In my junior year of high school, I had a math teacher whose favorite restaurant was Bouley. We knew this, for sure, because he had two signature catchphrases: "Math is #1" and "Bouley is also #1." For a girl growing up in Queens, a first-generation immigrant just like the vast majority of my classmates in the 1990s, fine-dining was an alien concept we'd only ever encountered in movies, where white tablecloths either served as backdrop for comic relief (see: Pretty Woman; L.A. Story) or signaled that something was about to go down, usually involving bad guys. Which is to say, we didn't know much about fine dining at all—but we knew about Bouley, thanks to Mr. Geller.
It's hard to explain what the closure of an iconic New York City restaurant does to the psyche and culture of the city. I suspect it's not vastly different than how the closure of any established favorite affects any other city. Maybe we're all just caught up in the self-important mythology of New York, but humor me for a moment, because the past few weeks have been especially brutal. Bouley is gone, along with the 24-hour Greenwich Village haunt French Roast (b. 1993) and the always-reliable Great Jones Café (b. 1983). Recent rent hikes also mean that Union Square's noodle shop Republic (b. 1995) and Blue Water Grill (b. 1996) will close sometime in the next year.
The passage of time, nostalgia for the past, old New York vs. new New York, you've heard it all before. The city is unstoppable, and recently, just in the past year or so, I've really started to feel this weird, palpable sensation that I can only describe as inevitability. Maybe it's because I'm turning 40 later this year, everything somehow seems more significant.