High Chairs for Grown-ups

Photo: Jeremy Liebman for New York Magazine

From L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon to Room 4 Dessert, some of the hottest seats in town are at the bar. Chalk it up to the new informality, a Food Network–fueled fascination with watching chefs at work, or simply the logical progression of the sushi bar and the Eisenberg’s-era lunch counter—bars are the new corner booths. While much has been made of the bar-dining trend, little has been said about the influx of stools, which range from sumptuous to spartan. To test your dining-out acumen, see if you can match the photos and clues below with their respective restaurants. And now that bars and stools have become essential fine-dining furniture, let’s hope forward-thinking restaurateurs won’t neglect the final touch: a well-placed coat hook.

1. The specs: Designed by AvroKO, built on the Lower East Side from hot-rolled steel and a surprisingly soft vinyl seat cover.
Hook: Yes.
On view: At the charcuterie bar, watch the chef blow-dry potato chips and sculpt prosciutto into delicate flowers.
Comfort level: No back support, obviously, but three convenient foot rests (two on the stool and a bar rail).

2. The specs: Joe Colombo’s Birillo bar stool is part of design history and retails for around $2,800.
Hook: No, and because of that, nearly every stylish seat back is obscured by its occupant’s coat.
On view: Gorgeous Zweisel wineglasses and a storage system any oenophile would covet.
Comfort level: With a back cushion that hits the spine in an odd spot, it’s fashion before function. But the extra-wide seat accommodates those liable to overdose on the delicious Pugliese pastas.

3. The specs: When customers started sliding off Patrick Jouin’s original custom-designed stools, management procured the award-winning LEM Piston Stool from Design Within Reach, and reupholstered them with silver calf leather.
Hook: No—not with that curved Corian bar.
On view: Watchband-strapped wine bottles.
Comfort level: Between the 360-degree swivel and the adjustable height, it’s a joyride (plus you can order à la carte off the prix fixe menu).

4. The specs: Cobbled together from three different companies and powder-coated for a uniform look, these cocoa-colored stools are the only non-banquette seating in the place.
Hook: Yes.
On view: Wheels of cheese, hubcaps of tortillas españolas, and a cook painting tomato purée on slice after slice of pressed bread.
Comfort level: Good, thanks to back cushions that yield slightly, a deep recess below the marble bar, and multiple footrests.

5. The specs: Regal curved-back red leather and chrome-legged perches designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon exclusively for this restaurant—and five other outposts, from Vegas to Tokyo.
Hook: Yes.
On view: A squadron of straight-faced cooks in a preternaturally calm show kitchen and suave waiters struggling to deliver plates over the awkward corners.
Comfort level: High. Marble ledge and bar rail for footrests, and plenty of legroom.

Answers: (1) Quality Meats, (2) Centovini, (3) Gilt, (4) Boqueria, (5) L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

High Chairs for Grown-ups