THIS SPRING, while I was furloughed from my formerly glamorous job as a professional eater and critic in what was once upon a time the greatest dining city in the world, I tried to create a variety of routines, the way all of us have, to keep myself sane. I drank two cups of coffee each morning starting at precisely 8:30 a.m. I embarked on a reading program (since abandoned) and a diet program (semi-abandoned), and every few days, around lunchtime, I’d make the rounds of the boarded-up, dispirited, mostly empty blocks near our apartment to check up on the old restaurants I’d known and loved, just like a retired ward boss might do in a neighborhood that has fallen on hard times.
On one of these rambles, I ran into James Truman, the co-owner of the vegetarian destination Nix, standing in front of his recently shuttered restaurant. Truman is a symbol, in many ways, of the glamour and promise of the pre-COVID dining boom in New York—a professional aesthete and editor who made his reputation as a tastemaker in the now crumbling Condé Nast kingdom, a veteran of André Balazs’s theatrical hotel and restaurant empire, and, for the past four years, the proprietor of his own stylish niche establishment in the Village, where he peddled lemongrass-scented mocktails and cauliflower steamed buns to the growing number of vegetarian sophisticates around town.
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August 31–September 13, 2020