Popeyes Chicken Founder Kicks the BucketTwo blows have staggered fried-chicken lovers everywhere: First Kentucky Fried Chicken announces plans to change its name. And now Popeyes founder Al Copeland has died.
Starbucks to Cut Prices, Increase OdorsLook for price drops and better smells at Starbucks after today’s annual meeting. The stuttering chain is losing sales to McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, and former CEO Howard Schultz has returned to lead Starbucks to ubiquitous glory once again.
Bartenders Reassert Stylishness in the Face of Chef DandyismYesterday, we continued to marvel that chefs have become beacons of fashion, but we all know that bartenders are the real fops. Guys like Jim Meehan, Sasha Petraske, and David Wondrich aren’t waiting around for Maxim or Esquire to doll them up — in fact, as evident from a Time Out how-to on cocktail dandyism, even Toby Maloney, the guy who’s responsible for the mai tais and Zombies at the Rusty Knot, wouldn’t be caught dead in a Hawaiian shirt.
‘Times’ Asks If NYC Is Fat City No LongerThe Times article on portly foodists is out today, and we can’t help but wonder if this is some kind of seismic shift in the city’s gastronomic mood. After several years of what Alan Greenspan might have called “irrational exuberance” over the joys of pork belly, short ribs, bacon, and other such unwholesome treats, the city’s “fat pack,” as Kim Severson dubs them, seems to have put the brakes on the spree, opting instead to focus on their health.
Life Is Not Exactly Nirvana for Buddha Bar EmployeesAccording to legal papers filed last week, meatpacking district restaurant-lounge Buddha Bar hasn’t exactly been following the Noble Eightfold Path when it comes to its pay policies. A server, bartender, busboy, and six other employees have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing owner David Kay, CEO Nina Zajic, and GM Peter Jastimi of numerous stingy practices: withholding portions of their tips, redistributing tips to employees who weren’t entitled to them, failing to pay minimum wage, withholding a portion of “service charges” that diners assumed were paid to waiters, and forcing employees to pay for walkouts, uniforms, and credit-card fees. By the looks of these papers, it looks like the restaurant’s giant Buddha is the only thing sitting pretty.
Reyes, Goins, and Peralta v. Buddha Bar
David Rabin Says Tenjune Will Join in Lotus, Finds Suzie Wong Logo Odd
Lotus partner David Rabin has confirmed rumors that Tenjune’s Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm will be involved in the club. “The plan for the new venue and the timing are not set yet,” he writes in an email to us, “but it’ll be a JV [joint venture]. We are enthused about Mark and Eugene’s involvement. Fortunately, Lotus is still holding its own.” So much so, in fact, that as we pointed out yesterday, new nightclub Suzie Wong might just have taken inspiration from Lotus’s logo. “The similarity in logos is more than a bit odd,” Rabin says. “Maybe they want to buy our old Suzie Wong neon sign at a discount? I hope they have better luck with the concept than we did.” Adding to the intrigue, Down by the Hipster e-mails to point us to the logo of popular cocktail bar Suzy Wong in Amsterdam, shown above. Cue “Double Vision.”
Earlier: Suzie Wong Gives Us a Case of Déjà Vu
Ask a Waiter
Bernard Patten of Peter Luger Has a Strict ‘No Touching’ Rule (Even
Last night at Peter Luger, around 9 p.m., Lindsay Lohan dined with a large party, sporting black patent-leather quilted ankle boots with black semi-opaque tights and a black crushed velvet jacket that came to mid-thigh. One man who wasn’t fazed by this? Waiter Bernard Patten. Since moving from his native Dublin in 1985, he’s seen it all, first at the Waldorf-Astoria and then, for the past eighteen years, at Luger. The Williamsburg bastion of dependability has been going through some changes lately — a new steak on the menu, an expanded kitchen, and a new dining room (seen here) that Patten tells us has eased waiting times. In about six months, there will also be an upstairs lounge and bar with an adjoining private-party space. We asked Patten how he’s been weathering the changes.
