In 1980, when he opened the Odeon in Tribeca, Keith McNally redefined the modern scene restaurant in New York City, bringing to dining everything that hot nightclubs promised—exclusivity, glamour, celebrity patrons, and the frisson of sitting in the right place at the right time. Here, the preeminent maker of fashionable restaurants (Balthazar, Minetta Tavern, and now Balthazar London—to name a few) dishes on what makes a fashionable restaurant tick.
"It's less about location than interior. If I like the feel of the space, that comes before the location."
"I want to speak to a person, not a machine. And I want that person to be decent. Ultimately it's about how well you treat customers you can't satisfy."
"It's better to have a great number of light sources on low than a limited number on high."
"I try to work with people who are themselves—who don't have an ounce of pretension in them. For my places, a pretentious owner is more than enough."
—Jason Chen, associate style editor at Details