The Waverly Inn
16 Bank St.
I didn’t actually beg to get my table at the Waverly Inn. I had other people do it for me. And once inside, I must admit, I felt pretty damn good about myself. And why not? There was Graydon Carter (for whom I once wrote briefly at the New York Observer), resplendent in his regular banquette, which is situated, like a wary gunfighter’s, in the back corner of the room. There was Richard Holbrooke next to him, and next to both of them, hidden discreetly in a little alcove, was Michael Stipe, whose owlish glasses and salt-and-pepper beard made him look bizarrely like Sigmund Freud. And who were all these other people? Who knew? Who cared? Tonight we were all members of the same select and cozy club. The rooms are even decorated like a kind of modest, Anglophile dining society, with low-wattage lighting and lots of raggedly debonair little tchotchkes (piles of tattered books, old photos of the ’49 Brooklyn Dodgers) that look like they’ve been gathered from some long-ago Vanity Fair photo shoot. And what about the food? For a semi-private club, it’s not bad. For a public restaurant, it could be better, although if you’re Graydon Carter and a place like this opened a few doors down from your own townhouse, you wouldn’t be too upset. In accordance with the fashions of the day, it is stressed that “local and organic” ingredients are used whenever possible at the Waverly Inn, and that the restaurant’s water is filtered through “reverse osmosis,” whatever that is. But don’t let these little flourishes fool you. This connect-the-dots bistro menu isn’t designed to win any culinary awards. It’s designed to feed patrons in a familiar, semi-competent way, without distracting from the real business at hand, which is to have a drink or two and bask in the reflected glow of each other’s glorious presence.