Nightlife columnists tend to paint a picture when the bar is full and the orders start coming out slurred. But I’ve always wondered what the scene is before it’s even dark out, actually right at 6pm when the doors open. Who has the cojones to be the first to walk into a bar? Are they with friends? Meeting others? Alone? I got to Death & Company at 5:55pm to find out. Below is the play by play on the first five parties (not including me) to take over the East Village staple.
5:55 Party of three loiters outside by the door, one middle-aged gentlemen in a grey suit, a middle aged woman, and a slightly younger bearded gent with glasses.
6:01 The bouncer comes out, checks my ID, lets me pass through velvet curtains.
6:01 Loitering party of three enters and takes a booth in the back of the bar.
(The Interior: Dark, leather, moody candles, jazz on the stereo)
6:03 Young woman in pigtails and gold hoop earrings approaches bar, appears to know bartender. They start chatting about her breakfast at Pies ‘n’ Thighs. Both conclude restaurant is overrated. Pigtails asks for a drink, gin but not too boozy as she is hung over from last night and hasn’t eaten much that day. Bartender decides on a gimlet.
6:10 A man and woman enter, take booth by entrance. Silently peruse menu for a good five minutes.
6:12 A blonde gentleman in a grey blazer enters, looks around—fuck, that is my boyfriend. Never mind.
6:16 Three men join pigtails at the bar: three with facial hair, two in plaid, one wearing glasses. Introductions to bartender. They order.
6:23 A bald gentlemen walks through the curtains, stands there for a while talking to the bouncer. Stands some more. Leaves.
6:36 A woman with glasses sits down at the bar, orders the Almond Brother (siete leguas reposado tequila, fresh lime juice, lazazaroni amaretti, orgeat maple syrup, rothman & winter orchard apricot.) Finishes drink in 10 minutes, leaves. As do I.
Not tuna tartare with frisse or perfectly plated rack of lamb, that is for sure.
I’ve had the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the kitchen of a three-star dining establishment in New York. On multiple occasions I have joined the line of white-cloaked cooks and suited up waiters as they take to the grub station post dining service. The buffet is as follows:
There is always a container of plain white rice, usually a tray of fries and then a few proteins that didn’t get used up during lunch, typically beef, chicken or fish doused in a saucy concoction. At the end of the station you find a mixed greens salad, which whoever puts together has a knack for overdressing. Sometimes there is also pasta— always penne—tossed in the tomato sauce from the spicy seafood cavatelli on the menu, just minus the seafood.
After filling up their plates, the family takes to the various nooks of the kitchen, stairs and service station. The chow down commences. It’s not a moment of enjoying food, rather more of a pure animal—I sweat in front of 12 hot-ass burners and should have eaten lunch three hours ago—hunger. So it all tastes good, I guess?
I’ve lived in major cities like San Francisco, Paris and Chicago but in no other place has the bodega been such a key component of the city’s landscape. In fact, I didn’t even know what a bodega was until I moved to New York in 2009. (Other cities I’ve lived in refer to them as corner stores or liquor stores.) This morning, I chatted with bodega owner Delga a Bueno who owns Degraw Deli & Grocery at 168 5th Avenue in Park Slope to learn a little bit about his enterprise. Delga usually opens at 6am but overslept and didn’t unlock the door until 8am; despite the unusual morning he was chipper as always and agreed to chat with me while he took care of the morning rush, which included a lot of coffee, sandwich-making, and some lotto ticket requests. I conducted the interview in Spanish, so I’ve translated as best I could!
Q: Delga, can you tell me a little bit about the major changes you’ve seen here in your eight years on the corner of 5th Avenue and Degraw?
Delga: Well, I have been here for eight years and really the main change for my business is that this used to be much more of a Hispanic neighborhood. That, and the rent. Five years ago I was paying $2800 a month and now it’s gone up to $5560. And with the landlords around here, they say you can take it or leave it. I have invested my whole livelihood in this place it would be too much of a risk to leave. But these days I am just making enough to live.
Q: How has the exorbitant hike in rent affected prices?
