This post is the second part of my 2 part series on things I learned while visiting New York City. If you are just joining in, you will want to check out the prior blog post, too. You can read it here.
4) Have great restaurant name.
My first night out I went to one of my favorite spots in the city, Junoon. Junoon means passion or obsession in hindi. What a great name. The restaurant is the creation of chef Rajesh Bhardwaj who was born in New Delhi and who’s considered a pioneer in Indian cuisine. This place is not your average Indian restaurant; it’s elegant and the food is unbelievable.
5) Brand your bar.
The restaurant calls its lounge the Patiala Lounge after an iconic Maharaja who is well known for his flamboyant extravagance. The lounge boasts and toasts an extensive selection of artisanal spirits made with many herbs and spices also found in their cuisine.
6) Create a hallmark display near the restrooms.
Junoon gives their guest lots to talk about including this spice room and display on the way to the restrooms. The visual and aromatic sensations add nice aspects to this delightful brand experience.
7) Never stop delivering on your brand.
Another favorite place of mine in NYC is L’Express located at 249 Park Avenue. They serve up really good, French fare in a charming laid back space, 24/7!!! That’s right craving a Fresh Tuna Niçoise salad at midnight, not a problem.
8) Choice. Choice. Choice. A noble brand message.
On the hunt for a good breakfast, I stumbled upon the Todd English Food Hall. What a pleasant discovery. Hidden under the Plaza Hotel you’ll find nine diverse food concept choices ranging from a sushi bar to a bakery. True to form, note the name, Food Hall. But, don’t confuse Food Hall with a food court – that would be a major insult to Todd and the team behind this food wonderland. As much as I love NYC, I don’t love waiting for food when I’m starving. And there was no wait for breakfast, which was divine.
9) Exercise and eat.
One can never know too much about food and if you can burn off a few of the calories you just sucked down while tasting, it’s even better. The past 4 trips to NYC, I signed up for a walking food tour and would highly recommend this to any one who’s curious about NYC food and likes history. There are many companies that offer tours, I’ve booked through Zerve and have really enjoyed the experience every time. It’s a good value ($40-75 a person, depending on cuisine choice), fun and educational. The three-hour tours I took this past trip covered Little Italy and China town.
Here is just one of the stops we made in Little Italy. Ferrara Café is America’s first espresso bar and is run by fifth generation family members starting in 1892.
10) Marketing, creativity and luck all matter.
Close by to the Quin Hotel, you’ll find a fabulous upscale steakhouse called Quality Italian Steakhouse. I love this place. The décor vibe is industrial meets old world tradition. The food is traditional Italian fare and American classics. This hot spot is part of the Alan Stillman and son Michael’s Fourth Wall Restaurant group that also owns Smith & Wollensky, Maloney & Porcelli, Quality Meats and their latest venture General Assembly Restaurant & Bar.
If you don’t know Alan Stillman, he’s a former cosmetic salesman who was the brains behind the original singles’ bar T.G.I.F, which he opened in 1965 with a $5,000 loan from his mother. He later sold his stake, or maybe his steak in 1976 for a big chunk of cash. In August 2007, under Alan’s guidance, the public company The Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group was sold for $100,000,000.
A few other interesting facts: The name Smith & Wollensky came from flipping open a phone book to find a name. At first they landed on Smith which seemed a bit boring, so they flipped the pages again and added Wollensky. Alan is also credited with thinking up National Wine Week and was one of first restaurateurs who featured and promoted American wines with fine dining.
11) Why not break tradition? Mix up two unlikely food cuisines.
Who says a French bistro needs to just serve French food. Executive Chef Rich Robson does not. He does do a great job combining two diverse fares, the best of French brasserie cooking with an Asian flair and a serious sushi bar at the Rue 57. From breakfast to late night, this midtown spot is always busy and always good. Excellent outside dining, interesting daily specials and to die for deserts like Oreo Beignets and classic gelatos.
My time in New York City was educational and inspirational. The hardest part is always deciding where to dine with over 2,400 choices.
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