Stirred, Not Shaken
He knew he was too old for nightclubs when they suddenly became an annoyance—strange for a guy who's reaped millions from clubs such as Marquee and Light in New York and Light Bellagio, Caramel and Mist in Las Vegas, the latter three sold to MGM-Mirage in 2003. But it's why Christopher Barish is launching an upscale lounge for the easily annoyed—or those late 20s to early 50s folks who want to socialize but think techno music should only be used in psychological warfare. It's called Martini Park, and it will have its national rollout December 22 at the Shops at Legacy in Plano before it expands to Chicago, Houston, Charlotte and beyond. "It's not a loud, raucous nightclub, but [has] music where you know the words to the songs—the top hits of the past few years," says the 33-year-old Barish, son of Planet Hollywood co-creator and film producer (The Fugitive, 9 1/2 Weeks, and Sophie's Choice) Keith Barish. Barish insists his roughly $2.5 million Legacy lounge will be easy on the senses. It will have a happy hour. It will serve small plates such as Kobe beef sliders and Buffalo chicken lollipops. It will have a slate of martinis with custom olive stuffings such as salami, gorgonzola and caviar. It will have live music and dancing. It will straddle that fine line between stimulating and comfortable and recalibrate the mix as the night (and the energy level) unfolds, or so Barish promises. To keep the energy level from repelling his core market, Barish brought in former Palm Restaurants President Alfred Thimm, who, he says, understands mature comfort levels. "You know what's a good word? Inclusive," Barish says. "No red velvet rope. No attitude with the servers. I think that nightclubs can be intimidating. You walk up to the door and there's somebody out there with a headset on or some big hulking person."
After finishing a stint at Popply's Pizza and Pasta in Frisco, Karim Alaoui is back in control of City Café after it nearly slipped into the grave after 20 years, no doubt chasing much of its customer base. Alaoui partnered with Paula Bruton (both from the defunct Lombardi Mare) to purchase City Café from founder Mardi Schma some three years ago before the partnership ruptured. But Alaoui came back with plans to revitalize the timeworn institution. The dining room will be remodeled, and he's expanding into the 1,700-square-foot former dry cleaner next door with plans to add a wine bar and a cooking school for kids ages 7 to 12, an ingenious way to tap a new market. "We're just trying to bring our customers back a little bit at a time, because, you know, a lot of them left," Alaoui says
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