Delga: When I first opened, milk was going for $2.49 a gallon. Now I have to charge $4.29.
Q: And what would you say are the most popular items you sell here?
Delga: Well, we sell everything [It’s true, a quick survey reveals doo-rags, duct tape, coffee, and Snickers]. Number one is beer. Without beer and cigarettes you cannot call yourself a bodega! Then it’s milk and juices and sodas. Then after that it’s the deli.
Q: You have a lot of Hispanic products like Goya flan and chorizo and queso fresco. Do these sell well?
Delga: Yes, those products really help the business. Arecibo is stationed right next door and we do a lot of business from them, and of course, the rest of the neighborhood.
Q: What is the strangest item that a customer has asked for?
Delga: Hmm. Well, once someone asked for a pregnancy test. I told her to come the next day. That night I went to the pharmacy, bought a bunch of them and had them ready the next day.
Q: You mentioned beer was a major revenue maker. How do you go about selecting product?
Delga: Mainly, I go by what sells most, but I also ask the customers about new products they are interested in. We have been selling Brooklyn Lager and Sixpoint for a while. And I always try to charge just a little bit less than my competitors.
Thanks so much for your time, Delga!
Today, The Burger Bistro opens in Park Slope, offering up an a la carte burger-building menu once reserved for those who found themselves hungry in Bay Ridge.
It appears that restaurateurs believe Park Slope is feeling carnivorous these days. A block up from the new Burger Bistro, a sign is up in an empty storefront right next to vegan haven The V Spot (which has been closed “for renovations” for over two months now) that reads,“Burgers and Bar Coming Soon.” A few blocks south of both these locations there is Corner Burger, and Five Guys came to Flatbush Avenue late last year. And then there is top dog of all things fried and encased, Bark Hot Dogs. My question: are these new guys right in thinking residents of strollerville are ready to relinquish their beloved Bark and go elsewhere for their iron fix, or will disco fries reign supreme?
A chat with the guys behind upcoming Williamsburg restaurant and bar Extra Fancy reveals they hired a chef last week, one that knows a thing or two about cooking things that used to live in water. Ross Florance, previously at La Bernadin and Marea, takes on the role of executive chef just a week after returning from a six-month stint as a stagier at various restaurants in Denmark, France and Spain. According to Florance, he turned down a position at French Laundry and decided instead to run a kitchen he could take on from the start. “It is a different style [of restaurant] than I am used to but to be able to open a restaurant offers such a great experience” said Florance.
As previously reported on Eater, Extra Fancy is a take on the New England sea shack, but with Florance’s fine dining background you can probably expect a few twists and some darn pretty plating. In addition to classics (clam rolls, chowder), fish cheeks and tripe are fair game, said Florance.
Located on Metropolitan and Roebling, Extra Fancy has some neighbors who are serious about the food they make, including Roebling Tea Room, Momofuku Milk Bar, St. Anselm and Fette Sau. What will probably set them apart is their plan for an extensive bar program. “We’ll have classics in cans, craft on draft and some fancy stuff in bottles,” said owner Rob Krueger about Extra Fancy’s beer offerings. Using his experience as a bartender at Employees Only, Krueger will be mixing up some serious cocktails, too.
Last time I checked in with them they were aiming for a November 2011 opening but the usual construction/licensing drama caused major delays. At least now there are no exposed wires and they have a chef! Here’s to a spring opening?
It can be a tough world for food industry folk, so harsh they often have multiple industry events to juggle in one day. I’ll fill you in periodically on this predicament. Take one.
As reported on Eater, The Great GoogaMooga is coming to Brooklyn May 19-20, filling Prospect Park with the crème of the NY food scene and those that like to eat what they make. After chatting with James Beard Foundation Vice President Mitchell Davis I found out he is getting married to his partner of five years in a Viennese-run property in the Finger Lakes. That same weekend. In his 20+ years at The Beard I have a feeling he has accrued a few industry pals. Now the question is, are they headed to the park for some GoogaMooga fun or going to Seneca Lake to clink flutes? Dramz, man.