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According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2010 was the Year of the Tiger. But I’ll always remember it as Year of The Lion, because roughly halfway through those 365 days, famed restaurateur John DeLucie debuted his so-named eatery in Manhattan’s West Village. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one paying attention.
Anna Wintour gave the upscale watering hole her stamp of approval. Baz Luhrmann and Blake Lively graced its low-lit dining room. So did Madonna and Anne Hathaway and Jim Carrey. DeLucie himself appeared on Jimmy Fallon that spring to herald The Lion’s opening. And in the summer after its official ribbon cutting, reservations became the stuff of myth. Even if by some stroke of luck or pulled string you did manage to secure one, you were unlikely to return. To score a single seating, you could call in a favor. For two? Well, it’s called “destination” dining for a reason, isn’t it? You can’t possibly “arrive” more than once.
At the time, The Lion’s oh-so-stylish roar seemed inescapable. Reports of its pork chops were omnipresent. Its jarful of cheesecake was deemed, “everything!” But, inevitably, such effusions eventually quieted. By the following year, at least half a dozen newer, shinier restaurants would successively command the city’s notoriously short attention span. Remember Kenmare? It was the place to be seen, yet it’s no longer open. And what came first, Miss Lily’s or Acme? Now, it’s The General, Lafayette and Cole’s.
Just keeping track of the ever-lengthening list is exhausting, which is why former New York Times’ restaurant critic Frank Bruni is basically refusing to. Last week, Bruni denounced what he called “the fashionable script for today’s food maven” and expounded on the joys of becoming a “regular” at several just-plain-delicious local establishments.
As far as Bruni is concerned, “what you have with a restaurant that you visit once or twice is a transaction. What you have with a restaurant that you visit over and over is a relationship.” Later, the contributing editor goes on to extoll the “pleasures of intimacy” and “the virtues of staying put” that come with the familiarity he so lovingly describes.
His stance is perhaps a foreign one to many in the fashion industry. Some might go so far as to call it antithetical to the trade. After all, fashion folk are notoriously fickle and style necessarily evolves. Season after season, editors anoint a fresh talent—or ten. They declare a new it-bag. They crown their latest muse. And when these tastemakers invariably go out, they always, always pick the buzziest restaurant at which to fete.
Similar to hopping from one hot culinary spot to the next, we’ve come to share a taste for the kind of street-style dressing that demands a dozen brands be included in a single outfit. Surely, Bruni would not approve.
And frankly, I’m tempted to revolt alongside him.
I’m tired of tracking this fall’s “must-have accessory,” of sloppily mixing Zara with a four-digit-designer. Shouldn’t there be something admirable about supporting tried-and-true fashion houses? Better yet: shouldn’t there be something laudable about wearing a head-to-toe outfit designed by only one of them–to have a relationship, as Bruni put it–with one brand? Even if that brand is Gap. Does reliability, as Bruni claims, “breed content,” or does building a wardrobe based on just a handful of labels feel ludicrously uninspired?
“I’m a regular for the solace,” Bruni writes of his culinary habits. “The peace.” The question is: should we be shopping accordingly? If we could, would we want to?
Take a seat. Settle in. Let’s talk about it.