Au Revoir, Florent

The deathwatch on New York restaurant Florent culminated this week with tributes from Frank Bruni in the New York Times (registration required) and David Amsden in New York magazine. The 24-hour French diner opened nearly 23 years ago, back when its Meatpacking District address connoted streets running with blood from the neighboring slaughterhouses.

These days, of course, MePa is home to designer boutiques and trendy nightclubs, and Florent’s landlord would probably have been dumb not to institute the rent increase (to $30,000 a month, according to the Times) that precipitated Florent’s closing. But the restaurant wasn’t just another MePa business. Its eponymous owner, Florent Morellet, became a New York icon, a French transplant whose interest in conceptual art and drag made the restaurant a natural hangout for artists. And where the artists go, the rock stars, fashion designers, celebrities, hipsters, and, eventually, tourists, follow. The restaurant even appeared in Sex and the City.

New York magazine offers up this characteristic quote from NYC council member Christine Quinn: “In Cheers everybody knew your name, right? Well, in Florent, everyone knows your name and your drag name.”

Less formal tributes are popping up all over. Yelp users describe their memories, as do the Chowhound boards, and Gawker commenters are less snarky than usual.

On Eater, commenter Pill Form says,
“After Bruni’s piece, I had lunch at Florent and had the delicious Vegetable Cous Cous supplemented with cut-up Merguez chunks. Every table was always occupied, the bar seats were also at a premium, and it was the sunny Friday before a long weekend. It’s a shame places like this, successful by most measures, can’t make it after a time.”

According to the New York magazine piece, rumors are that a new version of Florent might open in the Whitney Museum High Line satellite, so perhaps the vegetable couscous will live on.

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