Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘treasure trove’ Category

Niko’s Breakfast Club

In american, breakfast, chicago, diner, treasure trove on July 7, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Niko’s Breakfast Club isn’t a place you only visit once. Lodged in a strip mall off the main drag in Oak Lawn, Illinois, just outside Chicago, Niko’s draws biker gangs and big families alike with its extensive menu and breezy atmosphere.

Niko’s décor is downright fowl. A motley crew of chicken statuettes festoons the entire restaurant. Multicolored wooden chickens with spindly legs and iron weathervane roosters perch high on the cheery walls of yellow and green, while plump ceramic hens squat sunnily along banks of booths, upholstered in a kitschy floral. A neon Marilyn Monroe hangs over the dinette bar, where waitresses refill coffee quickly and with a smile.

Just as the furnishings at Niko’s extol the virtues of the chicken, its menu waxes poetic about the egg. Four pages devote themselves to cleverly branded categories, including Egg’straordinary Omelettes, Egg’citing Scramblers, and Egg’stremely Satisfying, a decadent litany featuring hollandaise in every dish. Even the children’s menu pays homage to our feathered friends, with the Little Rooster entrée of eggs, toast and hash browns.

Niko’s globetrots its way toward the toothsome, pleasing all palettes while tweaking traditional dishes and having a little fun in the process. The Irish Benny plays along nicely with the German Breakfast, and southwestern frittatas settle easily beside Eurocentric crepes and blintzes. A dozen unique combinations of hearty meats and eggs gratify the hungryman, while the health-conscious can pore over an equal number of oatmeal concoctions and mammoth egg-white omelets bursting with veggies. The playful category Toast Egg’strod’naire even forks over an array of desserts in breakfast’s clothing, including the saccharine Pecan Roll French Toast and the even more immoderate Banana Split French Toast.

No matter your proclivity, Niko’s dishes up solid, inventive ways to start your day. Bring a group and an appetite, and get ready to pass your plates around.

Niko’s Breakfast Club is located at 4002 West 111th Street in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Phone: (708) 422-3344. Open daily, 6 am – 3 pm.


The Box

In nightlife, nyc, performance, soho, theater, treasure trove on February 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm

The Box, a post-Cabaret Moulin Rouge in the eastern fringes of lower Manhattan, draws on NYC performance art of the 1970s and 80s, circus performances, Victorian chic and classic burlesque. Rocky Horror wishes it was this cool.

Originally a sign factory and then a speakeasy, the club retains its dark, turn-of-the-century glamor, with carefully restored vintage wallpaper and wood paneling everywhere in its tiny, packed interior. The bouncers wear tuxedos beneath their overcoats. Inside, all the artwork on the walls is either original or borrowed from Europe at great expense. The bar sports dual jeweled chandeliers, a disco ball and a Swarovskied young woman swinging above the bartenders’ heads in a hoop.

Regular audience members lurk in front of the stage every Friday night. Dolled up in black lipstick, feather fanned headpieces and hourglass corsets, the boys and girls crowd around their low table, mixing vodka cranberries from iced decanters and swilling champagne. Fat businessmen in suits lounge at flanking tables, flirting with the skeletal go-go dancers in nipple clips and lacy garters who sit in their laps. Upstairs, VIP guests slosh themselves into oblivion in velvet balcony booths, overlooking the main floor and the stage. Bottle service for a table is $1,000 and up. Sparklers are set off whenever a big liquor purchase is made.

The show starts at 1:30 am. Where to begin? Naked ballerinas. Naked aerialists. A shirtless young man balances on wooden chairs stacked to the stage lights. Another man, dripping with jewels, does splits while balancing lit candles on a sword, balanced point to point on another knife in his teeth. A big-breasted, tattooed woman cuts her forearms and masturbates with a chef’s knife. A transvestite bleeds from the mouth and then pees on the audience. Later, she sodomizes herself with several dildos strapped to a man’s skull. The audience goes wild.

