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Where to Eat 2003

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Armed and ready: The sauteed squid and artichoke from Theo, a late-night hotspot.  

Tracking the Night Owls

Lots of the night-owl gastronomes I know—okay, just this night-owl gastronome—have been scurrying down to Suba ever since word leaked out that the great Luis Bollo, formerly the chef at the delicious but doomed Galician restaurant Meigas, has been hired on to this subterranean Lower East Side establishment as a consultant. There are several new varieties of tapas on the menu as a result, like warm chorizo tortillas, and silvery twirls of anchovy on oil-smeared toast, although if you want to enjoy a proper midnight meal, book a table over the moat in the soothing, weirdly effervescent “grotto” and order the mildly gamy, supremely tender duck, which is cooked with just a hint of citrus flavor then laid over a pile of onions, potatoes, and salty Serrano ham.

There’s a new chef at Théo, too, where Cédric Tovar, lately the second-in-command at Town, has imbued the downstairs menu with all sorts of serious gourmet intentions. After hours, however, the real action in the old UPS building is still upstairs, where you can sink into deep cushions under luminous orange lampshades and swig an assortment of specialty drinks concocted by Aisha, the affable, spiky-haired bartender. I usually grease my palate with the sweetly lethal chartreuse martinis (made with vodka, chartreuse, lime, and honey) and the ginger capiroscas (made with Aisha’s own ginger-infused vodka) before diving into Tovar’s high-minded lounge food, which includes a respectable tart flambée made with bacon, onions, and fromage blanc and served on little silver stilts, and baby-back ribs flavored with harissa.

If you can’t wedge yourself into one of the Lilliputian tables at Swifty’s, Jimmy Rodriguez’s newest establishment, Jimmy’s Downtown, is far and away the best place for a gay old night out on the town in the vicinity of Sutton Place. If you’re a fan of the currently fashionable treehouse design motif—lots of exposed beams and logs, etc.—Butter and Industry (food) are the places to be downtown. For a combination of many of these trendy attributes, however, I recommend Meet, in the meatpacking district, where the normally helter-skelter scene manages to feel almost cozy, thanks to the room’s quirky, inventive, feng shui–inspired design.


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