We like how in every industry there are quiet legends and louder ones; one kind isn’t better than the other, which is why we cover both here at The New Potato. Nightlife guru David Rabin – the industry genius behind projects like The Lamb’s Club, the recently-closed Double Seven (still timeless in our eyes) and Jimmy (at the James Hotel) – falls under the quiet legend category. He’s recently dipped his feet further into the restaurant industry with Cole’s in the West Village – a new hot-spot with a tavern vibe serving comfortable American classics. Rabin aims to have his spot become the next timeless one, and if history tells us anything, he’s definitely an industry tour de force to be reckoned with. He found time between schmoozing power lunching customers at Lamb’s and overseeing the vibe at Jimmy to chat with us on openings, nightlife and the era of the one-name model…
What would be your ideal food day?
Calories don’t count?
Calories don’t count!
If calories don’t count, my ideal food day would be Nova Scotia and Cream Cheese on a toasted bagel at Barney Greengrass. Are we just talking New York here?
No, you can travel; you can go anywhere – Paris if you want to!
No, I’m too ignorant (laughs). After the bagel, I’d be bursting, so believe it or not I’d have a salad at Energy Kitchen. I love that place. Then I’d finish it off with a perfect medium rare steak at…(I used to say Sparks, but now I’m not sure). I like the Strip House steaks. I like the Arlington Club – Laurent Tourondel is a really talented chef, so that’s where I’d get it. And somewhere along the road, I’d have some dark chocolate or something.
How would you define the Cole’s restaurant concept?
I’m involved with The Lamb’s Club, and I’ve done some nightlife spots. We don’t really have a place restaurant-wise that a lot of our friends wanted to go to. We have great places for lunch and great spots for cocktails at night. So, for the last couple of years, I’ve been hoping to find the perfect little venue where friends of mine would feel comfortable dining – and that I would feel comfortable dining in.
I love Tiny’s; I love Miss Lily’s; I love Indochine. I like casual, fun and approachable restaurants where I run into a lot of my friends. If I’m going out, that’s what I’m hoping to achieve. I was thinking that if I could stumble on the perfect venue, I’d do it [open a restaurant]. Out of the clear blue sky, my friend called and said the woman who owns this spot [Cole’s] was looking to revamp it. We came to the conclusion that it made sense to revamp and get [Interior Designer] Steven Gambrel in here.
I love his work. He’s never done a restaurant before; he’s only done homes. So he had the perfect vision for what we wanted. We wanted to be cozy and authentic – and like the West Village – but at the same time not be like a Disney set for the West Village. We make some references to the historic era of the village and to the art, literature and writing. As someone coming into the restaurant though, it doesn’t seem like some sort of over-the-top recreation of what someone thought the West Village was like in the fifties and sixties.
Food-wise, it was important that it be very good but very approachable – not food that people needed to figure out. There are plenty of restaurants where you go to experiment food-wise. We knew we would be somewhat of a destination – by virtue of who we know – but we wanted to be a neighborhood spot so that six months to a year from now, if we weren’t the flavor of the moment, it wouldn’t matter. It will still be a great place people love. It’s amazing to create a place that lasts like The Odeon, Raoul’s or The Red Cat.
Jimmy Bradley [Chef/Owner of The Red Cat] is a friend of mine; he recommended our chef to us. He’s fantastic. We were having a hard time finding the right chef. I emailed Jimmy and he had the perfect guy – Daniel Eardley. Daniel was really willing to go right into the mode of prepared, delicious, clean food. That’s the goal. It’s a place you can come for brunch, dinner, on a date one night and with your old friends another night. That’s what we set out to achieve.