TCQ&A: Matt Newberg

The rules: Answer as many of the 47 questions as you like (but a minimum of 15, and you must answer #1–4). Please limit most answers to the general geographic area.

1. How long have you lived in the area? Where did you move from? Where are you originally from? I’ve lived here for two years. I’m originally from sunny West Los Angeles, and like it here better. I went to college at UPenn in Philly and moved to the West Village when I graduated to pursue a startup involving anonymous text-message flirting. I moved to Tribeca shortly after to get closer to Beyoncé.

2. Married? Partnered? If so, what’s his/her name and occupation? I’m single.

3. Kids? Pets? Not that I know of, but I have a lot of records in my apartment.

4. Where do you live? I live in Truffles (I hate saying that), which many have dubbed “The Tribeca Dorm” or, during Hurricane Sandy, “Noah’s Ark.” I, however, prefer to say “The Place Above the Swedish Coffee Shop.”

5. What do you do for a living? I make apps. I recently launched playdope, a social network for connecting familiar strangers. I’m sure some people reading this have seen me before walking down Greenwich or chilling at Kaffe 1668—the term for our relationship would be “familiar strangers.” With playdope, you can see who’s on your block, which contacts you share on your phone, and how many times you’ve “passed” each other prior. The goal is to connect people over fun icebreaker games who otherwise would have no way of connecting, other than awkwardly staring at each other! You may have seen some stickers for it around here….

7. Most-frequented restaurants: Zucker’s—guaranteed to screw up your bagel order 99.9% of the time, but no competition. Dirty Bird—for when I want to be less healthy than bagels. Bubby’s—shoutout to my main man Mel who holds it down for me at the bar and plays the best hip-hop in the hood. Sole di Capri—this is the place that puts Locanda to shame. Sure, it’s on a grittier part of Church Street, but the pastas are consistently on point. Square Diner—who doesn’t like reading the Post over some sunny-side eggs and a bagel smothered with grape jam? This is one of the last great staples in the neighborhood!

9. Best sandwich: I like the burger at Walker’s a lot. Medium rare, the classic seeded bun, lettuce, tomato, American. It’s no frills, unlike most Tribeca burgers.

10. Sweet-tooth satisfaction: When I’m having a rough day I’ll walk over to BPC for Shake Shack and get one of those butterscotch concretes or a malted milkshake.

11. Most delicious cocktail: When it’s brick cold I like to post up at Smith & Mills with one of their ciders. It sounds like a corny holiday thing, but the flavors are pretty complex. In addition to crack, there’s some apple butter–like substance in there too which always gets me.

12. I usually order in from Famous Sichuan and I always order the General Tso. Only after rigorous workouts of course. I get some wonton soup and the General Tso, or the Dan Dan noodles (if you don’t know what those are you’re missing out). It takes 15 minutes for them to deliver and another 15 for the MSG to kick in and knock me out!

13. I can’t resist popping into: I’m sure a lot of people say Balloon Saloon but I’m going to say The Smile Newsstand at Shinola. It has every publication in the world in there and coffee that’s cheaper than Kaffe’s! They know me at both places, but sometimes I just can’t take the Citi crowd at Kaffe (although lots of nice Tribeca yoga moms stop in, too). It’s a good place to come, sit down with my laptop or iPad and get some ideas for the company on paper. It’s very intimate there—good vibes and good music.

archive-sale-by-tribeca-citizen15. When I walk into my apartment, the first thing I see that I bought around here is: Eighty 12″s and LPs from the ARChive of Contemporary Music vinyl sale last month. I got them for a buck each. This place is insane; they are trying to collect the best copy of every record known to mankind and twice a year they sell their second-rate copies. I collect funk, soul, hip-hop, and 80s dance music—12-inches and 7-inch 45s. I’m not DJing at any venues right now but I’ve been spinning since I was 12. My neighbors think I’m some weirdo.

16. I’m so glad my office, known on Foursquare as “the playdope playpen,” is in the neighborhood, because without it I’d actually have to commute to work.

17. How I stay fit: Some weeks I’ll just eat Chipotle bowls without rice (my take on the 4-hour body.) Sometimes I’ll run on the West Side Highway, but there are too many excuses not to. Other times I’ll just stay in my building and do my signature circuit training routine. I still have to check out Flywheel. My current workout music is obviously Yeezus.

19. What’s the area’s best-kept secret? Bikini Bar. Like every other place in Tribeca, this spot only serves coffee and cold press juices. I try to go all the time, but they make their own weird hours, so I’m usually turned down. Sometimes you get lucky and the lady will let you in (it’s the front of her work/live space, so I understand.) The place is amazing inside—an urban tiki oasis! It’s chock full of Hawaiian heirlooms: surfboards, a jukebox, wooden statues, street signs. The sofas upstairs are all upholstered in this awesome tiki fabric. And of course, there’s a tiki bar.

