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IMG_2418I wouldn’t call myself a “girl about town.” I’m usually the last to know about the next “it” spot. By the time I get to whatever it is, it’s already been boarded up or has been deemed “old news”. But not this time, my friends. No, not this time.

Last Friday, Wylie Dufresne (of wd50 fame on the Lower East Side) debuted a brand-new restaurant in the East Village, Alder. A tiny spot with just 56 seats, Alder turns to the design school of late: minimalist with loads of slate, earth tones and exposed wood. A cocktail menu embraces hot hipster classics, like Pimm’s and rye which are mixed weirdly with things like horseradish and oolong. But it all seems to work. (Try the Dr. Dave’s ‘Scrip Pad: rye, yuzu, amaro and smoked maple.)

Alder is about pub-grub with a twist (it wouldn’t be Wylie Dufresne without that twist). This includes a New York take on old favorites from around the world, “turning them into something distinctly American,” says their website.

IMG_2419So anyway, back to being on top of the scene. I was able to snag a table for Saturday night (after an hour-and-a-half wait, mind you). The menu isn’t too long and the waiters are very helpful in recommending what to order.

You must start with the Pub Cheese and the “Pigs in a Blanket.” The Pub Cheese is a smear of cheese infused with red wine so that it is literally purple. It is festooned with pistachio-fig brittle and served with Martin’s potato chips. The Pigs in a Blanket are chinese sausages wrapped in flaky pastry with a side of Japanese mustard and sweet chili sauce.

From there, you should order the foie gras terrine, which is served with poached apple cartreuse yogurt and an english muffin. For me, the piece de resistance is the fried quail, which is tender and moist and served with banana curry, chinese broccoli and pickled turmeric. The Rye Pasta is also delicious (think pasta that tastes similar to rye bread and is flecked with bits of tender pastrami). Finally, try the pork rib, which has saffron spaetzle and green apple-celery root hash.

The wait will be long for the next few weeks as this restaurant is literally the newest on the scene, but with restaurants embracing modern technology (they will text you when your table is ready), feel free to wander elsewhere for a pre-dinner cocktail.

Last tip: Budget wisely. Six dishes, all of sharing proportion, and two cocktails run around $150. Alder is on Second Avenue between East 9th and 10th streets.

photo (9)I know I’m not the first to say it…but what the hell is going on in Battery Park City? What is this magical land adjacent to New York’s financial center and across the West Side Highway? Why are people going there?

If it’s not painfully obvious, I am a Battery Park City neophyte. The area of Manhattan roped off by the Hudson River and the West Side Highway, from Warren Street down to Battery Park, is a 92-acre planned community of luxury high rises and, until recently, not much else. Today, however, passersby will find restaurants (including a Shake Shack), a movie theater, and not one, but two luxury hotels.

Everyone knows the Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park, but new to the ‘hood as of last year is the Conrad New York, a five-star hotel with modern suites and views of the city and the Hudson River. If you’re visiting NYC, this may be a great spot to rest your bones, as it is close to the bulk of the city’s major subway arteries. But if you’re a local, I highly recommend a stop to the restaurant and wine bar, Atrio.

Delicately touched with whites, creams and browns the restaurant gives off a chic, almost Miami feel, but the views are decidedly New York. I suggest ordering the Crispy Black Kale, which comes with Jersey Ricotta, Black Figs and Pine nuts. A plate of Charred Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan and Pine Nuts is another great option for the table to share. For your main course, I found the Hand Cut Pappardelle with Osso Bucco Ragout and Gaeta Olives over-the-top tasty, and gut-stuffing (but in the best way).

Prices are very reasonable, considering it is a hotel restaurant. Entrees do not go much above $30, so dinner for two will not be breaking the bank. Atrio also serves breakfast and lunch.

Stay tuned for our Springtime Report from the hotel’s Loopy Doopy Bar, a rooftop bar that opens in May.

The Conrad New York is at 102 North End Avenue.

