New York Restaurants: A Vision of the City as It Once Was

Imbuing a restaurant with a sense of age, real or imagined, is nothing new in a city that routinely bulldozes its history. For years, Keith McNally has been drawing crowds to his fantasy hangouts like the Russian Constructivist speakeasy Pravda and the 19th-century Parisian brasserie Balthazar.

But those restaurants are meant to transport customers to another place; these revivals, with their focus on old New York, are meant to transport customers to the same place in another time. Even Mr. McNally has gotten in on the act, giving the Minetta Tavern his trademark golden glow but keeping the original wood paneling, murals of the Village and pictures of faded celebrities.

“There’s so much that’s Vegas-y and Houston-y and random that you want a place that feels sort of timeless New York in a not-kitschy way,” said Clark Wolf, a restaurant consultant who worked on the latest revival, in 2009, of the Monkey Bar in Midtown Manhattan. “And of course you would want to re-create it in the current notion of what it ought to have been.”

Graydon Carter, a partner in the Monkey Bar and the Waverly Inn, sees these restaurants as antidotes to the Jimmy Choo-and-Cosmopolitans culture spawned by “Sex and the City,” bulwarks against what he called discotheques with food.

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