27. I’ve never been to Sushi of Gari and I don’t know why.

28. I’m sorry, Mulberry & Vine, but I won’t be coming back.

29. How does Biscuits & Bath stay in business?

30. I tend to take out-of-towners to: The mini golf course on Pier 25. It’s so dope! There’s this one hole where you have to cross a body of water by hitting the ball into a really narrow bridge. I screw it up every time. I also like to yell at other groups of people who go too slow. Mini golf etiquette is very important, seriously.

31. I wish I lived in… My friend Logan Marshall’s apartment. She has the perfect loft space above Greenwich Grill. Multiple floors, a roof, and a really awesome kitchen/living space that is great for parties. It’s got that “old Tribeca” feel. It’s a restored Romanesque Revival building from the 1800s, real New York. She and her roommates probably pay much less than what we pay up the street at Truffles and get 100x the space.

32. My very favorite spot: Banksy kind of ruined it but the alley known as Staple Street behind the playdope office was my favorite spot in Tribeca. The bridge that connects the two buildings reminds me of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. I think it used to be a hospital bridge. In October, Banksy hid one of his stupid street art pieces there, and it was mobbed for a while. I frequently sit on the benches in Duane Park with my iPhone and iPad and test new versions of playdope. The Khe-Yo banh mi kiosk is right there too, which makes for a good lunch. One time I saw two Chinese women fighting over empty recyclable bottles in the alley, while some schmuck filmed it with his iPhone from the second floor of his multimillion-dollar apartment. Granted, I was filming both the guy and the women, too, in astonishment.

33. Pet peeve: When people won’t stop to talk to me about their dogs! I have two Norfolk terriers back at home and I like to show people pictures of them. I now realize that most people in Tribeca don’t actually walk their own dogs, so I get that the dog walker doesn’t want to stop and chit-chat about how I have the same breed.

36. My most memorable celebrity sighting: It was summertime, and I was walking back from the West Side Highway when I saw the great mayor of Tribeca—Hova, of course. The weather was so nice, he had the window in his Escalade down. In some matter of fate, our paths crossed for a quick moment as his driver slowed down to handle the rocky cobblestones of Desbrosses. Without even thinking I flashed him the signature diamond “Roc” sign, which he instantly imitated. Some people think this is some form of illuminati communication, I call it one of the most genius marketing tactics of all time. Jay, if you’re reading this, you know where to find me.

40. If I could change one thing about the neighborhood: I’d make more communal spaces for interacting with new people. I just want to play Connect Four or Cards Against Humanity with people. There are a few good watering holes and hangouts, but nothing beats a good local place where everyone knows your name and you can meet new neighbors. Something slower than Kaffe, and less about caffeine and more about being in the company of interesting people. People used to call the bar at Dylan Prime “Dylan Subprime” because girls would go there to find a rich financier to marry. I know all the artists moved out of here a while ago but Tribeca’s cooler than that, though, right?!

44. Someone who lives here who I really think you should meet: My friend, a talented singer/songwriter who goes by the name Winklereed. She’s dope, you’re going to be hearing about her soon. I try to give some tracks for her to sing over but she won’t let me in her studio sessions yet. She lives in my building but we met because we were both at Apothéke trying out a group dating website called Grouper! Follow her on Twitter but you can probably find her at Estancia or Fika. [Photograph by Marisa Erin.]

45. Proof that change is good: Bad Italian is going away—see Ponte’s and Il Mattone.

46. If I couldn’t live here, I’d live in… The East Village, no question. It’s the total opposite of Tribeca: quasi-affordable, tons of eateries, dirty, and always buzzing at night. It’s very similar to Tribeca in that there’s a real sense of place in the people and culture there. If I’m not in Tribeca I’m probably there. A lot of people say they’ll move to Tribeca when they’re older—it has this reputation among my age group as being too old and nice. It’s true, but right now these Tribeca SoulCycle moms keep me here.

47. I wish you had asked me about: The playdope playpen. My co-founder Israel Zalmanov and I share an office with two companies, Makeable and Concep. Concep is a bunch of funny Aussies selling B2B marketing solutions to big firms and Makeable (formerly Poke) is a creative agency. We’re on the second floor of 11 Harrison, which is a residential building. They get really pissed when we take phone calls in the entryway. It’s an interesting mix. The only thing startup-like about it is the dartboard in the conference room. There’s only one dart, too, so you have to keep picking it up to keep playing.

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1 Comment

  1. Glad Matt is my neighbor. He shares a lot of the values of my much older generation and he likes all of the same restaurants I do. I walk my own dog, so I would be happy to look at his dog pictures. If you see an old lady with white hair walking a black PWD…you have found me.