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https://sf.eater.com/2020/8/20/21377939/the-riddler-closure-hayes-valley-west-village-champagne-coronavirus

Looks like The Riddler is closing permanently. I have to admit, I'm confused by this article. Obviously this is a difficult and unprecedented time, and I'm sure that the owners/investors/managers did a lot of analysis and soul-searching before deciding to close.

But I've walked past the West 4th Street location 3-7 times/week for the last five months, and it has appeared fully boarded up the entire time (my recollection is that it was one of the first places to board up and did so long before the "riots"). Now that I've read this article and checked their instagram, it looks like they tried take-out bottles (and oysters?) for a few weeks, and I do now remember some of the plywood on the door had been removed for a short period, while all the plywood on the windows remained. I still never saw any activity inside and never saw a sandwich board advertising what they were doing, which makes sense given that it looks like they were open from 2-5 for a pickup for a couple of days, and there was no way to know that unless you followed their instagram.

Contrast that to their next door neighbor, St. Tropez, which has fully embraced outdoor dining that has now expanded to the area in front of the Riddler. I'd guess that they have more outdoor seating now than they had indoor seating, and they are slammed every night. As are Cafe Cluny, Beatrice Inn, Extra Virgin, Empellon, and virtually everything else that is still open on that stretch. 

In light of all that, it seems weird (though not unexpected, I guess) for Eater to just parrot this:

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"In an effort to remain afloat, both Riddlers offered takeout, sold bottles to go, and in San Francisco, experimented with outdoor dining. The company even scored a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, and worked out favorable terms with the landlords in both spaces. “None of it mattered,” Pelka said. “We were losing more than we could sustain. We just couldn’t make the numbers work.”"

It's their decision to make, but it sure seems like they could have tried more...

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Amen to both of you!  We loved our one experience there.  Delicious food, superb service (turned out we knew one of the captains who took care of us from his stints at other restaurants where we were regulars), and pleasant, comfortable ambiance.  Also, we actually managed to not spend a fortune.  We intended to go again; however, shortly thereafter, I took TAK off our restaurant list for political reasons.

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Here's the article (https://ny.eater.com/2020/8/17/21371895/tak-room-thomas-keller-closing-hudson-yards-nyc-restaurants). 

Sneak, on one level, you must be sympathetic to the thesis? An expensive restaurant catering to hedge fund managers in a purpose built development for high net worth individuals (like the .1% version of those combo mall-housing development communities in Florida) that is a clone of a Miami hotel restaurant is not the poster child for the uncool but good restaurant for people that don't want to go downtown. You can be critical of TAK Room as a cultural object representative of trends in global alpha cities, which reach their apex or nadir in New York, and not extend that to a broad criticism of "uncool restaurants" for lack of a better word. 

But then there is some ultra-weirdness, like the idea that the only appropriate object of a new restaurant by a famous chef is non-Western cuisine. It's also one that doesn't hold coming from Sutton who wrote a four star review of The Grill (https://ny.eater.com/2017/8/1/16070970/the-grill-seagram-building-midtown-review) three years ago. I can speculate at the politics that under-gird this view, but whatever they are, I don't think they will reflect well on Sutton. And then he weirdly (and perhaps ironically) goes after "vertical dining" as stripping street life, which is odd when you look at the dynamic commercial neighbourhoods in non-Western cities that thrive on this kind of structure.

Celebrating a closure at this time it tin-earned, of course.

Anyway, my thoughts on a bad article.

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I guess my point is that the way to take down Capitalism isn't to starve out high net-worth individuals by depriving them of restaurants.

Sutton says TAK Room "never should have opened."  Look, Capitalism shouldn't exist, high net-worth individuals shouldn't exist.  But if they do, restaurants like TAK Room have a place.

(I think we all know why Sutton loved The Grill and hated TAK Room -- and I don't think it's politics.  That was basically what I was driving at in my initial post.)

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My first problem with the article is the randomness of capitalization in the headline.

But yes, there's a lot else to object to, like the implication in the closing sentence that it's mandatory for restaurants to have "culinary significance." Why? Countries like France and Spain (just looking at Europe) are full of good places to eat at all levels which have no particular "significance." Which brings me to the silly Pete Wells comment which I hadn't previously noticed: "strait-laced, spice-free food" is not just eaten by rich white Americans. French bistro cuisine, for example, is largely spice-free and could certainly be described as "strait-laced." European "peasant" cuisine (as in The Rich Tradition) is rarely spicy (okay, paprika) and is not exactly permissive, abandoned, reckless or dissolute (opposite terms to "strait-laced" according to the internet).

After years of not much appearing to care, food writers are suddenly straining to be politically correct. But why focus on restaurants? "(W)hat felt like a growing chain, another fancy car dealership in a city overrun with car dealerships." How many lines of business, selling predictable expensive stuff to rich people, shouldn't exist?

(I do agree that Keller's comments about the familiarity of those dishes were anachronistic.)

 

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I do not read a lot of restaurant criticism... In fact, I can't think of the last review I have read in it's entirety.   Rob S, before he went to eater was pretty much the only person I have read more than two or three articles from.. And while I feel some restaurant critiques are warranted, Eater is far from impartial. 

Hudson Yard sucked before the pandemic, I do not think a global pandemic has made it any better.. Whatever,  why reiterate and gloat over the fact that TAK Room closed. He bashed it when it first came out..  History will show he was correct, if history is to actually care..  It felt petty.  And I feel badly for everyone who lost their jobs. 

 

 

 

 

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18 hours ago, Sneakeater said:

(I think we all know why Sutton loved The Grill and hated TAK Room -- and I don't think it's politics....)

I don’t.  So, can you please explain it for me?

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I can not think of  one example where Eater has had any major criticism of a Major Food group restaurant... They go as far as to compliment and mention MFG restaurants, in reviews of unrelated restaurants. 

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What Daniel said.

But also . . .

The Grill was the clever solution to the problem of how you can open a Midtown restaurant and succeed while maintaining your Cool Points and hence your critical cred.  The answer:  give it the Carbone treatment, doing what you're doing very well while simultaneously sending it up.  So Downtown and even Brooklyn people can enjoy the irony while the Finance Bros enjoy the glitz.

"Finance Bros" shows the other part of why a determinedly ageist critic like Sutton would like The Grill and hate TAK Room.  Even taken straight, The Grill is aimed at a much younger crowd than TAK Room was.  For an ageist like Sutton, catering to the Olds is the kiss of death.  Look at his various pieces on the redone Gotham Bar & Gill (including one gloating about its closure that was even nastier and more narrow-minded than his one about TAK Room) (wait, where'd it go?  I can't find it).

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8 minutes ago, Sneakeater said:

Look at his various pieces on the redone Gotham Bar & Gill (including one gloating about its closure that was even nastier and more narrow-minded than his one about TAK Room) (wait, where'd it go?  I can't find it).

Oh, I see.  It's that they linked Sutton's nasty and narrow-minded review in their "news" report of Gotham's closure.

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