In this episode of “Going Out With Jake Cornell,” host and former NYC hospitality pro Jake Cornell chats with friend and comedian Karolena Theresa. They discuss their old habits that just won’t die, their favorite spots for both clubbing and fine dining, and the mystique of “white woman cocktails.” Tune in to learn more.
Or Check Out the Conversation Here
Jake Cornell: Hi, angel. Thank you so much for doing the show.
Karolena Theresa: I’m so excited. I feel honored.
J: So I would say you and I have had a few nights out together. Not many, but they’ve all been good. They’re often post-shows, and then also New Year’s Eve was good.
K: Yes, New Year’s Eve.
J: And I was excited to talk to you. I think you’re the first native New Yorker I’m having on the show.
J: And I think it’s vital. I can’t do a season of talking about going out in New York and not have someone who f*cking grew up in the city to talk about it. I guess we’ll start with the broad question of the show and then tie it into growing up in New York. But for you in general, what does going out mean to you?
K: Well, going out changed. Now I’m way more chill. But some habits will never die.
J: Like what?
K: I’ll take a to-go battle on the train if I need to.
J: Yeah, you gotta. A roadie is vital in New York.
K: A roadie is vital, but I feel like I was doing roadies back in the day when I was young.
J: Oh, sure.
K: And even now, still, I’ll be like, “Let me just pour a little on my way.” What else? Or getting into the Uber. I guess it’s changed, because I’ll take that to-go bottle in the Uber. And before when I was younger I took less Ubers.
J: I’m definitely more pro-Uber as I get older. It’s becoming more and more of a thing, which I think is natural.
K: What was the question again?
J: Just what does going out mean to you?
K: It’s always been this way: I’m a spontaneous go-out ass b*tch. So I don’t need plans to go out. And I can go out after the gym. I can go out after whatever, so I don’t need to be dressed up. I don’t need to have makeup on. I like to have a good-ass time. Going out means just enjoying the moment. For me, it’s more about the moment and the fun that I can have and less about the scene, especially as I get older.
J: I feel similarly. If you get a text that’s like, “Wait, do you want to go out right now and grab a drink?” Are you usually saying yes or do you have to be caught in the right moment?
K: I need to be caught in the right moment. And it really depends. My trap is, once I leave my house and someone’s like, “Do you want to get a drink,” that will always lead me down the wrong path. If I’m in my house, I’m making a rational decision. That’s how I end up places. And I see photos of myself and I’m like, “What the f*ck am I wearing?” It’s like at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night or a Tuesday night, my ass is drunk and out God knows where.
J: Once you’re already out, it’s so hard to say no to. For me at least.
K: For example, I got my teeth done by Maya, our friend.
J: Shout out to Maya Deshmukh, the best dentist in NYC and one of the best comedians.
K: One of the best comedians. I got my teeth done by her on a weekday in the middle of the day. And we said, “Oh, let’s just grab a bite to eat.” Cut to, we’re at a table, it’s mad b*tches there now. Then our friend Marie comes with her situation at the time. He’s buying us shots. He’s buying us more food. I’m wasted. I’ve somehow taken an edible. And the night just continues on. I literally just got a crown put in. What the f*ck am I doing out here?
J: When the night sneaks up on you like that and you’re like, “Wait, I’m having one of the biggest nights out of the year,” for me they feel more fun because there was no buildup. There’s nothing that it has to answer for. There’s nothing that it has to account for because they didn’t spend any sort of time looking forward to it. It’s just suddenly we’re here. I just had Gabe Gonzalez on and we talked about that night we all went to Bogota, that restaurant. And I was not planning to have a big night that night, but then we had a really fun night.
J: That was a nice little surprise for me.
K: No, those are the best ones. I love that.
J: So what was going out like growing up in the city? You grew up in Queens, right?
K: I grew up in Queens. OK, so you mean high school? Because I feel like I didn’t do anything until high school, but I’m not going to lie to you and act like I was this wild, crazy b*tch because I wasn’t. I was a chubby little theater girl. I went to a performing arts school. I just wanted to go see Broadway shows and sing karaoke and go to Virgil’s.
J: What’s Virgil’s?
K: It’s this place by Times Square that has big platters of food.
J: Oh, it’s like a Carmine’s?
K: No, Carmine’s is a little bit more elevated.
J: OK. OK. Got you. I’m seeing a Broadway show tonight. Maybe I’ll go to Virgil’s after.
K: Where are you going? What are you seeing?
J: I’m seeing “Company.”
K: Oh, Larry saw that, and he said it was amazing.
J: My friend had an extra ticket. I’m not a huge musicals person. I don’t know a single song from “Company,” but I’m excited to see it for the first time.
K: You’re going to like it and you’re going to like the songs. The songs are the best part.
J: OK. That’s usually how a musical is. The songs are usually the best part.
K: Sometimes it’s about the razzle dazzle and the pizzazz and the songs.
J: Oh, like the set. Yeah, that’s fair. Are you a big musical theater girl? I did not know that about you. I love that for you.
