The Odeon responds to The New Yorker

Many of you readers defended The Odeon when The New Yorker, in a commentary by Hannah Goldfield, took a cheap shot at its curbside seating arrangements. Followers of the comments section will have noted that Lynn Wagenknecht, who founded the restaurant with her then-husband Keith McNally 40 years ago (will get to that in a later post) and now runs it with her son Harry McNally, also responded, and I thought her comments were worth reprinting here, along with the letter she sent to the editor at The New Yorker:

From Lynn in TC comments:
The Odeon genuinely strives to make every guest feel welcome and appreciated. Our neighborhood customers, regulars and less frequent visitors, are the reason The Odeon remains. We appreciate all of you and never forget what keeps us going. If your experience does not meet your expectations, please ask to speak to a manager to express your particular dissatisfaction. We will do our best to rectify the situation.

Thomas Street is unavailable for our use Monday through Friday, 7am to 7pm. That means whatever we set up there must be easily movable to accommodate the short two hours (7pm-9pm) of service. (Weekends are open.) We would love to build a platform and make the cafe as “solid” as the one on West Broadway, but the roadway is reserved for the use of NYS Supreme Court Judges’ parking.

Regarding The New Yorker article, I responded to the editor to correct false statements. Unfortunately, implied jabs are irresistible to many reviewers and beyond our control.

Lynn’s Letter to the Editor of The New Yorker:
If nothing else, the last four years have reminded us that facts matter.

In a recent ‘Tables for Two’ piece, writer Hannah Goldfield delivered a piece on The Odeon which relied on speculation rather than truth.
Admittedly the current strains on the hospitality business have made many restaurateurs, myself included, especially prickly. Taking the time to point out untrue statements in reviews is usually written off as inevitable journalistic sloth. However in these precarious times even the slightest imaginative liberty elevates a disheartening comment to a potentially damaging one. Beginning with the purported ‘impulse to offer support,’ the writer proceeds to describe a nonexistent (and unappealing) situation.

‘This means that even the makeshift patio has its own Siberia, as a dining room’s least desirable section is known. One particularly unlucky couple sat within swinging distance of the door to the kitchen, through which produce is loaded and line cooks emerge for cigarette breaks.’

The statement is patently assumptive and false.

1 – Other than an alarmed kitchen fire exit door there is no kitchen door that opens to the sidewalk. A second door, also an emergency exit but from the dining room, is currently left open so servers and bussers can access the Thomas Street café to service guests. Deliveries NEVER go through either of those emergency exits, pre-pandemic or post. (And why would they when we have 24-hour access to an elevator directly next to the main entrance of the restaurant on West Broadway?)

2 – Cooks are not permitted, even in better times, to leave the premises for breaks. No staff is allowed to exit or enter the restaurant from either emergency exit side door for personal use. They are alarmed and locked. No one, front of house or back of house, is allowed to take cigarette breaks while working. As it happens, when I spoke to the kitchen crew about the reviewer’s claims, it turned out there was not one smoker in the entire group.

3 – Lesser falsehoods: Why the large bottle of Purell on the dining table in the photograph without identifying it as the writer’s? (Perhaps better that the writer use it to sanitize her article rather than a prop for a photo shoot.) The martini photo at the top of the page is also unnecessarily misleading. The Odeon serves three olives (see 2nd photo) with its signature martinis and we do not use a barcode ordering system as is pictured in the lead photo insinuating we do.

Respectfully,
Lynn Wagenknecht
The Odeon

 

71 Comments

  1. Glad they responded to the article. Odeon is my favorite restaurant in the neighborhood simply because they have the best food and cocktails (cosmo!). And the service is consistently good.

  2. I have to admit that the wind blowing down Thomas Street does make one feel like Siberia at times. However, I frankly think that those are the best seats as they are away from the traffic noise on West Broadway! Best restaurant anywhere!

