That new crop of West Village restaurants is more clubby than cutthroat. Soon there will be a Keith McNally place, along with Graydon Carter’s Waverly Inn and Cafe Cluny, which is co-owned by Odeon and Cafe Luxembourg vets Lynn Wagenknecht, Judi Wong, and Steven Abramowitz. In its front room, Cluny features a beguiling demi-celebrity portrait gallery. It’s a tribute to a group of friends who’ve made good—and live (and dine) in the neighborhood. Not that you’d necessarily recognize them. There’s Diane Von Furstenberg, of course. And, okay, that’s definitely Ian Schrager. But who’s that there? And is that really … oh, God, what’s his name? … Next to Annie Leibovitz?
“It’s become sort of a game,” says Wagenknecht. “Every night, there’s a group here that’s trying to see if they can identify every single one. Usually media [types].” So offhand was their idea, though, that the proprietors didn’t even think to mention it to the subjects. “I first heard about it from two friends who had been into the restaurant before me. I was convinced they were confusing me with someone else,” says Michael Hainey, deputy editor of GQ. “When I finally went, the hostess said, ‘I’ve been looking at your face all week. I thought you’d be shorter.’ ” Chelsea Clinton, who was in recently for dinner, mistook the portrait of Mimi Sheraton to be one of her mother. (While an honorary New Yorker, Hillary’s no honorary downtowner. Maybe in ’08.) Still, most diners are bound to score higher than Jovan Gorgovski, the Russian artist the owners had scouted in Central Park to do the drawings. “He had no idea who any of these people were. Well, except for Sandra Bernhard,” says Wagenknecht. Adds Wong, “We had pulled these photos from Google, and he recognized Jay Leno [in a group shot]. Only then was he like, Oh, famous!” But not the right kind of famous. Carter, who trafficks in conventional fame at Vanity Fair, discovered his portrait when he came in opening night. “Perhaps it’s secretly a wall of shame,” he ventures. He and Wagenknecht are old friends, but that doesn’t mean that he’s going to add her to the Ed Sorel mural at the Waverly. “She’s far too fresh and attractive for that. Also, she’s alive. Almost all the figures in the mural are dead.”