Wild Edibles Gets Caught in the Net of the LawIn the latest labor-law fiasco, thirteen employees of Wild Edibles, which sells seafood to restaurants like Union Square Cafe and Pastis as well as the general public via its retail stores, have filed a lawsuit against the company for failure to pay overtime. According to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, David Rankin, and as is evident in copies of the complaint we’ve obtained, the individuals — most of them warehouse workers — worked in excess of 50 hours a week for flat wages varying from $450 to $550 (“right on the edge of minimum-wage violations,” Rankin says, though he decided not to pursue those charges). Rankin also says that four workers were unjustly fired after they requested overtime pay at the end of August, and that another worker was unfairly written up for stealing fish. A motion for a restraining order, which we’ve also obtained, will be heard in court tomorrow. Between the overfishing and underpaying, caviar is truly getting hard to swallow.
Cesar A. Barturen, et al. vs. Wild Edibles [PDF]
Memorandum in Support of Restraining Order [PDF]
Park Slope Gets Its Own Pastry-Chef Spinoff
Now that star pastry chefs are spinning off their own restaurants (Sam Mason at Tailor, Pichet Ong at P*Ong), it’s high time that some of the less famous names have the chance to do the same on a smaller scale. Hence Emily Isaac’s journey from being the pastry chef at Union Square Cafe to her new place behind the counter of her own bake shop in Park Slope. Trois Pommes Patisserie, which Rob and Robin include in this week’s Openings, has twelve seats and an open kitchen where Isaacs cooks up “greenmarket-inspired fruit pies and ice cream,” not to mention a wide selection of other pastries. The iced coffee is pretty good too.
Restaurant Openings: Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, Lola, Le Barricou, and Trois Pommes Patisserie [NYM]
Chodorow and Tom Valenti Team Up; Rum RenaissanceJeffrey Chodorow is opening a restaurant with Tom Valenti right next to his new restaurant with Zak Pelaccio; also, a new Rickshaw will open in the Village. [Eater]
Related: Chodorow and Pelaccio Planning a ‘Malaysian Coffeehouse’ [Grub Street]
We’re in the middle of a rum renaissance, with “heavy, thick and funky” British varieties and “smooth and sugary” Spanish-Caribbean ones. [NYDN]
Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club defends itself against charges of unfair labor practices: “Everyone makes the minimum wage at the club.” [NYDN]
Neroni Leaves Porchetta; City Hates Big Pink CupcakeChef Jason Neroni leaves Porchetta, citing “irreconcilable differences,” and claiming that pastry chef Mandy Brown and “most of the kitchen staff” are leaving with him. We don’t know the details (yet), but this seems pretty harsh: The restaurant gave him absolute creative license, as far as we can tell, for as long as it’s been open. [Eater]
Related: Chef’s Desperate Plea: Nominate Me for an Award! [Grub Street]
New Yorkers aren’t really spooked by health violations: “If you take the subway, you know what’s down there.” [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
The city wants Burgers and Cupcakes to take down its huge, incandescent pink cupcake sign because it’s too close to a hydrant, saying, “This isn’t a campaign against cupcakes.” [NYP]
Free Brazilian Pool Party Returns to Times SquareClinton Hill: “Seder in a Box” prayer kit available for $1 at St. Joseph’s College. Bring it to one of the nontraditional Seder meals we recently recommended! [Clinton Hill Blog]
Lower East Side: MySpace pages offer insight into why Falai Panetteria waitresses are so bitchy. [Gawker]
Midtown East: No longer keeping their chin up: I-Chin has closed. [NYT] A Burger King on Fifth Avenue sues its landlord over rats, who were probably seeking a new food source after Hunan Fifth got shuttered. [NYS]
Red Hook The beloved El Huipil is no more, but the new owners of the space will also serve Mexican food — made by a “hot chef.” [Eat for Victory/VV]
Times Square: “Reality dining” comes to Broadway when Spotlight Live opens on April 6. [NYT] The free Brazilian pool party at Hotel QT returns this Thursday, promising live music, cachaça specials, and skinny-dipping-themed pickup lines. [NewYorkology]
Tribeca: Oh, dom: Dominic closes. [NYT]
Turtle Bay: The U.N.’s all-you-can-eat Malaysian buffet kicks off in mid-April! [NewYorkology]
Union Square: Union Square Café name sold to Tokyo group. Related: Tokyo has a Union Square? [NYT]
Upper West Side: Ollie’s Noodle Shop workers follow Saigon Grill deliverymen. [Eater]
Activists to Have It Their Way at Burger King; Classic Kitchen PranksBurger King swears off cage eggs and inhumanely treated pork — although it will be a while before its suppliers can catch up with the new policy. [NYT]
New York molecular gastronomy alert: Spanish neurologist-scientist-chef Dr. Miguel Sanchez Romera is scoping out NYC locations — must have greenhouse. [NYP]
Cafe Fonduta’s ordeal with the Department of Health highlights the overall klutziness of the system. [NYO]
Ask a Waiter
Carolyn Wandell-Widdoes of Union Square Cafe Knows How You Like ItCarolyn Wandell-Widdoes was a graduate student when she took a part-time job at Union Square Cafe. Social work didn’t wind up paying the bills; eighteen years later, her co-workers call her Mom. We asked her how she has survived picketing animal-rights activists (she’s a vegetarian), the smoking ban (she’s a cigar smoker), the eternal struggle for tables between tourists and regulars, and her boss’ customer-is-always-right attitude.