  3. I’ve had the pleasure of eating at the Odeon a few times with family members on Thanksgiving and birthdays. I am only sorry that I cannot eat there now. The food and the service is exceptional and I am glad the owner responded to the inaccuracies . I do hope to eat there again once this pandemic is over

    • I am currently sitting next to my husband in the ICU. He had emergency surgery last Friday night after being in the hospital six days. The Odeon is nothing less than a jewel in TriBeCa’s crown. I have been there twice during this hard time with friends and I shared with the staff what Chuck is going through. Since his operation one of his happiest moments was when Roya sent him her love and a picture of Alma. It is far more than food and cocktails. Thank you Odeon.

  4. We have each other’s backs.

    One of the many things I love about TriBeCa is all the restaurants, cafes, bars, wine shops & grocery stores which opened before 2000 alone we still have today.

    Before 1960 – Square Diner, Morgan’s Market

    1960s – Nancy Whiskey Pub

    1970s – Mudville 9, Reade Street Pub & Kitchen

    1980s – The Odeon, Zutto, Puffy’s Tavern, Walker’s, TriBeCa Tavern, Gee Whiz, Bubby’s, TriBeCa Grill, China Red City Hall Wines & Spirits, United Grocery

    1990s – Gigino’s Trattoria, Estancia 460, Greenwich Street Tavern, Duane Park Pattiserie, Scalia Fideli, Another Room, Cafe Amore Pizza, Sheezan, Hudson Market, TriBeCa Wines & Spirits, Star Deli, Corner Gourmet

    Am I leaving out any pre-2000 places?

  5. I have nothing against the Odeon, although it is not my favorite restaurant in the neighborhood. But, I have seen staff in restaurant apparel smoking outside on Thomas. I assume they work for the Odeon because they are dressed like chefs, and they linger by that door. I haven’t seen them stand too close to the Odeon tables on Thomas.

  6. This writer is really reaching for content with this drama about Odeon seating. Odeon is and has always been a chic spot with fabulous food for the neighborhood. Even during this pandemic sitting there brings back memories of late night, post evening fun in the 80’s. Keep it up Odeon, we will support. Hannah, shame on you, pick on someone else.

  7. Bassets cafe, red derby, nam phong.

  8. If anything, the Odeon has done an incredible job of delivering amazing service and high quality since they have re-opened for for seating this summer. I read the Odeon piece and do take issue with it. I wonder why there is a need to make claims about a restaurant that has not only served Tribeca well for 40 years, but has done an amazing job of continuing to serve people well )(and deliciously) during this pandemic. If anything, Odeon is one of the few places I feel comfortable in. They have spaced tables apart, been unique in how they separate tables from one another, and always makes guests feel welcomed. I would have expected more from the New Yorker. And frankly, I can’t expect more from The Odeon since they have exceeded my expectations on what a restaurant can be during this horrible year. Their staff is superb.

  9. Food critics have a right—perhaps a duty—to scrutinize restaurants for the benefit of their readers. But Hannah Goldfield’s review was ignorant bordering on spiteful. She characterizes The Odeon as “an establishment whose appeal is primarily atmospheric.” That’s news to me, a loyal customer for 25+ years, who comes for the consistently great food and service. She states that restaurants should really be closed until we get through the pandemic, but criticizes The Odeon’s Thomas Street extension as being a “sleepy Siberia” (right, that’s the idea!) and the plain orecchiette being “meant for a child” (right, because if you did your homework for the review, you would know that it’s wall-to-wall families down here). I’m the first to admit that the white privilege down here in “swankville” can be ridiculous, but Ms. Goldfield shouldn’t have taken her obvious disdain for Tribecans out on our restaurants that are trying to survive.

  10. Tribeca Grill opened in 1990.

    And though they’ve changed names three times, (Montrachet, Corton and now Batard) have occupied the same space on West Broadway since 1985 – all owned by Drew Nieporent and Myriad.

  11. I put TriBeCa Grill in the 80s because it opened either in late ’89 or I thought it opened then since the first time I went there was dinner with my parents in late spring of ’90 but if it opened in early-mid ’90 cool still pre-2000.

    Batard doesn’t count. A place has to have been in business under one name before 2000. Batard opened in 2014.

    • Tribeca Grill is 30 years old this year. 1990.

