TOSHI CHAN THE FLATIRON HOTEL, NEW YORK by RICH RUBIN
"Hotelier" may be an unexpected title for nightlife maven Toshi Chan, but this dynamo is full of surprises. He started as a math major at Columbia University, and worked in the corporate world before purchasing his first property, an East Village penthouse in an erstwhile Yeshiva. Of course, most people know Toshi as the promoter of the legendary Toshi Panics, most notably at the Puck building, which began years ago and continue to this day. Some might even know him as the scantily clad gay character on Conan O'Brien's show or from his roles in The Departed and Deception. Now, however, you'll find him with his dog Ponzu ("he's with me 24/7") as the concierge/owner/jack-of-all-trades at the Flatiron Hotel at 26th and Broadway. The Flatiron's gay friendliness is a byproduct of an atmosphere that's just friendly in general. "I'm not a big hotelier with lots of resources," says Toshi, "but I want people to feel like they're staying with friends." That's exactly what the atmosphere is like at the Flatiron—well, if your friends had a two story column full of swimming fish, a well regarded restaurant with live music nightly, and a top floor penthouse space for events. The property has almost as interesting a history as its new proprietor. It was developed by a rich foreigner for his son, who attended school in New York and fell in love with the city. After spending tens of millions of dollars, the father fell on hard times and could not finish the project, which had begun in 2007. While major hotel developers shed away (there were numerous lawsuits flying around with the original owner), Toshi, who has never been averse to risks, stepped up to the plate. The Flatiron Hotel (9 W. 26th St. Tel: 212-030-0000. www.flatironhotel.com), along with the connected Toshi's Living Room and Penthouse (1141 Broadway. Tel: 212-679- 8002. www.toshislivingroom.com), opened in 2011. Nowadays, you'll find the lobby alive with music, people dressed in black on cell phones, diners checking out the hip restaurant, and Toshi and Ponzu overseeing the whole crazy scene. Toshi describes the process with typical modesty: "It was a matter of luck, faith, and immediate action that allowed me to acquire and open what is now known as the Flatiron Hotel, Toshi's Living Room and Penthouse."
Where are the coolest places to go for cocktails? I love Angel's Share (8 Stuyvesant St. Tel: 212-777-5415). which is a speakeasy type place above a Japanese restaurant. You enter through an unmarked door in the restaurant. It's very quiet, and they serve beautiful cocktails. The Central Park Boathouse (E. 72 St. and Park Dr. N. Tel: 215-517-2233. www.thecentralparkboathouse.com) is a great place for someone visiting New York, with it's great view of the lake and location right in the middle of Central Park.
What are the best restaurants for a romantic dinner in the city? Any place can be romantic, but One if By Land, Two if by Sea (17 Barrow St. Tel: 212-255-8649. www.oneifbyland.com) is on almost everyone's list of romantic restaurants in New York: fresh flowers everywhere, a piano player, a bit old fashioned but totally romantic.
Who serves the greatest weekend brunch in town? Sarabeth's Kitchen (40 Central Park S. Tel: passportconcierge 215-826-5959. www.sarabeth.com) is a quality operation with fresh food and dependable consistency.
What are the hottest shows in town, and how do I get tickets? Wicked and The Book of Morrnon am two of the hottest tickets in town. I have a personal ticket broker, so just let me know when you want to see it, and I'll put them to work.
What museums are a must see for visitors? The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave. Tel: 212-535-7710. www.metmu-seurn.org) is our version of the Louvre—it's almost a religious experience. It's a place for all the timeless art. Another must see museum for visitors is MoMA (11 W. 53 St. Tel: 212-708-9400. www.moma.org) There are also a lot of wonderful small galleries, but The Met and MoMA offer one-stop shop-ping for art viewing.
Which guided tours do you recommend most often to your guests? Big Apple Bike Tours (Tel: 347-878-9809. www.bikethebigapple.com). I'm a big cyclist. Riding about allows you to clear your mind. It's a great way to see the city.
Where can you go to get the best views of the city? Top of the Rock (30 Rockefeller Plaza. Tel: 212-698-2000. www.topoftherock.com) in Rockefeller Center offers a 360 degree view of the city: the Empire State Building, Central Park, you name it. The top of the Empire State Building (350 Fifth Ave. Tel: 212-736-3100. www.esbnyc.com) is also a safe bet, but you can't see the Empire State Building from there!
Where are the best places to workout? I like the offbeat quality and non judgmental nature of Crunch (404 Lafayette St. Tel: 215-624-0120. www.crunch.com). David Barton Gym (4 Astor Pl. Tel: 215-505- 8600. www.davidbartongym.com) has a fantastic social element, and I love the decor—I'd put a nightclub there!
If someone is looking for a full service spa, where do you send them? Great Jones Spa (29 Great Jones St. Tel: 212-505-3183. www.gjspa.com) is in a good location, has good service, and is a beautiful spot with a waterfall and everything.
Designer labels for less—do you have any suggestions for the smart shopper? Century 21 (22 Cortland St. Tel: 212-227-9002. www.c21stores.00m) is still one of the best, though its selection used to be better, in my opinion.
What are the best gay/lesbian bars in the city? The Ritz (369 W. 45th St. Tel: 212-333- 4177. www.ritzbarandlounge.com), XL (512 W. 42 St. Tel: 212-239-2999. www.xlnightclub. com), and BarTini (624 10th Ave. Tel: 917-388-2897. www.bartiniultralounge.com) are known for great music and dancing.
What are the most popular gay dance clubs in the city? XL (512 W. 42 St. Tel: 212-239-2999. www.xlnightclub.com) is the newest and biggest club in the city. In the heart of the theater district, it is close to all the best attractions and offers great cocktails and dance music.
Where can someone go at 3 A.M. for a good meal? Great NY Noodle Town 128 Bowery. Tel: 212-349-0923. www.greatnynoodletown.com) is a place to spend very little money and eat well. Oh my god, I love it. I love cheap dives. Their soy sauce chow mein is amazing.
What is the iconic tourist souvenir, and where will we find it? NY Yankees baseball caps, that are sold everywhere.
What changes have you seen in the neighborhood since the Flatiron Hotel hotel opened? I've seen the NoMad (1170 Broadway. Tel: 796-1500. www.thenomadhotel.com) open, and I've seen Toshi's Living room and Penthouse take flight on a corner that previously was deserted most nights. Now with Eataly (200 Fifth Ave. Tel: 212-229-2560. www.eataly.com), NoMad, and Ace Hotel (20 W. 29th St. Tel: 212-679-2222. www.acehotel.com/newyork), action and traffic has picked up for the betterment of the neighborhood. This street has become restaurant row.
Why should someone choose the Flatiron among New York's thousands of hotels? Because we're friendly, offbeat, and have the best no attitude nightlife in NYC with world class young unknowns singing and performing their hearts out night after night after night.
Please finish this sentence: Don't leave the city without... Falling in love, walking through Central Park, taking in a Broadway musical, and shopping, shopping, shopping...