Classic Tables: The Odeon

An ode to the timeless Tribeca brasserie

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Meet at The Odeon?

It's not the foregone conclusion it once was. But thirty-plus years on, this landmark establishment of downtown cool is, as ever, a solid bet.

Frisée salad with lardons | Outside the restaurant

The iconic red neon sign washes the street corner in a distinctly Bright Lights, Big City kind of light. (The restaurant figured in the novel's original cover art, the Twin Towers gleaming like crystal palaces in the distance.)

Inside, the high ceilinged dining room and bar retain their own handsome glow and urbane, open-all-day hum. Everyone looks good in the big old brasserie mirrors that have been bouncing warm light and flattering reflections around since way before big old brasserie mirrors were a thing in this city.

Inside the restaurant | French onion soup

Seen under the jaunty striped awning and through coy wood blinds, the sight of the dining room stops you as you walk down West Broadway. It makes you think: Hey! Not all good things go away. New York is never over and life is probably not pointless.

In its go-go '80s heyday, The Odeon was the meeting (and carousing and canoodling and brawling) spot of choice for a Venn diagram of literary and art and film and fashion scenes that coalesced here in once-gritty downtown. Warhol and Basquiat came. Belushi loved the crème brûlée.

"It had sophistication and it had French fries," Lorne Michaels once said.

Manager Roya holding steamed mussels | Beet salad

Both were in evidence at a recent late afternoon lunch of a dozen plump oysters followed by a nicely made omelette with fines herbes and Gruyère—and lots of those crisp, golden frites.

When the epicenter of cool became the Ground Zero of grief, The Odeon stayed open and eventually eased a return to life-as-normal for many of us living downtown. In a city of never-ending novelty, it's always nice to come back here, for a connection to a New York that once was and, after a steak with béarnaise sauce and a bottle of decent red, still sort of is.

Fashionable crowds come and go, but the smart set never really left. The Odeon is always a good idea.