M.Y.O.B. shouldn’t be an acronym flitting through your mind while dining. I was off put and on edge during nearly my entire meal at Dressler and it had nothing to do with the food or service.
Sometimes context is everything. Dressler is the second venture in my recent mission to try brand new and no longer new but avoided-by-me restaurants. Momofuku Ssam has yet to be braved. The modly ornate room (I did appreciate the streamlined metalwork chandeliers and backlit curlicues) was only about a third full at 9pm on a Saturday. Hardly jumping. Maybe that’s why being seated one foot from two human irritants felt more pronounced.
If you think I’m about to embark on an anti-hipster tirade, you would be wrong. Sure, that ilk can be a nuisance but they’re too self-absorbed to concern themselves with others in the manner of the unpleasant middle aged New Jersey couple (or Brooklyn Brooklyn or Staten Island. I can’t tell my regional accents apart—or certain ethnicities. This implies deep idiocy on my part but I find a lot of crossover between vaguely suburban Italians and Jews. Think of the Costanzas. These two could’ve been either) I was saddled with. The male half wouldn’t stop staring at us and the definitely-not-his-better half couldn’t stop commenting on everyone around us, particularly the couple on our other side with a similarly strong accent. The second we sat down my mood started darkening.
I’ve always attributed staring and speaking disparagingly of other diners as a French trait (it’s happened more times than you’d ever imagine). Who else would have the audacity to pen a book about why they don’t get fat. Keep ze eyes on ze own plate, n’est pas?
They clearly weren’t thrilled to have me squeezing my ass past their nearly touching table (and I made quite a point of scrutinizing the female’s derriere when she uncomfortably squeaked through the same narrow space when leaving). But the woman really couldn’t contain her horror when the easy going forty-something couple on my left began splitting three desserts. In between the not-so-stifled grumbling I made out, “she needs to work out.” The dessert-and-a-half eater was tall and large but definitely not fat.
My blood start boiling. It’s creepy to see grown women who so clearly deprive themselves on daily basis (and no one cares) to look “good” i.e. skinny, haggard and old (taking butterface to a new level) get obviously unraveled at a female of a similar age having fun with no thought to their figure.
I’d had a few drinks before arriving, started off with a mint julep-esque Coal Miner’s Daughter (Old Grand Dad Bourbon, mint, lemon), and consequently wasn’t doing a good job of hiding my own disgust. I really don’t like confrontation, and James hates it more than anything, we’re a great passive couple. But it was all I could do to keep from asking the petty clientele to please shut the fuck up.
James and I both ended up ordering uncharacteristically. Heirloom tomatoes with tapanade? So not him. I never ever order greenmarket porno dishes like the halibut with fava beans, sugar snap peas and asparagus. Light, girly, a bit too springy for July. Even my glass of Gruner Veltliner felt strange—I tend to drink darker, heavier wines. Subconsciously, I was scared of the wrath on my right side if I’d ordered the fresh bacon like I normally might. That’s how distracted I was by our gauche neighbors.
My rich smoked salmon and crème fraiche salad did remedy things a bit. Our shared peanut brittle ice cream, chocolate cake mélange was straight desserty. I needed something soothing (I also had a glass of sherry) and it wasn’t the evening for black pepper ice cream or rhubarb rose soup. Thankfully, the too concerned twosome had left by this point so there was no need to avoid evil eyes and barely audible chiding.
I left feeling like something was amiss. The food was solid but when I dine at this price I want that intangible extra. There must be a reason why Dressler was sparsely populated when Diner and Marlow and Sons down the street were at full capacity (not that it’s a good reason—I don’t feel inclined to tap into that whole unfancy fancy schtick…yet). They suffer from a bit of an identity crisis. What do you do with the older crews who dismissively proclaim aloud “next time I’m reading the reviews first” and the clueless youngsters who sit, see the menu and promptly leave?