      • Am I insisting that it opened in the 80s? No so cool it. I took the time to compile the list (and was the one who sparked the defense of The Odeon hence my username) so I can be off by a year for an opening without two people correcting me. 89, 90 – again still pre-2000. Btw when did it open exactly in 1990? Show proof. Sorry I made it a year older than it was or as old school TriBeCa as you.

    • Sorry – I didn’t see the “rules” stating a restaurant had to have one name for consideration to “The List”.

      I was just pointing out that one restaurant group has maintained a presence at one address for a very long time. Montrachet certainly helped put Tribeca on the map for the uptown crowd and after David Bouley was unceremoniously dumped, Bouley’s namesake restaurant further solidified Tribeca as a dining destination worth traveling to.

      I’ll ask Drew when Tribeca Grill opened exactly the next time I see him.

      And since you’re a stickler for rules and accuracy, the name is Bellucci – with two “l”s…

  12. Pepolino has been open since 1999

    • Yes Pepolino right next door to Nancy Whiskey Pub : )

      I forgot to add Girello right next door to Walker’s & Stage Door Deli on Vesey between Church & Broadway (right on the southern boundary of TriBeCa.)

      If we want to include chains McDonald’s @ Greenwich & Chambers, Domino’s & Dunkin’ Donuts on Church, possibly Subway on Church just above Chambers.

      Ecco would’ve made the list if it was still open but I’d make an exception of it reopened either in the location it was at or a new location on TriBeCa within two years after its last day because of the pandemic.

      Didn’t The Hideaway open in 1998-99? I feel like I left them out.

      • Thanks so much to Beloved O for these memories and restaurant histories. Thanks to Lynn – great reply to The New Yorker! You go girl! Just wanna say that I LOVE The Odeon. And Pepolino and Walker’s and Edward’s and on and on.
        Martine, great comment, thank you!

  13. Since Ecco & Mariachi’s (latter in two different TriBeCa continuously since the ’90s) closed during & I think because of the pandemic (or the pandemic was the final nails in their coffins) I’ll include them through 2022 which would give them two full years after the remainder of this year to reopen.

  14. Nyc and Tribeca never coming back
    I know there will be 15 comments denying this truth but reality is
    Who is gonna live in a breadbox for $3000 up after work at home is basically permanent in every company?
    I was born in NYC but I must say bring in the country..walking out a door to fresh air ..driving or even walking to a neighbor hood bar, letting my dog out in backyard to poop without having to carry around a plastic bag has been mind blowing. Sorry but will anyone ever really feel safe sitting on top of each other in the Tribeca brunch cafes where your table is next to another group..cough, cough.

    Space and freedom. Right now I’m choosing whether to go south coastal ( beach) or big sky country Wyoming. I’m like a heroin addict who has finally kicked the habit.
    Ny it’s been fun but your high taxes, decrepit way if life, trash and unsafe subway and escalating crime is not worth it anymore… you were good while you lasted.

  15. HAHAHAHAHA

    You, TriBeCa Citizen & Belucci are wrong about when TriBeCa Grill opened & I was right.

    It opened in 1989 like I said it did & here’s the proof from The Myriad Restaurant Group themselves:

    https://www.myriadrestaurantgroup.com/news-item/the-thrill-of-tribeca-grill/

    • I interviewed the brothers just before the pandemic, in February, and will run that interview shortly. They are calling this their 30-year anniversary. But I am glad for you since that clearly gave you a lot of pleasure!

    • The link to the article on our website refers to a walk-through within Tribeca Grill’s construction site during the winter of 1989. The restaurant opened officially to the public in April 1990. After all this time, with all the meals served, with great events and precious memories, it is not the semantics that matter. A time machine can take us back 30 years, where the world has experienced profound changes. But within the walls of Tribeca Grill, the objective has never changed from trying to provide good food and drink in a welcoming and authentic setting.

  16. I find this article ridiculous! Many restaurants have less then desirable seats outside (but still a safer choice them inside), so why pick on Odeon? At least they are following safety guidelines. For example, many restaurants have fully enclosed patios covered on all four sides, all the tables may be desirable but unsafe! Wolfgang’s for example, I love this place but you can not have four sides to your patio if you want me eating there!