Can Downtown Support Another Steakhouse?Grimly optimistic developer Larry Silverstein announced today that Capital Grille, the steak chain with a midtown location, has signed a ground-floor lease in his 120 Broadway tower. By luring the D.C.-based operation to join neighbors like Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, Silverstein said, “downtown has become a true beckon for foodies.” (We think he meant beacon, but he said “beckon.”) In the same speech, Silverstein said 86 percent of lower Manhattan’s new businesses have come from outside the financial sector. But since there are already at least six other steakhouses in the neighborhood, can all those new nonfinancial (and presumably, more edamame-inclined) sectors keep them all in business? Silverstein argues that the influx of spendthrift apartment owners around Wall Street will attract more prominent retail, which will make the area a perfect business hub. Hmm. Sounds like Soho to us, a neighborhood that has yet to open, much less support, even one fratty meatery. —Alec Appelbaum
Downtown Designer Gordon Hull Is a Burger Lover, But at What Price?
Gordon Hull, founder of downtown design collective Surface to Air, proves that “not all hipsters are vegan” (per the headline of a men.style.com video) by riding around in a limo visiting Burger Joint, Rare View, and Corner Bistro. The feel-good video curiously doesn’t mention that about four years ago Hull founded an underground burger club that had its own salute, a screening process that measured a potential recruit’s “burgability” based on questions such as “How many burger joints can you name in ten seconds?,” and a demerit system that resulted in the expulsion of certain members of the club when they failed to show for monthly “meatings.” Sounds cute, right? Except that we’ve heard from disgruntled members that Hull became “drunk with power” and ended up alienating more than one burger lover by enforcing these rules quite stringently and using the club as a vehicle for self-promotion. But, hey, it seems to have worked!
See, Not All Hipsters Are Vegan [Men.Style.com]
In the Magazine
Platt Pans Brasserie 44; Make Your Own Guacamole
Reading this week’s magazine — or at least the food-related parts of it — had its own special rhythm. First came the shock and guilty excitement of reading Adam Platt’s review of Bar Blanc, which he liked, and Brasserie 44, which he didn’t — zero stars. In a week with only one opening (Bridge Vineyards Tasting Room), Rob and Robin taught us how to make guacamole (there’s a video, too!) and turned us on to the rebellious risotto at Dell’anima. They also found local treats that are globally inspired and clued us in on the rabbits multiplying across city menus. Gael Greene managed to get a table in the early days of Chop Suey, and her pre-pre-pre-review is favorable.
Engines of Gastronomy
The Ferrari of Slicers Is Parked at San DomenicoThere’s a lot at San Domenico to attract the eye, like the Italian aristocrats or the celebrities periodically perched at table nine (Johnny Depp and Keith Richards ate there the other night). But the most striking thing in the restaurant remains the immense antique Berkel proscuitto slicer, a gift from Friuli to owner Tony May after September 11. “It’s the Ferrari of slicing machines,” May says. “It’s a simple machine, but it’s a jewel. It was a great gift.” Built in 1941 and powered by hand, it has a razor-sharp slicing edge that turns with the measured pace of a roulette wheel on its final spins.
Sushi Eaters Face Tuna FearsThe Times tested the mercury levels in tuna sushi served at twenty different city stores and restaurants this week. At most of them, mercury levels exceeded those set by the Environmental Protection Agency. On Wednesday, New York’s Tim Murphy set out to see who in the city was still buying tuna sushi, and why.
6 p.m.: Whole Foods, Chelsea
Rebecca, a redheaded Web editor, is picking up salmon sushi. She’d noticed that the Times report found the highest mercury levels in tuna from Blue Ribbon and the lowest levels at Fairway. “People who eat high-class sushi are more at risk for poisoning than people like me who eat ghetto sushi from Whole Foods,” she said with some satisfaction.
