Confirmed: Serge Becker Reviving Eastanah SpaceSerge Becker’s rep isn’t saying anything more than what we’ve already heard about his new restaurant in the former Eastanah space, but she confirms that his partners are Oliver Stumm and Dominique Clausen of A Touch of Class.
McNally Plans to Frenchify Minetta Tavern, Assures CB It’s No Big DealA year ago, Keith McNally claimed Morandi would be his last restaurant, but he revealed at last night’s Community Board 2 meeting that Minetta Tavern will join his repertoire. McNally plans to keep the name and setup, but change the menu from Italian to French, in the vein of Balthazar. When community residents asked what sort of crowd McNally’s name may draw, he retorted, “They won’t be French,” and explained that his restaurants are “not the type of places where people spill out of white limos.” So he’s not expecting this to be the next Waverly Inn? “I’m lucky if I open the doors and people come,” McNally said. The board approved McNally’s bid.
La Esquina showed how it’s done when it pleaded for a liquor license for its sidewalk café. A large group of supporters attested that owners Derek Sanders and Serge Becker are “altruistic and very caring.” Said one resident: “I would personally be bothered if I couldn’t sit down and have a beer.” Word! And application approved. —Lucy Tang
LeBron James and Anna Wintour Cozy Up at Waverly; Moby Makes Out at R BarWe weren’t surprised to read in “Page Six” today that Anna Wintour dined with LeBron James at the Waverly Inn. We passed their table on Tuesday, and when the ceilings are that low, it’s impossible to miss a six-foot-eight baller extracting himself from the center of a corner booth. James was patiently sitting next to the bathroom when we emerged, causing our waiter to remark, “You made LeBron James wait!” We couldn’t tell whether he was chastising us or congratulating us for no doubt costing the man a Benjamin of his time, but either way we felt a sense of accomplishment unknown since Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand queued up behind us at the Spotted Pig. The rest of this week’s sightings are heavy on the PDA.
What’s It Take to Get a Decent Grasshopper Around Here?
Earlier, we noted that La Esquina served grasshoppers at the bar during the Spotted Pig’s Super Bowl party, and there’s more reason to believe entomophagy is catching on. Next Tuesday, the Gastronauts, last seen eating python, will hold a bug-eating dinner at a “posh apartment.” Their master of ceremonies will be David Gracer, a Rhode Island enthusiast who lectures on edible insects and serves them at private parties. Gracer recently wrote on his blog, Bugs for Dinner!, that he was bummed he couldn’t find markets selling them in New York. To help Gracer in his quest, we turned to Miguel Calvo, a mixologist who will be serving cocktails rimmed with grasshopper salt at Crema this Valentine’s Day.
Spotted Pig’s Super Bowl Party: Grasshoppers, Mariachis, and Pig (Natch)
Down by the Hipster has intercepted the menu for the Spotted Pig’s staff Super Bowl party at La Esquina and, we have to admit, it looks like it was a lot better than listening to “We Built This City” at the Village Pourhouse. A whole pig at the meat station? Baby crickets at the bar? Sombreros and mariachis? Definitely beats the plain ol’ pizza that La Esquina got for its staff party last year.
The Ultimate Super Bowl Party [DBTH]
La Esquina and Box Player Sentenced to Prison and $35,000 FineThe saga of Cordell Lochin, the maybe-sort-of partner in the Box and La Esquina who was convicted of drug-smuggling charges, has finally come to somewhat of a conclusion. According to Guest of a Guest, a judge has sentenced Lochin to 39 months in prison and a $35,000 fine. That doesn’t fare well for partner Serge Becker, who expressed hope in a letter to the court that Lochin be allowed to “continue his work while paying his debt.”
Cordell Lochin Sentenced for 39 Months, Fined $35,000 [Guest of a Guest]
Earlier: La Esquina to Open in Miami; Becker’s Right-Hand Man in Legal Limbo
Serge Becker: Drug-Dealing ‘Consultant’ Is Not a Co-Owner of the Box, La Esquina
La Esquina to Open in Miami; Becker’s Right-Hand Man in Legal LimboAh, the tangled web of nightlife ownership. A while back, Serge Becker, part-owner of The Box and La Esquina, told us in a statement that Cordell Lochin, the young scenester who presented himself as a partner in Becker’s restaurants before being convicted of drug-conspiracy charges, was merely an “indispensable advisor.” A December 15 memo from a government attorney calls that assertion into question, pointing at an undated letter from Becker that describes Lochin as “more than just a business partner.” That letter pleads for leniency because his company is “in the design stage of our second location of ‘La Esquina’ in Miami Beach at ‘the Gale’ hotel.” Exciting news, innit?
