New But Old
By Robert Beck
The story is the same for everybody and different for everybody. Before the pandemic, one of the restaurants in my regular rotation was Cassis, near 70th on Columbus. It was predictably good French. I was always well taken care of and well fed, and the sense of place suited me. You could find me in the back buried in some Moules Pernod or perhaps Soupe à l’oignon.
Then the pandemic slammed the business, and the owners decided to call time and not sign the new lease. Cassis closed.
The manager, Manny, had been there for decades and wasn’t ready to let it go. He negotiated a lease. He undertook a renovation. And he had extra outdoor seating constructed with the same feel as the restaurant and the space on the sidewalk. Linen tablecloths. Roses. Nice.
When I first saw the new restaurant, I did a double-take because nothing changed but the name. The arched menu lettering was still on the front doors, but Manny’s Bistro stretched across the front of the awning. Everything else was the same, a clear statement of intentions. It hasn’t missed a beat, in fact, I saw a couple of new ones that are welcome.
I painted over lunchtime, and it was easy to spot the regulars. The two older women who were there for dessert. The young women talking business. The man with a magazine.
It’s worth reflecting on the fact that things aren’t back to anywhere like normal in the city, and hard to say when they might be. What Manny did was not only a huge risk, but an act of love, and you can see that if you talk to him about the restaurant. Go ahead — you can find him there all the time, taking care of customers. You might even notice some guy with paint on his cheek nibbling on pommes frites in a corner of the dining room.
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