One of the luckiest things that can happen to a restaurant is for it to remain open long enough to become a place that famous people used to go.
That was part of what made the March reopening of Balthazar, a SoHo mainstay since the height of the dot-com bubble, unusual. Jay-Z and Beyoncé turned up for dinner. Nancy Pelosi came for breakfast. Patrons made out at their tables, took trips together to the bathroom.
“People are horny!” said Jonathan Wynne, the bartender.
But all those shows have been upstaged by the one the restaurant’s 69-year-old owner, Keith McNally, is putting on daily over Instagram, where, instead of art directing his life, he has reveled in the mess of it.
After a debilitating stroke in 2017 made it impossible for Mr. McNally to speak normally; after Alina McNally, his wife of more than 15 years, served him the following year with divorce papers, he has staved off the humiliation of being a straight white goliath in decline by heaping it on everyone in his way. A Howard Beale for the Instagram era, he’s here lashing out on behalf of boomerish power lunchers who believe in a woman’s right to a safe abortion and oppose police brutality but are too scared to admit how enraged they are by a generation of absolutist woke whiners.
One minute, he’s uploading sumptuous shellfish shots. The next, he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore.
That’s what he told Hachette Book Group in the spring of 2020 when it canceled its publication of Woody Allen’s memoir, saying it “signals a dangerous victory for censorship by those who shout loudest.”
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