Escaping the power lunch

Around New York, any restaurant is fair game for a film deal -- including some of the city's most unexpected eateries

With innumerable food options in New York turning lunch into an art form, industryites seeking friendly, nonintimidating places to develop projects face a daunting task. The
Weinstein Co.'s Harvey Weinstein cites the lavish midtown location of Harry Cipriani as his favorite place to ink deals. "The ambiance is perfect, and the service is impeccable, making it a very comfortable environment to hold meetings," Weinstein says. Cipriani's menu features expensive dishes, and the restaurant's celebrity stature gives it high visibility, given that patrons make regular appearances in the gossip pages. Most smaller productions tend to prefer less crowded venues. When ThinkFilm was tracking the 2006 drama "Half Nelson," for example, a company representative regularly met with the filmmakers at a location in Chinatown. For producers and executives who prefer to get their work done away from the limelight, following is a look at some low-key favorites of the Big Apple's entertainment industry residents.

Blue Ribbon Bakery
35 Downing St., (212) 337-0404

A recent Zagat Survey calls Blue Ribbon Bakery the "carb lover's dream," since the West Village dining spot bakes its own bread. And Zagat could have added "members of the movie business" to its target-audience description. Independent producer Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, whose credits include 2003's "Thirteen" and 2005's "Mysterious Skin," says that Blue Ribbon provides "a perfect place for a development meeting." The comfy atmosphere can be attributed to the kitchen's 140-year-old oven, a device restored 10 years ago by the bakery's founders. "It's like a monastery setting -- very quiet," says Levy, who recently produced the documentary "Bomb It," which premieres this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. "It's especially good in the winter, with the enormous brick ovens churning out bread. The aroma is wonderful. It keeps you nice and toasty." While Blue Ribbon sells bread over the counter and offers brunch in its dining room, Levy says he enjoys eating in the basement, where the ancient cooking mechanism works its magic. "With the flames spitting out of the oven, it feels like you are in one of the circles of Dante's 'Inferno,'" he says. "The one reserved for reprobates and film producers, no doubt."

700 Sixth Ave., (212) 645-0223

When Brian Koppelman and David Levien received a call from Steven Soderbergh about writing the script for Warner Bros. Pictures' upcoming "Ocean's Thirteen," they expected to meet at his Chelsea office. Instead, they went to Cosi. "Over flat-bread sandwiches and fountain sodas, the three of us broke the story for the film," Koppelman says. "As we were getting up, Steven officially hired us to write it." Despite its status as a national chain (it didn't start that way), Cosi locations offer a low-key vibe and healthy options -- in other words, the ideal setting for making movie plans. "Over the months, as drafts were written and discussed, we found ourselves back at Cosi more than once and always left with a clear direction for the next pass through the screenplay," Koppelman says. Despite the positive experience, Koppelman points out that he and Levien, both of whom were producers on 2006's "The Illusionist," sometimes can't afford to take a lunch break. "When we were working on 'The Illusionist,' most of our meetings were in our office," Koppelman says. "We did bring in food, though, for some of our conferences with writer-director Neil Burger -- most often from a local greasy spoon called Americas Burgers and Wraps."

212 Lafayette St., (212) 625-9302

With an immersive setting and diverse selections, Soho's Eastanah is a popular lunch destination, particularly for those looking for Malaysian and Indonesian options. Mike
Wilson, executive producer of the 2005 production "Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock," has taken advantage of Eastanah's surroundings while making progress on his projects. Since
Wilson has worked both as a movie producer and video game publisher -- he founded both Gathering of Developers and Gamecock Media Group -- it makes sense that his ideal restaurant setting gives patrons multiple options, but that's not the only reason to enjoy the place. "The owner, Angie, takes very good care of you," says Rob VanAlkemade, who recently worked out the details of an upcoming feature documentary with Wilson while the two dined at the restaurant. VanAlkemade, whose recent documentary "What Would Jesus Buy?" premiered at this year's South by Southwest Film Festival and was based on a short that Wilson produced, adds that "the acoustics can be as private as needed. The lighting and ambiance are very soothing yet totally unpretentious; the service is impossibly fast and easy, and even the food is great."

