Eater, Grub Street, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Zagat for Pete's sake — New York's got a lot of ways to gather reviews and opinions about its zillions of bars, restaurants, and assorted eateries. Thing is, a lot them cater to a crowd bent on chasing the hottest new chefs, establishments, and trends, and make food-finding more of a competitive sport rather than, y'know, fun?
That's where Chris Stang and Andrew Steinthal's non-food food review site, Immaculate Infatuation, comes in. Want to find a place that's good for "corporate cards," "wasting your time and money," "hipsters," or "drunk hook-ups"? You're not going to find that anywhere else but Immaculate Infatuation, kids. It's a smart turn on a familiar concept that's landed them square in the middle of our Double Vision series, cataloging the relationships of professional pioneers who've found better ways forward by working together.
Of course, our series is just a little part of what Levi's® has got going on for its 160th year in business. All year long, they’re celebrating by tracking the rise of similar creative collaborations, asking pioneers from all disciplines probing questions, and embarking on a series of ambitious art projects (including Station to Station) with the new explorers in the world of art, music, and technology. To dive in, visit here and keep abreast of all of their collaborations and public events by following #MakeOurMark and #GoForth on Twitter and Instagram.
Anyway, like all our DVers, the hip, denim-wearing, and sometimes-profane music-industry pros of Immaculate Infatuation have created something entirely new and completely addictive, thanks to their friendship. In this case, it's a charming, personality-driven resource for discovering new (and old) places to get your om nom on.
Now, Steinthal and Stang ain't critics, foodies, or chowhounds. They're just a couple of pals who actually like eating, drinking, and leveling with their audience through funny, music-laced features, great little videos, and a restaurant-search system with categories that actually say what we're thinking.
But how did these dudes hook up and create a site that's inside their collective wheelhouse as people, but not in their experience as music professionals? Well, lucky you, we roped the loquacious Steinthal and the less-wordy (though no-less-funny) Stang into giving us the story behind a fantastic bromance that's truly transforming your online hunting and gathering.
On Chris (left): Levi's Trucker Jacket, $88, available at levi.com; Levi's 511 Slim Fit Selvedge Jeans, $128, available at levi.com. On Andrew (right): Levi's Trucker Jacket, $88, available at levi.com; Levi's Barstow Western Shirt, $68, available at levi.com; Levi's 510 Skinny Fit Jeans, $52, available at levi.com. Grooming by Andrew Colvin; Styled by Jennifer Steele .
Stang: “Well, as I remember it, we met during CMJ in 2000, both having come to New York to represent our respective college radio stations, where we were music directors. A mutual friend invited a group of people to be in the audience at TRL, and we were each in that group. We met and instantly knew that we were both way cooler than everyone else in the room, including…actually, especially Carson Daly.”
Steinthal: “Yeah, back then, Carson Daly was the hottest thing going. And, yeah, I was at Ithaca College, Chris at Colorado State — and both in NYC for CMJ. It was love-at-first-bro-tastic (as opposed to nerdy-college-radio-dude) sight. Destiny’s Child was on that day, and they sat the two of us together, literally right behind Carson. During the first commercial break, we were promptly yanked from that spot, because we weren’t freaking out enough. We went [out] that night and crushed a 12-pack of Coors Light each, while making big plans to take over the world together.”
Steinthal: “Chris and I had been growing up alongside one another in the music business ever since graduating college. Although we’ve never actually worked on the same team, we lived parallel lives and learned a lot from one another. Before we launched Immaculate Infatuation, the first bright idea we had was our own record company. With the record biz in the toilet, we decided that wasn’t exactly the best move. Our next genius idea was a T-shirt company. We had some meetings, came up with a name, and produced exactly one T-shirt."
Stang: "Actually, no T-shirts were produced. As for the name, it's actually a reference to Andrew’s college days..."