Photo courtesy of Orient Express

Photo courtesy of Orient Express

Here’s one for all you love birds out there. If you are looking for an intimate cocktail bar that will impress your date from “out of town,” (or at least confirm for him or her that you are in fact a total hipster), you should hit up Orient Express in New York’s West Village.

Named after the passenger train, the Orient Express is detailed as such, with curved ceilings, dim lighting and cocktails themed after old rail services. I went for the Mata Hari: Bulleit bourbon, Pierde Almas Abadaan mescal, lemon juice, agave, ginger and aloe. It was tangy, it was citrusy, it was whiskey-y. Not too shabby. Ok I’ll stop.

I hear they also serve food at this place, but I was really just there for the drinks. The bartenders wear button downs and old-timey vests that liken them to old railroad employees (how appropriate), and couples canoodle in dark corners pretending to be anywhere but here.

Be prepared to spend upwards of $11 on cocktails, which seems to be a trend when bars are billing themselves as the “best” in the city. I can’t say for sure whether or not this bar is actually numero uno, but the drinks were pretty damn good.

Orient Express is on W 11th between Greenwich and Washington.

smokinbone“A little Southeast Asian fermented funkiness and a whole helluva lot of smoke.” That’s who Fatty ‘Cue is, and that’s why I had to see what the hell they were talking about.

Very rarely (if ever) do you think of southern barbecue when you imagine Southeast Asia, but restaurant Fatty ‘Cue (of the Fatty Crab family) in the West Village is bringing you just that.

True to foodie scenes as of late, Fatty ‘Cue is a dimly lit restaurant in the West Village with waiters dressed in flannel and a bartender moving and shaking together ingredients that you never would have ever thought would meld, but somehow they just do. (Try the Smokin’ Bone: whiskey, smoked pineapple, lime, tabasco and chocolate bitters.)

The idea behind the menu is to share plates, but allow me to let you in on a little secret: these plates are huge. You really don’t need to share, but it’s definitely more fun if you do. The waiter will tell you that four to five plates are enough for a full meal but after two shared plates I was decidedly full. The additional plates we ordered put me over the top into “unbutton my pants and see you next month” mode. I guess you don’t have to clean your own plate, but that just seems like a horrible move; I’d rather roll myself out the door. Bikini season is still a healthy three months away.

friedbaconOrder yourself the lamb ribs, which come with a cincalok emulsion. They are succulent, tender and worth every fatty bite. Fatty ‘Cue is heralded for its 1/2 pound of deep fried bacon, served up with a sweet and spicy salsa verde. In my humble opinion it was definitely tasty, but the ratio of fat to meat left something to be desired. The green curry P.E.I. mussels are heaven-sent and I highly recommend dipping the generous slices of Texas toast into the broth. Finally, the smoked bobo chicken with red onion, cucumber and chili is good. Scratch that: very good, but I think that it’s worth being a tad more adventurous and going for the Isaan-style duck lab or the smoked brandt beef brisket.

Fatty ‘Cue is on Carmine Street in the West Village. There is also one in Williamsburg, but it is temporarily closed for renovations.

I read an article the other day that says if you slap the word ‘Brooklyn‘ on anything these days, people will buy it. Brooklyn, like it or not, is the new “it.” It was “it” for a while, actually, but now it is so “it” that the people who made it that way are probably hating it already – yeah, that’s you, hipsters. On a recent journey, I found myself in this trendy borough, specifically Boerum Hill. This is a neighborhood of Brooklyn that mixes one part hipster with one part family and results in cute boutiques, restaurants and bars tucked among ritzy brownstones. (Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens are three neighborhoods that are kind of twined together and sometimes are known as BoCoCa, but that’s a really stupid name, in my opinion.) To get here take the F or G train to Bergen Street or Carroll Street.

Smith Street, the main drag, is the perfect embodiment of everything Brooklyn has become today: hipsters, artisanal food and local wares. If you’re looking to become “Brooklyn,” (although, is that really something you want?) here are a few places to start.

