Le Souk is Not a Cliché

Someone famous, I still can’t remember who, once said: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” That is very much a cliché, but my Wiki says clichés can certainly be true. Wiki also tells me that “cliché” is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work, which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect. It’s something that is “played out,” rendering it a stereotype, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful, or novel. The term is frequently used in modern culture for an action or idea, which is expected or predictable, based on a prior event. I think it’s extremely cliché that it’s a word with French origins. Nightlife, for the most part, has become one big fat cliché, and I embrace anyone trying to do something different.

Anyway, I do agree with that cliché, but I have managed a few free dinners recently. The latest was at Le Souk, now firmly embedded in its Laguardia Place location. It was an experience that was way better than expected. I thought the whole Mediterranean food, belly dancer, hookah thing was cliché, but it was a blast. The food was amazing, and the atmosphere refreshing. There were big tables of people having gobs of fun. I even broke the Steve Lewis Rule Number 7, which is “Always leave a party when the belly dancer goes on.” Rule 1, for those keeping track, is “Never, ever date a girl whose hair can hurt you.” Le Souk was a welcome change from the actually cliché dining experience of sitting across a table with friends, listening to easy-listening music, and chatting. People were having fun all around. I even smoked a Hookah with a bowl made from a pineapple.

There are powers that want to ban this Hookah thing. It seems so much a part of the experience and culture that it just doesn’t seem right. I am really tired of ”the government” helping me not hurt myself. I sort of understand the drug thing, and drinking ages and such. As most know, I hardly ever did drugs. Although it has been argued that when I did them, they must have been really good because their effects have lasted a very long time. Now they want to ban energy drinks that have booze in them. Alcoholic energy drinks have the politicos in an uproar. Omg, the poor dumb public is enjoying drinks that combine alcohol and energy! We must save them from themselves! It seems so ridiculous to ban them, as they are merely time and energy savers. Then banned peeps will just have to continue to pour the red bull into the vodka by themselves—or visa versa—depending on what night it is. I can’t fathom how a smokey pineapple is a bad thing. Nine times out of ten I find government intervention invasive. Spoiling the fun of it all is such a cliché.

I didn’t understand the rules of engagement of the belly dancing thing, or the Hookah thing, although the beautiful and hip staff were trying real hard to educate me. It was all Greek to me. My crew figured out that we had eaten 8 different animals that night. I was shocked by this revelation, but at the same time, I was awed by how delicious the meal was. I was faced with a dilemma: I thought of going vegan, and would have if it wasn’t such a cliché. Do the French use an English word for cliché? The crowd became frenetic with belly dancers, smokey pineapples, good food and strong drinks.

A sultry, dark, quiet lass with very talkative eyes whispered a familiar cliché in my ear. “Can you keep a secret?” she asked. I whispered back to her with my smokey pineapple breath, “Of course I can, I am a writer which means I talk a lot but don’t say anything.” Her deep eyes deepened, and I pointed out how many clichés she was invoking. “Love is blind, misery loves company, two wrongs don’t make a right, and too little too late.” That gave me enough time for a glance over at my Amanda (whose angry eyes reminded me of another cliché: if it aint broke don’t fix it). My guilty glance back at my darling said, “It takes two to tango” and “Actions speak louder than words.” But the smoke coming out of her ears was not of the pineapple variety. I started to chuckle thinking laughter to be the best medicine. I turned back to the imperfect stranger and said “It’s not, you its me,” and “I think we would be better off as friends,” and “it seems like you want more than I’m prepared to give,” and “I’m not ready for a relationship right now.” The sultry lady excused herself to the ladies room, which must have had a long line as she never came back.

Le Souk was sexy. I caught up with Le Souk honcho Lamia Funti and asked her about her world.

Le Souk made it’s mark in the East Village. How does this location affect your business? The new location was a challenge for us, and it gave us a chance to reinvent ourselves, it gave us a kind of a facelift. It happened at the right time, since the East Village was fading out. The West Village is in the center of everything, so many businesses flourish here, the neighbors are amazing, and we are very active in the community. We feel very welcome here, and we are very happy to be here.

The space is also very different. Tell me about adjustments and changes you made to make it work. Le Souk was renowned for its multiple levels, which was made organically. We started 10 years ago with a small 1000 sq. foot room and ended up with a 3 floor, 6000 sq. foot space. Here, we took a big raw space and tried to recreate the same feeling. Even though they each have their different identity, you still get the same Le Souk feeling. It’s all about having fun, enjoying good food, and just feeling at home.

The food was great. Does it drive the late night? Or is it the other way around? The food does drive the late night. A lot of people come for dinner and don’t realize that it turns into this fun and crazy place, and end up staying the whole night. The food also brings earlier clientele, which is always good. And thank you for the compliment, we’ve been working very seriously on our menu. We always invite new, renowned chefs to help us refresh our menu, and make it exciting. The latest chef to work with us is Doug Psaltis. He worked as an executive chef for Alain Ducasse, he’s really talented. We like to call our food Moroccan with a French twist.

Will you open other Le Souks? We are always open for new business opportunities. Our new project would be to open more Le Souks in other cities, but not another in New York. New York city can only take one Le Souk.

What is your favorite night at Le Souk? My favorite night is Tuesday. The music and crowd are great. It’s funk rock. The crowd is very diverse, so you’ll be seating between a guy looking like Bret Micheals and another one that looks like Boy George in his old good days. It’s a lot of fun.

Why did the Avenue B location close? When we decided to open Le Souk in the East Village, we took a big chance. You have to remember that Alphabet City 12 years ago, you couldn’t even walk at night over there. But it happened, and we were lucky and Le Souk took off. Other businesses and restaurants started to open around us. The East Village was really happening. Unfortunately, there was a big and very aggressive movement against the nightlife in the East Village, and I guess Le Souk being the bigger spot on the block was the target. But we moved on and it happened for the best, we love our new location.

The hookah was a first for me and mad fun. Tell me how important it is to the place. Will it eventually be banned? In our culture the hookah is very important. It’s a way of sharing, socializing, and getting to know people. Hookahs are very important for our concept. People come to our place to experience it, and they love it. They are talking about having a grandfathers law, in which case it wouldn’t affect us. It would be very bad for us to loose it, absolutely.

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