Steinthal: "It was originally the name of a fake British Rock band that my friends and I dressed up as for Halloween in college one year. We painted the town that night, it was legendary. I always liked the name thereafter. It became my fantasy-football team, and when we came up with the idea for this website, it was clear that the world was in need of a restaurant-reviews site with a name that was impossible to remember. With the format, we just wanted to create something simple, useful, and entertaining. Initially, it was a chronological blog, but that only worked for the first 80 or so reviews. Now we’ve written up over 750 restaurants and have a much more robust site, an iPhone app that we’re really proud of, and even a few e-books. We’re always thinking about how best to deliver content to people as time and technology move forward."
Stang: "We also decided to use a rating scale from one to 10 and build the restaurant reviews around the context of 'Perfect For' tags, so people could find the right restaurant for the right occasion.”
Divide and Conquer
Steinthal: "The two of us split everything right down the middle. It’s a divide-and-conquer approach. We each write two restaurant reviews a week, and we’ll assign each other projects to take the lead on as they come in. When one of us has clearly gone above and beyond one week, the other one will step up the following week. It’s all about communication and balance.”
Stang: "Yeah, we each play to our strengths. Mine's in marketing and business initiatives; Andrew’s is in PR and partnerships. In a lot of ways, we’re exactly alike, and in many ways, we’re complete opposites. I guess you could say we’re soul mates."
Steinthal: “Totally. Chris definitely has a better grasp on the business side of things. He really knows how to take the leadership role and run a project. He also gives real good meeting. Just flip the switch to the ‘on’ position and watch him go to work. Me, I’m the PR and people person, connecting us with new opportunities and relentlessly hustling to get our brand exposed to all the right people.”
Stang: "Andrew is the great connector at Immaculate Infatuation in that way. He’s got a real skill for networking and putting people together that can benefit from knowing each other. I'm not good at that. I also love his hair and the fact that he still knows how to operate a Blackberry in 2013."
Steinthal: "But Chris does have the better hair (and twerking abilities). Oh, and I love his style. It's totally 'Downtown Deadwood.'"
Stang: "Well, it's a demanding gig, so it’s essential that I wear pants. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way — good denim, preferably. I’m also really into turtlenecks."
Steinthal: "Personally, I also need pants — ideally double-stitched with a nice amount of pockets to hold all my phones. For serious."
Stang: "Oh, and one more thing — I couldn't operate a seesaw without this guy."
Click on for more with the boys.
Stang: "The moment I know we really clicked comes long before the founding of Immaculate Infatuation. Back in 2003, right after I had moved to New York, we scored two tickets to the Grammy Awards, being held that year at Madison Square Garden. Andrew and I clearly thought this was our moment to show the music business that we’d arrived, so we rented ill-fitting tuxedos and promptly took our seats in the nosebleeds next to about 20 Z100 contest winners. Classy, right?"
Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!
Steinthal: "We’ve reviewed over 750 restaurants in four years, so obviously, we spend a lot of time going out to dinner together. We reserve time for date night at least twice a month, and the rest of the time, we divide and conquer our meals. Before we were business partners, we were close friends who ran in the same social circle. That hasn’t changed. See, for us, the best ideas seem to always come when we are not thinking about them. It is at those moments when we will call/text/message each other with our big ideas, usually initiated with a 'DUDE.'
"Ultimately, though, we’re not going to stop until we get to where we want to be, and it’s that drive to succeed that initially brought us together in the first place and will forever keep us moving forward. If there’s one thing we both know about each other, it’s that, whatever needs to get done, we’re always going to get it done, regardless of the situation."
Stang: "Yeah. I mean, people often call us the Walter White and Jesse Pinkman of restaurant reviews. Okay — no they don’t. But if they did, it would be because we put out really good shit."
Get the same kind of behind-the-scenes skinny on the DJ-and-violin duo known as The Dolls, the BFF bosses from the clothes-swapping site Bib + Tuck, and the co-founders of Neon Gold Records and, while you're at it, hear more from other creatives who are breaking molds and taking names, follow #MakeOurMark on Twitter and Instagram.