IMG_0915Snack: Stinky Bklyn
Cheeseheads and beer guzzlers alike will love this shop. What’s not to like about artisanal cheeses, cured meats and obscure brews? The shop also sells those artsy pickles, breads and about a million other things that would look good on a vintage farm table. (That’s Brooklyn these days, folks.) Tip: Have the cheesemongers behind the counter slice off some of their favorites for you. Order a #1 (prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula with pesto sandwich) and sit at the table in the window.

Dine: Cafe Luluc
Although not the first choice for dinner, Cafe Luluc was a real gem to stumble upon. The plan was to eat at Battersby, a tiny, farm-to-table restaurant that doesn’t accept reservations (how Brooklyn). Unfortunately, this can result in a very long wait. A rumbling tummy means a cranky Meagan so Battersby will have to wait for another time. Cafe Luluc is a great alternative, though. It’s a tiny French bistro that looks like it was pulled straight out of the Marais. Dim lighting, red booths and a wall of French liquors. Tres French. Be sure to order the escargot and the Mussels Luluc. The hangar steak and pork chop make excellent entrees, as well. If you’re there on a Thursday, all bottles and glasses of wine are half price. The cafe is also cash only.

IMG_2147Drink: Char No 4
While the food at this restaurant smells and looks other worldly (in a good way) this is a fine place to sit at the bar and marvel at the entire wall of whiskeys (over 150, to be exact). Chat with bartender Kirsten about what pleases your palate and she’ll whip up a tasty cocktail. I had a New York Sour (bourbon and red wine). Okay, I had three. They were that good.

Shop: Smith + Butler; By Brooklyn
If you enjoy how the cast of Girls dresses then you will love Smith + Butler. It’s everything the Brooklyn youth are wearing. Save Khaki, Zoe Karssen, Winter Session. They’re all there, resting on wooden benches or in vintage milk crates. You can literally feel yourself growing an ironic mustache as you enter the shop.

By Brooklyn sells apartment wares, accessories and gifts all made by local artisans. It’s easy to get lost looking at the candles, dishes, flavored popcorns and more. Yours truly happened to pick up some slate coasters and a slate cutting board.

Gawd, Brooklyn. So dumb, right?…

…Okay, it’s true!! I’ve caught the Brooklyn bug. I just want to sit in my own vintage barn with a record player, sipping bourbon out of a mason jar! I just really want to be cool…

IMG_0901I try so hard to be a chic and sophisticated New York lady, but more often than not I wind up with stains on my wrinkled shirt and food in my hair. It’s just how it goes. I’ve accepted it and so should you.

Last night was the perfect embodiment of just that. I was on “the list” to attend the first anniversary party of STK Midtown. (It’s a steakhouse on Sixth Avenue and W 43rd Street that oozes sex appeal. Its tagline is “Not your daddy’s steakhouse,” in case you were wondering.) I walked in to neon blue and purple lights, white fixtures and waitresses all in little black dresses holding electric colored cocktails. (The party was 80s themed…I still don’t know why.)

It wasn’t exactly New York’s glitterati (Kris Humphries was scheduled to appear…), but the blazer I was wearing cost $30, so the crowd felt infinitely more sophisticated and sexy than I did. After a glass of white wine and a drink called The Fraggle Rock (Bulleit bourbon, root beer ice cube and bitters), I slipped out the door past a snaking line of stiletto-heeled vixens who would have leapt at my spot at the bar licking their chops, completely ridding themselves of proper party decorum.

Free of a crowd that was sending my neuroses spinning, I trekked the 15 blocks north to Le Parker Meridien to what I consider to be an equally luxurious, religious and comfortable experience: burgers and beer.

IMG_0904For those who don’t know, Le Parker Meridien is a luxury midtown hotel with a secret. In the lobby behind an expansive mauve curtain is a dingy burger hole aptly named The Burger Joint. It’s been around for quite some time, so I’m hardly the first to discover it, but if you have yet to go I seriously suggest you do. Now.

