When you’re the name behind go-to New York City eateries like Pastis, Balthazar, Schiller’s, and Minetta Tavern, what do you care about a one-star review in lowly New York magazine? If you’re Keith McNally, you care, goddamnit. Enough to write an incensed letter personally attacking the critic, and more importantly, defending your clientele.
After New York food critic Adam Platt dropped a single star on McNally’s new pizza joint on the Bowery, Pulino’s, McNally shot back. And since the food world loves a good power struggle, the feud made headlines across blogs like Eater and New York‘s own Grub Street, in addition to the Observer and even today’s New York Post.
But what everyone seems to be missing in this story is that, as things tend to do in New York City, it all comes down to hipsters. That’s right: McNally knows whose table he puts food on, and thus, who puts food on his. Loud downtown kids with their indie movies and tattoos!
In his review, Platt calls Pulino’s “boisterous” and notes that “all around us hell was very loudly breaking loose.” (It was Friday evening.) He describes the customers as “Assorted downtown nabobs (indie-movie moguls, neighborhood tattoo artists, bewhiskered male models).” He means hipsters. But apparently he’s a willing participant in the word ban.
McNally was having none of it. He writes:
In describing the crowd at Pulino’s you employ the usual cliches (“indie-movie moguls” “neighborhood tattoo artists”), but where did you drum up the word “scenesters” ?? I haven’t heard this word since Dylan went electric. The fact is, you’re as out of touch describing young downtown New Yorkers as you are at understanding the restaurants where they like to eat. For in your middle-aged world it’s axiomatic that busy, exuberant restaurants cannot and will not serve great food. This, unfortunately, is no less a form of prejudice than restaurateurs believing that bald, over-weight reviewers are incapable of reviewing lively downtown restaurants impartially.
And he calls Platt prejudiced! Foodies are one thing, but if you’ve been to any of McNally’s establishments, you know what his local fan base looks like. And as if Schiller’s wasn’t enough, a pizza spot on the Bowery is going for the downtown jugular. He’s no fool.
Platt responded pithily, noting: “As always, in these cases, he is entitled to his opinion and I, as a bald, middle aged and, alas (slightly) overweight professional restaurant critic, am entitled to mine.”
But in caressing the tatted hand that feeds him, McNally has endeared himself to the downtown “scenesters” he’s savvy enough to know are his lifeblood. That’s kinda hip.