The New York Diet
Singer-Songwriter Vanessa Carlton Indeed Loves Ruby’s in the Afternoon
In her single “Nolita Fairytale,” Vanessa Carlton sings about her love of “Ruby’s in the afternoon”— a reference to her favorite neighborhood hang. “It’s the best people-watching,” she says of Ruby’s. “Everyone looks like they’re out of an editorial shoot for some hip magazine. But it’s not posey.” Other favorites near the “Nolita flat on rent control” she famously exalts? La Esquina (“I love to get takeout or to just sit at the front taco bar”), Freemans (“I think it wins the devils-on-horseback competition with the Spotted Pig”), and N (“the best chorizo I’ve ever had”). We asked her whether this week found her at any of the above.
128 Billiards Becomes Tropical 128: What a Difference a New Sign Makes
The guys at Thrillist outed a favorite spot of ours today — Tropical 128 — and to make matters worse for those of us who wanted to keep it a secret between us and the Chinatown pool sharks, they hype the place like it was just remodeled to acquire its over-the-top tropical décor (causing Eater to call it an “opening”). Sorry, dudes, those fake trees have been there forever.
Ask a Waiter
Helena Elko of La Esquina Isn’t Sweating the Taco Wars
Not long ago, the owner of newcomer Pinche taqueria accused La Esquina of having less-than-authentic tacos. We were interested to hear the thoughts of Helena Elko, a server at La Esquina since its buzzy opening about two years ago (“It’s the only place where we can sell you a bottle of $700 tequila and then we’ll dance in front of you and tell jokes”). But Pinche’s got nothing on La Esquina, according to Elko. “Of course you’re going to start a war to get attention if you talk shit on La Esquina,” she says, “because everybody goes there.” And just why does everyone go there? We asked the waitress.
Taco Wars: Rockers Open New Front in WilliamsburgEarlier we brought your attention to Pinche, the new taco joint that placed neighbor La Esquina on notice for its inauthentic tacos. Now comes a stunning development on the eastern front: in about two weeks a taco truck will be parking on (get ready for it) North 7th Street and Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. It will be manned by comedian (and front man of the Jewish) Jeffrey Jensen and Bad Wizard singer Curtis Brown, who conducted research at the trucks on Roosevelt Avenue.
Taco War Is On: ‘Authentic’ Newcomer Pinche Calls Out La Esquina
We consider Jeffrey Chartier, a partner in Soho Films, a brave man for opening Pinche taqueria a stone’s throw from La Esquina, but he is convinced the authenticity of his product will carry him (and hopes it’ll be the first in a chain). “This is the first real authentic taqueria in New York City,” he boasts, and make no mistake, that includes his neighbor. “La Esquina is nowhere near authentic as far as I’m concerned.” So how is Pinche different?
Serge Becker: Drug-Dealing ‘Consultant’ Is Not a Co-Owner of theGuest of a Guest broke the story yesterday that Cordell Lochin — thought be a partner in Serge Becker’s joints La Esquina, 205, and the Box — will be sentenced on October 10 for importing more than 100 kilos of weed and dealing it in New York in 2004 and 2005. There’s been speculation that the August 24 raid of the Box and La Esquina was related to this, and we’ve heard rumors that Cordell was recently arrested again — but the Box’s publicist, Nadine Johnson, tells us neither of these things are correct (a check with NYPD turned up no recent arrests). She also describes Cordell as a consultant and not a partner in the Box, as reported in a recent Observer profile and other places: “We had taken the decision to call him a partner, but he isn’t a real partner or employee for the Box or La Esquina.” Serge Becker did not know about Cordell’s past until ten days ago, when his case went to trial, Johnson says. She also issued an emphatic statement to Grub Street on behalf of Becker further disavowing Cordell’s ownership stake.
La Esquina Reopens, but Serge Becker’s Spots Still Not in the Clear
La Esquina’s basement and the Box are open again, but Serge Becker’s woes may not be over. Alberto Armendarig, a reporter for Mexican newspaper La Reforma tells us that last Saturday at 205 (another joint Becker has his stamp on), he was choked by a bouncer and bodily ejected from the club in such a way that he tried to press assault charges (cops didn’t find any marks on him and told him to brush it off and call it a night). Sounds like any other Saturday to us, but Armendarig says he’s now on a quest to close the club down. As it turns out, he may not have to lift a finger.
205 to be Eighty-Sixed?
