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Cauliflower-parsnip soup with a mini grilled Swiss cheese sandwich at Crofton on Wells
Fickle doesn’t begin to describe the urbanite’s approach to restaurants. Critic or civilian, most of us are trend whores, desperately chasing the shiniest scene for our next high. We abandon Sepia for Graham Elliot, Graham Elliot for Girl & the Goat, Girl & the Goat for whatever’s next, and you can’t blame us. We’re hard-wired to seek out the newest spot so we can have an opinion when the subject arises. That’s what makes places like Crofton on Wells (opened in 1997) and Takashi (2007) fascinating—they quietly soldier on, night after night, without the driving force of the spotlight. In doing so, they teach us something about the way restaurants work.
I recently found a set of dining notes from a wonderful, serene meal I had at Crofton on Wells. “This is a special restaurant,” I wrote, drunk on flickery votives and crisp white napery. “But it’s so low-key, it’s easy to forget.” I noted the empty tables and the high prices and worried for its future. That meal was eight years ago, and I’m still worried. How can a PR-shy restaurant that’s expensive but not flashy and cozy yet unglamorous, where every dish probably ought to be 10 percent bigger and/or 10 percent cheaper, survive for 14 years? Is good food enough anymore?