After hours, the audience dances on stage with the coked-out go-go dancers. Champagne flows a little more slowly than before, as coats are gathered and end-of-evening plans are made. Management shepherds everyone out by 4:30 or 5 am, into the frigid streets of SoHo.

Thanks to Ryan Shinji Murray, a great friend and a gifted performer, for making this review possible.

Quixotic Bloggers

In blog, list, treasure trove, website, website wednesday on November 2, 2010 at 11:18 am

Among the innumerable mediocre bloggers out there, a rare few stand out. The questioning. The quirky. The quixotic. The progeny of The Julie/Julia Project, these cats blog on uber-specific topics, never straying from their stated paths and yet holding our attention the whole way. Add them to your blogroll ASAP.

Condom Science

Two crazy-in-love MIT students rate condoms with a frank, enthusiastic tone and an eye for the scientific. You wish your sex life was as educational as this. “Making love in the name of science?” I’m all for it.

The Daily Nail

A different nail polish every day for a year… and much, much more. This well-manicured blogger crafts innovative nail designs from holidays, wallpaper and fabric swatches, TV shows and more. Get inspired for your next girls’ night in.

The Confined Nomad

Three Brooklyn natives set out to eat the cuisine of every nation in the UN, all within the confines of New York City. They’re up to Colombia. Check out where they’ve chowed down and comment on where they should explore next.


In list, music, treasure trove, website, website wednesday on September 29, 2010 at 4:08 pm

This week’s Website Wednesday brings you music to live by. Coincidentally, both sites invoke the climate.
SoundCloud: For when you party. SoundCloud is a sleek, streamlined, uber-fast way to upload and download your favorite tracks. The site tends toward electronic and dance remixes of Top 40 tunes, making it great fodder for your next cardio playlist.

Rainy Mood: For when you study. Rainy Mood loops thirty minutes of calming rainstorm sounds, replete with thunderclaps and chirping birds. Play it with your favorite Yo-Yo Ma or Kenny G tunes and you can burn the midnight oil all night long.

Now if only it would rain men.

New Amsterdam Market

In event, festival, financial district, food, healthy, nyc, treasure trove on September 23, 2010 at 7:57 am

The New Amsterdam Market is lower Manhattan’s answer to the Union Square Greenmarket. With more space, fewer vendors and lower prices, the Market is a great spot to mill about, sample some rich foods, and pick up absurdly cheap groceries.

Trains and traffic rattle above the old Fulton Fish Market, now replete with rows of stalls, each backed by a chalkboard advertising its wares. A few fresh produce stands, manned by gentlemen with lined faces and cracked hands, stand at the edges of the market. Local restaurants, including Jimmy’s 43 and Porchetta, have also set up shop, offering $5 sandwiches and sliders. Make your way inward, though, and there are much richer treasures to uncover. You may find yourself tearing indelicately at pizza Bianca, an oily foccaccia caked with goat cheese, or indulging in the thick, smoky and intensely flavorful bacon from Brooklyn Cured. A few tables down, you might lick prize-winning ricotta or a fun, grainy duck confit from wooden ice cream spoons. (The duck is prepared three other ways: smoked breast meat, prosciutto, and a strong salami). You can cleanse your palate with delicious agua fresca, squeezed from fresh cantaloupe and watermelon and sprinkled with chopped mint, or a surprisingly hoppy probiotic tea called Kombucha.

The more obscure foods are worth a taste test as well. Nettle butter, a pea green paste, is lemony and fresh. A flat, doughnut-shaped Ruis bread, crumbly and nutty, pairs beautifully with thinly-sliced Cheddar and cucumbers at the Nordic Breads stand. Sweet hot mustards from School House Kitchen are zestfully kicky (and they’re launching in Whole Foods this week!) Last weekend, the Anthony Road Wine Company held a grape-stomping demonstration in wooden vats, and invited patrons to get their feet dirty. (This writer’s opinion? Feels like stepping in a lot of seaweed.)