It’s cash only and you better know exactly what you want before you get to the front of the line. Cheeseburger, medium, the works. (The works equals pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mayo and mustard.) Fries also seriously help this equation, and you wash it all down with a frosty Sam Adams out of a plastic cup. It’s a burger joint inside a luxury hotel. Oh the irony! If that’s not New York trendy, then I don’t know what is.

wesandersonbingoAstoria vs. Williamsburg. It’s a friendly rivalry between my group of friends, and I can say with certainty that we are not the only ones that debate on which neighborhood is better for the thriving, young, New York professional. Do you want more space for less money in quiet Queens, or stimulation and action at every turn in bohemian Brooklyn? It can get ugly. As most of you know, I am partial to Astoria’s charms, but as long as Williamsburg keeps hosting Wes Anderson Bingo Night at local bar Videology, I will continue to try and broker piece between the two worlds.

Last night my pal Jenna was somehow able to drag me out of my apartment on what was the coldest night of winter to date. She lured me with Videology, a video store-turned-bar that hosts nightly screenings and fun games to match. Last night was Wes Anderson Bingo. It’s free. Awesome.

The corner bar is candlelit and has a spacious back room set up like a screening area, with walls lined with DVDs and a giant projector screen. Bingo starts at 8:30, but I recommend getting there about 45 minutes early to get a good seat, because it fills up fast.

Each player is doled out a bingo card and chips. Cozy up with a drink and let the viewing begin. (Might I also suggest ordering bowls of creative popcorn like parmesan and three pepper, or chili, lime and tequila.)

The spaces on the bingo cards have generic Wes Anderson style choices (knit cap, vintage eyewear, plunky harpsichord music). Whenever any of these appear in the movie, you place a chip down on your card. Last night’s viewing was Moonrise Kingdom.

Prizes range anywhere from pre-stamped envelopes (it is Williamsburg, after all) to free drinks and movie soundtracks. It’s just good fun. To be fair, this is a relatively new endeavor and Videology is still working out the kinks, but the atmosphere is laid back, fun and everyone seems to have a great time. And even if you aren’t into bingo, there are worse ways to spend a Tuesday night than sitting back in a dim bar with a beer watching a Wes Anderson flick.

Photo courtesy of Yelp

Photo courtesy of Yelp

We’ve all heard the rumors about Chinese massage parlors. I’m sure you, yourself, have even contributed to the stereotypes. I’m not above the occasional (and obvious) “happy ending” joke. But after last night I may have to place a moratorium on all off-color massage parlor jokes. Why? Keisy.

Okay. Why Keisy? Keisy Oriental Nature Center sits on E 9th Street between Second and Third avenues, on that little strip that is dotted with shabu-shabu and sushi restaurants. A fluorescent sign with red lettering and a sandwich board out front advertising $45 for a one-hour massage is all the pomp that this place affords itself.

Let me get this out of the way: this is not a spa. The massage parlor is up a flight of stairs in a sparsely decorated space that looks more like a row of office cubicles than a place for deep relaxation. But do not be fooled. What you are about to experience is transcendental.

One of the masseurs takes you to a room and leaves to you strip down to your skivvies and lie face down on the massage table under a (very clean) sheet. Then, without ceremony, a stereotypical soothing voice or a hint of aromatherapy, he or she essentially goes to town on your muscles. I had muscles worked that I didn’t even know I had.

I’m not going to lie to you. Parts of this experience were some of the most excruciating pain I have ever felt (you should also know that I have the back of a 90-year-old cripple), but afterward I felt like an overly tenderized piece of meat…but in a good way! These people know what they are doing and they leave no stone unturned. Forehead, ears, shoulders, back, legs, arms, feet, hands and even your nose. It’s all rubbed, massaged, unclenched and stretched out.

You will leave Keisy in a dopey state of bliss, and for just $45 your wallet won’t feel any lighter. It’s a win-win.

Want to make it a win-win-win and keep the health flowing? Head just across the street to Hasaki for a light sushi dinner. The quality is unbelievably fresh and with the green tea flowing, this is just the meal to keep your organs and muscles smiling all night long.

