Friday, October 30, 2009

Two gay guys walk into a strip club...

October 30

Undulating. That's a good word, and one that comes to mind when I think of “gentlemen’s clubs.”

Gentlemen’s clubs are, of course, places where men, gentlemanly or otherwise, get to spend time with scantily clad, often undulating women who are paid to be there. They are usually dark places that serve expensive but ill-prepared drinks and food you might not want to eat.

There are exceptions, of course, when it comes to the food. The Diamond Cabaret, a topless bar in Denver, was for years known as having some of the best steak in town. I don’t know whether it still is, but it might be.

And here in New York Robert's, developed with the help of chef Adam Perry Lang, was opened a couple of years ago at the Penthouse Executive Club and got a positive one-star review from New York Times critic Frank Bruni. The critic also took the opportunity of the review to go ahead and more-or-less come out as a gay man.

Many people in New York tittered with glee, which, it being 2007, I thought was, well, I’m pretty sure I’ve never used the word “puerile” before, but I think this is the right place for it. News that a food writer in New York City was more-or-less openly gay in 2007 shouldn't have been worth a single titter, but there you had it.

Anyway, there’s a new Robert’s in town. The owners of the Penthouse Executive Club bought the former Scores location in west Chelsea and reopened it with a Robert's inside. In charge of the food: Will Savarese, an alumnus of Le Cirque, Aureole, La Côte Basque and Westchester County institution La Crémaillère. He was executive chef at The Tap House, too.

I ate at the new Robert’s last week and, for a laugh, I invited my friend Clark Mitchell to dine with me. We both appreciated the irony of two gay men having steak at a girly bar, especially at one just a few doors down from The Eagle, arguably the most skeevy gay leather bar in all of New York City.

General manager Ed Norwick sat down with us over Martinis (mine: gin — Hendrick's at the waiter's suggestion — with olives; Clark's: gin — Beefeater — with a twist, because they didn’t have cocktail onions) and talked about plans to open more Robert's at gentlemen's clubs across the country. He explained that strip clubs and similar venues aren’t typically the first stop in an evening, and sometimes life (traffic, a phone call from the wife, what have you) gets in the way in the middle of an evening out. If guests start the night at a place with undulating women, well, there’s a good chance that they’ll stay.

For dinner, Clark and I split a porterhouse for two and drank a big Cabernet. He had an iceberg-and-blue-cheese salad — not, to his minor dismay, in wedge form — and I tried a nightly special of field greens, balsamic vinegar etc. Dessert was a sort of chocolate brownie cake.

Clark’s an editor at Travel + Leisure, and so while the guys at the table next to us bought dinner and drinks for their undulating women, we were left alone and spoke with concern and sadness about the demise of Gourmet magazine, and shared stories of our own publications’ adjustments in these difficult times.

Here at Nation’s Restaurant News, those adjustments are big. Next year the print magazine will be bi-weekly instead of weekly, and the content will be less news and more awesome analytical stuff — not too long, but smart — as well as an easy-to-use news synopsis in the front of the book (that’s what we in the magazine business call a magazine — a book).

For breaking news, of course, you can turn to our fact-packed web site, but you might as well go ahead and subscribe to the print version. Come on, all the cool people are doing it.

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