The best part of the New Amsterdam Market (after the food, of course) is the people. Since the Market is a bit of a hike from the nearest subway, the crowds are enthusiastic but not oppressive. The merchants are eager to engage, unlike the Union Square Greenmarket, where cramped space and forced expediency can press you to pay for your nasturtiums and get the hell out. Through pick-up conversations with New Amsterdam vendors, I learned how to process and harvest cocoa beans, where to take classes on killing pigs, and a few neat descriptors for cheese (Cabo is sweet and nutty, Landaff is sour and rustic). I’ll be back for the conversations, and to try a bit more of that bacon.

Jell-O Mold Competition

In brooklyn, dessert, event, exhibit, food, funny, geek, science, smile-inducing, treasure trove on July 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm

To properly celebrate America’s birthday, certain foods are required. The most inscrutable of these culinary staples is Jell-O, an old-timer from the 1950s. Omnipresent yet ignored on many a picnic table, Jell-O manifests itself in various questionable yet patriotic shades, and is packed with similarly questionable fruits. Has the once-proud dessert been sequestered to this sad fate forever?

Never fear! The brave folks in Brooklyn will not let the gelatinous dessert go wobbly into that good night. Recently, down a small, forgettable Park Slope side street, several score amateur Jell-O enthusiasts gathered in the Gowanus Studio Space for the Jell-O Mold Competition, to showcase their imaginative gelatin creations and vie for prizes.

First, there were the obvious edible creations. Along with the predictable shiny apple pie  and red velvet cake, artists assembled Jell-O sushi with chopsticks, slid oysters melting on the half-shell, and carved up a delicious trio of multi-flavored fruit wedges molded into the hulls of peeled grapefruits. For the more culinarily adventurous folk, beef- and pork-flavored Jell-O were carved into taxidermy on wooden plaques. (The flavor was dead on, but the consistency was uncannily, unpleasantly reminiscent of jellied gristle.)

Food wasn’t the only source of inspiration. Piles of translucent, horse-pill-sized pharmaceuticals abounded, as did giant LEGOs, floral plates, and lithographs of the Brooklyn Bridge. A vibrantly blue and silver model of the Brooklyn sewage plant drew laughs, while Jell-O-cum-explosives, complete with a video presentation of said explosions, failed to inspire. The entries showed a huge variance in quality, from the impressive cloth-draped and olive-bedecked display shrine for Bloody Mary Jell-O (molded in the shape of the Virgin herself), to wimpy Styrofoam lunch trays supporting globs of what may have been octopi Vikings, but may also have been last year’s meatloaf, grown sentient and resentful with time. My favorite eats included fruity Jell-O Superballs dispensed from a quarter machine, and an impressive full-sized Tiffany lamp, supported by a sugar paste structure and lit with real bulbs. The most inventive creation, edible drinking cups made with vegan-friendly agar agar, could be filled with your drink of choice and then munched on as well, for a multi-faceted imbibing experience.

While the crowd waited for the judges to review the entries, five or six kinds of free Jell-O shots were on hand. The mixologists were enthusiastically inventive, if a bit heavy-handed with their herbs; tough sprigs of rosemary and acerbic strips of orange rind overpowered two of the jiggling shooters. Still, most of the drinks were popular and disappeared quickly: the delightfully zingy Hair of the Naval; Hot Sh*t (its real name), a dark pudding laced with cinnamon and topped with cream; Summer Salad, a gelatinous vodka watermelon; and the non-alcoholic yet pungent Kir Royale.

If this event was any indication, Jell-O will certainly live to fight another day.


In art, fashion, food, inspiration, photography, treasure trove, website, website wednesday on May 26, 2010 at 8:34 am


Luxirare bills itself as “a weekly webzine dedicated to clothing and cuisine.” This photographic gem is that and so much more.

Luxirare posts blogs infrequently, around once a week. Each post consists almost entirely of photos, and is dedicated to a topic within food or fashion: assembling a boot, say, or making egg nog. Don’t let the mundane titles fool you, though- this is egg nog like you’ve never seen it before. The photographer and blogger behind Luxirare, a young woman named Ji, uses hyper-close zoom lenses, simple compositions and crisp, bright shots to track the progress of each unlikely project.

