December 25, 2013

The Social Dining Experiment

Pick up phone.
Make reservation.
Go to restaurant.
Eat dinner.
Go home.

There is a set routine to dining out.  And for the most part, the routine never changes – or we assume that it can’t change.

First launched in New Orleans, Dinner Lab was founded by Brian Bordainick and three of his friends as a social dining experiment.
Dinner Lab - Sept 26

The members-only club was designed to challenge the rules and routine of dining out and bring a unique dining experience.  Each diner is able to experience a bespoke dinner highlighting the creations of an undiscovered chef in an unconventional locale.  In late September, Dinner Lab expanded into New York, and I’ve had the privilege of photographing the dinners from the very first dinner in the city.

In New York, Dinner Lab has hosted dinners at locations such as South Street Seaport, an opera house in Williamsburg, a dance studio in Flatiron, and even an abandoned warehouse in Red Hook.
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The locations alone are enough to build excitement and anticipation at each dinner.  But the more amazing aspect of these events is in the execution.  There are no real kitchens used for cooking and there are no existing front of the house spaces used for dining.  Still, there is no detail left untouched – from the tables and chairs, the water bottles and makeshift kitchens (that are assembled every single dinner), as well as every aspect of service that is meticulously choreographed.
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Each of these dinners provides a way to break out of the routine no typical dinner can at any restaurant.  For the chefs, Dinner Lab provides them with a platform to tell their story and test new concepts.  For the diners, they are given a channel to provide direct feedback on their meal, as well as first-hand access to the chefs and staff that created the experience.
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As a social experiment, the power of food is tested at every event.  Because there are no assigned seats or tables, diners are able to break the norms of socializing only within their group.  And the common thread of their love for food brings freedom to allow them to engage amongst strangers.
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Today, Dinner Lab has expanded into 10 cities: New Orleans, Austin, Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, DC, and Atlanta. Due to high volume of interest, membership may be currently sold out.  But sign up for the waitlist because I can guarantee that there will be many interesting and exciting dinners in store in 2014!

To check out past New York Dinner Lab events, click here.

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December 9, 2013

Changing the Face of Street Food in New York

I’ve been to my share of restaurants, and there’s one thing in common that keep me coming back for more – great service! From the hole in the wall to the white tablecloth restaurants, the most memorable dining experiences is when both food and service are spot on.

Two months ago, my friend and I dropped by Taquitoria on the Lower East Side, which had opened in September. Being both foodies, we were intrigued to find out what 3 Restaurant Marc Forgione alums were doing opening up a taquitos concept. And we were thoroughly impressed with both the food and service.

Our tasting of taquitos were personally served to us by Brad nicely plated with all the fixin’s! Talk about first-rate service!  After that amazing experience, I had to sit down with the guys to learn more about their vision.
Taquitoria took only 7 months to open their doors, from conception to opening day, in a prime location in the Lower East Side rubbing elbows with LES hot spots like Katz’s Delicatessen. And when they opened, Brad Holtzman, Barry Frish, and Matt Conway had two things in mind -

1. Make the best taquitos (aka rolled tacos, aka falutas) ever
2. Create a hospitality driven street food concept

Now regardless of whether you’ve hung out in the Lower East Side or not, street food generally doesn’t scream hospitality. It’s probably one of the last things you’d think of when you think “late night eateries.” But armed with their experience from Restaurant Marc Forgione (one of New York’s most underrated restaurant in my personal opinion), the guys at Taquitoria is taking on the challenge to change the face of street food in New York.
Their vision comes to life every night by giving customers what they want - delicious food, coupled with a warmness that is engrained in their beings. And with just $5.44 (includes tax), you can get 3 delicious, crunchy taquitos that is made with top-notch ingredients and will satisfy your late night craving. An added bonus is the huge smile you’ll get from Brad, Barry, and the rest of the hospitality agents. For a restaurant many may regard as "just a hole-in-the-wall restaurant," I can guarantee that you’ll leave feeling if you dined at a top-notch, white tablecloth restaurant.
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Although they aren't looking to expand their menu anytime soon, there will be specials from time to time. With the rare convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, there were two specials that were featured the day before Thanksgiving.  In February, look out for their Super Bowl taquito with their Buffalo Chicken Taquito.  The description sounds amazing and I'm sure they'll sell out fast!
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If you haven’t made your way over to Taquitoria, I highly recommend you do so immediately! Don’t forget to take the time to listen for the *crunch* of the taquitos, and have a taquitastic experience! 

168 Ludlow Street

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