Saturday, April 17, 2010

Exchange Bar & Grill Opening

Co-owners Damon Bae (left) and Levent Cakar (right)

Sampling the menu

MARKET CRASH!!! $2 beers, $3 well drinks, $4 top shelf

On April 8th, I stopped over at Exchange Bar & Grill for the opening party. The new Gramercy bar and restaurant is located at 356 Third Avenue between 20th and 21st St. It seemed like several of us came from the Spa Week Media party, so after some quick spa treatments, we certainly brought our appetites. I didn't have any drinks but I definitely sampled their menu.

By the time I got there the calamari and mozarella sticks were nowhere to be seen but I heard they were really good. I tried the salad, hot wings, onion rings and burger. I couldn't ask for better bar food. I enjoyed everything I sampled, especially the wings and onion rings.

I was curious to find out what the relevance of the stock market ticker was to the bar. Here's how it works - patrons are asked to take a gamble, with prices of food and drink that fluctuate based on demand, on Exchange’s own in-house ‘stock market’. Prices are broadcast on a giant ticker screen that runs the 35-foot length of the bar, posting which items are running below (-) or above (+) market price.

If everyone is drinking Guinness, the price of Guinness is going to go up—but consequently, all of Guinness’ competitors (like Killian’s) will go down. The opening bell rings at 8pm after Happy Hour prices come to a close, and if you play your cards right, you may just end up at the bar during an impromptu ‘Market Crash!!!!’—where drinks temporarily drop to $2 for all beers, $3 for all well drinks, and $4 for top shelf, after which point, the market resets itself. Customers can also have fun by posting personal messages to the ticker screen, like: ‘happy birthday’ or ‘hey you at the end of the bar, can I buy you a drink!?’

The bar’s unique concept is the brainchild of friends and co-owners Damon Bae (a former stock trader turned real estate mogul) and Levent Cakar (an economist with 11 years+ in the restaurant industry). Of the concept, Cakar says: “When you think about it, it’s a really smart way to run a restaurant. If an item isn’t selling, it becomes really cheap and then we’re able to move the product. It also keeps the hot ticket items from selling out and draws attention to cheaper products. It’s all about supply and demand—and it’s an organic way to manage our inventory.”

I wish this concept would apply to clothing boutiques! I really like this bar for the unique concept. I will have to come back for happy hour to experience it all!

The lounge-like space features both a bar and full dinner menu, with special lunch & brunch menus expected to be introduced at a later date. So even if you don't plan on drinking, check out the food!

- Kim Weling

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