rejection of their concept, adding that they feel "very sorry for any offence." Even in a world of Final Fantasy cafés and toilet-themed restaurants, this one seemed a little off from the get-go.

"... some of death rows most interesting and popular last dinners ..." »

I Pumpkin Spiced My Life With Black-Market Starbucks Syrup

63 ounces to freedom.Photo: Hugh Merwin

The package came from somewhere in the Rockies. I wasn't sure where, exactly. It arrived via Priority Mail at my Brooklyn apartment late one afternoon. It was neatly sealed with packing tape and it gave no indication of its contents. But I knew what was inside. I'd paid $65 a few days earlier to an unnamed seller on eBay for a 63-ounce jug of Starbucks pumpkin-spice syrup, the same stuff they put in the lattes. As I unpacked my new purchase — the jug had been cushioned with crumpled brown Starbucks bags, a nice touch — I set about my plan to add the sickly sweet syrup to everything I ate and drank until I ran out.

Pumpkin spice slizzurp. »

The Rainbow Room Finally Reopens October 6

It's going to be a lot more colorful than this, we suspect.Photo: New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The first few photos of the newly renovated and overhauled Rainbow Room are now live, and otherwise it seems as though owner and operator Tishman Speyer is moving at full speed to debut the place to the public. A private gala takes place in the reinvented Rock Center space October 1, and the 1930s-era venue reopens October 6, with crystal curtains to refract light and create an optical rainbow effect, a silver-leaf ceiling at bar SixtyFive, and several more deluxe touches. "I want this to be today's extravagant social networking space," architect Michael Gabellini tells Bloomberg. Jonathan Wright, who cooked at Le Manoir aux QuatSaisons, is in the kitchen, and the opening menu will most certainly include oysters. [Bloomberg, Related]

Bidding Is Up to $100K on eBay for NFL Player’s 20-Cent Tip Receipt

Craaazy gets craaazier.Photo: PYT/Facebook

Just when you thought the tackiness quotient of the saga of a millionaire NFL player who tipped 20 cents on a Philadelphia restaurant meal before being childishly Facebook-shamed by a restaurant owner couldn't get any higher, think again. On Saturday, someone named "Jake," identified as a friend of PYT owner Tommy Up and a colleague of the shortchanged and maybe "disrespectful" waiter Rob, got possession of the signed receipt and put it up on eBay with a starting bid of 20 cents.

This can't end well. »

OddFellows Launches Delivery in Manhattan

Why walk?

Right in time for the cold weather, OddFellows Ice Cream Co. has launched delivery from its East Village location. Caviar now offers custom pints, milkshakes, and sodas between FiDi and 59th Street, so you don't even have to take off your pajamas to enjoy Buttermilk Honey Blueberry, Peanut Butter & Jelly, or Burnt Marshmallow.

09/15/14

Will These 20 Food-Porn Photos Make You Feel Less Hungry?

Daniel Humm's ­limited-edition Shake Shack burger.Photo: Evan Sung, Courtesy of Shake Shack.

Let's discuss something important: NPR reports on research that says "you can to some extent feel satisfied by the mere sight of food." The story has since gotten traction in several media outlets, but Grub is ... skeptical. In the spirit of scientific advancement, we're putting this theory to the test: Take a look at 20 mouth-watering images and see what happens. Will you be more or less hungry by the time you're done?

Ramen, pizza, fried chicken. »

Starbucks Is Testing a Dainty ‘Mini’ Frappuccino

We're going to hold out for the two-ounce size.Photo: Starbucks Melody

Perhaps in an effort to discourage all those 60-shot leviathan Fraps, Starbucks is shifting its focus to the cuter-size end of the drinks spectrum by testing out very tiny Frappuccinos. Starbucks Melody reports the "mini" Frap is ten ounces in size, which may perplex some, as that makes it merely two less than the chain's "tall" size.

It's all about choices. »

Corporate Executives Defend Olive Garden’s Unlimited Breadsticks

Executed much more elevatedly.Photo: Courtesy of Olive Garden

Last week, we learned about the activist investors from Starboard Value who seek to take away our unlimited breadsticks at Darden Restaurant Group's Olive Garden, owing to a notion that the in-house generosity is just food waste by another name. Darden, it may surprise no one, is now trying to set the record straight with a 24-page slideshow that addresses Starboard Value's complaints in the most withering of business-speak. Basically, it wants the world to know its breadsticks should remain unlimited.

