THE LONG GOODBYES
281 Lafayette Street. Opened 1996 – Pravda was once cool, and that is useful to remember. Not unlike the human skull medieval alchemists kept on their desks as a reminder of their mortality, so too do once-hip spots serve us by hanging around long past their expiration date. This bar-lounge-restaurant, after all, was not done in by rising rents like so many other old standbys. Instead, owner Keith McNally is keeping the lease and transforming the space into something new that he presumably hopes will be more relevant. May it be preserved for posterity: Pravda is how New York once imagined Yeltsin's (and early Putin's) New Russia, when Moscow meant glamour and Soviet aesthetics could be mined for edgy design cues. I ordered a $17 dollar martini featuring a pickled egg that may have amused pre-financial crisis patrons, and in 2016, a bartender tried to engage me on the topic of the legs of a woman sitting in one of the lounge chairs. How long had he worked there? Five weeks.
95 East 3rd Street. Opened 1987 – Home of the affordable pickleback, board games, and countless birthday parties, this East Village gem was almost perfectly forgettable. Remembering was always a pleasure. Now we can only remember the Edge, because it closed in late September. Not technically a victim of rent hikes either, the landlord apparently sued the owners. What can you say about a bar that was just itself? Crucially, the Edge wasn’t not something, as so many proud places are. Even after 29 years, it had very little pretension one way or the other. The place that felt like it had regulars, but like you could be one too. I went one last time to say goodbye, and met a chatty visitor who was only there because his usual neighborhood spot was already closed.
THE FOUR SEASONS
280 Park Avenue. Opened 1959 – Maybe it was once said that there are two kinds of people: those who hear "the Four Seasons" and think of the restaurant, and all the other people in the world, who in their misfortune know only of the hotel chain. The restaurant was expensive, known for its lunch scene and the residue of reputation left over from whenever it was last a big deal for the under-60 set. Eating here in the Obama era was either something you ill-advisedly saved up for or something that meant nothing to you, budget-wise. Our waiter knew which camp we fell into, and during the early stages of the tasting menu warned us repeatedly against eating too much from the basket and bowl in front of us, respectively full of bread and cherry tomatoes. Though the restaurant is reopening in a year or two just up Park Avenue, diligent readers of our fine local publications know that the last few years had brought only scandal. There was a fight with the landlord over a Picasso tapestry. One of the co-owners was arrested for sexual assault. In the end, long-time staff were even threatening to strike in the restaurant's final month. On a Saturday the week before it closed, the hanging beads in the windows were tangled and the food was really only okay. But the room itself was quite large.