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Neighborhood Places


Sneakeater
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This is going to sound over-the-top, but maybe part of it is that downtown neighborhoods tend to have such cache that people will travel in order to go where the locals go, just to be with the locals. No offence to Megan, but nobody's gonna go to Andre's so they can eat brunch among people who live in Yorkville. But plenty of people would go to Bubby's.

To get at it a different way, there's a world of difference between a "small cute Village spot" and a "Third Avenue storefront".

Just a thought. I apologize if it's stupid.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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This is reaching the point of insanity, but there are loads of "charming" spots a couple strolling around the West Village might stumble upon and decide to eat in. But that doesn't make them "destination restaurants" as much as it makes the West Village a "destination neighborhood." For the restaurant to be the "destination," the visitors would have to be there specifically for the restaurant.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Even Jarnac may be pushing it. I mean, any place (especially any place that's been reviewed by the Times) that has a website where it calls itself a "quintessential neighborhood bistro" is probably selling that status as much as it's providing it.

I think more to the point is that many blocks in the West Village have a multitude of spots that none of us could even name. Most of them look very attractive. But nobody's gonna travel to the neighborhood for the express purpose of eating in any particular one of them. Nobody's really heard of them. They're places that people in the neighborhood know, and that visitors might stumble upon almost randomly. They're quintessentially neighborhood places.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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" think more to the point is that many blocks in the West Village have a multitude of spots that none of us could even name."

actually, I wonder if one could come up with the names of more than one or two WV places (other than say those generally crappy tourist places on Bleecker between 5th and 6th Ave) that a. hasn't been media-reviewed and b. that you haven't heard of. I've never felt intensely curious about Metropol, Extra Virgin et al...but they've all been written up and covered.

as for Jarnac. people do travel to the WV specifically to eat there. and the website is clearly aimed at such people, even if it purports to be something else.

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actually, I wonder if one could come up with the names of more than one or two WV places (other than say those generally crappy tourist places on Bleecker between 5th and 6th Ave) that a. hasn't been media-reviewed and b. that you haven't heard of.

I could be glib and say once CAN'T come up with their names, because one doesn't know them.

But seriously: go to Little Owl and walk two or three blocks in any direction. Or walk up W. 4th St. between 6th Ave. and 8th Ave. You'll pass tons of these places.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Just because a restaurant has been reviewed by the media doesn't make it a destination restaurant or anything more than a basic neighborhood restaurnt. Whether a retaurant is a neighborhood or a destination place is determined by use. Who is going there and why?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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"But seriously: go to Little Owl and walk two or three blocks in any direction."

There are about 8 restaurants on Bedford total (and most of them aren't within three blocks of Little Owl). Moustache is next to Little Owl. There is a Portugese restaurant up the block (the name escapes me). Chumley's is within a couple blocks. Ditto for Snack Taverna. There is some sort of Italian place within about 3 blocks. Further east on Bedford are Mas, AOC Bedford, Cafe Henri, Blue Ribbon, Ino and Ditch Plains. On the Carmine intersection with Bedford are Deborah and Shopsin's.

What did I miss?

"Or walk up W. 4th St. between 6th Ave. and 8th Ave. You'll pass tons of these places."

well, I already mentioned two of them: Extra Virgin and Metropol. Throw in The Place, Mary's Fish Camp and Smorgas Chef as well. But you do have a point -- there are some no-name local places on those blocks.

edited to remove Barbuto...which although close to the intersection of W. 4th is on Washington and thus not close to 8th ave.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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I would guess you're doing it from memory. And of course you remember the ones you know. Actually take the walk and you'll see what I mean. There are places you can't even think of, because they don't register. They're just there.

(PS -- "In any direction" from Little Owl means walking up and down Grove as well as Bedford.)

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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To broaden this discussion a little bit, El Bulli is actually very casual and comfortable.[...]

Do most people dress up to go there? If a restaurant is enough of a special occasion place for people to dress up for the purpose of going there, I don't think it's a neighborhood restaurant.

Spain, which not all that long ago I thought of as a stuffy country with a stuffy population, has become very casual. You can still find the old set in suits with their wives dripping in gold jewelry, but the new restaurants, even those with two and three stars, expecially outside Madrid, can attract a very casual crowd. ElBulli is seven kilometers to the east of a beach resort. It's not uncommon to see men in shirtsleeves, particulalry in summer.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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. . . .

A restaurant that I may not consider going out of my way for may be the cat's meow to someone else who would gladly travel around the world for a chance to dine there.  . . .

I now the difference between a destination restaurant and a tourist trap, but I don't know that I could articulate the difference in a way that would make sense to someone who wasn't a dedicated gastronome. There are restaurants in every capital city in the world that are world famous and a destination for the rich and famous as well as the tourist, but many of them don't make my wish list.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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. . . .

as for Jarnac.  people do travel to the WV specifically to eat there.  and the website is clearly aimed at such people, even if it purports to be something else.

