Clinton Hill: Don’t be fooled by Met Foods window painting claiming the supermarket has the “[l]argest fresh organic products in the area.” You’ll be “hard-pressed to find any (just the usual half-rotten produce they usually carry). It’s clearly a reaction to the threat of all the discerning customers shopping at Green Planet.” [Clinton Hill Blog]
Greenwich Village: The Starbucks on 8th Street between Fifth and University is closing and has posted in its window a bizarre, farewell letter of sorts, which begins, "This thing we have together, it’s bigger than this place." And in a weird way, the epistle is spot-on. [Gothamist]
Harlem: Where can a gal just get a beer and a burger in this gentrifying area? [Uptown Flavor]
Lower East Side: Rayuela is expanding with a Latin takeout spot set to open at the end of March in the former LoSide space. [Eater] Lee Gross’s organic eatery Broadway East opens March 7, and like this week’s ecofriendly thirst quenchers, "filters and carbonates its own water." [Strong Buzz] Freemans will totally let you order artichoke dip before you place your entrée order; they changed their policy two years ago after Bruni’s "Satisfactory" review. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Our favorite celebrity sighting of the week was, of course, Lindsay Lohan at Peter Luger on Tuesday night — that’s because we saw her with our own eyes. Of course, we can’t be everywhere and see everyone, so as usual we’ve combed the gossip columns for other stop-ins. We’re sorry we missed Tracy Morgan at the Plumm, shirtless and offering to father babies as usual, and boy do we wish we were a fly on the wall when partners Ken Friedman and Taavo Somer, along with David Chang, dined with Stephen Starr at Buddakan. Is there a Spotted Buddafuku in the works?
Julia 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 menuRelated:Sign Up for Secret Dinner Club's Weekend Time Warp
Name: Le Call
Job: Model, keeper of Nello Balan's umbrella, Daily Intelligencer obsessionAge: 25
Neighborhood: Lower East Side
Who's your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
Any cab driver that doesn't sigh when I ask to go to the airport.
What's the best meal you've eaten in New York?
The ones I prepare myself. (See question 8.)
In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
We mostly try to design the perfect exit strategy for Iraq, and if we can't come up with an answer, we take a bunch of pictures.
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.
When we talked to Freemans server Cass Buggé a little over a month ago, the barbecue ribs were all the rage there. Bad news is summer’s kaput. Good news is the place’s fall menu, which we offer you here exclusively, includes enticing things like venison stew, Estonian meat pies, roasted pork loin, and so on. Will the cauliflower cream hold a candle to the ever-popular artichoke dip? We don’t know, but you’ll definitely find us here rather than attempting to find a seat for Oktoberfest at Loreley across the street.
Freemans fall menu
We’ve heard more than one person refer to Kingswood as the new Freemans, and there are similarities: A greeter in an anachronistic hat, a bucolic vibe care of the butterflies on the ceiling, and drinks in which Glenfiddich is “massaged” by figs. There’s even some clothier-restaurateur synchronicity, à la Freemans, since it shares ownership with Ksubi clothing store. But if Kingswood is going to be a true hipstaurant, it’s going to have to put an end to one thing.
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.
Actor Cass Buggé found work at Freemans almost a year ago, shortly after the restaurant expanded and began serving brunch. Unbeknownst to her, Frank Bruni may have been one of her first customers. So does she agree with Bruni’s assessment of indifferent service? “Initially we got a bad rap for being rude,” she says. “I know that’s sometimes the rumor on the street, but if you go to Freemans, you’ll see the people are really nice. I’m really nice!” After asking her about her job, we couldn’t agree more.
Astoria: Sparrow bar at 24-01 29th Street has outdoor seating. [Joey in Astoria] And Fresh Start health-food store finally opens its back patio — only to jack it up with distastefully painted bricks. [Joey in Astoria]
Dumbo: Paella’s the main event at Rice today from noon to 11 p.m. [Dumbo NYC]
Red Hook: A new blog, Save Soccer Tacos, tries to get the little guys as involved in saving Red Hook Park’s vendors as the food-world celebrities who’ve recently united. [The Gowanus Lounge]
Prospect Park: The park is one of the few in the city that actually encourage public barbecues, with seven designated areas and three permanent grills. [Gridskipper]
West Village: Freemans owners to pair with the Spotted Pig’s Ken Friedman to redo the former West space — that, or to open a chain restaurant banking on little people serving drinks in pig costumes. [Eater]
Last November we were the first to predict that the Beatrice would be the hipstaurant of the season. Um, we told you so? Now from Beatrice (and Employees Only) partner Matt Abramcyk comes another contender — this one occupying a former carriage house in the Tribeca nether lands. Smith and Mills is one of the smallest restaurants we’ve ever set foot in, but on this, its opening day, we don’t think it’s too early to say it may just be the next big thing.