"Conveying Italian generosity ..." »

6 Dishes From a ‘Weird Chinese Food’ Dinner That Mostly Just Sound Delicious

Shredded Pig Ears in Sesame Chili Sauce.Photo: Melissa Hom

Duck gizzards, pig ears, thousand-year eggs: all delicacies that China Blue co-owner Xian Zhang grew up eating in Shanghai, but that he says he'd never consider serving at his restaurant. That's why, last week, he hosted a "Weird Chinese Food" dinner to spotlight them. Of course, in this age of offal acceptance, many of the dishes were hits. "I had about a dozen dishes on the menu, and what we did was put a cup next to each dish, and asked people to drop in dried fava beans if they liked it," he says. "Most of them got very good reviews — even the pig intestines! The best review." In the interest of broadening our horizons, we asked Zhang to walk us through a few of the specials that he served.

Read more »

Surge — the World’s Most Nineties Soda — Is Coming Back

Whoa.

Coca-Cola today is rereleasing Surge, a drink that only existed from 1996 to 2003, meaning the last time you swigged it, you were wearing Tommy Hilfiger and listening to a mix CD. It's a random rerelease, but the company has its reasons: The internet, among them, is tops. A Facebook awareness page, specifically, known as "Surge Movement" started in 2011 and has enlisted hordes of supporters to hound Coca-Cola's 1-800-GET-COKE line ever since with intense call-a-thons.

Read more »

What to Eat at Marta, Danny Meyer’s Brand-New Pizzeria

Pomodoro Fresco: arugula salad, buffalo mozzarella, and heirloom tomatoes.Photo: Melissa Hom

Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group has officially opened Marta inside the Martha Washington hotel, where former Maialino chef Nick Anderer is cooking up an Italian-ish menu of super-thin pizzas, fried pasta "meatballs," beer-brined half-chicken, and short ribs. Plus: Many of the larger dishes are cooked "alle brace" — which is to say, over open embers. (Meyer told Grub Street during a recent dinner that the restaurant's custom-built wood-burning grill can cook an entire fish in two minutes.) The restaurant is closed today, but it will soon be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner service seven days a week. Take a look around and check out many of the new dishes, straight ahead.

Pizza with zucchini flowers. »

Fall Fruit: 16 Spots to Hit If You’re Looking for Fresh Figs

Fig-spiked crème fraiche panna cotta at the Clam.Photo: Courtesy of the Clam

The (almost) end of summer does carry one great perk: the start of fig season. And while the phrase "figs on a plate" may still carry a slight stigma, the appeal of this fruit when it's perfectly ripe — soft but not mushy, sweet enough that it constitutes a dessert on its own — is easy to understand. And as New York chefs know, figs also taste great with savory pairings like duck, prosciutto, and soft cheeses. Grub's advice: Check out these exceptional fig-focused dishes, ranging from savory to sweet, before the season's over.

Salads, desserts, and blood pudding. »

A Pizza Hut Horrified Animal Lovers With Free Pets for People Who Bought Pizzas

That little guy isn't so sure about this deal.Photo: Pizza Hut needs to make amends for live animal promotion/Facebook

A Melbourne, Australia Pizza Hut restaurant says it made a huge mistake by putting up a sign intended to drum up business for a neighboring pet store. The chain restaurant actually advertised a pets-for-pizza giveaway very similar to your coffee shop loyalty card, apparently, with a sign reading "Buy any 10 pizzas and get one free small animal." It turns out, however, one small and crucial word was left off, and the sign should have read, "Buy any 10 pizzas and get one free small animal kit."

"There is no way we would give away free animals ..." »

An Ice Cream Shop Rolled Out ‘Big Straight Ice Cream’ This Weekend

We're almost sure the "passion fruit Greek yogurt" is just as lousy.Photo: Adam Hall/Twitter

Co-proprietors Bryan Petroff and Doug Quint of the super popular Big Gay Ice Cream Shop are now contending with a brash upstart, it seems, calling itself "Big STRAIGHT Ice Cream," which is apparently the best the folks at West Village wine bar Gallo Nero could come up with to push their vanilla and chocolate cones.