It's easy to get around in a city like NY. Most of us rather enjoy an excuse to eat in someone else's neighborhood just for the change in scenery. We'll do it on no excuse at all, or make one up. I live in SoHo and have met upper east siders on the upper west side for dinner and the upper west side is hardly a destination neighborhood for dining. I've been known to reserve a table in advance in Paris at neighborhood restaurants about as remote from my hotel as possible. I'm not alone. At one such restaurant, I ran across some fellow Americans who managed to find my restaurant in spite of the fact they spoke very little French and didn't understand much of what they said themselves, let alone what the waiter said. To make it worse, they didn't understand the basic food and send back dishes they ordered in ignorance. Just because a restaurant makes the a of best restaurants in a neighborhood, or best neighborhood restaurants, in a magazine and thereby attracts outsiders, doesn't make it a destination restaurant to my way of thinking.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 2 weeks later...

well, as far as I'm concerned, I've definitively settled once and for all whether Perry Street is a neighborhood restaurant.

I live in the WV these days. On Horatio. Both Perry Street and Little Owl are quite close by.

Last night I attempted to dine solo at the bar at Little Owl. I was looking at an hour and a half wait. So I dined at Perry Street without a problem instead. I've always been able to walk into Perry Street. For Little Owl and many another purportedly "neighborhood WV restaurant", such as August, this is an impossibility. (NOTE: I obviously do not blame these restaurants for their own popularity.)

(I was told that about 40% of Little Owl's clientele are locals.)

That settles it. It's my neighborhood and I can eat at Perry Street anytime I want. In the WV that is so exceptionable for a good restaurant that I don't see how it can't be a "neighborhood restaurant"...in a functional sense anyway.

Case closed.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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oh hell.

yeah, early in the week is probably a bit better...but I don't eat large dinners early in the week.

I was also told that LO keeps the bar (4 seats) and two tables open for walk-ins. Clearly it's not enough.

One suggestion to the restaurant...it kind of spoils the point of bar dining when you're seating groups of 3 and 4 at the bar.

I'd love to make this a true neighborhood place, somewhere where I'd eat every week. But, it's literally impossible to become a regular there.

Perry Street, on the other hand,.....

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well, as far as I'm concerned, I've definitively settled once and for all whether Perry Street is a neighborhood restaurant.....That settles it.  It's my neighborhood and I can eat at Perry Street anytime I want.

I don't think the definition of a "neighborhood restaurant" turns on the degree of success, or whether it's possible to be a regular there. Even Jean Georges has regulars.
I was also told that LO keeps the bar (4 seats) and two tables open for walk-ins.  Clearly it's not enough.

Why should a particular number of tables be held for walk-ins? I actually think it's pretty generous of them to keep two tables open, when they quite clearly could have booked them in advance.
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That wasn't a criticism of LO. But it makes it not a neighborhood restaurant in a functional sense.

I think you miss my overall point.

I live in the neighborhood. I can eat at Perry Street without a reservation. There are very few decent restaurants in the neighborhood where I can do that.

If that doesn't make it a "neighborhood restaurant" than the term has lost all meaning.

edit: my point wasn't that you can eat at PS anytime you want if you are a "regular" -- I'm not one, yet -- but rather that anyone can.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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While looking for something else, I came across a couple of statements by oakapple from a couple of years ago that contradict things other people have said in this thread and even, perhaps, the thrust of some things oakapple has said in this thread.

I'm not doing this to play "gotcha" with oakapple or to try to trip him up. I'm merely trying to demonstrate that it's hard to argue that "neighborhood place" is a term of art with a stable, agreed-upon meaning. It seems to me to be more one of those vague phrases that get tossed around a lot without anyone's really knowing exactly what they mean. (Or, more accurately, everyone thinks they know what it means, but don't really pay attention to the fact that the term is used inconsistently -- including by themselves.)

That's why I started this thread (semantic though it is).

I think the pejorative term "neighborhood restaurant" is over-used. It properly applies to restaurants that are of no likely interest outside of those who live/work in the neighborhood, and I agree the Times generally should not bother reviewing these.

By the way, one of my personal theories is that, by definition, once the Times reviews a restaurant, it can no longer be deemed a "neighborhood place."

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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I think you miss my overall point.

I live in the neighborhood.  I can eat at Perry Street without a reservation.  There are very few decent restaurants in the neighborhood where I can do that.

My devil's-advocate question is: Suppose Perry St had been so fantastically successful that one could not walk in there without a reservation, and expect to be seated. Would that change your view of it?

From my perspective, the only reason you're able to do this is that Perry St hasn't quite succeeded the way Little Owl has. So whereas Little Owl is clearly the "humbler" restaurant by far, it also just happens to be a "hot" restaurant, and therefore hard to get into.

Among restaurants showing available 8:00 p.m. (i.e., prime time) tables this evening are Country, Oceana, and San Domenico. Unless something changes dramaticlly in the next few hours, I'll bet you can walk into any of them and be seated this evening. And if that works on a Friday night, then I'll bet it works most nights. So, are they "neighborhood restaurants" because anyone in the neighborhood can pop in at any time?

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While looking for something else, I came across a couple of statements by oakapple from a couple of years ago that contradict things other people have said in this thread and even, perhaps, the thrust of some things oakapple has said in this thread.

Actually, I re-read those old comments of mine, and I don't think they're inconsistent with what I've said more recently.
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I can't believe that this topic has reared its ugly head again :laugh:

Nathan, what exactly have you proved? If that closes the case for you so be it. What are the price/cost comparisons between PS and LO? I fully agree with OA on this one. :smile:

As for PS, I certainly don't live in the neighborhood, not anywhere near it, yet it is now on my short list for restaurants to head to NYC to dine at. Case closed - for me at least :wink:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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