La Esquina Returns; Little Hope for Chumley’s ReopeningThe downstairs at La Esquina is reportedly open. [Down by the Hipster]
Little progress seems to have been made at Chumley’s, which was supposed to reopen in two weeks. [Lost City]
Shake Shack’s vanilla frozen custard deemed superior in a taste test of national favorites. [Serious Eats]
Ask a Waiter
Chris Stein at Smith and Mills Is Proud to Be a Luddite
Chris Stein was a server at La Esquina before he started work at the equally atmospheric — if much smaller — Smith and Mills, where he’s the only man on the floor. Does he miss working at a larger spot? “Other jobs there have been managers saying the same shit to you over and over, and trying to get you to sell certain things,” he says. “Here, there aren’t any of the gross vibes. A lot of the times the owner is having a drink also, or we’re all having a drink.” Sadly we weren’t having a drink when we chatted with Stein, but that didn’t make our conversation any less spirited.
La Esquina Laying Breakfast Eggs on Little ItalyEast Village: If you’re a police officer, a nurse, or another kind of emergency service responder, S’MAC will give you a 15 percent discount on your order now through Labor Day. [S’MAC]
Flatiron: The name of the new Gansevoort coming to Park Avenue will be … Gansevoort Park. [Down by the Hipster]
Harlem: More mega-chain fast food coming soon. [Uptown Flavor]
Little Italy: La Esquina now serves breakfast. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Midtown East: Tonight at the Mercedes Benz showroom, Adirondack Creamery and Chinatown Ice Cream Factory will dole out green-tea, kulfi-pistachio-cardamom, and almond-cookie ice creams (among other flavors) to ticket holders supporting Asian Women in Business. [AWIB]
Midtown West: On August 23, former Maya chef de cuisine Julian Medina is opening his own nouveau Mexican restaurant called Toloache at 251 West 50th Street. [Grub Street]
Alfresco Alert: La Esquina Gets Sidewalk Seating
As if La Esquina weren’t sceney enough, everyone’s favorite mock taqueria now has first-come-first-serve sidewalk seating from 6 p.m. to midnight, essentially making it the Pastis of Little Italy and bringing the neighborhood, with the help of Bowie’s burlesque joint, one step closer to becoming the meatpacking district. By the way, while we’re on the subject: Please, people, it’s pronounced Es-KEE-na and not Es-QUEE-na. And (same people) don’t refer to empa-NA-das as em-PIÑATAs unless you’re actually planning to strike them with a bat to make meat rain from them. That’s all.
Mariachis Take to the Bar at La Esquina’s Late Christmas Party
It must’ve seemed strange attending a Christmas party when, earlier this week, the last of the Christmas trees sat on the city’s curbs. But it must’ve seemed stranger still when a mariachi band mounted the bar at said party and began to perform. And that was before the purple haze descended … — Daniel Maurer
Loos Fit for a ‘Luchador’: La Esquina’s Restrooms Reassessed
As Serge Becker prepares to lift the curtain on his Wild West saloon–cum–dinner theater, the Box, we thought we’d check in on his old joint, La Esquina. Sure, the subterranean cavern still gets its share of taco-nibbling waifs, but have the luchador-themed restrooms withstood the test of time, especially after Nacho Libre copped their look?
Back of the House
Taste of Arby’s in Fort Greene; Another Wine Bar, Burger JointFlo notices the new wine and drink lounges Rob and Robin mentioned, adds Unwined at Symphony Space to the mix. [NYT]
Foie-foe councilman says it wasn’t a constituent’s call that made him think twice about proposing a ban. [VV]
Bar Martignetti and its secret-ish underground lair now open to anyone who can’t get into La Esquina. [Thrillist]
The New York Diet
Albert Hammond Jr. of the Strokes Keeps It in the East Village
Is Albert Hammond Jr. — the Strokes guitarist who’ll perform songs off his solo album, Yours to Keep, at Maxwell’s on Saturday — truly a creature of the East Village? When we talked to him, he was on his way to a rare business lunch at Second Avenue institution Frank. He clued us into some other neighborhood favorites when he recounted everything he ate during the past week.
Back of the House
Eateries Opening, for Sale, and Sailing AwayToday’s culling of industry news yields some late openings and a restaurant that’s fixing to float away. Plus, the trans-fat debate gets ugly.
• October openings: a downtown outpost of Frederick’s Madison and the latest attempt by Stephen Starr to colonize the East Coast. [NYS]
• If the city has its way, the Frying Pan and its recently souped-up outdoor café may go the way of the Titanic. [Strong Buzz]
• Chefs needed at La Esquina, Terrace 5. [Strong Buzz]
• It’s not just old Ikea furniture: Craigslist selling restaurants. [Craigslist].
• Consumer group counters possible trans-fat ban by batting kid’s ice-cream cone out of his hand. [Restaurant News Resource]