Saturday, December 15, 2007

Down a dark alley in the Bowery you'll find . . . NYC's coolest restaurant?

Let me state one fact from the outset, in case there is any doubt: I am NOT cool. Occasionally, however, I mingle with those who are, and, being the sponge I am, a bit of it rubs off on me. Thanks to a suggestion by my in-the-know former-Manhattanite colleague Delphine, my dinner in NYC at Freemans Restaurant is a great example.

Last weekend, we went to NYC to meet up with John's dad, his brother, and a couple of his cousins in from Indiana and Albany. Friday night was "ladies night out" and these fun, adventurous ladies were trusting enough to follow my lead to . . .

All of the above photos were taken in a dark, scary alley in the Bowery (yes, The Bowery- historical Skid Row of NYC), at the end of which is uber-hipster restaurant, Freemans (named after its location, since it is so cool it doesn't even have a proper mapquest-able address.) The place feels more like a speakeasy than a restaurant, since my online efforts to pinpoint its location consistently led me to places that were decidedly wrong. (I'm apparently not alone, since the NY Times called it a restaurant "hiding in not-so-plain sight.") Even the website is only 1 page- when was the last time you saw a one-page website? It's almost retro- like a yellow-page listing. And nary a map or menu in sight, you'll note.

So who gets the bright idea to put a restaurant in such a daunting location? Somebody with a nose for marketing, apparently, because the place has been open for 3 years and it's still HOT HOT HOT. The story goes that even the Bush twins had to endure the requisite never-ending wait for a table.

To give a sense of how too-cool-for-itself the place is, here is an approximation of the conversation I had at 6:30 pm (so early it's practically lunchtime, by NYC standards):
Me: "How long is the wait for 3 people?"
Exotically gorgeous, dreadlocked, confused-looking host: "It would be obnoxious for us to have that conversation." (his exact words)
Me: "Huh? Would you translate that please?"
Exotically gorgeous, dreadlocked, confused-looking host: "We can start to think about taking names again in 30 minutes."
Me: "Annie, party of 3"
Exotically gorgeous, dreadlocked, confused-looking host: "Come back in an hour-and-a-half."

What are we going to do in the Bowery for an hour-and-a-half, you ask? Aha! Follow me!

It's not every week that a world-famous, important new museum opens up, but one opened this month in, where else, the Bowery! The New Museum is the generically-named museum housed in a decidedly non-generic, cutting edge building that is worth a visit in itself. In fact, the building is about the only thing worth a visit, because the art is really crap- all that modern stuff that gives "modern art" a bad rap in the eyes of the average Joe. Times like that, I always try to remind myself that somebody has to push the envelope, otherwise we'd all still be looking at portraits of old, dead, rich people.

One of my favorites was a "performance art" piece by a lady who walks around the City, spouting random things, reading old letters, etc. as she stomps around the neighborhood. Wow, in my 'hood, we just call that a wacky, screaming, homeless person, but maybe it's "the new Warhol"- who knows? Only time will tell, and that's the exciting part.

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