Here’s the thing about Eater.com’s Deathwatch: It would be an amusing little feature except for the fact that many New York diners don’t have any more confidence in their taste in restaurants than 14-year-olds have in their taste in music or fashion or pop idols or whatever. If the cool people say you’re not supposed to like something anymore, the cool-people-wannabes stop liking it.
And so, I’m told by some insiders in the New York restaurant scene, Deathwatch can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. When a restaurant is given the kiss of Deathwatch, customers stop going. This is extraordinary and sad, and I don’t blame Eater for it — Eater’s reporting on restaurant news as it sees fit. I blame people who go to restaurants because they’re told to, not because they like them.
But with every culture there is also a counter-culture, with every fallen stock price the opportunity for bargain hunting, with every deathwatch the hope of renewed life.
And this brings us to the latest target of Deathwatch, Josh DeChellis' BarFry. The reason for the Deathwatch: BarFry is going to be handing out free food during happy hour (hours really: 4-6 p.m., and then again from 11 p.m. to closing). Sounds to Eater like a desperate measure to drum up business. Sounds to me like an opportunity for Josh to experiment and use his drinking customers as willing guinea pigs.
Josh loves experimenting with food — and with drinks, actually, such as the extraordinary rhubarb Manhattan he made for me years ago when he was at Sumile, even before it had been renamed Sumile Sushi. They don’t all make sense economically or from the perspective of kitchen logistics, and I imagine not all of them will taste terrific, but perhaps he’s giving guests an inside look into his creative mind.
Oh, and BarFry’s launching a new cocktail menu, too, and a signature beer that Josh developed over two years in cooperation with Rogue Brewery of Newport, Ore.
But I’m getting off the topic. Here’s my point: When a restaurant is hit with Deathwatch, it’s diners' chance to be the goths, mods and punks instead of the preppies, to go counter-culture and patronize those restaurants that Eater has declared no longer to be cool.
If nothing else, the lines will be shorter.