24 Prince

Every superhero needs a secret identity. Without one, guys like Superman and Captain Planet would be hounded by police, paparazzi, and struggling codpiece companies begging for an endorsement. Boozy restaurants are the same. Their mission is to get good citizens hammered in a relaxed atmosphere, but that's impossible if they're overrun by lousy daytime drunks. That's why 24 Prince, which opens tomorrow in Nolita, is adopting its own dual identity: casual neighborhood lunch spot by day, liquor-soaked dinner destination by night

While the sun's up, 24 Prince will appear mild-mannered and responsible, like the likable nerd your whole office counts on, yet "forgets" to invite to happy hour. The alcohol's hidden from view, and the menu's loaded with heartland classics like Grandma Easy's Famous Fried Chicken -- unglamorous but dependable dishes that satisfy every time, just like Grandma clearly used to.

But at night, the owners claim the restaurant will climb into a phone booth and emerge with its party cred in hand, a la Pee Wee Herman:

  • The liquor cabinets will be thrown open, and the wine bottles -- starting at $22 -- will start flying off the shelves faster than Daredevil ruined Ben Affleck's life.
  • Sensing that you are a drunk-in-distress, the proprietors will rescue you from a sobering post-meal lull by encouraging you to linger at your table and get lit.
  • Serious guzzling will take place in the secretive basement -- which, like Batman with his cave, the owners claim doesn't exist. Also like Batman, they are liars.

24 Prince's proprietors could drop their schizoid persona, but they say it's necessary to avoid troublemakers looking to quaff 8am whiskey-and-egg shots before harassing innocent shoppers in SoHo. So, they'll just lay low, until it's time to start the steady, diligent drinking that makes heroes of us all.