Arts & Culture

Spotlight On: Andrew Steinthal, Co-founder of ‘The Infatuation’

Talking to the NYC food connoisseur about his restaurant review website geared towards us 20-something eaters Read More

By / April 23, 2014

You know that friend in your circle who knows every hotspot in your neighborhood? Whether it’s that perfect dive bar on a desolate side street, or that happening fusion restaurant that makes no sense on paper but tastes amazing, Andrew Steinthal will lead you in the right direction.

The 33-year-old music publicist turned food enthusiast began his restaurant review website, The Infatuation, with partner Chris Stang five years ago. Reading one of their reviews is like talking to your funny friend who comments not only on the food, but the staff, the music, the frighteningly low height of the ceilings. Essentially, it’s a thorough and conversational resource for all things food and beverages throughout New York City and the boroughs. The website even has a “Friday Fives” pick that asks people in the entertainment biz and beyond to list their favorite places to eat (like Aziz Ansari and The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s). I spoke with Steinthal about his new favorite restaurant, his exciting plans for The Infatuation, and where to get the best poached eggs in New York City.

What inspired The Infatuation?

My partner Chris and I met in college and started this site in April 2009. We also came up in the music business together, and always had different plans of how we were going to take over the world and what our business was going to be together. As we approached our later 20s, we began really enjoying the changing restaurant culture in New York, and there were no restaurant reviews that spoke to us in terms of content, and actually helping you find a restaurant for a specific purpose. We’re New York Magazine readers, and we couldn’t believe that NY Mag didn’t have an app (we do), and that it didn’t have more search functions than Critics’ Pick. We started to become the people in our respective circles that our friends would call when they needed a restaurant opinion. Everyone would call if they had a date they need to impress, or their parents coming to town, or just wanted to find some late night eats. And then we realized that there is a lack of non-pretentious, friendly restaurant recommendations online, and we decided we were going to tackle writing restaurant reviews, even though we had no clue how to do that, which is kind of the beauty of it.

Totally. They’re funny and easy to read because they’re very honest and raw, very conversational.

Exactly, they’re very conversational. And they’re relatable. Our whole thing was that we wanted to represent the every person, and most of the stuff in the dining space when it comes to reviewing food content is super high-end and a bit snobby. And don’t get me wrong, there’s a huge market for that. A lot of people fit in that niche, and they really care about the chefs and where the food comes from and how long its been dry-aged and all that, but most regular people just want to know if the restaurant is good, what they serve, what the scene is, and what it’s useful for. The majority of diners could careless about who the chef is, they just want to know that it’s the right spot.

What’s your professional background?

We have music business background; Chris is in marketing and I was in Public relations for a while. Since we’ve spent so much time shaping people’s careers and nurturing them along, we really know how to build something, so we use similar tactics for our website. . We’ve done all these silly things to cultivate a fan base, and people have shared the website with their friends, and its been really cool to see it grow. Five years later, here we are! We actually both left our jobs two weeks ago.

So now The Infatuation will be a full time gig?

Yes, now it’s full time. We’re trying to take what we’ve done in NYC and get it rolling in other markets. We want to find other people who will be Infatuation reviewers all over the country. Our first cities to roll out shortly will be San Francisco, Chicago, and Denver.

How do you hear about these all these places sprouting up in the city?

It’s a little bit of everything. The best recommendations always come from the community.  People hit us up on Twitter or send us emails saying we have to check out so-and-so spot, and that’s really where we find the gems. We try to stay up on restaurant openings and older places that have been around for a long time. Our main objective is to keep a balance of ‘of the moment’ spots, places that are timeless, and neighborhood gems.

Well, as a Williamsburg resident I welcome the Brooklyn reviews! I recently read Megan Collins’ “Friday Fives” picks about Greenpoint and have a bunch of new places to try.

Greenpoint is an exciting place to live right now. There are a lot of great spots. Have you been hanging out at Tørst?

Haven’t been there yet, but I hear they have quite the beer selection.

You should go. If you like beer, it’s awesome! And Glasserie is really great too. It’s a bit far, but worth the trip.

Are you keeping Passover or do you eat chametz anyway?

I do not keep Passover kosher. I apologize to my fellow heebs!

What’s one of your new favorite places to go eat?

This place in the East Village that I just discovered called Bikinis. It’s basically a cross between a Spanish café and a New York diner. Bikini’s are like Spanish sandwiches, which was news to me. They have incredible sandwiches; I ate breakfast there the other day and had probably one of the best poached eggs dishes ever. It’s delicious. It’s similar to Café Havana, but in the East Village and not as crowded and crazy.

The Infatuation’s “Friday Fives,” which asks people in the entertainment business their top five places to eat and drink is a really cool idea. How do you get in contact with all of these awesome people? For example, Brandon Boyd and Questlove?

It’s literally straight up hustling. A lot of times we’ll go track people down on Twitter. Being a publicist, I know a bunch of other publicists, and at least know the game in terms of how to present something to somebody to make it happen. It took me four years to get Questlove. I felt very accomplished the day that ran, because I worked really hard to get him! And someone actually pitched me Brandon Boyd, and I like Incubus, so that was an easy one. I once saw Aziz Ansari and basically accosted him! Amazingly, he remembered me the next time I ran into him and promised to do it…over the span of three years. I probably emailed his publicist 20 times and was like. ‘I’m so sorry I’m so annoying, but what are the chances it will actually happen now?’ And finally, it happened. I apologize to that publicist.

What are your goals for the future of The Infatuation? Where do you see it in five years?

We want to become that ubiquitous platform and brand that people turn to when they want to find a restaurant. We want people in Houston and Raleigh, and potentially London and Sydney, to know that they can trust The Infatuation for recommendations that will be useful. We see a big hole in the market there. Zagat was amazing, had a ton of brand equity, and was serving a purpose, but they never translated to the Internet so well. I don’t know real national or international brands that give you a curated opinion of restaurants, so we’re really trying to be that, and hopefully we can do that through reaching people. And The Infatuation is mainly for young people. Our audience is a lot different than most food publications. We reach a 20-something audience, and we communicate with them through social networking like Instagram and Twitter. We’re hoping we can take what we have made in New York here and replicate it across the country, and hopefully one day across the globe.

(Image: Ryan Muir)