Neighborhood enters renaissance

Once synonymous with bums and punks, the Bowery’s current renaissance is sensitive to the neighborhood’s history. Meaning: The punks are still there, but now they’re better dressed. Here are a few of its newer attractions

New Museum of Contemporary Art
Last December, 30 years after the New Museum opened in New York’s Fine Arts Building in Tribeca, the socially committed institution unveiled one of the city’s most stunning new pieces of architecture: an eight-story structure of stacked boxes whose aluminum mesh facade is visible for blocks along Prince Street. As one gets closer, a rainbow neon sign by artist Ugo Rondinone comes into focus, expressing the museum’s sentiment about its new digs: “Hell, Yes!” The current exhibition explores the work of the building’s architects, jointly known as SANAA, with acrylic plastic models of their other projects in the lobby, as well as the furniture by the firm that’s actually meant for sitting — highlighting the concept of the street-level space as a “public living room.”
235 Bowery; (212) 219-1222

Blue & Cream
In a sort of retail reverse commute, the upscale Hamptons boutique that caters to shopaholic celebs like Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen twins opened a Bowery outpost last October. Lines like Zac Posen, Doo Ri, Herve Leger, and Jovovich-Hawk share the space with rotating art exhibitions.
1 E. First St.; (212) 533-3088

The Bowery Wine Co.
Espousing the philosophy “all for wine, wine for all,” the Bowery Wine Co., which opened last month on the ground floor of the luxury residence Avalon Bowery Place, aims to take the snootiness out of oenophilia. Its owners are lifelong New Yorkers, including Chris Sileo, the former beverage director at the Plaza Hotel. Sileo’s old pal Bruce Willis, a minority investor, was recently seen behind the bar, pouring the vino at a private party. “I love the yin and the yang of the neighborhood,” Sileo says. “I still want the musician who lives with two roommates to be able to come and hang out.”
13 E. First St.; (212) 614-0800

In the works: Daniel Boulud’s burger joint
Downtown lovers of Boulud’s bistro burgers will have to wait until the end of ’08 to sample his famous truffle-and-fois gras patties at the still-unnamed 100-seat space between First and Houston streets. Head chef Jim Lincoln, currently sous chef of DB Bistro Moderne, has conceived a menu with a broad selection of fancy burgers and casual brasserie fare. Designer Thomas Schlesser, the man behind Bar Boulud, nods to the area’s history as the restaurant supply district, with open shelving in the dining room stocked with dry goods, and views into the kitchen. Also on the menu: a great selection of artisanal beers.
299 Bowery; no phone yet

John Varvatos
To the collective relief of rock ‘n’ roll lovers across the city, menswear designer John Varvatos tread lightly when he took over the space revered as “the birthplace of punk,” CBGB. Varvatos approached his second NYC location as a concept store, preserving the original club walls — posters, graffiti and grime intact — and displaying rare CBGB memorabilia throughout. As the designer notes, rock and fashion have always been intertwined. “Here they will live together!” says Varvatos, who has used Iggy Pop in his ad campaigns. Expect occasional in-store performances.
315 Bowery; (212) 358-0315

Bowery Electric
Talk about a power trio: Between Jesse Malin, Johnny T and Mike Stuto, this brand-new bar’s partners were behind legendary East Village night spots like Coney Island High and Niagara. But Bowery Electric is far from a dive. There’s a sommelier-approved wine list and flowers on the custom-built Wenge wood bar. The music, though, is purely rock ‘n’ roll. Expect DJs spinning tunes from Buddy Holly to Spoon, including, of course, patron saints the Ramones.
327 Bowery; (212) 228-0228

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