Maritime Lobby Bar
363 W. 16th St., (212) 242-4300

"We're in the Madison Square neighborhood, so there aren't really any power places nearby," IFC Entertainment vp acquisitions and production Arianna Bocco says. No matter; the area offers a number of alternatives. Joined by IFC Films vp marketing Lizzie Nastro, Bocco completed the deal for Lars von Trier's upcoming project "The Boss of It All" at the Maritime Hotel's elegant Lobby Bar. In addition to its relaxing fireplace, Maritime gives customers the option of dining alfresco. "(It) was a fun night and a great outdoor place," Bocco says, describing her first meeting about the von Trier production. The drink menu, which offers a variety of wines, might have contributed to that fun, but Bocco is quick to point out where her loyalties are. "The Waverly bar at the IFC Center is home away from home for all of us here at IFC -- and where we get a lot of business done," she says. She also cites Mustang Sally's on Seventh Avenue as "a good place to get a beer and think."

The Pembroke Room
Second floor of the Lowell
28 E. 63rd St., (212) 838-1400

When Deep River Prods. partner David T. Friendly, producer of Fox Searchlight's 2007 Oscar winner "Little Miss Sunshine," travels to New York, he enjoys breakfast at the Mercer Kitchen and dinner at Pastis but prefers to work out his business over tea at the Pembroke Room. Located on the serene Upper East Side, the Pembroke Room offers what Friendly calls "a quiet place for serious discussion." His enthusiasm comes from years of positive experiences.  "I started staying at the Lowell in 1989 for a (1993) movie called 'For Love or Money,'" Friendly says. "(Director) Barry Sonnenfeld and I met for hours on end with the writer. One day, it was between meals, and all we could get to eat were finger sandwiches, so we had lunch with like 60 high-tea sandwiches." Friendly also has fond memories of the deals that have come together in the hotel hideaway. While developing the 2004 adaptation "Laws of Attraction" with director Peter Howitt, the two men invited actress Parker Posey to
discuss her potential role in the movie. "She came into this elegant lobby on 63rd Street on rollerblades and never took them off," Friendly recalls. "I think we said yes on the spot."

In Clubland
A look behind the velvet curtain at New York's ever-evolving after-hours locales.

Pink Elephant
527 W. 27th St., (212) 463-0000

Right, so its 27th Street address doesn't have the cachet it once did, but its steady diet of house music and strict door policy mean that Pink Elephant -- which migrated from Soho last year -- retains an intimate feel, partner David Sarner ensures. The clientele is "more refined" and "better-dressed" than in other spots, and Sarner credits his musical selection (mostly house). The 3,000-square-foot space features low ceilings and mass-loaded vinyl sound absorption in the walls, which gives the music a warm feel. Sarner introduced bottle service to the city in 1996 at Chaos, and it's an option here, but the minimum ranges from $1,000 on weekdays to $2,500 on weekends for a reserved table.

The Plumm
246 W. 14th St., (212) 675-1567

With investors that include Damon Dash and Chris Noth, the Plumm has become a popular celebrity hangout. "My friends didn't have places they felt comfortable going," owner Noel Ashman (former owner of Veruka) says. Since opening last spring, the space has kept its music varied, with performances by Guns N' Roses, Patti LaBelle and Stevie Wonder, as well as DJ sets from Mark Ronson and Q-Tip. There's bottle service, and there are member key chains for select clientele, but Ashman has his eye on the up-and-coming artists: "It's easier to get in if you buy a bottle," he admits. "But if very artistic types walk through the door, they get priority as well."

Soho House

29-35 Ninth Ave., (212) 627-9800

Located just above the fray on 28th Street in the Soho House Hotel, this club is for members only. Newcomers from the creative industries are permitted but must pass a rigorous screening process. Once "inside," the environment is one big VIP room, and celebrity doesn't exist. "Everyone in the club is pretty like-minded," deputy general manager Guy Chetwind says. Top draws are the rooftop pool and the drawing room, which is filled with
comfortable couches and footstools -- many of which have been upholstered in cowhide.

Star Lounge
222 W. 23rd St., (212) 255-4646

With a prime location in the basement of the famed -- and infamous -- Chelsea Hotel, this newly opened locale is well-positioned for A-listers, some of whom might have first heard about it through recent premiere parties for the Weinstein Co.'s 2006 biopic "Factory Girl," among others, or a surprise birthday party for Heather Graham (who dates one of the owners, Charles Ferri). The spot is divided into three rooms -- the smaller, draped and heavily guarded Room 100 is the main lure for top names. "People are drawn to it," general manager Alex Ancheta says. "By 1 a.m., all the celebrities have shifted to that room."