No Ssäm at Ssäm Bar; Neighbors Oppose Carroll Gardens RestaurantAstoria: Oleput reopened. But does it have a liquor license? [Joey in Astoria]
Carroll Gardens: Residents are opposed to a bar and grill next to Black Mountain Wine House. [Brooklyn Paper]
East Village: Is ssäm off the menu at Ssäm Bar? [Eater]
Gowanus: Look for a new coffee-and-sandwich shop called the Crooked Tail Café coming soon to Third Avenue and President Street. [Brownstoner]
Greenpoint: One patron at Greenpoint Coffeehouse wants his anti-brunch message heard. [New York Shitty]
Midtown: Combine dinner with people-watching at the food court at Grand Central Station. [Weblicist of Manhattan]
West Village: The panini at ’ino are salty and sweet. [Gothamist]
Meatpacking Mainstay Florent May Close in MayYesterday Eater broke news that Florent’s landlord has been showing the building to potential tenants (Eater originally misidentified the landlord, so take that rumor for what it’s worth). Florent’s future has been tenuous for some time now — a June 2007 Daily News item mentions owner Florent Morellet trying to renegotiate his lease while neighbors closed shop. We’re hearing from one source that Florent’s lease is up in May, after which Florent will close. Another source says that Morellet planned to sell the business because his health is worsening (his T-cell count is displayed on one of the menu boards). So was it the Florent space that Anthony Martignetti was referring to when he told us he was considering opening a restaurant near Pastis? Who knows, it may also have been the old Rhone space, abandoned by Double Seven. Morellet wasn’t available for comment today, but we’ll keep you posted on what may be a double blow (remember, Passerby will soon close) to the meatpacking district.
Update: Asked whether Anthony Martignetti is considering the Florent space, a rep tells us she has no new information at this time. Note: She didn’t say, “No.”
Related: SHOCK CLAIM: Florent Restaurant to Close This Year? [Eater]
Paris Shaped by the Pen [NYDN]
Earlier: Anthony Martignetti Plots a New Restaurant Over Croissants at Pastis
Passerby Hasn’t Quite Passed On
Eighty One Takes the Haute Barnyard, Locavore Thing 81 Steps Further
In what has to be the clearest example yet of Haute Barnyard run amok, Eighty One has sent us a scroll containing a list of “81 people who bring Eighty One to life.” Rob and Robin weren’t kidding when they said the ingredients were meticulously sourced — everyone gets credit from the “mushroom expert” to the frog’s-legs purveyor to exec chef Ed Brown’s body double. There are more shout-outs here than on a Diddy album, but we suppose it’s not the worst idea — Brown wouldn’t want to be accused of making false organic claims.
Little Chitaly Bakery and Bar Is Not As Gentrifying As It SeemsThe transformation of a Broome Street herbal-medicine shop into a twenty-seat daytime café and nighttime wine bar, Oro Bakery and Bar, might strike some as a sign of gentrification — especially with Papabubble across the street — but owner Dorina Yuen is actually a Chinese-American with deep neighborhood roots. She’s showing a commitment to proximity by using locally sourced ingredients for savory quiches and French country-inspired sandwiches including a jumbo shrimp rémoulade tartine, and a baguette of country ham with cornichons, butter, and fresh chive. During nighttime hours, the focus shifts from organic coffee to beers, sparkling sake, and ten wines by the glass. A bar menu coming later this month will soon include charcuterie, cheese plates, and pâté toast points.
Oro Bakery and Bar, 375 Broome St., nr. Mott St.; 212-941-6368.
Red Hook Vendors Bid for Ball FieldsIf Red Hook vendors want to cook at the ball fields, they’ll have to use approved food-preparation carts, according to a report in the Daily News. The city Parks Department is now accepting bids from vendors, but the traditional mom-and-pop stands may not be able to afford the upgrade. Plus, are those carts even suitable for the kind of deliciousness served in Red Hook? One vendor, who requires four grills to make her pupusas, says no: “We’re not just boiling hot dogs.” You said it, lady. The city will award vendor permits at the end of February.