K: Growing up in Queens, it was just hanging out at your friend’s house or going out to eat. Queens has the best food. So we have different kinds of restaurants. We’re eating Filipino food, eating really good Italian food, if you’re going to Williamsburg. Because back in the day, Williamsburg used to be very Italian. You go to Williamsburg for Italian food, you go to Woodside for tacos, Filipino food, whatever. It was more like that. And then as I got a little bit older, it was about boys with cars. And it got a little bit more about going over to people’s houses, whoever’s parents were letting them have fun and have drinks and their friends over in the basement and things like that. So it’s kind of like that. I feel like when we went out it was to go do something, like to go to a museum or go to the theater or to go to some kind of “thing.” It wasn’t so much about hanging out with each other. Then as I got older and I started going to college, I would come home for winter breaks and I had my little fake I.D. She’s 5’11” and I’m 5’4″. But it was working. I look back on it now, and I went to more gay clubs than I went to straight clubs, for sure.
J: Yeah, that makes sense. I get that.
K: That’s when I started going out at 18. I went to Slash and a bunch of other places that are now closed.
J: Is The Ritz gone?
K: No, The Ritz is open. The Ritz is the last standing. She’s not going anywhere. She’s latching on.
J: She’s got her nails into Midtown.
K: Absolutely. She’s not going anywhere. But I used to go out to all the gay clubs with my best friend, Paris, my friend, Soraya. And then my friend Soraya, she’s also a dancer. So she was a dancer back then. Like a choreography dancer, not on the pole. There’s nothing wrong with that, because coins are coins. But she was dancing professionally when we were 18. So she knew a lot of choreographers, club promoters, and she knew how to get in. If I was going to a straight club, it was because Soraya got us in somewhere with bottles. We used to go to The Box back in the day, this was before it became Carolina.
J: You’re f*cking cool. You’re hitting up the gay clubs and The Box at 18. I was drinking $1 PBRs.
K: I was in school.
J: Where did you go to school?
K: Ithaca, it’s upstate New York.
J: Yeah, Ithaca.
K: So this was me going to upstate New York and then coming home for weekends or Christmas breaks and stuff like that. I would be doing all this cool sh*t, but I didn’t really understand the gravity of it because I wasn’t here in New York.
J: And it wasn’t like you were going to The Box because it was The Box. You were going to The Box because your friend was like, “I can get us into this place.” And it just happened to be The Box.
J: Which is the coolest way to go to a place. If you’re going to someplace to be seen, it’s kind of lame. But if you’re just part of what naturally occurred there, it’s very organic to me. That’s why it’s so cool.
K: Even from a young age, and I think that spoiled me, I was doing the place at the crazy party with the hot tub in the Meatpacking District. Le Bain? I was at Le Bain back in the day. But I would end up at Le Bain after I would go to a yoga class. My friend would be like, “What are you doing?” And I’d be like, “All right, let’s go get something to eat.”
J: You were at Le Bain in yoga pants?
K: Yes, yes, yes.
J: That’s so f*cking iconic.
K: It would be one of those things where we would just end up there. And even to this day, Soraya is the plug.
J: You’re obviously very close with Melissa Rich, who was on this podcast as well.
K: Also another plug.
J: Another plug. But you both have a little bit of that charm to you. You have a little magic to you where you have the ability to have a night where it’s like, “How did you end up at that party?” Who did you know? What happened?
K: Melissa is the queen of “How did we get here?” How am I in this basement? Why does this man have a bunny suit on and they’re playing disco? What’s happening?
J: Yeah, it’s truly , truly, truly wild. I don’t understand. I’ve never had nights out like the nights I’ve had with her.
K: Yes, she’ll take you places.
J: Yeah, and I’m thankful for it. I can’t do it often, but when I do it, it’s good.
K: Oh, my goodness. I don’t have the stamina anymore. But I used to, honey.
J: I mean, if you were doing that when you were young, you were building stamina early. Le Bain at 18 in yoga pants is setting the groundwork for some good skills.
K: Also when I was younger, my cousin used to date all these athletes. And then I had another friend who used to specifically be like, “I’m only dating athletes, rappers, and actors.”
J: You know what you like.
K: OK. This was like a little bit later. So I would say this was after college in my 20s doing improvisational comedy in my little dresses, my sneakers and my little backpack. And I would show up to these nightclubs. But also the urban-ish type clubs.
K: I don’t know about Bounce, but there’s one on the Lower East Side. It was a big place where there were poppin’ bottles and rappers and artists would be in there.
J: Monarch? No, that’s a rooftop.
K: No, that’s a rooftop. I’m trying to think about other places I’ve been. But places like that. Oh, was it Goldbar? That was another one.
J: OK, so here’s my question. I’ve done the rooftop moment, I’ve done some of the clubs, but I’ve never done the Le Bain party moment and all of that. Was it actually fun or was it a scene to be at?
K: I think it was fun back then. From what I understand now it’s more of a scene to be at.
J: I feel like that’s a fine line. Are you actually having fun or are you just feeling good that you’re at the “spot?”
K: But I was always just having fun because I didn’t understand what the “spot” was. I wasn’t ingratiated in what’s cool in NYC at the time. I was just home from school. Where were we going? With the clubs where I would go meet my cousin and my friends that were dating the guys with the coin, I would show up and literally be dressed in not club clothes, sneakers, skirts and dresses and a backpack. I wouldn’t even give them a line. I walked to the front. Whatever the guy’s name, I’m with him at his table and they’d be like, “No.” And then I would text my cousin. I’d be like, “Girl, they’re not letting me in here.” A couple of minutes later, some man would come and be like, “Yea, yea, yea. Let her in.” The girl with the backpack. Then I would be at the table with all the other girls with long lashes, long luscious weaves, those thick Louboutins with the platform in the front. I’d be mixing drinks like, “Y’all got ice?” I’d be hanging out with these guys who are like, “What the f*ck is happening right now?”
