Chefstable has been working hard to find the right fit for the old Ping space in Chinatown. First the group tried opening Easy Company as a platform for cocktail master Ryan Magarian. But that proved too erudite for Chinatown's nighttime crowd. So they went the other direction, going the cheap drinks and housemade junk food route with Big Trouble last fall. But apparently that wasn't the secret recipe either. The bar's busiest nights were when it was closed, when it was being used as a pop-up space for Stray Dogs.
Now the space is transitioning again. Big Trouble has shuttered and is being turned into Fortune, a DJ-fueled bar and lounge from the owners of Tube around the corner. Eric Bowler and his wife and business partner, Karen, have created a steady following at Tube since taking it over in December 2013, offering a four-night-a-week lineup of white-hot DJs playing hip-hop and deep house. They were looking for a place to open the next evolution of Tube, something a bit more adult, so they approached Chefstable's Kurt Huffman about four months ago with their idea.
"They have lines out the door every week they're open. They've developed a great vibe," says Huffman. "So we're partnering with them and they're taking over the management of the bar. Once we can move the Lardo Commissary to a permanent location, then we'll expand the bar to cover the footprint there."
The space is currently undergoing a makeover, with high-backed booths, smoked mirrors running the length of the wall, two large art pieces by Blaine Fontana going in. "It's going to have a more polished vibe," says Karen. "We're going a little sleeker."
And they're putting a big emphasis on the new sound system. "We have built a new DJ booth under the stairs that is designed by DJs, for DJs," says Eric, who has been working as DJ Evil One for 17 years, frequently traveling across the country for gigs. "The sound is going to be top-notch. This place is really going to be a music lovers' paradise."
In addition to DJ-ing about once a week, Eric will handle all the music direction. "In Chinatown there tends to be an emphasis on pop-centric radio music, but we go deeper into house and hip hop," says Karen. "We have a broad network of friends who are world-class DJs. We book them when they come through town so we're able to get great talent. It's a really intimate setting to hear great music."
The cocktail menu is being developed by Jason Boyok, who spent 10 years at Mint/820, and they'll use fresh mixers from The Commissary. As for food, it's still TBD says Karen. "Ideally we can work something out with the Lardo commissary. But since we are working with Chefstable, we'll at least get something made offsite that can be served."
The renovations are nearly complete, and the Bowlers are expecting to open by early May. "We're really excited," says Karen. "I know Kurt, Eric and myself see a lot of potential in Chinatown, and want to be part of the change down there."