Throughout the Food & Wine Festival this weekend Eater is welcoming bloggers, journalists and food world personalities to our lounge, The Eater Lounge, at MILK Studios. As the peeps pass through, we're going to chat them up and spit out the dialogue here in this business, From the Eater Lounge.
[Spotted Pig honcho Ken Friedman, Eater's own Ben Leventhal, and the Mayor of the Meatpacking District, David Rabin, recline in the Eater Lounge.]
So you were hanging out here in MePa last night. Rabin: Here the whole night. I was stunned—it was a little overwhelming. We sold 2,800 tickets to the outdoor event, so think about the fact we went through 22,000 cups.
The neighborhood has, uh, gone through some changes. When people say the Meatpacking District is 'over,' well, I think it's at 40 percent of where it's going to be. The neighborhood is going to have 700 or 800 more hotel rooms, 30 more floors of office space, the new Whitney Museum expects 500,000 visitors a year when it opens in 2012. I think this is just beginning. I hope I'm right—I've got a big bet on that.
Right, so let's talk projects. You'll have three venues in the neighborhood by next year. One done—Los Dados—and two to come. We're redoing Lotus with Mark [Birnbaum] and Eugene [Remm] from TenJune—a 190-seat restaurant, mezzanine bar, and a downstairs lounge of 4000 square feet, which is basically doubling the downstairs space.
Eugene Remm: Except now that we're in a recession, we gotta cut costs. I'm going to DJ. David's doing security.
Rabin [unfazed]: That'll hopefully be ready in March. And within a month, I think we'll be hammering nails at Double Seven.
How has the club scene changed since the old Double Seven closed in early 2007? When Double Seven started in 2005, it was really only Sascha and Audrey Saunders doing that kind of drink. Now, plenty of people are. And folks have even jumped on the chocolate bandwagon—it's a little frustrating when I read about other places giving away small pieces of chocolate like we did, but c'est la vie. The new place, in the old Rhone space, is 30% bigger. Monika's going to do the classic cocktail, we're going to do small snacks.
And the midtown hotel? We're working on a project with the Chatwal family. It's a 90-room boutique hotel on 44th between Sixth and Broadway. We're doing it with Geoffrey Zakarian. There will be a 2,000 square foot bar on the second level, and a 90-seat restaurant on the main floor called The Lamb's Club that will be classic American grill style. Having a great chef in a boutique hotel is a trend that Geoffrey himself really started back when he was at 44. We're hoping to do something that people will feel comfortable going to a few days a week. Opening day could be March or April.
Before we let you go, let's talk poker. I've got the big-boy highroller game, and I've also been lucky enough to teach 80 women to play poker, among them Carol Chin, Serena Torrey, and Bonnie Morrison. We do it as Los Dados—we drink a lot of margaritas, and they go all-in a lot because it's not real money. But they're getting enough into it that they want to play a real money game. The boy's game—it's out of hand. It's actually gotten too big for me. Flay plays sometimes, Colicchio sometimes, Hank Azaria, Shaun O'Hara from the Giants. It's this great mix of everything from food guys to hip hop guys to Wall Street guys to sports guys. Annie Duke played twice. Phil Ivey played twice and cleaned us all out. It's just a 5/10 game, so theoretically shouldn't be that expensive, but people tell me it plays like a 10/25 game. You need to bring $5k to the game. So a lot of us want to have a recession game now, and play a little more hospitably for the next six months. We'll see.