The result is a creation story told through pictures, beginning with raw, disparate pieces and ending with some jaw-droppingly gorgeous thing, a journey that us peons at our desk jobs can only imagine completing. Ji’s skill and imagination as a sewer and a cook make her photographic results even more special. (When was the last time you saw someone make crayons out of Heath bars?)

Ji occasionally features herself in her fashion photos, a lithe, faceless form with long black hair twirling about a white studio. Generally, though, she is very careful to keep personal details, including any identifiable physical characteristics or personal details, away from the camera, adding to the mystery of the site.

Ji often puts her creations up for sale after she blogs about them, but her livelihood beyond the income Luxirare generates is unrevealed. Whatever her methods are for affording the expense and effort put into her blog, I hope they sustain her creative genius for a very long time.

Date Night: Down The Rabbit Hole

In breakfast, movie, museum, music, nyc, romance, song, tour, treasure trove, upcoming on March 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm

This plan for your weekend is courtesy of BLoGT.

In honor of the long-awaited release of Tim Burton’s interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, in theaters March 5, BLoGT presents a special themed Date Night, designed to help you OD on Lewis Carroll’s enduring drug trip. Do a little pre-planning and -purchasing, wear your walking shoes, and remember to update your iPod before you go!

Head uptown early to snag a seat for breakfast at…

Alice’s Tea Cup, 102 West 73rd Street, at Columbus Avenue

Praised by Yelp and Glitter Sleuth alike, this themed restaurant has three locations on the Upper East and West Sides. The whimsical decor, dotted with quotes from the original novel, and the menu, overflowing with pots of tea, trays of scones and tiers of delicate sandwiches, are all designed around Carroll’s whimsical world. A favorite for little girls’ birthdays and yoga-fit mommies’ brunches alike, this is no place for hetero men.

Arrive at the restaurant early, or be prepared for a wait of an hour or more; once ten o’clock rolls around, tables are at a premium.

After you’ve munched yourself into an Alice-themed stupor, head northeast through Central Park to find…

The Unbirthday Party sculpture, at 74th Street and Central Park East, north of Conservatory Water

Meet your favorite oversized characters! You’ll have to jostle for place with the dozens of children who constantly clamor all over this beloved sculpture, commissioned by George Delacorte in 1959 in honor of his wife, Margarita. It’s worth the wait, though, so stick around and takes pictures of your date sitting on a giant bronze mushroom. Better yet, steal a quiet spot on the back of a mushroom and read from the original text to one another. While you’re back there, play Spot-The-Tiny-Bronze-Insect; the sculpture’s details are lovely.

For some time away from the crowds, walk southeast through the Park’s eastern side while rocking out to…

  • White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane
  • Alice (Underground), Avril Lavigne
  • Eat Me, Drink Me, Marilyn Manson
  • Alice, Stevie Nicks
  • Sunshine, Aerosmith
  • Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, Bob Dylan
  • Alice In Wonderland, Wynter Gordon
  • Heads Will Roll, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Alice, Alice,Victim Effect
  • Down the Rabbit Hole, Adam Lambert

Many thanks to Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland Site and Spinner for much of this playlist. Check their sites out for more song ideas, and for Wonderland-inspired music videos!

Continue south long enough, and you can spend your afternoon perusing…

Tim Burton at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues

Don’t be one of the only New Yorkers who hasn’t yet seen this exhibit! Funded by Johnny Depp and Burton’s wife, Helena Bonham-Carter, the must-see retrospective of director Tim Burton’s work traces back to his earliest beginnings, including scribblings and drawings on cocktail napkins. Immerse yourself in his weird world.

Remember to purchase timed tickets online before you go; again, in the afternoons, the museum and especially the exhibit become packed.

