When I lived in New York, I used to wake up in the morning wondering, What amazing thing will happen to me today? Sometimes nothing amazing happened. Instead, I slipped on black ice running up the subway steps, or failed to sparkle in an important meeting, or went to the dentist.
But like most 20-somethings with shoebox apartments and lots of free time, the evenings were reliably excellent because they were, more often than not, spent at restaurants. Not at fancy places with white tablecloths, but at establishments like the place in this photo, with rickety tables and house wine and the exhaust fumes of 7th Avenue adding a certain smoky seasoning to my orecchiette.
I love restaurants, and especially New York restaurants, because there is a radical equality to them.
For many New Yorkers, restaurants are the living room they don’t have. And even if they do have living rooms, New Yorkers still go out to dinner. The famous ones make do with their inevitable proximity to gawking civilians.
Once, at an Italian restaurant in Tribeca, I sat next to Yoko Ono, who was in a tall black hat and contemplating her radicchio salad. On another occasion, at a little Austrian place in the West Village famous for its wiener schnitzel, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson lounged at a corner table only partly obscured by an orchid.
I love restaurants, and especially New York restaurants, because there is a radical equality to them. It is possible to walk into P.J. Clarke’s, an unassuming bistro opposite the very grand Lincoln Centre, order a Manhattan and a burger, and walk out one hour and $50 later feeling on top of the world. Now, $50 isn’t nothing, but it’s pretty cheap for transcendence.
That’s maybe why I stared at the picture on eater.com. It reminded me of everything there was to love about New York before coronavirus, but also represented a first step towards life after it. Restaurants are one of the most reliable sources of sanity and joy we have. Long may they reign.