J: But I would bet you’re making that table 10 times more fun than it was before you got there. There’s no question.
K: Other girls would just be pissed. And my cousin would be like, “Yay!”
J: OK. But to be fair to you for the listener, when I think of you when I see you out, you look f*cking good. You turn a look.
K: I do turn a look, but that’s if I know I’m going out. Or maybe as I’ve gotten older. But I feel like when I was younger, I still looked cute, but I looked cute during the daytime. I never was looking cute for nighttime in those situations, you know what I mean? I’d be wearing a sundress in the summertime, and the girls were wearing a bandeau. It’s giving Kardashians at the time. Remember when the Kardashians only used to wear bandeau dresses?
J: There were no bras in the world for about two years.
K: Yeah. The outfits that I was wearing were very girly, very cutesy, but it was not club wear.
J: But I like that.
K: I looked good.
J: I’ve never once not seen you looking good. You always have a good look.
K: Except for right now.
J: You look stunning to me. Absolutely stunning.
K: Yes, yes, yes. But I feel like now as I’ve gotten older, I still like to go out. I still like to party. I feel like when I was younger I was out so much drinking and doing other things. There’s nothing I haven’t done, I don’t think. Now, I still like going out, but I love fine dining.
J: Let’s get into that. Because that’s the dream.
K: I want to sit down. I want a cloth tablecloth.
J: Oh, you want luxury dining?
K: I love luxury. But I also just like any kind of fine dining. I just want to know that the food is really good. I want to know that someone has discussed the Michelin star in this space at least once or twice. I want to know that the food is going to be tiny but powerful.
J: Do you have certain spots that you like for that?
K: I’m always trying somewhere new. I just went to Rosemary’s, which isn’t fine dining. But it is neat.
J: Do you know that I worked there for four years? I worked at Rosemary’s for four years. I was the bartender.
K: I’m screaming?
J: Yeah. The one in the West Village.
K: I know you worked in a restaurant. I knew you bartended, but I didn’t know where.
J: Yeah. Rosemary’s was the main one for years. I worked there for literally four years.
K: I was literally just there on Monday. It was so good.
J: I worked there because it was a really consistent restaurant where they gave me the good shifts. It was consistently busy, and the food was really f*cking solid. What did you get?
K: I actually have been there before, a long time ago with my boss from work. And then this time I went back with my best friend and my husband. I got the cacio e pepe and I got a salad. I forgot what the salad was.
J: Was it the chopped salad with the olives?
K: No. They didn’t have the chopped salad.
J: The chopped salad at Rosemary’s is one of my favorite salads in NYC, if you’re listening. That’s so f*cking good.
K: It was really good. I tasted everybody’s food.
J: The lemon pasta is also really outstanding.
K: Which one?
J: The lemon linguine.
K: No, I didn’t have that. That does sound good. And then I had a tiramisu for dessert.
J: They have a good tiramisu.
K: I was high. Everything tasted lovely.
J: Working at an Italian restaurant, that is a thing that I feel like you got a lot. I mean, it happens at other restaurants. I just noticed it having a lot at Rosemary’s. You’ll get a table that has clearly all ripped bong before you came here and are just here to get food.
K: Oh, my God. I feel like they knew.
J: Everyone’s eyes are half open. They’re like, “Yeah, let’s get the pasta.” You just know. It’s the easiest table in the world. Oh yeah, they’re good, they have food, they’ll be fine for 30 minutes.
K: I think they liked us because we were just like, “Yeah, everything’s great. We love you.” Me and my friend Mary Kate, we were high and then we got a bottle of wine. My husband was stone cold sober. Every time we go to a restaurant, he asks what is going to be the biggest plate. You have to stop doing that.
J: That’s so funny. He’s like, “I want the most food.”
K: I’m like, “Stop it.”
J: That is incredible. Rosemary’s is a really solid choice. And it’s a nice spot for if you want something that feels fancy and nice, that isn’t fine dining expensive.
K: No, no, no. It’s not fine, fine. But it’s still pretty good. I feel like when I was younger, I didn’t care where I was eating. I would just be like, “We need to eat.” But now I’m like, “OK, let me look it up.” Or I’ll see it on TikTok. I’ve been to Rosemary’s before, but I saw it on TikTok the other day and I was like, “I should go back there.”
J: TikTok is not playing around with the restaurant recommendations these days.
K: I used TikTok for everything. You want to talk about going out. I went to D.C. and I’ve been going to do shows in D.C. for years now. And the first couple of years I was going with my friends who I don’t think are necessarily partiers. I guess I wasn’t into doing the research. And every time I went out in D.C. it was boring.
J: You got the wrong spot.
K: I was with my friend Amina, who went to Howard in D.C., and it was so fun. But I remember the name of that place and I was really juggling a bunch of places and I was like, “How am I ever going to find it again?” Last time I went to D.C., I looked it up on TikTok. I had so much fun. I went to two different spots. They were lit.
J: Wait, how did you go about this? Did you search in TikTok, “D.C. going out?”
