We bet Alan Richman isn’t sad to see M. Wells closing. Much has been written about the restaurant over the last couple weeks — Bon Appétit; just today called it one of the country’s best new restaurants, and even Sam Sifton bid adieu to the place yesterday — but we can’t think of anything that rivals the story Alan Richman just dropped in GQ. It begins, as stories about M. Wells tend to, with the critic digging the dinerlike trappings of the place, as well as the gonzo food. (The côte de beouf is “a showcase of succulence, massive and mouthwatering.”) But it ends — spoiler alert — with M. Wells co-owner Sarah Obraitis accusing Richman of sexually harassing one of her servers, and Richman lamenting all of the things he’s said about the new breed of casual restaurants.
Where to even start? Richman writes that he went to the diner a couple of times, liked it, and contacted Obraitis about doing a story. She took forever to get back to him, but he’s cool with that, and he ends up going back to the place a third time. During that third visit, he and his guests are made to wait 45 minutes between a first snack course and the appetizer course. He says that the wait makes his guests “far too restless,” and later writes that one of his companions “was totally out of line with his mouth and his comments,” though he doesn’t describe what that guy said. (We bet it was dirty.) Richman also, at one point, gets a little snippy with the service after the wait, but the meal seems fine.
That’s the point in the story when he gets an e-mail from Obraitis, claiming that a server “received a hardy pat on the ass from [Richman]. Totally unacceptable in our world. I don’t know what to think or how to proceed. But I must relay my worry.”
It’s weird, because Richman says he never did it — and you have to wonder why he’d write this story and call all this attention to the situation if he were guilty.
He’s shocked, stunned, “left breathless.” His theory for the accusation: “I wonder if Obraitis made it all up in order to intimidate me, stop a restaurant critic from writing an unflattering review.” He adds, a bit later: “I do think the ‘hipster restaurant’ mentality mentioned by one of my friends is partly to blame for what occurred … I wish I had never been so forgiving in my reviews of New York restaurants. I should long ago have paid attention to this disastrous decline in service.”
Anyway, Richman doesn’t mention in the piece that the restaurant is closing, but we bet he won’t be going to whatever new place Hugue Dufour and Obraitis might be opening, since he ends his piece with this: “I do not forgive the people at M. Wells for what they have said. I wish there were some way they would not get away with it. I’m pretty certain they will, and I will always be sorry for that.”