Astoria: Netteria Internet café, just opened, already slashing prices. [Joey in Astoria]
Brooklyn Heights: Mysterious notes in the window of the former Aficionada space lead to the revelation, after a cursory Web search, that the owners of Corner on Cranberry will open Busy Chef bakery there in April. [Brooklyn Heights Blog]
Clinton Hill: The old bodega spot on Waverly and Green may become a “place for nice dinners,” judging by the fact that someone has put in an application for a liquor license. And yes, we do believe that those are allowed near schools. [Clinton Hill Blog]
East Village: Butter boys Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva will fill the club space on Fourth Avenue and 14th Street. [Down by the Hipster]
Harlem: The BBC has come all the way to Sylvia’s for “World Have Your Say,” a radio chat show happening at 1 p.m. tomorrow. [Uptown Flavor]
Lower East Side: Freemans now serves lunch. [Eater] Introducing the Bowery Whole Foods floor plan. [Curbed]
Midwood: The dirty, dirty truth behind DiFara’s closing exposed. [Gawker]
Soho: The coffee shop conspicuously called Local will open Friday on Sullivan and Houston. [A Test of Will]
There’s been a bit of intrigue about who’s behind the imposing wooden door of Death & Co., the two-week-old cocktail lounge and restaurant recently mentioned in the Times’ piece about not-so-secret secret bars. Though already slammed by a Friday-night crowd that has forced them to keep a waiting list, first-time owner David Kaplan and his partner Ravi DeRossi (who told us he was tripling the size of his other bar, the Bourgeois Pig) were perfectly willing to do roll call. No, the Reaper is not a partner: Head bartender Philip Ward of Pegu Club and Flatiron Lounge is joined by dapper drinksmiths Brian Miller (Pegu), Jim Kerns (Pegu and Freemans), and another chap who currently works at two high-end restaurants known for their cocktails (no truth to rumors that a Milk and Honey alumnus is involved). The startling lineup isn’t the only thing we came back with: We also scored the new drinks and dinner menus (the chef is the motorcycle-riding Frenchman Jacques Godin, former owner of B3). As for the cocktails, we’ll leave aside Kaplan’s claim that “it’s been 100 years since anyone made a cocktail worth a damn” and say merely that, from a newfangled old-fashioned that incorporates smoky mescal, agave nectar, and a flamed orange peel to a hot buttered rum made from butter that’s whipped and spiced in-house, their twists on the classics are worth a hot double damn. Daniel MaurerDeath & Co., 433 E. 6th St., nr. First Ave.; 212-388-0882Cocktail MenuDinner Menu
Whether you're ragin' for Asian or perfectly fine with pizza and meatballs, this week's weekly roundup of roundups delivers.
Continuing its quest to find the mother of all bánh mìs, Porkchop Express breaks bread at Pho Sàigòn and A Chau Deli. [Porkchop Express]
Five K-towners that go beyond grill-it-yourself. [NYT]
Some dim sum. Okay, a lot of dim sum. [amNY]
Artichoke renditions, from the dip everyone gets at Freemans to the slice everyone gets at DiFara's. [NYDN]
Ed Levine: My (top five meatball) heroes. [Ed Levine Eats]
Tien Mao wolfs 25 slices in search of Strong Island's best. [Gothamist]
Among restaurant critics, nothing causes more chatter and debate than the timeless question of anonymity. It came up again the other week when an owner of Freemans downtown posted this amusingly frank account of being jumped, and subsequently (and, by the sounds of it, justifiably) slammed by the Gobbler's esteemed colleague Mr. Bruni of the Times. Here are the Gobbler's top ten rules for surviving the eternal cat-and-mouse game between restaurants and the critics who review them.
This week, the big boys decided to tip some sacred cows.
• Alan Richman, battling Peter Luger, delivers what might be the most damning takedown of a major New York restaurant since his famous indictment of Jean Georges in GQ. Sundry are the crimes of this tavern: It has "lost touch with the concept of restaurant hospitality"; deploys cheap flatware and snarling waiters; serves inconsistent steak, mundane sides, and a "hostile burger." [Bloomberg]
This week, the food scribes turned in more raves than rants. Naturally, we lead with a rant.
• Frank Bruni, bucking the beau monde and betting odds, comes down with both feet on Freemans, the hipster hideaway beloved by downtown boulevardiers. (NYT)