K: I searched, “D,C. night.” I was just in Guatemala, I was looking on TikTok for where I should go to go out in Guatemala, even though Guatemala is kind of closed down for Covid. Everything closes at 11 p.m.
J: OK. I feel like your trip looked amazing still, though.
K: It was amazing. And we did go out one night. We were out, but not out out. We went out in Livingston in Guatemala, which is this peninsula, but it’s very much island vibes. Melissa and I walk down this dark street to the dark beach. And I heard music and literally I was just following the music. I was like, “It’s here, it’s here, it’s here.” I fell flat on my face in the sand, scraped up my knee. I have a big scar on my knee. But we found that party. Melissa was like, “Dust yourself up, come on, let’s go to the party.” And I was dancing.
J: It was just a random beach party someone threw?
K: No. This was their club. But it’s not a club because it’s literally a covering on the top. There are maybe two walls, but not four walls.
J: OK, and open-air club on the beach.
K: Open-air club situation. But it was lit. It was fun. This is the thing about me, though. I’ve been hurt. I’ve gotten hurt and will be like, “Where’s the party at?” I broke my knee in college, and I would still go to parties with my broken knee and my crutches. And then I came home for winter break and I was at Pulse on the stage with my f*cking broken knee.
J: Oh, I like that, though. What are you going to do, sit at home with a broken knee? I guess that’s a healthier choice. But I love that you kept going.
K: No, I always keep going. I’m also the queen of falling asleep and waking back up and then going.
J: I’m so envious of that. If I’ve been drinking and sleep comes in, the night’s over. There’s no second wind for me once that happens. We’re really done for the night. And I am envious of people who can keep it going.
K: I mean, it’s not often. But if I’m determined, I will get out.
J: You can push through.
K: Or I can leave my house late. I used to be able not to. But now I love leaving my house late.
J: I need to get better about that because if I know that the thing I’m going through starts at 11:30 p.m., I’m like, “I should just stay home until 10:30 p.m. and then I’ll have the energy for what we’re doing.” It’s a social night already, so I have to go meet someone for dinner at 7:30 p.m. I need to release myself from that.
K: Release yourself of that. I love taking my time, doing my hair, getting my outfit together, putting on my makeup, watching TV, eating dinner. And then I leave, call my Uber and I’m there late and I feel like I’m not out for too long.
J: I don’t wear makeup and I don’t have hair to do. I have very short hair. I’m envious of having a ritual to do before. I think that would be huge for me. And if I was rich, I think I would buy a sh*t ton of clothes so I could do the fun thing where you’re trying to mix and match an outfit. But I have two pairs of pants and 12 shirts I wear, so it’s just not like that for me.
K: I’m not rich. You don’t have to be rich to have a lot of clothes.
J: No, I know. But then it’s effort because you have to be good at shopping.
K: That I love. I love it, but then also I make a mess of my house every time I am going somewhere.
J: Are you leaving the house with clothes everywhere?
K: Literally today he was just complaining about that and telling me to put my wallet away because he said he comes home and he finds all the cushions of the couch in a disarray. And he can tell that I can’t either find my keys or my wallet. And?
J: My boyfriend does the same thing where he’s like, “Can you just have a centralized location where you always keep them?” And I’m like, “In theory there is one, but I never do that.”
K: I’m trying.
J: That’s the thing. I tried to explain this to my boyfriend the other day. You have no idea how exhausting it is being me because I can have something in my hand and lose it in my house in two seconds and then for the next 20 minutes I’ll be looking for it.
K: My phone, always. I will literally just be looking at it and then I’ll be like, “Where’s my phone?”
J: Yeah, it’s unbelievable. It’s actually unbelievable. Between my phone, my keys, and my headphones, I’m f*cked. I’m absolutely f*cked.
K: Oh, my headphones are gone. Do you have AirPods?
J: I have AirPods and cords because I realize if I try to carry both, it makes it easier because I can usually find one before I need to leave the house. So they’re both in rotation.
K: I lost two sets of AirPods.
J: That’s really tough. Lost them like, I dropped them and they’re gone, or I don’t know where they are?
K: I’ll lose them one by one. It’s never like I dropped it somewhere I couldn’t get it from. I just don’t know where it is.
J: I’m on AirPod Pros now because with my first pair of AirPods, I was literally standing in the kitchen. I put them away in the case and then I looked down — I’m not joking — I took my AirPods out. I put them from my ears into the AirPods case, put them on the counter, went and did something, came back, opened them, and there was only one airpod in the case. I was like, “Where is the other part?” I tore my kitchen the fuck apart, never found it.
K: Where is it?
J: Absolutely gone. Then I bought AirPod Pros and then two weeks into having the Airpod Pros, I could not find them. I was like, “They’re somewhere in this house. I’m not buying more AirPods. I’m just going to use the headphones that came with my phone and just live with that.” And then a month and a half later, the AirPods Pros turned up and now I have both.
K: Oh, OK.
J: I knew they were in house. God was going to bring it back to me.
K: I bought them for my husband for his birthday or some sh*t. I don’t want to spend this money, but I guess I should.
J: I’m not going to lie, the AirPods Pro for me was not a purchase I was particularly happy with. I was like, “This was not $250 well spent.”
K: If you’re not going to lose it, then it is well spent. But for me, I’m not even going to buy another pair of AirPods. I’m thinking about it. I’m going to pray on it. I’m going to see where the goddess tells me to go with it. Mind you, those other AirPods were gifted to me from my husband and my sister.