  17. No one seems to be on the attack or questioning your recollection. In fact, it appears to me that these folks really appreciate that you made this list. People are just correcting a few numbers. Even if they are off… this isn’t a competition. Why you getting triggered? Chill.

  18. I’m pretty sure Puffy’s opened in 1977.

  19. There are some restaurants that just take over the outside area and act like this is their restaurant and we the pedestrians trying to walk by are infringing on their space. The Odeon’s cramming of tables in front of their restaurant is way too crowded and feels like an occupying force. Sorry but I don’t think they have the right to use the public streets in the way that they have done – notably the line of tables over the subway grates. Isn’t that against the law for street usage?

  20. There will be opportunities for new blood to come into Tribeca (and NYC) and thrive. Not everyone likes to drive a car to the market or pay for snow removal or leaf blowing. Not everyone wants to manage a house and all of its maintenance issues. And it may be that it becomes cheaper to live here since prices have soared elsewhere. Let’s praise what’s great about Tribeca! Great sunlight, the river park, the little parks, the architecture, and so much more. The lights on my little street have come back on — many have returned. I have been here since 1977. The Pandemic has hurt us but let’s see what happens down the road. We don’t need to dig the grave yet. There isn’t an area without problems. Between hurricanes, tornados, fires, mudslides, smoke, etc. City, rural, suburban areas are all under pressure I wish those who move peace and happiness. But why bash and bruise on the way out?

    • Nicely put Martine. Spoken like a true pioneer of this neighborhood. You’ve embraced change in a way that others can’t seem to. Thank you.

  21. Odeon is an absolute gem. Hope they survive and thrive.
    And journalists make crap up? Ha. They all do (except Pam of course).
    And as for restaurants stretching the regs a bit to create space for tables – they need to. Even in good times, restaurants make 10% profit. Now they are getting crushed and are not even making half their income. Lets celebrate their ingenuity and NYC style perseverance. We all could use some more of that.

  22. This is one of my favorite places. I recall it from the 1980s when I was working on wall street as a 20 something. We were in awe of its coolness back then. And you know what? Same today. But what really works for me about the Odeon is the service and feeling that you belong there. This is not some palace to snobs but rather a real restaurant that has lived for 40 years at this location. I initially didn’t think much of the NYer article because it was so random. Now I know it was factually mistaken too.

  23. You tell ’em Lynn!
    set the record straight
    what is truly sad is that such a venerable journal as the New Yorker would give the trumpsters more fuel to add to the distorted idea that the legitimate press is engaged in skewed reporting

  24. I’ve lived in the neighborhood since 1980. I can go on and on about the Odeon’s great food and ambiance. Whenever anyone asks about a recommendation for the Odeon, I always reply that it doesn’t matter if there’s a hurricane, snowstorm or warnings of unrest shutting down the city, the Odeon is always packed.
    I think that is a testament to how top shelf they are.
    We were taking out our recycling last night, and saw their staff outside during that cold, windy torrential downpour tending to a crowd of diners. For God’s sake give them a break during these difficult times!
    Lynn and Steve came to the rescue after the looting in Tribeca. They helped us secure our building. We always go to them for their advice regarding Tribeca matters. They are generous of spirit and supportive of this neighborhood. They care!
    We also know the wait staff and managers treat all their diners with respect.
    There have been times after some building maintenance when we were just too exhausted to go upstairs and change from our paint stained clothing. We just wanted to go to the Odeon and treat ourselves to a great meal with comforting service.
    The Maître ‘d does not blink an eye and the waiters treat us the same as the businessmen and trendy people sitting around us.
    The character of the Odeon community is a validation of the way they treat their diners and the love they put into their food.
    PS-We have to give a shout out to” Edward’s “another Tribeca institution who we couldn’t live without and loves this neighborhood.
    .

