Serge 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.
A 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
We 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.
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.
Ah, 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?
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.
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.
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.
Earlier 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.