J: I’m curious if you feel this way. To tie this into going out, I’m curious because we’re similar in that we lose sh*t all the time. I’m very resistant to taking things out with me. I want to leave with as minimal things as possible. I don’t like having a bag if I’m going out, I don’t like having mittens or gloves or a hat. It’s all going to get lost. The winter is really hard for me for a number of reasons. I really hate the winter. But one of the hardest things, especially with going out, is mitigating trying to stay warm, but not bringing a hat, scarf, gloves. I just really don’t want to bring any of that, but I also need to stay warm. It’s a constant struggle for me. I want as little things as possible with me because the more I take out, the more I’m going to not come home with.
K: I agree. Well, here’s a few things. I think the time has taught me that I just need a bag. I’m going to always take a bag because I don’t have pockets for the most part. I just take something that I can put on my body, like a fanny pack. I love a fanny pack.
J: When we all really accepted the fanny pack back, that was huge for the culture.
K: Huge for the culture because I am the queen of losing the wallet. We’re talking about the wallet, the card, the phone.
J: Were you at Melissa’s birthday party where I lost my phone at the club from hell?
K: Oh, no, no, no, no. I was away. I think I was in Miami.
J: I was walking from the bathroom to the dance floor. I was like, “My phone’s gone.” And I have no concept of when it went away. I spent two hours in that nightclub trying to find that phone, but could not find it. And then they called me two days later and they’re like, “We have your phone.” And I was like, “I need you to tell me where in this nightclub you found it.”
K: You’re so lucky.
J: So lucky. I was like, “Where did you find it? Because I tore your f*cking club apart.” And they were like, “We don’t know, the cleaner found it and just left it on the bar.” It haunts me to this day. I’m like, “Where was this goddamn phone?”
K: You seem to find the things that you lose. I’m loving that for you.
J: I yeah. I guess I have been fortunate in that way.
K: You are very lucky. The other thing about that is, because sometimes I’m this spontaneous about going out, I’ll have a bag with me. I have a video of me in the club in D.C. dancing. And I have this huge backpack and I’m holding all my clothes and stuff. Then you just kind of put it in a crowded section and then guard it like a dog and dance around the part where all your sh*t is.
J: Yeah. I bet it was like this in Ithaca, too. In Burlington, where I went to college, obviously everyone’s wearing giant, thick, huge puffer coats cause it was minus-20 degrees in the winter. It was actually like this in a bar, too. The first thing you have to do when you arrive anywhere is find the hiding place for your coat; behind a couch, behind a chair, in a bathroom, in the shower. Where are you hiding the coat so that no one steals it and no one goes through it? But you don’t have to carry it around the whole party because that’s lame.
K: Everyone is like, “Oh, you went to school upstate. It’s so cold there. It’s so cold there.” I’m like, “Yeah, but we were drunk.”
J: Yeah, we were drunk.
K: When I think about it, I was going out at night and it was freezing.
J: No, I don’t understand how I did it.
K: Walking to parties sometimes. Most of the time we were walking to these parties and we were just outside taking the little roadie drinking, passing it. It was freezing.
J: It is that if it’s that cold in Brooklyn, I’m probably not going out. It was that cold every single day in Burlington.
K: So I was going to ask you, do you let the weather hold you back?
J: Usually, no. I’m not going to lie, I’ll go out in the rain. I don’t mind the rain. If it’s really cold and I’m not feeling it, maybe. But I would say no. If I was in the mood to go out and the weather is kind of depressing and gross, me feeling cooped up and stuck inside is only going to make me feel more depressed and gross. OK, f*ck it, I’m just going to go out. If I’m in the mood to be cozy and then it’s raining so then I feel less FOMO about staying in, I guess that’s cute and I kind of like that. But I don’t know that the weather is the thing that’s determining whether or not I go out, if that makes sense. What about you?
K: The rain will really f*ck me up. I have to be obligated to go outside in the rain. I hate the rain.
J: OK, see, rain doesn’t bother me at all. I’ll go out in the pouring rain. That’s not an issue for me at all. But the cold is my issue. I’m not really trying to do cold. Cold rain is the worst, but a summer rain I love.
K: I don’t mind the summer rain as well. You’re right.
J: A cold rain is the worst weather. I’d rather it snow.
J: Yeah, that’s for sure. So are you a summer girl?
K: I am a summer girl. Let the summer come and let the sun come out. I’m ready to play. But also I probably go out more in the winter than I should. I should stay home.
J: Same. Especially because it’s hard to stay in the summer in New York. Every day it’s nice in New York I’m like, “Why would I be inside my apartment?” I want to be in a park. I want to be on a beach. I want to be on a patio. I want to be somewhere that’s not my house.
K: Me, too.
J: I mean, I thrive on a patio.
K: I have a backyard. I love my backyard.
K: You have a backyard?
J: I have a backyard.
K: Oh my god, cute. When are you going to invite me over? In the summer?
J: Yeah. What neighborhood are you in? Are you in Queens?
K: No, I’m in East New York.
J: Wait, you have to come over soon when it’s warm. We’ll have a dinner party. It’ll be so cute. We have a little table patio set. It’s cute as hell.
K: We have parties sometimes. We’ll probably have a party in the summer.
J: Oh, I love that.
K: We’ll have an African party. We roast a bunch of lamb and we have a DJ and we just have a good time.
