Culture Wars

Is Esquire’s ‘Best New York Restaurants’ List Out of Touch?

Osteria Morini is the only downtown restaurant on the list.
Osteria Morini is the only downtown restaurant on the list. Photo: Brea Souders

If the old guard of the food world made a pact to piss everyone off this week, they’re doing a pretty good job. The latest log on the fire came yesterday from John Mariani, who filed his list of best new NYC restaurants on Esquire’s food blog and set off waves of incredulity in the blogosphere. While he includes some of the usual suspects — Morini, Lincoln — he goes way off into randomville as well, calling out Sifton-zero-starred club-restaurant Lavo and (bizarrely) unassuming uptown pizzeria San Matteo.

Sure, these last two seem off base, but everyone’s entitled to a few personal-favorite outliers in this kind of thing. The real objection we have to Mariani’s lineup is that it doesn’t reflect at all how we in the food community, and our friends who simply like to go to restaurants, are actually eating. There’s nothing on the Esquire list that’s not either French or Italian, nary a mention of Brooklyn, nothing (except San Matteo) that reflects the movement toward casualness and cheap eats, and, worst of all, nothing that’s even below 28th Street, with the exception of Morini, a downtown restaurant by an uptown chef.

We happen to know that Mariani drives in from Westchester to do his eating, and while it pains us to say this (he was kind to us when we first moved to the city, took us out on one of his press dinners, and yes, we saw the famous daquiri business card in action), it seems as though he may be out of touch here. Lists by our own Adam Platt and the Times’ Sam Sifton range far and wide, from Brooklyn Fare to Lotus of Siam to Balaboosta to Recette, but we have to wonder if Mariani made it to any of those spots, or even crossed the river to Brooklyn at all.

We understand that Esquire has an upscale, and probably uptown-skewed, readership, but the Times and New York have plenty of those types of readers as well, and certainly by this point, it’s en vogue to descend below 14th Street to do one’s eating, or even (and possibly we’re expecting too much here) check out a destination-worthy place in the outer boroughs. Either Esquire’s readers really are unadventurous and lazy when it comes to dining out, or Mariani’s not giving them enough credit. Could Sietsema have been right when he wrote yesterday that the old guard is “unwilling to admit that the culinary world as they know it — a world of French cuisine, heavy silverware, pinkies in the air, and $500 tabs — hardly exists anymore as far as most of us are concerned”? It’s starting to look that way. What do you think of this list?

Where You Should Eat in New York City Right Now [Eat Like a Man/Esquire]

Update: Mariani responds!

Is Esquire’s ‘Best New York Restaurants’ List Out of