In food and drink and most walks of life, I’ve often found a single, simple truth to be evident: “Spontaneity is Sexy!” And restaurant director and event planner, Alex Mitow has demonstrated this very wisdom to me in the form of his latest endeavor and culinary extravaganza.
Last week, I am thrilled to say that I attended two nights of Alex Mitow’s All-American Diner: A Pop Up!, Time Out New York’s The Empire Club on Thursday and The Debaucherous Disco Diner Dinner Party on Friday. The hip, young owner of Los Perros Locos, a Colombian hot dog restaurant in the Lower East Side, Alex aimed to turn “a closed down diner into an art, music, and food spectacle,” and I must say, he delivered quite a delicious and eclectic experience.
The very essence of a pop-up entails synthesizing something grand from seemingly out of nowhere. Utilizing the abandoned space of Noah’s Ark Diner on Grand Street, Alex Mitow’s All-American Diner demonstrated the sheer brilliance that can go into engineering a rebirth. With the simple yet effective additions of a disco ball, colored flags, and original New York City themed art, including an impressive Manhattan wall mural by artist Fernando “Ski” Romero, Alex truly conjured a dazzling party scene for patrons of all ages and tastes.
The musical acts also proved to be just as fresh as the décor. On Thursday night, the live entertainment consisted of a winningly over-the-top performance by Sylvana Joyce & The Moment, a band that describes its style as a combination of gypsy rock, soul, and blues. On Friday, we danced the night away to some mixed up pop music by Andrew Andrew, a DJ duo of twin-like doppelgangers.
BITES TO WRITE ABOUT
On both Thursday and Friday night, we were presented with numerous platters of Tipico Mini Dogs, hot dogs and some colorful condiments naturally being one of Mitow’s specialties from his work at Los Perros Locos. Drizzled with Colombian-styled Salsa Verde with Pineapple and a classical Salsa Rosada (Ketchup + Mayo), then sprinkled with copious helpings of crushed potato chips. The result is an explosion of sweet and savory flavors with a killer crunch between every bite–an absolutely inspired spin on an American classic. I will be sure to try Los Perros Locos when I have the chance–the Mini has already won my heart!
Thursday night came with a variety of gooey, crispy American comfort food courses: Pastrami Swiss Croquettes, The Challah Atcha Boy Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Grandma’s Meatball Sliders, and Fried Calamari.
The Croquettes made for tiny but tasty starters, slathered in chipotle apple aioli, yet another of Mitow’s ingenious sauce creations that made for an excellent compliment for just about every dish.
Alex Mitow’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich, the hilariously named “Challah Atcha Boy” was a welcome veteran of this year’s The Big Cheesy Competition. Classically tender Katz’s pastrami, two types of cheeses, more aioli, and light, peppery peppadew wrapped within fluffy challah made for the most well-rounded and complex grilled cheese I have ever enjoyed in my young life. It is my hope that Mr. Mitow continues to dabble in the creation of sandwiches. This one was a champion!
A smooth yet solid cloud of fresh ricotta cheese with a hunk of simmered veal and pork on top of delicate Hawaiian sweet bread also impressed me. I adored Alex Mitow’s Grandma’s Meatball Slider simply because it was a safe and traditional yet still excellent choice. The simplicity of the dish’s constituents belied a rich and heavy hitter that didn’t pull any punches in the taste department.
Our last Thursday plate was the Crispy Calamari, fried in garlic and butter, and seasoned with a lemon-peppadew aioli. By the time it left the kitchen, I was convinced I was full, but found I couldn’t resist the richly flavored batter. Once again, Alex took a lovely classic and dressed it up with one of his impeccable sauces.
For Friday, Alex focused the dining experience on a more centered lineup with three options, including those yummy hot dogs, consequentially allowing several times more helpings for guests.
By the time I tried the Pink Castle Sliders, I had no doubts of Alex’s abilities with a grill. The addition of the Salsa Rosada once again augmented the flavors of an already strong entree.
Smothered in cheese and stuffed with seasoned pastrami, I found Alex’s Disco Fries to be the true delicacy of the diner. A gooey outer layer riddled with crispy tidbits and choice cuts of meat transformed a side dish into a mass of sinful decadence. They were a full meal–an experience within themselves and worth every calorie-infused chomp!
It wouldn’t be a true disco without these DISCO FRIES!
Amidst that storm of artificial pink lights and catchy tunes, I’d say that Alex Mitow’s All-American Diner truly exemplified that all-too American value of glitz and glam from grime with all of the delightful excess of a Baz Luhrmann movie or a Cadillac commercial, but none of the shoddy plotting or poor characterization.
For a moment, I was taken out of my hectic New York existence and treated to something wild and fanciful, but gastronomically satisfying as well.
It is this writer’s hope that Mr. Mitow continues hosting and planning these pop-up events in the future. Or at the very least that he continues offering his delicious re-imaginings and recipes.