Florent Morellet in drag became a Bastille Day tradition at his legendary eatery. “Let them eat roast chicken!!!”
If you lived in NYC (or even visited) over the last 25 years, chances are you may have had a meal – or hundreds of them – at the landmark Meatpacking District diner/restaurant, the late great Florent. This was THE PLACE for late dinner, early breakfast, after-clubbing nosh, brunch with your fab friends, dinner dates, a fun lunch and just the perfect place to eat great bistro/diner fare as you mingled with celebs, club kids, designers, models, regular folks from the neighborhood, NYC icons—and of course, owner and impresario Florent Morellet himself.
A longtime openly HIV-positive AIDS activist and queer pioneer, Morellet and his eponymous eatery was pretty much responsible for launching the formerly derelict (and fabulously seedy) Meatpacking District on its trajectory to becoming Manhatten’s hipper-than-thou neighborhood of the 21st century. And ironically, eventually the neighborhood he helped enirch got even too pricey for him, as a radical increase in rent forced Morellet to close on Gay Pride Day in June, 2008.
This Friday, May 20th, a killer documentary, Florent: Queen of the Meat Market opens in NYC chronicling Florent’s amazing life and times. (Which the starry trailer below). To celebrate, we asked this legendary New Yorker to clue us in about his current Top 5 places to eat in the city. If there’s a better spokesman for what’s cool, delicious and worthwhile in New York, you’ll have to convince me.
After the jump, check out Florent’s tasty Top 5 — and the trailer for “Florent: Queen of the Meat Market.”
If you believe in legendary NYC restaurateurs, clap your hands!!! (Florent, foreground right.)
Florent’s Top 5 Places to Eat in NYC Now
First of all, you must know my priorities, when choosing this list.
#1- Noise level! I must be able to have a conversation.
#2- I’m welcomed.
#3- No wait, get a table on the spur of the moment and last minute reservations must be possible.
#4- The food doesn’t have to be great, just a good value. I’m sick of serious food.
#5- It’s relaxed. You don’t have to dress-up, there’s no attitude, it’s not pretentious.
From the moment they opened across the street from my restaurant in 2000, the Bitici Family—Rita, Sergio and Violetta—and my Florent family became one. This is the place in the Meat Market where I feel the most welcomed. The volume is low. The atmosphere relaxed. The Bitici’s are welcoming. The fare is high quality classic Italian. The mid-upper range prices are a good value.
48 Gansevoort St.
New York, NY 10014
Very low noise level. Unpretentious. Julie Welprin, the owner, and her staff are friendly and efficient. Rarely have to wait for a table for two. The Franco-American Bistro menu is unthreatening and a great value. There is no need to dress. A neighborhood hangout when I stay over at my BF Peter Cameron’s home in the Village.
80 University Place
80 University Place
New York, NY 10003-4564
My friends Ursula and Jonas Hegewisch kept the old quirkiness of Thomas Beisl, the Austrian restaurant right across from BAM. The volume is low. Unpretentious. Best place to eat after a performance at BAM.
25 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn NY, 11217
KNICKERBOCKER BAR & GRILL
This classic New York steakhouse feels like it’s been there forever and so does owner Stephen Jones. He runs a great floor with a supporting cast of only in New York wait-staff. Volume is a notch above low. Unpretentious and eclectic clientele. Food is classic fare. Price mid-range and good value. Another hangout for Peter Cameron and I.
Knickerbocker Bar & Grill
33 University Place
New York, NY 10003
New hangout right on my block in Nolita. The volume, medium high, is still lower than all other joints for blocks. The upper-range prices are still a value; the Italian fare is excellent. The staff, mostly unadulterated Italians, is professional and always ready to banter about any subject.
265 Lafayette St
New York, NY 10012
And now the trailer for Florent: Queen of the Meat Market…