Welcome to episode 2 of Tuesdays with Jeffrey, a series we'll run for the month of October. Every Tuesday we spend one hour with the one and only Jeffrey "El Chod" Chodorow, looking over his shoulder as he readies, opens, and steadies his newest creation, Tanuki Tavern, and monitors the rest of the Chodoverse.
12:23 PM: El Chod and Baby El Chod, examining their new lunch menu at Ed's.
It's the first day of lunch service at Ed's Chowder House, and so we are here for a spot-check. 12:00 PM Actually, we're doubling up today. We'll also be meeting with Joe Dolce, former editor-in-chief of Star, current social media consultant, who will propose a social media expiriment for the China Grill restaurants. 12:16 PM But first, El Chod quickly checks in with Ed Brown, the 'Ed' in Ed's Chowder House. It's called Ed's so that people know I'm not cooking, Jeffrey explains. Saturday: 437 covers, based on 170 resies on the books, plus 40 no-shows. That's 230-odd walk-ins and that's a good thing. 12:18 PM Which brings up the matter of private parties, of which El Chod isn't a fan. 12:19 PM "People don't understand why I have to charge $60,000 for a 7-9 PM cocktail party. But I can't open the restaurant ahead of time, and these things never end on time." 6-8 doesn't work either, because you open up the dining room empty at 8:30 and people think you're dying. The only solution is the late party, preferably hosted by a massive celebrity. "We closed China Grill for a Madonna premiere once, at it started at 10 PM." 12:21 PM "If you tell people they have to leave because Madonna is coming, they're ok with that."
Ed's Chowderhouse, Open for Lunch
12:23 PM A round of ice teas, please. Ed's is looking good for day 1 of lunch service, with several tables taken. On the success so far of Ed's, El Chod instructs, "Never use the same designer to redo a restaurant that did it the first time." We talk about good overhauls and bad, namely the Royalton. 12:26 PM "You know, I had talked to those guys about running the restaurant." No, sir, we didn't. The problem with the design, The Choderhouse explains, is that it was mostly a gut reno. A place that iconic, you have to preserve the bones. One idea El Chod had proposed: run a bar the length of the 'pit' on the left side of the lobby. On the 'pit' side you'd have a drinking height bar; on the hallways side, a place to eat. Ladies and gentleman, the man, the myth, the etc. 12:33 PM But the real reason we're here today is to talk about China Grill. "I want to reach the people who used to go, have moved on, and haven't been here for a while." What we need here, people, is a Rediscover China Grill plan. And herein lies our social media experiment for today, and El Chod has three ideas. 12:30 PM First, Taxi TV ads. When you buy on the NBC network, Chodz explains, you can buy by geography (ABC, just sells impressions). Thus, he'll be airing a :15 spot in cabs traveling between 42nd and 96th Streets and, more or less, river to river. West of Eighth Avenue, Ed's gets the spots; east, China Grill. 12:35 PM Second, in non-NY markets, China Grill is already offering half-portions, this a move to let people try more and lower prices. More the former, El Chod notes, as check averages haven't moved by more than a few bucks. When the time is right, this is going to set the Twitter ablaze, so requests Jeffrey. 12:39 PM Third, three words: dim sum disco, although this is still just a plan and will need a bit more thought. But 12:43 PM the words 'go,' 'go,' and 'dancers' were uttered here. 12:50 PM Somehow this gets us to the topic of Rocco's. We agree, if things had gone differently, Rocco's could have been the Houston's of Italian food. 12:52 PM By now, we've been through most of Ed's lunch menu and Jeffrey and Zach are pleased. The low-carb pasta option is virtually identical to the regular (Miraculously, true. --Ed.) and this lobster roll is great. 12:54 PM Here, Jeffrey realizes he perhaps wants to try and all-claw lobster roll and a stone crab roll. 12:55 PM Speaking of which, have we tried the fried chicken at Joe Stone Crab? It's spectacular, per The El. 12:59 PM The Chod is off, to a meeting with reps from the Camino Real Hotel in Mexico. The Le Cirque there is closing and they're hoping Team Chod will take the space. "By the way, China Grill does very well in Latin Countries."1:00 PM
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