J: I love that. So when you go out in general, let’s talk about what are your drinks? What are we drinking? What’s the vibe?
K: It’s very simple. You’re going to make fun of me. But honestly, I’m very much a Vodka Soda, Tequila Soda girl. I don’t see the point. Unless I’m in a restaurant or someplace where it’s like a cocktail bar or it’s something specific. If I’m out and I’m trying to drink and I’m trying to dance, I’m getting a Vodka Soda or Tequila Soda. I don’t see what else I’m supposed to be doing.
J: Yeah, for me the deciding factor is, am I going to be sitting or am I going to be standing? If it’s a place where we’re sitting, like we’re sitting at the bar or we’re sitting at a table.
K: Same thing, yeah.
K: Gin and soda. See, you’re like me. You know what? Don’t make fun of me, I love a lychee Martini lately.
J: I’m pro-that, I’m actually really pro-that. I have this whole theory that there’s like a renaissance coming of that era of cocktails, that “Sex and the City” era. People don’t understand that for every cocktail that exists, there’s a good version of it and a bad version of it. There’s a delicious Cosmo. There’s a disgusting Cosmo. You can’t write off the full category of that drink because of the bad version. You can f*ck a Cosmo right up.
K: As a bartender when you see people, can you tell what they’re about to order?
J: You can kind of guess it a lot of the time, but then sometimes it would be total left field. I’d be like, “Wait, that’s not what I would have expected at all.” But you can generally get the vibe.
K: If you saw me, what would I buy? What would I get? Like I usually look.
J: If you had come into Rosemary’s in one of your full going out looks, I would guess you would be drinking nice red wine.
K: I do like wine, but I’m a white wine girl. I only do red wine if the food calls for it. But if the food doesn’t call for it, I’m going for the white.
J: Yeah, that’s actually a transition I’ve made recently. I’m much more interested in drinking white wine than I am drinking red.
J: The pain in your face at the idea of drinking a Pinot Grigio just now was unbelievable.
K: I’m just not a Pinot Grigio girl. My favorite drinks are like my roommate from college’s mom. I saw her drinking. That’s the way I drink now. Those are my favorite kind of drinks.
J: Regal, light mixed drinks and white wines?
K: Yes. White women drinks.
K: Yeah, that’s what I go for. And it’s funny because my husband doesn’t drink, but I love ordering wine with all of my food. Do you know what else I really like now? I like sexy vibes in a bar. I need the decor to give me a moment. I’ve been to St. Maize in Williamsburg. It’s so cute. You feel like you’re in France and they get a live jazz band. Not in a yuck way, but in a cute way. The girl’s cute, she’s singing. She has on a little white dress. It’s really nice.
J: OK. I love that. We should go grab a drink soon. I feel like we can have a fun little night.
K: We could. Let’s go somewhere like St. Maize.
J: Yeah, I’m trying to think of a place. There’s a speakeasy in Fort Greene that just reopened that I like. It’s kind of a sexy vibe.
K: I want to go there. Melissa took me to a speakeasy after New Year’s.
K: I don’t know.
J: I crashed hard that night.
K: Well you know what I do. But I was awake. I was wide awake.
J: You were going.
K: She took me to this really cute place. It was like a speakeasy, but it was like a party, and they had a DJ. He was playing Portuguese techno music.
J: What was the speakeasy entrance? What was the fake entrance you had to go through?
K: It looked like it was a bakery or a deli or something. And then there was a door.
J: OK, sick. Yeah, I’m not familiar with that one.
K: I want to have a speakeasy. One of my dreams is to have my own speakeasy.
J: That’s cute. I could see you thriving with that.
K: My husband wants to open a bakery, and I’m like, we should have a bakery-speakeasy.
J: Well, that would be fully incredible. I feel like the speakeasy aesthetic gets sh*t on a lot because it is kind of gimmicky. But I’m sorry, it’s fun. Ultimately it’s fun.
K: That’s the problem. People don’t know how to just enjoy things for what they are. I love it. I’m never going to go to a speakeasy and rage, that’s not what it’s for. It’s just for getting a little buzz, maybe a little too drunk, but also sitting down most of the time.
J: 100 percent. There is something that innately adds that sexy factor you’re talking about where it’s like, “Oh, it’s dark, it’s hidden, people don’t know we’re here.” Which is largely fake; it’s a registered business that is real and is not an actual speakeasy. I don’t know, there’s something about it that is effective.
K: Don’t mess with the illusion. Let us live.
J: Let us live in the illusion.
K: Do you make mixology drinks?
J: The last restaurant I worked at before I stopped working in restaurants had a cocktail program where part of my job description was to design one or two cocktails with a cocktail menu every season. I have done that. But am I inventing cocktails in my free time now? Absolutely not. Am I sometimes like, “Oh, someone wants a cocktail? Let me look at my home bar.” I can make something based on the random assortment of sh*t that’s there and figure something out. Yeah, that happens all the time. But I’m not inventing new cocktails to pass the time or entertain myself now, do you know what I mean? And in general, I really love the classic cocktails. I’m pretty boring. I like Manhattans, I like Martinis, I like Old Fashioneds, I like Daiquiris, I like Gimlets. I personally enjoy all of the classics enough that I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel.
K: OK. I appreciate that, but I want you to make me a cocktail.
