Black lights illuminate your opponent as electronic music pulses in the background. You raise your paddle, and swing. The Ping-Pong match begins. This unusual scene unfolds nearly every day and night at Spin New York, a self-described "Ping-Pong social club."
Lauded in a range of media, this now-international franchise was created with a firm vision in mind. In an interview on Anderson Live, co-owner and actress Susan Saradon explains her love of Ping-Pong: "it cuts across age, body type, gender ? little girls can beat their fathers." In an NBC News segment, co-owner Jonathan Brickland adds that their mission was to marry the social nature of the sport with the atmosphere of a country club, except "more inclusive ... silly, and frivolous," and ideally with fewer golf-cart crashes.
Spin New York certainly takes this fun-focused mission seriously. The sprawling hall houses 17 Ping-Pong courts, including a central court where professional players compete in regular tournaments. These same professionals are on-hand for private instruction, though players are more than welcome to keep things casual. Meanwhile, an on-site restaurant and bar serves seasonally changing plates alongside cocktails made from fruit purees and blended Teaologie teas. From the seats or the courts, visitors may see one of the old building's original features: a giant window that looks out onto the passing subway train.
On most nights, a DJ provides a soundtrack to dining and play, although live bands are often a weekend fixture. Adding to its socially-focused mission, Spin also gathers people to support charitable causes; recently, Ms. Sarandon used her club to host a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
?This is no Carrie Bradshaw bar,? The Rundown NYC firmly states about Bishops & Barons?a swanky cocktail joint created by the owners of Employees Only and The Gates in summer 2012. Despite fashion-forward accents of peacock feathers, zebra stripes, and delicate chandeliers, a vintage speakeasy vibe predominates, thanks to a gold pressed-tin ceiling, paisley-patterned wallpaper, and dark wood furnishings. Named for two historic Brooklyn street gangs, Bishops & Barons harkens back to prohibition's heyday with delicate cocktails dreamed up by mixologist Dushan Zaric and a flat-screen TV that only plays speeches made by Calvin Coolidge. The unique drinks blend together potent liquors including absinthe and tequila, with unusual ingredients, such as brown sugar, rosebuds, and fig puree. Bartenders also sling draft, craft, and bottled brews include Sixpoint Crisp Pilsner and Abita Light as well as seven types of white and eight types of red wine. Back in the kitchen, chefs put a twist on traditional dishes, from corn on the cobb slathered in garlic, lemon, and scarmozza, to St. Louis?style ribs crowned with honey barbeque and peanuts. The petite menu also showcases East Coast Blue Point oysters, quail, and wagyu flank steak.
When Ronn Teitelbaum opened the first Johnny Rockets location in 1986, his goal was to create a restaurant where people could escape the postmodern blues of everyday life and experience a taste of time-honored Americana. The name itself is a nod to this ideal?it combines the star of a classic American fable, Johnny Appleseed, and a classic car, Oldsmobile?s beefy Rocket 88. The chain now makes itself at home in America's cultural landmarks, including Yankee Stadium and the Flamingo Hotel.
During dinners at the famous burger joints, you?ll see signs of simpler times, starting with the cooks and servers. Dressed head to toe in white, including white paper hats, they look like they?ve fallen out of a wormhole from the 1950s ready to sling shakes and cook up some eats. Behind a stainless-steel bar lined with red leather stools they tend to their traditional diner fare, including burgers and melts with sides such as chili-cheese fries and onion rings. Riding sidecar to each meal is a collection of hand-dipped and hand-spun floats, shakes, and malts topped with whipped cream.
It's tough to pin down the culinary inspirations of the chefs at The Press Box. Peer into the kitchen and they might be preparing a traditional Irish breakfast of Irish sausages, baked beans, and black and white pudding, or they might be whipping up penne a la vodka with grilled chicken and sundried tomatoes. But whether diners are feasting on a burger stuffed with boursin cheese or Thai chicken stir fry with lemongrass and coconut, they'll lounge among handcrafted mahogany woodwork, exposed brickwork, and a glass frontage that opens onto 2nd Avenue. Six plasma television and projection screens show games from packages such as NFL Sunday Ticket, MLB Extra Innings, and Curling: What Is Curling? Sports also screen in the private party room, which accommodates up to 100 guests for a standing soiree and 75 for seated events.
It should come as no surprise that the bartenders at Manhattan Proper know how to make a proper manhattan. They start with Basil Hayden’s small-batch bourbon and an exact blend of sweet and dry vermouth. After mixing in a dash of bitters, they add the finishing touch: a bourbon-soaked cherry. The care with which this drink is crafted finds its reflection in the bar’s impeccably designed interior, where lofted ceilings and minimalist, industrial-chic decor create a space that can accommodate huge crowds without feeling too packed. The extra elbow room is fortunate, since guests arrive in droves on the weekends to feast on burgers, catch live sports games on the bar’s flat-screen televisions, and obsessively count the buttons on the dining room’s tufted leather sofas.
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