Finally satiated? Wend your way home by way of…

“Alice: The Way Out” in the 50th Street 1 train subway station

The Central Park Unbirthday Party isn’t Alice’s only artistic appearance in the Big Apple. Keep your eyes peeled on the subway platform for a series of awesome and oft-overlooked mosaics featuring Alice and her friends in Wonderland, installed by Liliana Porter in 1994. There’s loads of cool art in the subway system; see what else you can spy on your ride home.

And cap off your day with the piece de resistance…

A screening of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland at a theater near you! Wear a campy outfit and join the screaming fangirls, or just stand back and take it all in.

As with everything else on this date, buy your tickets online ASAP and arrive at the theater EARLY. Enjoy!

Ultra Violet Live

In nyc, nyu, performance, treasure trove on February 27, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Ultra Violet Live, NYU’s university-wide talent show hosted and judged by alumni, and performed by students representing each of NYU’s residence halls, consistently delivers one of the best shows on campus. The performers, chosen in low-key preliminary contests held in each residence hall, compete for a top prize of $1,000. This year, the seventh annual UVL kicked off with frank-talking funnyman DC Pierson, a member of the improv troupe Derrick Comedy and the emcee for the evening. DC bantered with judges Emma Tattenbaum-Fine, Hunter Bell and Seth Faber, who sportingly put aside their impressive credentials for the evening and rated the contestants in categories like Technical Ability and Overall Performance. The excitement in the audience was palpable. Fan clubs for popular performers waved signs and screamed. DC even encouraged us to tweet about the show with the hashtag #uvl2010; I guess the rule about cell phones being turned off during a performance is moot.

In twenty acts that spanned NYU’s immense and varied campus, some surprising themes surfaced throughout the night:

  • Pianists who bow before and after playing: In separate acts, Francis Guo (Second Street) and Lionel Yu (Palladium) took the stage quietly, sat down quietly, and proceeded to knock the teeth of a classical piano piece. Lionel penned his own soaring song, entitled Waltz of the Rising Star, but Francis wore a snazzy Purple Rain lace ascot. We’ll call it a draw.
  • Heartfelt boys with guitars: Skinny boys, skinny ties: Andrew Onore (Broome Street) and Eric Kim (Goddard Hall) strummed their acoustics and crooned about longing for faraway girls. Eric was a whisper-soft John Mayer, Andrew more Plain White Tees.
  • Sassy girls with vocal chords of steel: These ladies had it goin’ on and they knew it. Carissa Matsushima (Rubin) hit every single note in the famous Queen of the Night aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and she looked good while doing it, too. In a voice equal parts Jennifer Hudson and Regina Spektor, Martha-Sadie Griffin belted out a smashing mashup of 99 Problems, Lose Yourself and Drop It Like It’s Hot, while accompanying herself on the piano. The best was Phoebe Ryan (Third North), a beautiful freshman with kickass turquoise platform heels and the romantic sensibility of Ingrid Michaelson. Her self-penned heartfelt lyrics to a lover (“You make me breakfast / You always burn the bread”) floated touchingly with her own piano stylings and a moving three-piece string quartet. This girl could and should be on the radio.
  • Unexpected dance routines: Lauren Lashua (Greenwich Hotel) paired copacetic tap dance rhythms with a little showmanship and a dash of R&B attitude. Paolo Bitanga (Brittany Hall) mixed up his slick break dance moves with an over-the-top grab bag of piano-playing, crooning Frankie Vallie, beatboxing, and a fierce Blue Steel glare.
  • Matching outfits: Don’t Forget To Write (Carlyle), the most infectiously happy of the large musical groups, sported American Apparel headbands and primary-color gym shorts as they channeled Gin Blossoms and the Barenaked Ladies. The members of Brother Goose (Lafayette), a down-home folksy quintet with a fun percussion section and a bouncy beat, wore plaid over their T-shirts emblazoned with the faces of the Sesame Street characters. The theme of the Uptown band, headed by Alex Goley, was to not have a theme; like the Pussycat Dolls, each member rocked their own style, be it studded suspenders and side-cocked trucker hat, loose hippie garb with Jackie O sunglasses, or full tuxedo and matching floral cummerbund. (The tuxedo player rocked out on the mandolin.)
  • Unusual props: Poi spinner Shaun Sim (Weinstein) bopped around the stage, spinning flags to a techno remix of O Fortuna from Carmina Burana. Shaun also spun up to four blinking lights between his arms, under one leg, and doubled backwards while kneeling on the ground. Juggler David Sangillo (7A) went even further, juggling up to seven white balls and four glowing red ones, clubs, hoops and even knives in his circus-worthy show. In the evening’s most comedic performance, Noah Welch and Christian Oreste (13th Street) personified two hipsters-cum-beat-poets, wearing dark glasses and tearing off their clothes while rasping a riff on Britney Spears’ Toxic. Their prop of choice? Glitter. Rubbed ALL OVER THEIR BODIES.