  25. I was worried for a second. I thought the co-founder of Blondie was leaving NYC. But Chris Stein is staying and Jim Stein is leaving. I’m ok with that…

  26. Simply the best!!!

  27. Franklin Station Cafe… please come home!

  28. Hannah Goldfield attempts to sound like Dorothy Parker and fails miserably. I have no financial interest in Odeon and know Lynn only barely, as I am a 32-year Tribeca resident. But I have been going to Odeon since it opened, when I lived in Morningside Heights, and Odeon really WAS located in Manhattan’s Siberia. Goldfield’s sad, arch, striving sketch is so off the mark. She manages to squeeze in a remarkable number of falshoods in the service of her conceit. There is no side delivery door. The staff does not take cigarette breaks. And so on. The primary issue is this: my wife and I have always preferred the Thomas Street tables. Before COVID, we’d prefer to sit outside as close to Thomas Street as possible, because it is quieter there. I am known, but don’t need to be seen. That is for the too-rich and too-dumb, and for a pathetic food critic.

  29. The Odeon will survive and then thrive again as The City recovers. It will do so because Lynn did not extend herself over the years by opening one restaurant after another. Another good reason is that The Odeon has classic bones, a place in the cultural history of the 80’s and has managed to become a legitimate restaurant along the way with its great sex appeal intact.
    A former employee.

  30. Just because Lynn implements all these rules such as staff not allowed taking breaks during a shift, does not mean your staff follows them Those rules are as ineffectual as having a sign in bathrooms that Employee Must Wash Hands. Maybe none of your staff is a smoker–cigarette smoker–but maybe they were smoking a joint when Goldfield was there.

    And what’s i it for Goldfield for telling/writing that story in The New Yorker. I would be doubtful of it she wrote this for the NY Post or CNN.

    I guess none of youse have been treated like a third-class or lower class citizen at Odeon. Last I was there hosted seated us all the way in the back even though the restaurant was only 1/4 full, and when we asked to be seated in front, hostess said that those tables were reserved. And after our meal a couple of or more hours later, those tables were still empty.

    Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.

    Daily specials at Odeon nowadays must be Kool-Aid.

  31. This seems like the right place to ask: in 2002, what restaurant was at 134 Reade street ( currently Marc Forgione)? When we moved to TriBeCa in 2002, after a long day, we had our first neighborhood meal. It was great! Had a fireplace and so cozy.

    • When we moved here in 2004, there was a great place called Deck (needed help from K. for the name) that had a movie screen in the back and a fireplace. Will need an assist to go back farther than that, or if there was something that was there in the interim, before Forgione opened in 2008.

  32. I thought I had posted this but I guess I didn’t — just going through my sieve of a memory and here are restaraurants I remember from the past (I moved here in 1977). There is no rhyme or reason to the listing below — just as they pop into my head:
    How’s Bayou
    a great Mexican restaurant that was in the space before Hows Bayou
    River Run
    Kutcher’s (not very good)
    Le Zinc
    Cheese of All Nations
    a tiny restaurant on Chambers near Cheese of All Nations that was owned by a Swiss guy and served great fondue
    Dennises
    Delphi
    Two Eleven
    Teddy’s
    Cafe Americano
    Rachel’s a Place for Ribs
    The Sports Club
    Socrates
    Commodities (health food store on Hudson St.)
    American Harvest in the WTC, closed, due to the first attack on WTC
    a burger place that was on Chambers I think between Hudson and Greenwich

  33. A couple more….
    Bread shop Cafe (our most frequent eatery when we moved to Tribeca. Sadly, it closed soon after.)
    Ham Heaven (a Sunday morning ritual)
    Acute Cafe (are there once, overpriced and trying too hard to be hip)
    Tenbrooks (ate there several nights each week)
    Barnabus Rex (not really a restaurant, more a dive bar but great cheese toasties. Belushi and Ackroyd were regulars)

  34. The Odeon- One of NYC Amazing Institutions, when
    Downtown was special and full of creatives. You and
    your staff do an excellent job and have been for a very
    long time. They will only be happy when you are gone.

    More Banks, More Starbucks! Support your local community board- go to Brooklyn.

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