Eat, drink, love: that’s the slogan of Budhu Lounge, a new small-plates dining concept taking over the intimate West Village bar formerly known as RF Lounge. Owner Annetta Budhu revealed that the grand opening will take place November 11.
Budhu is partnering with celebrity chef Yoanne Magris of Harlem’s Yo In Yo Out and the Food Network’s Chopped to provide the tapas menu. Magris will take on the role of the executive chef and manager.
Budhu describes witnessing “cultural shift” among her friends and patrons of RF Lounge. She sensed that people of all ages wanted a variety of social options, and that there were several choices for lesbian bars and parties, but no restaurant/lounge for a mixed gay and lesbian clientele. “There was a void in the community for a chill spot with great food and wine, where you can listen to jazz, and where you can hear your conversation,” Budhu tells GO. She recalled, as a young gay woman in her 20s, going to a gay restaurant called Company—“everyone went there, and we always wanted to go there”—and now, Budhu seeks that jovial feeling with her new venture. “Budhu Lounge is all about the food and great drinks, and offering a gay-owned and -operated place where the whole community can go,” she says.
Culling influences from Magris’ French, Greek and Lebanese heritage, Budhu Lounge will offer French and Mediterranean-inspired small plates for sharing, as well as a variety of specially selected wines from all over the world. The menu will change with Magris’ creative impulses, but current selections include truffled mission figs with aged Serrano ham on herbedcrostini, mini shrimp and mango ceviche with avocado and citrus vodka, Maine lobster deviled eggs and mini Mediterranean meatballs simmered in marinara and basil. Magris has also crafted artisanal cheese and charcuterie boards, and miniature desserts including tiramisu, mousses and pannacottas.
The Lounge’s resident “tipsy queen” will mix specialty cocktails from a creatively curated menu. According to Budhu, “most tipples chosen for the menu have a story to be told, which will be a pleasure to introduce to our customers.” In addition to its emphasis on convivial dining, the new lounge will retain RF’s dedication to combining first-rate music with sassy, sexy company. Diners might find themselves humming along to Nina Simone or shimmying to a Rolling Stones classic. Budhu is also planning enigmatic, late night “Hear No Evil, See No Evil” dance parties on Friday nights. Every Saturday night except the first Saturday of the month, Budhu Lounge will continue to host the longrunning lesbian party girlNATIONnyc, which recently celebrated its seventh year.
Both Budhu and Magris aspire to create a West Village haven that feels like a homey, welcoming place for new and longstanding fans. “From the moment you walk in the door to the time you hail a cab on Hudson Street, Budhu Lounge will pride itself on providing a memorable experience that will leave you wanting more,” Budhu promises.