Of all these creative and talented performers, the judges favored uniqueness the most. Third place was given to Shaun Sim, a freshman and a newcomer. Second place went to David Sangillo, who was snubbed by the judged last year and has since amped up his act. (Next year? He’ll juggle FIRE.)

The champion of the evening was Andrew Flockhart, the long-denied beatboxer who’s delivered riffs on the same performance at UVL since his freshman year. But what a performance! Flockhart, tiny in skinny jeans, workmen’s boots, and an oversized white hoody studded with rhinestones, rocked the audience with his gutteral driving beats, his self-confident humor (“Fasten your seat belts and prepare to get funky,” he warns at the start) and his inhuman ability to sing and beatbox at the same time. Andrew breaks down Rahzel’s signature song, If Your Mother Only Knew, by singing the lines simply, then choking out a back beat… and then doing both at the same time. He went even further this year by layering standard “bm-bm-chh” sounds with Afro-inspired clicks, vocals, and, in a new twist, a harmonica. The kid is beyond talented and the award is well-deserved; one can only hope that his skills will come in handy in his computer science major.

UVL is one of the Inter-Residence Hall Council‘s signature events, yet many people I know have never attended. Seriously, guys. The audience is crazy, the talent is sick and the tickets are cheap. (If you’re an NYU student, score yourself a voucher next year and get in for free!) You have no excuse not to see this show.

For photos of UVL 2010, check out Housie Maguire’s album on Facebook!

The 7 Newsletters You Should Be Following

In dinner, list, nyc, treasure trove, website on February 10, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Even glitter sleuths need a little help sometimes. Here are my favorite email newsletters to stay informed about the wild and wacky happenings around NYC.

Deals & Steals


Daily discounts of 50% to 90% off of goods and services in the city and online. A new deal goes live each morning; when a critical mass of people agree to purchase it, the deal goes live for everyone to buy. From luxury spa services and custom-made jeans to Pilates classes and fancy restaurants, Groupon can save you a ton of money on otherwise-prohibitively-expensive services. Half off at 16 Handles? Yes, please!

LivingSocial Deals

Like Groupon, only less frequent. Subscribe to both and you’ll get the best of both worlds.

Funky Events


My favorite newsletter, hands down. Each daily email centers on one new hidden gem that you’d never discover on your own, be it restaurant, store or event. (Four words: mac and cheese burger. Exactly.) The text is written in short, snappy prose, and whets your appetite for more. The UrbanDaddy website offers super cool Groupon-esque perks to members, too.


Like UrbanDaddy, but more partial to lists of cool items, instead of in-depth reviews of individual finds. Twice the fun!

Village Voice Insiders

Like Thrillist, but longer, less frequent and slightly less awesome. You have to search for the diamonds in the rough in the Voice’s lists of upcoming events, but a keeper pops up every once in a while. Subscribe just to be safe.

Cheap Eats

Tasting Table

Like Urban Daddy, but exclusively for gustatory finds. It has a flashier logo, too. A great resource for picking your next Friday night date spot.


Like Groupon, but for restaurant deals only. An occasional email grants discounts and unexpected perks (free sea scallop ravioli! free cheese plate! free bottle of wine!) at chosen eateries for a given window of time. You have one day to accept the offer, and one month to use it.

Start subscribing!