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Once an art form confined to frat houses, Upper West Side beer bars, and New Yorker cartoons, taxidermy has made its way into restaurants all over town.


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.


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