Sunday, July 21, 2024

NY’s Downtown Restaurant Wars: Lion in Winter


The New York Observer has a great piece today on New York’s downtown restaurant war between Graydon Carter and the Waverly Inn vs. pretender to the throne The Lion, invested in by Dan Abrams and Dave Zinczenko. Here’s the truth: The Lion is the most pretentious, awful place that’s ever come to the central part of Greenwich Village.

Strangely enough, I can see right into their front windows and entrance from my perch above them. Still, after a year, they place a henchman on their front steps who obnoxiously grills potential clients. Do you have a reservation? What do you want? Etc. This little drama takes place not in some cool out of the way spot in the city, but across the street from the big PATH train entrance on 9th Street and Sixth Avenue, next to a Korean grocer.

The Observer story chronicles the disharmony among the various investors. It could have gone farther to detail how much its neighbors loathe the Lion. Limos double park on both sides of narrow West 9th St., idling for–not celebrities, but visitors from that other planet, New Jersey. It’s a hoot. Inside the Lion said patrons are four deep at the bar, banging into diners who’ve been forced to consume a $150 meal at crowded, cacaphonous “inn” tables. It’s a bar. The back room? I don’t know. I saw it once: it’s got a medieval setting.

Dan Abrams and Dave Zinczenko were patrons of both Elaine’s and the Waverly Inn when they started their own place. I don’t know about Graydon Carter, but Elaine Kaufman was furious with them when they started The Lion. She didn’t want to hear about. Zinczenko had made a lot of his connections at Elaine’s and used it as a watering hole. To Elaine, and I’m sure to Graydon, their move was an act of disloyalty.

These days I hear nothing about The┬áLion that would make me want to return. It is not a spontaneous drop in spot for the A list, the way Elaine’s was and the Waverly is. On New Year’s Eve, Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt, Scarlett Johannson, Bryan Lourd, Ellen Barkin and Sam Levinson were among those who dined at The Waverly. That should tell you everything. Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are often in the house. Where the Lion grabs “celebrities” by booking corporate parties, The Waverly remains an organic┬áhot spot. Case closed.

PS John deLucie, the affable chef at the Waverly, left with Abrams and Zinczenko to start The Lion. But first deLucie opened Charles restaurant around the corner, while he was at the Waverly. Charles was hot for three months. It is now closed.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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