There are places in New York, especially downtown, that just have an essence of something special, something that reminds us of what life in the city was like before smart phones, before twerking, before Times Square was polished to a shine. A stroll through Soho reveals quite of few of these places, but none of them feel as storied or special to us as Raoul’s, a bistro that’s been bustling on Prince street since the 1970’s.
From the fusty waiters who are never young to the coat check girl who always is, this hotspot has seen it’s share of the zeitgeist and lived to tell the tale, changing virtually nothing about the way it runs but continually attracting bright young things and those who love to be surrounded by them. If you’re looking to impress a date, call ahead for a table (don’t dare use OpenTable, as that will banish you to the back room, where there is zero ambiance) and make sure you show up late enough that the scene is sizzling. There are nude portraits everywhere, adding to the sensual ambiance. Order the steak au poivre, a lusty wine, and some escargot, and you can pretend you’ve hopped a flight to Paris. Upstairs, accessed through a winding, narrow spiral staircase, is where the restrooms are, along with a tarot reader, advertised as being there all the time but mostly absent. Her presence looms large, though, adding a mystical air to the dining room and lively bar.
What we love most about Raoul’s is how sturdy and consistent it is, from the red velvet curtains at the entrance to the warm, genial service. This isn’t the newest hot spot, nor is it the best meal in town. But it’s a special spot, part of a vanishing New York City we want to soak in while we can. Because Starbucks is always around the corner, you know? Raul, 180 Prince Street, New York