Photo courtesy of Briar Vintage

Photo courtesy of Briar Vintage

A row of bright cardigans hangs underneath a shelf lined with bowler hats and fedoras, while bowties sit neatly on a table next to shiny black Oxfords. No, it’s not Holden Caulfield’s boarding school dorm room, but you aren’t far off. This is Briar Vintage, a fashion shop selling “menswear, collectibles and oddities” that range from the 1800s through the 1960s.

On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I was taking a stroll through the Old City neighborhood. I hadn’t been to Philly in a long time and I wanted some sort of traditional experience without having to touch the Liberty Bell or suck down a cheesesteak. (Even summaries on Philly’s cliches have become cliche.) Briar Vintage was just the ticket.

Entering the store is like stumbling into Doc Brown’s wet dream (flux capacitor not included). Briar deems itself an expert collector of pieces ranging from an 1880 morning jacket and a frock coat from 1903 to a baseball jersey from 1947 and a 1953 wool letterman sweater. There are also Native American blankets from the 1930s and World War II battleship stationary.

But perhaps the most curious (and interesting) piece in the store is the manager himself, David. David is an enigma. Full body tats peeked out from under his mint condition 1930s gray suit, and I swear his round, frameless lenses got misty as he went off on a diatribe about the anachronisms in the Mad Men wardrobe. The man is a walking encyclopedia on everything from cufflinks and natty neckties to war boots and suit cases. If you have a minute (or 10) to spare, it’s worth engaging him in a fashion history lesson.

If you’re a sucker for vintage fashions, or just like taking a peek into the past, Briar Vintage should be a stop on your Philadelphia itinerary. It’s even possible to book personal shopping experiences to help you find exactly what you are looking for.

Briar Vintage is at 62 North 3rd Street.

I’m trying really hard to ‘wow’ you with a first post of 2013, but I’ve heard if you try to write well, you usually don’t. So in lieu of a creative lead and a really solid first paragraph, I’ll just tell you what I did on New Year’s Eve and hopefully it will inspire you to check out a truly untapped neck of the woods in New York City.

The area off the East Broadway stop in Manhattan is still a mystery to me. It’s part Chinatown, part Lower East Side, and both parts spooky. I think that’s why I like it so much. To close out 2012 I visited this part of town and have returned with three establishments that should be on your list for a a complete night out.

barThe Leadbelly: On Orchard Street just above Canal, you won’t find much. It’s a dark part of Chinatown where overstuffed black bags of garbage outnumber people and Chinese symbols rule the roost. The only (and I mean ONLY) storefront you could notice has a frosted window out front with The Leadbelly: Oysters and Liquor carved in cursive. If that’s not enough of a hook then you should probably stop reading right now. Inside you will find white washed wooden beams, exposed brick, a wall of vintage suitcases and records and a menu of fresh oysters, small bites and creative cocktails. Oldies music plays softly from the speakers while bartenders swirl whiskeys, vodkas and gins in silver shakers. If you visit during happy hour, which is until 8 p.m., select oysters are $1.

scotcheggThe Fat Radish: Directly across the street, at 17 Orchard Street, is sister restaurant The Fat Radish. This farm-to-table-style restaurant has a similar effect as The Leadbelly, in that diners enter and completely forget that the street outside looks like a set from Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. The menu runs the gamut from oysters and snacks to experimental vegetable dishes and free-range proteins. I highly recommend tucking into the scotch egg, which is a six-minute egg cooked in a sausage cradle and plated with cornichons and grain mustard. You should also check out the whole roasted local cauliflower and the Montauk Diver Scallops. Be sure to order a side of the sauteed Tuscan Kale with chili.

169 Bar: Before you hop back on the F train at East Broadway and head back uptown to the real world, make a pit stop at 169 Bar. Literally steps from the subway entrance, you can’t miss this bar that has potted palm trees out front. Inside the bar is glossed with a red and blue glow. Mismatched furniture, hanging lights, a pool table and a cage for gogo dancers are just a few of the quirky decorative touches. Try the Oyster Shooters – a shot glass with your choice of a tequila or vodka bloody mary and a fresh oyster at the bottom.