J: No, we’ll do it. That’ll be fun. We’ll have you Melissa, Frank, Hominay over for dinner. We’ll start with cocktails, and I’ll make you cocktails, and it’ll be fun.
K: That would be so fun. The couple that me and Hominy hang out with is Melissa and Frank, and it could be a couple hang.
J: That would be really fun.
K: It will be really corny, but it has to be good people, and I feel like that would be good people.
J: That would be really good people. The other thing Melissa and I keep on talking about that we’re trying to do is we want to do a big steak house night. Do you want in on that?
K: Yes, in Guatemala, me and her went and took my cousin and her husband out to dinner because they were taking care of us the whole time we were there. We had a huge tomahawk steak and then we got this big short rib.
J: Was the beef incredible? Because it was raised indigenously there.
K: Yeah, exactly. Even at McDonald’s, I had oatmeal from McDonald’s and I was like, “This oatmeal got real fruit in it.”
J: I went to the Azores. They’re Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic.
K: No, I’ve never heard of that.
J: I have this fantasy of planning a trip, a group of us go to the Azores because it’s so cheap once you’re there and it’s a four-hour flight.
K: I heard that Portugal was really cheap.
J: Yeah. Well, it’s like Hawaii for America where it’s so far away from the coast. It’s not right off the coast of Portugal. It’s insane that it’s part of the Portuguese country, you know what I mean? Culturally, it feels quite different or somewhat different. Anyway, I went there in February of 2020 and the food was insane. Everything on the island is grown there, they don’t have to import anything because they have it. And cows are a huge part of their economy. They do a lot of dairy and beef and stuff. I had a steak there that was so good, I cried. It was the most delicious piece of meat I’d ever eaten to make life. It was insane.
K: You get a big piece. That’s what I like about leaving the country. You get a big piece.
J: Yeah, the meat portions are not a joke.
K: I want that. I don’t even know if I’ve ever had Portuguese food.
J: Portuguese food is f*cking good.
K: It’s Spanish food, no?
J: It’s very seafood-y. There’s potatoes. A very Azorean dish is blood sausage and pineapple, which sounds weird, but so good.
K: That sounds good.
J: There’s good Portuguese in New York. We can go get Portuguese food.
K: Oh, maybe that’s what we want to do. That’s what we should do.
J: I would do Portuguese food or I would do the steak house. I really want to do a steakhouse and dress up and do the moment and get a big steak and do it.
K: Oh, my God. We could do that with just me, you, and Melissa. We don’t even need boys.
J: That’s true. We could do that, just the three of us all dressed up. What’s the biggest steak?
K: Everything, even with the salad. He’s like, “Which is the biggest and heavier?” The guy said the chopped salad.
J: The chopped salad is so good, though. I’m actually glad he got it. That one is so f*cking good. Do you have any other go-to restaurants?
K: What’s a go-to restaurant? I don’t know. I bounce around a lot because I always want to try something new. But where do I go? Oh, you know what? Kiki’s.
K: It’s someplace that I go consistently all the time.
J: I know. It’s always busy, and I hate that we’re giving it more promotion, but it deserves it. It’s so f*cking good. It can be hard to get a table, but it’s so f*cking good. What’s your order there?
K: You can order so much food. It’s reasonably priced in the way there’s a lot of food, but the food that you order is always enough. The portions are good. The rack of lamb, oh, my God. That is my favorite. I love the lemon potatoes, the beet salad, and the calamari.
J: It’s unreal. I want to go right now.
K: They also make fish.
J: They have a snapper and a branzino.
K: Also great. It’s one of my favorite places to go when I think about what’s consistent. And then in Chinatown I like to go get dim sum, and I like Nom Wah and I like this other place that I can’t remember the name of. I don’t like Joe’s Ginger. I like dim sum.
J: Nom Wah is really a cool experience. There’s a fun speakeasy next to that on Powell Street.
K: Yes, there is. And I haven’t been there. Every time I walk by there with Melissa, she’s like, “There’s a speakeasy in there.”
J: I had one of my best nights ever in New York in that speakeasy — two of my best nights ever in my life.
K: I need to go there.
J: This was my first year in New York. This was like eight years ago. I was supposed to go see my friend and we were going to go see this concert at Bowery Ballroom. And when we got there, we found out that we had f*cked up the times. We got there at 7 p.m. and the show wasn’t till 11 p.m. We were there for hours early and we were like, “Oh f*ck.” so we ended up just wandering into this speakeasy and spent four hours with the server there. She was one of the best servers I’ve ever had. We did mezcal shots. We hung out like. We had the best party. You’ll hate this part. But then we got out and it was pouring rain and we had left late. We got too distracted at the bar. We’re going to miss the show. And then we sprinted through the rain from this speakeasy to Bowery Ballroom, showed up soaking wet and drunk and happy and danced wet watching the show. And I swear, it was fun. It was the best night. And then a year later we went back because the same artist was playing again at Bowery Ballroom a year later. Her name is Ryn Weaver. She hasn’t put out an album, but she had a really big song a year ago and we liked the songs when we went to see her live. And then we were like, “Let’s go again. That show was fun and we can recreate that. We’ll go to the speakeasy again.” We go to the speakeasy, we got the same f*cking server again and she remembered us from a year before and we recreated the whole party again and then did like the same thing. It was actually so fun.
