Everyone’s talking about rats taking over New York’s restaurants, but what of feral cats, wild boars, moose, billy goats, sinister-looking geese, Siberian roe deer, and wapiti? Freemans started this taxidermy craze a few years ago, when it introduced diners to the pleasures of eating hot artichoke dip and Stilton-stuffed prunes under the intense gaze of variously murdered birds and beasts. Now it seems that mounting a ruminant mammal head, real or representational, on the dining-room wall (Northeast Kingdom, Porchetta, Alonso’s, Aspen) or at least hanging a nice pair of antlers over the door for good luck (Cafe Cluny) has become as de rigueur as setting the table with Chilewich place mats. (Note to restaurateurs: Decorating your restaurant as if it were a medieval hunting lodge or pet cemetery does not ensure a favorable review from the Times, if the recent horse-whippings their critics administered to BLT Burger, Freemans, and the now-defunct Lonesome Dove are any indication.) To test your restaurant-décor acumen, see if you can match the critters and cud-chewers with their respective restaurants; helpful clues and answers provided below.
1. Cuisine: “Early American midwestern.”
Beast: White-tailed deer.
Likelihood that one of the owners shot it himself: Low, but in the realm of possibility.
Zoomates: A Who’s Who of the animal kingdom including various birds, a ram, a goose, a boar, and an entire wall of what look like jackalope horns.
2. Cuisine: Cowboy-mogul.
Beast: American bison.
Can you eat the décor? Yes, so to speak, in the form of bison steaks, burgers, meatloaf, and pot roast.
Likelihood that the owner shot it himself: Low, but, in one of his whimsical moments, not unimaginable.
3. Cuisine: Burger joint.
Beast: Texas longhorn.
On the menu: Black Angus burgers, American Wagyu burgers, Japanese Kobe burgers, turkey burgers, lamb burgers, veggie burgers, and salmon burgers.
Likelihood that the celebrity chef- owner flipped yours: Extremely low.
4. Cuisine: Tuscan.
Beast: Texas longhorn.
Is that on the menu? No, but the kitchen occasionally offers the rare Tuscan breed of cattle called Chianina.
Likelihood that the chef-owner raised and butchered said Chianina himself: Fairly high.
5. Cuisine: Steakhouse.
Beast: American black bear.
Is that on the menu? No, but there is an after-dinner drink called “the Hooker” (coffee, Kahlúa, Grand Marnier, crème de cacao, whipped cream).
Zoomates: A buffalo, some deer, a moose, a ram, some pheasants, and a peacock.
PETA-member outrage level: Stratospheric.
Answers: 1. Freemans; 2. Ted Turner’s Ted’s Montana Grill; 3. Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Burger; 4. Cesare Casella’s Maremma; 5. Alonso’s Steakhouse.