There are a handful of restaurants in New York that are media hangouts, but Michael’s in Midtown is pretty secure in its place on the powerhouse list. Earlier this month, the sophisticated dining spot (where an unheard of variety of New Yorkers go to rub shoulders) celebrated its silver anniversary in Manhattan.
Through owner Michael McCarty and WWD, we learned a lot about Michael’s last 25 years playing host to high-profile journalists, publishers, fashion executives, designers, gallerists, financiers… and Hollywood stars.
“When I opened [in Manhattan], it was 1989… I had been open for 10 years in Santa Monica,” said McCarty. “Midtown was a weird little place, not like it is now. It was beginning to become a retail environment. That said, William Morris was on the corner, and ICM… and CAA used the St. Regis as [its] offices at the time. It was that beautiful blend of fashion and Hollywood all wrapped into one.”
And that beautiful blend, an amazing mix of people, all came (and still come!) to Michael’s. On any given day, you’ll see the likes of Barbara Walters, Anna Wintour, Les Moonves, Ron Perlman, Katie Couric, Harvey Weinstein, Leo DiCaprio, and even Bill Clinton — Remember that very public reconciliation between him and George Stephanopoulos at Michael’s shortly after his presidency ended??
But though they are all seen together, the scenes are actually broken up by industry, according to the owner, who admits to doing up to seven seating chart drafts a day.
This isn’t necessarily because people are reluctant to sit next to others they may dislike, he points out (though obviously this happens), but also because professions apparently like to sit together. Who knew?!
“All the media people talk about eating in the front room… it’s a traditional New York thing: The closer to the sidewalk, the more important you are, you know?”
But others like Michaels’ back garden the best.
“The truth is, we have six industries that only eat in our garden — all the hedge-fund guys, all the finance guys, all of the art world, the top lawyers who handle everybody’s work… — and that’s where they will always eat. It’s just different industries’ [preferences].”
Though the famous faces are a draw, McCarty insists that the food is an equal attraction. “We have our own unique menu, our own unique physical place and history. Hospitality is a very big part of it.”
And believe it or not, McCarty swears that you won’t be turned away for not being notable enough. “We call it a non-exclusive club. Anyone can be a regular customer, just don’t be an idiot.”
*Image originally published in USAToday