Rude Questions for Danny MeyerÜber-restaurateur Danny Meyer will be at Bottlerocket Wine and & Spirits tonight talking about his new book, Setting the Table. If we had the courage, we’d fire off the following questions at the event.
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]
Back of the House
Patsy’s, Le Madeleine Fight Turf Wars; Danny Meyer Takes TokyoA food co-op opens, but can East New Yorkers swing it? [NYT]
Joe, home of the $14,000 espresso machine, looks for a fourth location despite high rents. [NYT]
Danny Meyer takes Union Square Cafe to Tokyo. [Snack]
Related: Danny Meyer Walks Into a Pub
Back of the House
Mario Slammed for His Crocs; Zagat’s Dinner Prices a Crock?Plenty of new chefs and openings to report, but the real hubbub is over the persistence of Batali’s orange shoes and a certain skinny red book.
• Per the Flo chart, Boulud opens a wine bar, Tourondel opens a burger joint, and Neiporent teams up with Bao 111’s Michael Huyn for a Vietnamese venture. [NYT]
• Batali wears the Crocs for a movie premiere and our friends the Fug Girls declare him “the poster child for this crime against global retinas.” Meanwhile Radar reports he dishwashes his 30 pairs. [Chow]
• New chefs attempt to breathe life into Gilt (Chris Lee; lobster sliders), Thor (Kevin Pomplun; oxtail fettuccini), and tapas bar Marbella (Fernando Echeverri, squid-stuffed chorizo). [Strong Buzz]
• Zagat drops, and Jennifer Leuzzi asks the usual chefs how they feel about landing the usual spots. [NYS]
• Meanwhile, Steve Cuozzo complains that Tim and Nina are still lowballing meal costs, which have climbed 14.5 percent at top spots: “Many figures given as the ‘average estimate of the price of a dinner with one drink and tip’ at specific restaurants still seem more like cheapest-case scenarios than averages.” [NYP]
• Finally, last call for the chipotle-gorgonzola-black-bean-lasagne at Williamsburg’s eatery-cum-screening-room Monkey Town. [Eater]
Back of the House
Owner’s Existential Rage as He Discovers Zagat SnubWe happened to be present when the owner and senior management of a critically acclaimed, major new Manhattan restaurant got their mitts on the spanking-new Zagat guide and discovered that they’d been left off the all-important “most popular” list (which once again featured Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe in the number one and two positions, respectively).
Best Seats in the House: Where to Eat at the Bar
Even before the arrival of Joël Robuchon and his bar-centric L’Atelier, the ancient urban tradition of bar dining was undergoing a great renaissance. And why not? Eating while seated on a stool is a uniquely New York experience. It’s convivial, expedient, and communal, but in a solitary way. The Gobbler has met Wall Street kingpins, ex–CIA agents, and loquacious bookies from Queens at restaurant bars. You don’t have to deal with sniveling waiters or go overboard on tips, and it’s often a convenient excuse for getting really, really drunk. Here are a few of the Gobbler’s favorite barfly destinations.
Back of the House
Michael Romano: Equally Nice the Morning After
Last week the Wall Street Journal conducted an international doggie-bag experiment (subscription required): A waiter in Russia was huffy about providing one, a Japanese server flatly refused, and in China they literally send people home with dog meat in bags decorated with puppies. And yet the article failed to address the quirks of a couple of local restaurants. At Yakiniku Juju, the adorable shabu-shabu joint, scoring leftovers from the copious $25 all-you-can-eat barbecue is out of the question: If you don’t down every last morsel, you’re charged double. Meanwhile, for eight years, Union Square Cafe has obsequiously bagged that untouchable last hunk of “filet mignon of tuna” with a note, machine-printed, but apparently meant to be chef Michael Romano’s handwriting, profusely thanking the diner for bothering to bring leftovers home. Still, pictures of puppies would be nice.
— Daniel Maurer