What’s bizarre about the Observer’s trend piece about midtown from this morning is not its basic premise that somehow celebrities and fabulous people haven’t been going to nice restaurants above 23rd Street for — give or take — a century. It’s not the repeated plugging of three rich-people properties: Casa Lever, Monkey Bar, and Le Caprice. It’s not even the oversimplification and glorification of a neighborhood that they claim now extends from 29th Street to 63rd Street. (Who knew?) What’s most bizarre about the piece is the oversimplification and degradation of another neighborhood: downtown.
“People have been going out with discomfort for a very long time,” said [Gherardo Guarducci], referring to downtown spots where the music is loud; the seating is snug; and countertops are sticky. “I think there is sort of a saturation of downtown and of the meatpacking district. Everyone knows that on Friday and Saturday, it’s crowded, and it’s not a crowd that for most of us is attractive. And Soho — no one really understands anymore what it stands for.”
Thank you for the insight, Gherardo Guarducci, proprietor of Casa Lever on Park and 53rd. (Get over your snickering about people not knowing what Soho stands for, because there’s more.)
“Here’s the truth: When people used to say ‘downtown restaurant,’ I think they meant a place that was quote-unquote edgy and cheap and out of the way and a whole lot of fun,” wrote Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair editor and proprietor of Monkey Bar on East 54th Street, in an email. “Now they mean — with the exception of the Waverly Inn, of course— overpriced and filled with extremely skinny adults dressed like teenagers. The Monkey Bar is the complete antidote to all of that.”
Thank you for the insight Graydon Carter, proprietor of Monkey Bar on Madison and 54th. And there’s this:
“Downtown is supercrowded,” said designer and Washington Square Park denizen Devi Kroell, who makes bags in exotic skins and is a favorite of Sienna Miller and Rihanna. “It seems to have become that mass destination where most people hang out. A lot of designers have opened stores in the West Village and meatpacking district, but I don’t think downtown is that cool anymore. Madison Avenue is just more civilized. It’s like a quaint little village.”
Oh, and thank you, too, for the insight, Devi Kroell, proprietor of an eponymous new store on Madison and 63rd.
You know, we remember the first time we ever went out “downtown” in New York City, over a decade ago, and an older friend sneaked us into Max Fish when we were underage. We left with the rube’s impression that all of downtown looked like the then sexy-scuzzy Ludlow Street, a misconception that was quickly dispelled the next time we went somewhere else “downtown.” We were embarrassed back then to have thought so much terrain and diversity could all be exactly the same. But clearly, people — even ones who’ve lived here forever — are making that same mistake today.
It’s Madtown! [NYO]