"What's the issue?" »

09/14/14

Restaurant Review: At Wilma Jean, the Southern Chef Surrenders to New York's Fried-Chicken Fixation

Wilma JeanPhoto: Sarah Silberg/New York Magazine

Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the commissioner of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, shouldn’t blame Robert Newton if Brooklyn’s collective cholesterol count suddenly skyrockets. Nor should she find him at fault if that borough is seized by a gout epidemic. After all, at Newton’s recently shuttered Seersucker restaurant, the Le Cirque vet and Arkansas native tried to get New Yorkers to appreciate a more refined, less clichéd (and not-so-artery-clogging) version of southern cooking. In pursuit of that goal, he supplemented what he called his “cleaned-up southern” menu with rigorously sourced ingredients and not a few fruits and vegetables from his neighborhood Greenmarket. He also heroically attempted to wean the locals off their barbarian zeal for fried chicken by initially restricting it to Tuesday nights. Well, it didn’t work. In short, Newton wanted to channel the spirit of Edna Lewis, the grande dame of southern cuisine; his customers, he discovered, were hoping for a role model built more along the lines of Pies-N-Thighs co-founder Stephen Tanner, the bad boy of deep-fried dive-bar food.

Now, Newton is giving his public what it wants. »

09/12/14

California Makes It Illegal to Sue People for Posting Nasty Yelp Reviews

Freedom of mean speech.

With a swift gubernatorial pen stroke, California is now the first state to officially entitle Yelpers to be as nasty and brutish as they please — well, assuming it's not libelous stuff. Naturally, the proliferation of review sites, and of a certain subset of ridiculous reviewers and business owners who use them, has complicated what Yelpers argue is a basic right enshrined right there in the First Amendment. California agrees, telling them it has their back.

Read more »

Shake Shack and Doughnut Plant Unleashed a Limited-Edition Concrete

We'll take four.

Shake Shack is doing its hippest product rollout of all time today, the Staple Concrete, which is a partially edible collaboration with Doughnut Plant and Staple Design. The edible part is the Shack's classic vanilla custard plus raspberry jam and chunks of black-sesame-glazed cake doughnut and is available at eight locations around town through September 21. And if you really want to go all-in, feel free to add on limited-edition T-shirts by Staple Design founder Jeff Ng, "a diehard Doughnut Plant fan," or sunglasses incorporating a third designer, Knockaround. A look at the crucial secret ingredient, straight ahead.

Doughnuts. »

Grub Street’s Restaurant Power Rankings: Marta, Birds & Bubbles, White Street, and More

Photo: iStockphoto

Each week, Grub Street surveys the entire restaurant landscape of New York, crunches the numbers, and comes up with this: the most-talked-about, must-visit places in the city. They might be new, or they could be older places that have gotten a recent jolt of buzz. No matter what, these are the restaurants where you should make a point to eat sooner rather than later.

Read more »

Tavern on the Green Finally Admits It Has a Problem

"I think they’re on a path to do fabulously well," says Katy Sparks.Photo: Konstantin Sergeyev

The long-in-the-works revival of Tavern on the Green, which at least had an auspicious springtime debut, has now lost Katy Sparks, the veteran New York chef who sought to imbue the iconic restaurant's menu with a locavore feel. Cooks served dishes made with vegetables from local farms, with touches of things like Nettle Meadow kunik cheese and Mast Brothers Chocolate, and the menu overhaul was just one part of a more complete renovation, but critics were not kind to the reboot.

Back to a tourist trap? »

Activist Olive Garden Investors Want to Kill Unlimited Breadsticks

Gather ye breadsticks while ye may.

The Never Ending Pasta Pass's instant popularity may have spawned a black market, but the viral, carbo-loaded stunt apparently failed to impress a group of investors apparently willing to sacrifice the most Olive Garden–y thing of all for higher profit margins: One of 294 slides listing reasons why investor Starboard Value should take over Darden Restaurants Inc., "Breadsticks: Just One Example of Food Waste" slams the chain, because locations today "lack training and discipline," with servers trotting out "an excess of breadsticks significantly outnumbering the number of guests."

Shots fired! (Plus, breadsticks.) »

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