"It's stupid to be homophobic," mused a guy working in a downtown bar last night. "And it's really stupid to be homophobic if you're in the restaurant business. And it's really stupid to be homophobic if you're in the fashion business." The subject of his rant: Taavo Somer, the 35-year-old owner of faux-rustic LES hipster haven Freemans and faux-nautical bar The Rusty Knot and proprietor of his own fashion line of $88 t-shirts. Somer was anointed by New York magazine this year as "the next groovy thing," the embodiment of forward-thinking hipster cool. But this ex-employee was of the opinion that Taavo is an ass [UPDATE: Even more opinions now, below!]: According to this guy—who worked at one of Somers' places for an extended period of time—Somer is not just a homophobe; he is dumb. I believe the approximate descriptor was, "big, idiotic bigot." He described Somer as an "idiot savant," able to build successful restaurants while being, simultaneously, "one of the stupidest people I ever met." He also said just about everyone who's worked in Somers' establishments can't stand him. The conversations, he said, go like this: "Oh, you used to work at Freemans?" (*Shakes head in dismay*). Of course, Taavo can always escape to his upstate estate if things get too negative in the city. Just one ex-employee's opinion! Feel free to email us a rebuttal, Taavo. UPDATE: We've received two additional notes about Taavo. The first comes from restaurateur Ken Friedman, Taavo's business partner:
Taavo Somer, the weirdo artist/designer/"method" architect (when designing the new nautical-themed bar Rusty Knot, he took to dressing like a drunken sailor) was profiled in New York this week. "In the profile he talks about the house he just bought upstate and how his parents were horrified at the price," whispers a tipster. "I don't know what he ended up paying exactly but the asking price was $1.295 million. It's on 38 acres just outside of High Falls in Ulster County." Oooh. Upstate-house porn! Click to see what designing hip Manhattan bars the Rusty Knot and Freemans will buy you... and what the profile says inspired Somer to maybe start, like, a farm-themed bar in Brooklyn...
"It's just like not being all those fucking metrosexual dickfaces," Freemans Sporting Club member Jack Dakin told the Observer back in November. Oh really? Thursgay's Critical Shopper column details the wares of the Lower East Side taxidermy-filled barbershop'n'$2,000 suits emporium, and it paints a very metrosexual, very dickfacey picture. $390 hand-stitched rubber wellies! $3,000 custom tailoring! A $40 fade haircut! But there is one genre of hipster accessory the FSC doesn't sell, writes Shopper-sub Horatio Silva: "The focus here is clearly on authentic work wear and on the trappings of masculinity—in other words, on the importance of being Ernest Hemingway. Which explains why there are no man jewels available at this Big Papa's House."
Stag Party At The Hunting Lodge [NYT]
Earlier: Freeman's He-Man Woman Haters No Metrosexual Dickfaces Club
The Observer draws aside the curtain on an important budding trend-thing today, going (literally!) underground to document a secret society of rugged dudes who are affiliated with downtown aritchoke-dip'n'taxidermy mecca Freeman's. Here's the deal: there's a club underneath the store associated with the restaurant where men can shoot arrows, ride a bike, and even drink beer. But that's not the only revolutionary thing about the club. The men also engage in other traditional masculine rituals — for example, they "talk about some concepts of the modern day and where everybody's headed and what the current trends are." (Hint: taxidermy, facial hair, pretentious faux-outdoorsiness).
In tomorrow's Times food critic Frank Bruni will take a look at Freemans, the recently-expanded LES hotspot where hipsters rub elbows with the thrill-seeking UESers who read about it in New York. William Tigertt, the proprietor of Freeman's has been doing a bit of blogging over at Eater, and he graciously recounts the experience of having the city's most powerful reviewer enter his establishment. We're not prone to gushing at Gawker, but we've got to say that Tigertt may actually be a better writer than restaurateur, and this comes from folks who can't get enough devils-on-horseback. If you've ever wondered what it feels like to get Brunied (and not in the fumbling, drunk-at 3 A.M.-in-the-back-of-Bottino way), you need to read this piece.
Crisis in Foodyville! Freeman's, the hipper-than-thou haven for diners who like their comfort food served with a side of taxidermy, may have some competition in its perfectly-hidden alley. Simon Hammerstein (yes, that Hammerstein) is in the process of opening a dinner theater-nightclub in Freeman's Alley; tentatively named The Box, Hammerstein's theater will host plays and burlesque. Josh Lucas, Rachel Weisz, and Jude Law sit on its board and, if everything goes according to plan, The Box will bring a lot of "limo-riders" to the alley—much to the chagrin of Freeman's owner Taavo Somer, who knows that the forthcoming glitz will ruin his restaurant's studied esotericism.
So: A little birdie of ours was at trendy downtown restaurant/taxidermist Freeman's last night and had the pleasure of an exchange with owner Taavo Somer. It seems that Somer reluctantly admitted that the Bush twins were indeed denied a seat during their November visit to the restaurant, as Freeman's was full at the time and there was a wait. (The hostess did not, however, tell the twins that the restaurant would be full for "the next four years." That would be part of the, ahem, rumor mill. Heh.) As anyone who's been to Freeman's can attest, the restaurant is always full, so the staff was not trying to humiliate the First Twins. Rather, Freeman's just refused to defer to their presidential presence—which, in our opinion, is still kind of awesome.
After riding the tidal wave of buzz surrounding their wee establishment, the owners of downtown restaurant Freeman's might have to face up to some bitter realities. Like, say, while Freeman's may be "hot," the wait for a table (at which you might enjoy such delicacies as macaroni and cheese) is fucking absurd. And then there's the eurotrash factor:
At first, we didn't quite believe it: we heard that the Bush twins showed up for a table at tasty Lower East Side hotspot Freeman's and were promptly told by the hostess that there wouldn't be seating available for the next four years (so best). We totally confirmed the report, but then Freeman's owners wrote us a stern denial once word spread (as it is wont to do on this superhighway of ours). So, in order to settle the issue, we put on our trenchcoats and fedoras and went to Freeman's for dinner. On the way out, we moved in for the kill with someone who seemed to be in charge: