Chef Ricardo Cardona might be from El Salvador, but that doesn’t mean his cooking sticks to tradition. At Mamajuana Café, he draws on more than 25 years of cooking to build his modern cuisine on a foundation of his homeland’s centuries-old cooking traditions. And it seems like his efforts have paid off: his Nuevo Latino dishes, which also prominently feature Dominican flavors, earned the eatery a Critics’ Pick designation from New York magazine. All that attention might be on account of the chef’s inventive flavor combinations, such as sweet plantains stuffed with salted cod, chicken-tempura sushi rolls, and Cornish game hen topped with diced chorizo and lobster. In the dining space, tufted leather banquettes run along the wall just beneath studio lighting and backlit artwork. Bright red and earth-tone curtains give the room a clublike vibe, which set the tone for when diners take to the dance floor between courses.
At Raxx Pool Room, Sports Bar & Grill, rows of pool tables gleam under bright lights, waiting for the clatter of opening breaks and thuds of 8 balls sinking into called pockets. As expert or novice players line up their cues on the pristine felt, ample space around the tables allows for game attempts at tricky shots or rounds of Hokey Pokey to calm nerves. True to the sports bar's name, pool isn't the only activity here?arcade games, beer-pong matches, dart games, and karaoke performances grant their share of entertainment, as well. At the bar, the lights are a bit dimmer, so guests can relax after games by watching sports on the slate of 18 TVs?plus a 100-inch projector?and pairing wraps and burgers from the grill with a selection of specialty cocktails.
Senses come alive when sitting on the plush red couches at Kasbah Hookah Lounge. The sounds of DJs spinning tracks sync with the rhythmic movements of exotically clad belly dancers roaming from table to table, weaving through clouds of aromatic hookah smoke. Customers can puff on more than 85 flavor combinations of the house’s 24 Starbuzz shishas, including classic options such as mango, or pairings such as honey, vanilla, and mint. The house also crafts their own signature blends for the five VIP flavors, including cinnamon toast crunch, which pairs apple, cinnamon, and banana. Bottles of wine and pints of beer accompany hookahs on the table, providing all of the fillers for a comfortable night out without having to lug around childhood teddy bears.
Executive Chef Dana Oddo draws from culinary skills cultivated from his time in the Memphis barbecue scene at Fuego Picante, where she fuses modern Mexican food with smokehouse barbecue fare. The restaurant's decor mirrors this savory synthesis, playfully blending sophisticated light fixtures and streamlined furnishings with whimsical flourishes, such as a mural of a cowboy. This serves as the perfect setting for Chef Oddos' warm and contemporary fare: tamales, chicken taquitos, and shrimp Creole all share menu space with mojitos that are freshly squeezed from the fruit of the 80-proof-rum tree.
In 1997, Chef Hok Chin moved to New York City from Hong Kong, where he’d been in training with some of the city’s finest chefs since age 14. Though his culinary talents were already formidable, the ambitious young chef faced a hurdle he couldn’t simply spatula himself over: the English language. Undaunted, he headed back to work the humblest kitchen positions and scrabbled his way back to the top at establishments such as Tavern on the Green, The Mark Hotel, and most recently, La Caravelle. In 2010, the multinational gourmet teamed up with nightlife impresario Brian Rosenberg, and the duo’s new venture, Sugar Dining Den and Social Club, drove Joanne Starkey of the New York Times to rave, “The food is delicious—much better than it has to be—and the service is excellent.”
Something between a nightclub and a fine-dining establishment, Sugar immediately immerses its guests in a world of bright lights, pulsing beats, and an arrestingly modern architectural scheme that sets a decorative forest of tree branches beneath a looming vaulted ceiling. After a dinner of gourmet fusion cuisine, such as Pacific Rim skirt steak with green chili potatoes and hand-cut sweet potato fries with maple-chipotle barbecue sauce, the eating area transforms into a dance floor soundtracked by some of today’s most popular DJs. The cocktail list keeps the party rolling late into the night with charmingly titled offerings such as the Black and White Cookie and the Swedish Fish.
Whether just entering the world of dance or already a seasoned performer, students are in good hands when they step into one of American Theater Dance Workshop's studios. The faculty boasts professional dancers and choreographers with backgrounds on Broadway and in well-known ballet companies. Some have even starred in films, as is the case for instructor Leslie Browne, who garnered an Academy Award nomination for her role in 1978's The Turning Point. There's one other professional artist you'll find in most classes: a pianist, who plays live music during the lessons. Aside from ballet, the studio teaches other dance disciplines, including musical theater, tap, and modern.