If life really was like a movie, we would all eat out more. What better place to develop the main character of your story?
The filmmakers understand that a restaurant is a choice; an expression. Carrie Bradshaw would forgo dinner and empty her wallet for the September issue of vogue because he “fed her more”, but you can’t watch a single episode of sex and the city without seeing her in a cafe or bar.
Quentin Tarantino uses restaurants to introduce his characters by placing them in a setting the audience can immediately become familiar with, such as a dinner party. love mooda devastating portrait of longing and desire, gives two star-crossed lovers residing in the same building a place where they can dress up for all to see: a restaurant.
Over the past decade, like everyone in this city, I’ve been fascinated by how restaurants have become even more of a “stage” place. Distracted by the sheer size and scale of the space, I often find myself mentally calculating the countless hours and dollars that must have been spent for guests to enter and clear what is now commonly referred to as “the energy of the main character”.
Want to travel back in time to a 1920s boxing parlor? Go to Marcel.
Want to have lunch in Copenhagen without the plane ticket? Try Le Bon Nosh.
Curious to know what it would be like to be in Alice in Wonderland? Pay a visit to the garden room.
Even Little Trouble opened its doors with the slogan “what if blade runner were a bar. It seems restaurants have become less about rolling out the white tablecloth and showboat-y service, and more about transporting customers to alternate realities.
Restaurants allow us to be writer, director and protagonist all at the same time. They feature curated moments where we can control everything from what we eat and drink, to who we surround ourselves with, to selecting a seat with the most flattering light.
I once went on a second date where the guy insisted we sit on the corner of Lyla Lila’s bar where he bends over as it guaranteed the best view of the bar and limited room distractions at eat main.
At the time, I admired how particular he was in planning our date, but looking back, I see that I was just a secondary character in his evening. He had chosen me because it was something he had been thinking about doing with someone (maybe anyone) for some time. I don’t even blame him for that, restaurants, especially ones like Lyla Lila, are designed to woo and woo you. Whether it’s breaking the bank on the bill or overdoing it, you should feel a little guilty when you leave.
(There was no third date.)
I appreciate this relationship between restaurants and cinema because the thoughtful interior design and the theatricality of the dining room gives us what reality will never do: an escape. A dozen oysters and a martini at Kimball House is a fantasy compared to a week full of delivery apps, fifteen-dollar salads and TV dinners. And while some people may not care where their next meal comes from, many of us need to be distracted from the mundaneness of modern life.
Eating in a restaurant allows us to kill a few birds with one stone. You may never try a Cosmopolitan in your life, but you would to get into Carrie Bradshaw’s Manolos.
This story first appeared in Rough Draft’s Side Dish, a weekly food and meal newsletter. Subscribe here.