K: That is so cute. I don’t mind the rain. I’ve had really fun nights where it’s summer and it’s raining and you’re running in the rain and you’re drunk. Or even in Livingston in Guatemala when I was with Melissa, we left that party and walked through the rain and took photos and had our Guatemalan beers with us. We were both wasted. I don’t mind that rain. But in New York in the wintertime or the fall or the spring, I don’t like the rain. In the summer, it’s OK. But yeah, I love those nights. The best nights in New York are the random nights. I mean, I’ve had fun going out, being like, “We’re going here, we’re doing this, we’re doing that.” Sydney used to be a cocktail waitress at these really fancy places like Rose Bar. So I’ve had fun at places like those, but most of the time, I’ve known that I’m going.
J: I know. It’s funny because you can’t even plan them. Sometimes I want to be like, “Hey, do you want to meet for a drink at 6 p.m.?” And then neither of us have any plans after. So in case we feel like it, it’ll keep going. But also, if we want to bail on each other, we can after a certain point in time. And then it just evolves into the fun that we want. But you kind of have to just let the alchemy of it happen naturally.
K: That’s what I believe. I don’t like planning things too much. I also just hate planning.
J: See, I unfortunately love planning. But I have to resist it to let the fun of spontaneity happen.
K: I love when people plan, though. I love when y’all plan.
J: I specifically really want a dinner reservation unless we’re going somewhere that’s walk-in only. If we are going somewhere that takes reservations, I just want a reservation. Because I really want to avoid the situation where we’re all f*cking hungry and getting to the restaurant that we all thought we were going to and they’re like, “So it is a three-hour wait.” And I’m like, “F*ck, we have to pivot,” and everyone’s in a bad mood. It can really throw the night off. So I want to know we have the table, and anything else I can do around it and I’m fine.
K: I feel like, pre-pandemic, I never gave a f*ck about a reservation. I don’t even think I said the word reservation. When they started opening everything up and the way they were opening it up, everybody needed a reservation. And now I’m like you. We have to have a reservation. I made a reservation. Literally at Rosemary’s, my husband was like, “Oh, great, we’re going to leave. Can we drop off the laundry?” No we cannot, because we have a reservation.
J: That being said, though, that night we were at Bogota with no reservation. And there were eight of us.
K: But we were walking around trying to find a spot. They were not either closing or too full, remember?
J: Yeah. It took 10 minutes to find a restaurant and it ended up being perfect.
K: That food was bomb.
J: That food was bomb. That’s now where I would want to go eat after a show at Union, for sure.
K: Yeah, I forgot about that place. I took my mom there for brunch for Mother’s Day once, or her birthday or something.
J: Yeah, it was good. And it was a party. They were down to like let us party. When I feel safe in a restaurant to be like, “Oh, we can get a little rowdy,” that’s fun.
K: And they have a backyard.
J: It was too cool for it then. I would love to hit that back up in the warmer months. I think that can be a fun time. OK, well, this has been perfect, and we’ve made a lot of plans. You’re going to come over for dinner, and we’re also going to do steakhouse. We’ll text Melissa, we’ll get her in the loop.
K: The steakhouse that she’s been saying she wants to go to, she used to work there.
J: Oh, she wants to take us to — what’s the one that she used to work at? Capital Grille. I’ve never done Keens, which is a New York classic. I want to do Keens. And I want to try out this new one called Hawksmoor that looks gorgeous. So we have our work cut out for us.
J: The one on 36th.
K: I want to go there. I’m looking at it now.
J: OK. So we’re going to go to Keens and I’m excited about that.
K: Hell yeah.
J: I assume she’s looking at the menu. It looks so good. OK, so we do have to say goodbye. Sadly, it is the end of the episode. And to wrap it up, I am just curious, as a seasoned New Yorker who has been going to Le Bain at age 18 and who’s been doing it for a while, would you give a little tip for a rookie who’s going out? Or a pro move for someone who’s trying to get into this?
K: I would say don’t try too hard and just relax. Try to relax and focus more about having fun than where you’re going and trying to be in the scene. Just have fun.
J: That’s been the advice throughout a lot of these episodes. It’s the truest one. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself.
K: Have you ever seen girls outside of a club online fighting and shivering and looking crazy? You don’t want to be that.
J: Or looking on Instagrams outside bars, trying to find a place. I’m like, can you just walk around and see a place that looks fun or just has five seats open and you can enjoy your friends enough that you guys can just have fun wherever there’s five seats.
K: Oh, it’s empty in there. Let’s go in there.
J: Same. Let’s make it the place. If I see an empty bar and I’m with four people, I’m like, “Great, it’s ours. Let’s go.” This is perfect. I’m so excited for all of our plans. I need to start physically and emotionally preparing for all of them.
K: Me too. I just texted Melissa.
J: Thank you for doing the show, babe.
K: Love you. Thank you for having me.
J: I love you, too.
Thank you so much for listening to “Going Out With Jake Cornell.” If you could please go and rate and review us on whatever you’re listening to this on, that would be really gorgeous for me in a huge way, so thank you.
And now, for some credits. “Going Out With Jake Cornell” is recorded in New York City and is produced by Keith Beavers and Katie Brown. The music you’re hearing is by Darbi Cicci. The cover art you’re probably looking at was photographed by M. Cooper and designed by Danielle Grinberg. And a special shoutout to VinePair co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for making all of this possible.