New Rules May Grill Taco Stands [NYDN]
Earlier: Grub Street’s complete coverage of the Red Hook vendors.
Huckabee Skips Sushi; Super Bowl Snacks AboundFinally, the presidential candidates “respond” to the sushi crisis. Mike Huckabee’s stance? “Nowhere does the Bible mention sushi in the Garden of Eden.” [NYT]
If you’ve ever dreamed of being a Michelin Guide inspector, consider first that in a year “each inspector evaluates 240 restaurants, spends 130 nights in hotels, carries out 800 inspections, writes 1,100 reports and drives 18,000 miles.” [Guardian]
The international conservation group Oceana has issued a report saying that it found mercury levels in tuna sushi throughout the United States to be just as high as in New York’s supply. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
The New York Diet
Novelist Joe Weisberg Unlocks the Mystery of ‘Ugli Fruit’ and
Acclaimed author Joe Weisberg’s new novel, An Ordinary Spy, follows a CIA officer serving abroad in an undisclosed country. To preserve the anonymity of the country’s “very spicy” cuisine, the author redacted all references to specific ingredients in the text. Weisberg tells us that when he himself trained to be a CIA officer, he was taught to offer food — or “amenities” — to potential recruits and was graded on his ability to bring pastries to his instructor. Now that he no longer has access to Quantico’s all-you-can-eat buffet of ice creams and pies (he lives and writes in Park Slope and teaches in Jamaica Estates), we asked him how he satisfies his voracious appetite.
Julia Jaksic, Now Head Chef at Employees Only, Shows Off New MenuJulia Jaksic, underground-dinner-club hostess and consulting chef at Smith and Mills, has been named head chef at Employees Only (where she was previously a sous-chef) and has completely revamped the menu. Look for nods to her Croatian heritage: A hamburger that’s served on a fluffy pita with pepper paste and carmac, and (on the brunch menu) polenta with smoked bacon and sauerkraut and brown butter. A hamburger that’s served on a fluffy pita with pepper paste, and (on the brunch menu) polenta with smoked bacon and sauerkraut and brown butter. Berkshire bacon makes another appearance wrapped around New Zealand lamb chops — an appetizer that’s fast becoming the Employees Only equivalent of Freemans’ devils on horseback. The late-night menu has also been jazzed up, surely good news for industry types still reeling from the loss of wee hours eating at Mas (farmhouse).
Employees Only dinner menu
Related: Sign Up for Secret Dinner Club’s Weekend Time Warp
City to Reenact Calorie-Display Rule; Bloodbath Near Spotlight LiveThe city’s Board of Health is set to reenact its legally contested rule requiring all restaurants with fifteen or more eateries nationwide to post the caloric value of food items on their menus. [NYDN]
Related: Fast-Food Biz Wins Fight Against City Hall
Restaurants and nightclubs currently owe the city $14 million in health-code violation fines, which means that high-roller venues like the Rainbow Room can get away with stiffing the city out of $50. [NYP]
Times Square’s Spotlight Live became the latest scene of club violence when one man was killed and five others stabbed there yesterday morning. [NYDN]
Niagara Will Be Meeting Your Pizza NeedsThe food and drink arrangement at Niagara was always pretty much a simple one: You go to Niagara, drink, writhe around downstairs in one of its subterranean caverns, then, after more drinking, cap the night off with a barely edible slice from Sal’s next door. Now Niagara owners, Motherfucker promoter Johnny T and D Generation front man Jesse Malin, have integrated the process by taking over their next-door pizzeria. The new pizza canteen, whose name was still being decided upon at the time of this writing, will also benefit from Niagara’s liquor license — not to mention its exhausted, famished customers. Expect to pick up a slice by the end of next week.