Omar Hernandez

Omar Hernandez has created a half and half spot tucked away in a brownstone on 9th street that simply oozes both a classic and cool vibe. One half – Omar’s La Ranita – is the restaurant serving up seasonal American cuisine, while the other – Omar’s – is a members-only private dinner club. We love both spots, and are fans of Hernandez’s effort to bring back the supper club, as well as continue the newly popular trend of ‘members only’ spots. It does have a ring to it doesn’t it? Peruse our chat with the man of mystery, who definitely knows how to work a room (whether it’s with coveted ‘members’ or regular schmucks like us)…

On your ideal food day from start to finish…

After I check my social media, I have a warm glass of water with lemon. My homemade cortadito brew coffee is a must first thing in the morning as well. For breakfast, I usually have an Acai bowl with berries and bananas before heading to the gym. For a mid-morning snack, a peanut butter, calorie-free shake as I head to the restaurant to go over the list of reservations and VIPs expected that night. My perfect lunch is an arugula salad with grilled salmon, black olives and pecorino cheese paired with a ginger lemonade spritzer. As an afternoon sweet – on a perfect day – a leisurely tarte tatin and another cortadito. I spend my evenings at the restaurant and usually indulge in a pre-dinner snack – our Lobster Bites or Chicken Liver Pate with a cold glass of Chateau Jouclary Rosé. For a late dinner, if I’m really hungry, I’ll lean towards our Spring Lamb Shank with Carrots and Chickpeas paired with a Tuscan Lisini “San Biaggio.” For a lighter option, the Striped Bass with Manila Clams and English Peas is phenomenal on the spring menu. I’ll have a glass of Domaine Thomas Sancerre “La Crele” with it.

On why ‘members only’ spaces are the next new thing…

I don’t think ‘members only’ spaces are the next new thing. They have always existed and been part of New York City’s social landscape (the Metropolitan Club, the 21 Club…). What we’re doing is a private dining club that feels like home – in essence, our members are our family members. To me, the sense of home is timeless and comforting, welcoming friendship and camaraderie.

On the history of the La Ranita space…

The history of the La Ranita space is what attracted me to it in the first place. Before the Hotel Griffou, it was the Penguin Club and before that Mary Lou’s,  a major piece of New York’s nightlife history in the eighties and nineties. The space has a lure of evanesce and romanticism about it. It’s hard to explain until you experience it in person.

On balancing exclusivity and accessibility…

For us, both spaces are intimate, elegant and yet relaxed in their own ways. They both speak to two different types of demographics – the important part is that they’re not exclusive, but very inclusive.

Three pieces of advice to customers…

When you enter into Omar’s La Ranita, we encourage you to relax and enjoy the ambiance with our delectable cuisine. Socialize and connect; we love to encourage our members and patrons to interact with each other outside of Omar’s door. Work hard, play well. And also, always Instagram.

Three pieces of advice to newly minted restaurateurs…

From my background with The Raleigh, Hotel Americano and The Lion, the most vital aspect starts with the cuisine and the team behind it. Finding the right chef that fits with your vision is very important. Always forecast yourself conservatively in terms of sales. And lastly, lighting, lighting, lighting. The right lighting is key to the environment you want to create.

Restaurants you love besides your own…

Cafe Cluny, The Odeon, and Sushi Nakazawa

On the customer always being right…

Always. That’s it.

On the future of members’ clubs…

New York is definitely “Londonizing” itself and adopting that civilized mentality when it comes to members’ clubs. Members have fun and they appreciate the privacy and intimacy of private clubs.

One thing no one knows about Omar’s…

Everyone always asks about THE VAULT in Omar’s. You will have to come in to see it for yourself.  The vault used to house alcohol during the Prohibition era and was considered an original speakeasy. We love it.

*Omar Hernandez, photographed at Omar’s by Danielle Kosann. Omar wears a custom suit and Del Toro shoes.