Lunch at Michael’s…well, breakfast really…

Rebecca, Laura and me at the infamous Michael's...

Rebecca, Laura and me at the infamous Michael's...

I started working at The Source in ’99, when it was the white-hot center of the hip-hop universe. I told my then-boyfriend that I got the job and he shrugged and said, “eh, anyone can work at The Source now. You’re not part of the A-team. You’re just a C-teamer.”  He meant that because I hadn’t worked there under Reginald Dennis and James Bernard and Chris Wilder and the whole original crew, then I wasn’t legitimate. I couldn’t really claim to belong like the old-school cats.

Got his point. Didn’t care. Okay, maybe I cared a little bit. But not really.

I’ve often wondered if the same idea applied to eating at Michael’s, a restaurant in midtown Manhattan known for being the white-hot center of the media universe. The food is an after-thought. It’s really all about getting the right table during the two hour lunch rush. Barbara Walters. Bill Clinton. Michael Wolff. Anyone who is anyone in media holds court at Michael’s for lunch.

Mediabistro’s Laurel Toby ran a column, (does it still run?), chronicling the who-sat-where at Michael’s on a weekly basis. I always loved that feature and all of the bold face names.

This pic tells the whole story. Even the people on the ends are bold-facers!!

Okay. So in my own goofy way, I’ve always wanted to go to Michael’s and rub elbows with the happy shiny media people. I’m in the media! I can hob-nob! Right?

I thought about it for years but never had the nerve to actually make a reservation. Who would I go with? Would they even give me a table? Was it corny to go to lunch there now, years and years after the first wave of famous folks made it hip? Would I be a C-teamer, globbing on to Michael’s glory all late and after the fact?

I contented myself with just reading the weekly updates on mediabistro and fantasizing.

This summer, the book I co-authored with Faith Evans hit the New York Times Bestseller’s List. And my girl Rebecca said, “this is it. This is our moment. We’re going to Michael’s to celebrate.”

We didn’t dare make a reservation for lunch. We went for breakfast instead.

I have to say, the food was forgettable. I had french toast, which was delicious. But my girls Rebecca and Laura had meals that looked….well, not good.

The place was empty. Just a few people sprinkled across maybe two tables. And I was too intimated too look around and see who else might have been there.

I had to remind myself. It’s just a frigging restaurant. I’m having french toast I could get at IHOP at a spot with white tablecloths. Not that deep.

We had a pretend book-signing and I autographed copies of Keep The Faith for Laura and Rebecca. (Which is silly, I know. I feel so weird about that. It’s Faith’s book. Not mine!)

Because I’m a hermit and rarely see my friends in real life, it was awesome to kick back with my girls and catch up in person and secretly marvel at our fake-fabulosity.

But the whole, hey-look-at-me, I’m-at-Michael’s! feeling faded before I finished my (lukewarm!!) coffee.

It was like going to Sylvia’s in Harlem anytime after 1991. You just don’t do it. You let other people do it.

The only way I can go back is if I’m a power-player and having a power-meeting over lunch at a choice table. Though I must say, when we walked out of the restaurant and met the one-and-only Michael himself outside on the street, I can’t front,  I was stoked. Told him I was there celebrating my new book and he was warm and friendly and congratulated me. Nice guy.

The next time I see my girls, (soon, I hope. you know there’s more celebrating to do!), I think we’ll make our own spot. If I can get them to Jersey, I’d think they’d like my version of Michael’s. It’s called Cafe Eclectic and it’s on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair. There’s no fancy crowd. But they do make a mean soy latte and there are plenty of comfy chairs and wireless internet. Do you really need more than that?

Dear readers, tell me a place you’d love to visit, just so you can say you’ve been there…And if you made it there, let me know how it went down. Was it every thing you thought it would be? Or not even close…



13 Responses to “Lunch at Michael’s…well, breakfast really…”

  1. Naima Says:

    I would have to say Mr. Chow’s is the one restaurant I would love to visit. Every celebrity has eaten there…I’ve heard the name mention on blogs or in magazines. “Such and such was seen dining at Mr. Chow’s.” And it’s not like I haven’t been to restaurants of the same caliber…but this is one that I would just like to say “I’ve eaten there!”

  2. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Nai: actually, Mr. Chow’s is really, really good. I’ve been there a few times. Never on my own dime. Always with an artist and a label footing the bill. The food is GOOD. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there. But I’ve never been disappointed.

  3. spillboogie Says:

    nobu 57 about 3 yrs ago. my boss at the time took the entire office and footed the couple thousand dollar bill. it was great. i had a table next to bruce willis and two tables away was elle macpherson.

    went there again for dinner w some colleagues and sat next to demi moore and ashton kutcher. both times the food was just as great as i had hoped it would be — even for a sometimes picky eater like myself.

    as for a new spot. i don’t know. nothing strikes me as exceptionally great anymore, not that i go to fabulous places all the time. simply, i’m not sure if i know of any that i would really want to go to.

  4. Aliya S. King Says:

    @spillboogie: did you say a couple THOUSAND dollars?

  5. rocka Says:

    I’ve always wanted to hit up Michael’s for that lunch bunch, but these day’s it’s like what’s the point. Great that you followed up on that dream and added your own panache – and even got a photo. You couldn’t have done all that sitting beside Liz Smith, Jann Wenner.

  6. Aliya S. King Says:

    @rocka. I say you go. Why not? And I say you rock a man bag for the occasion.

  7. Erin Siders Says:

    Cafe Eclectic was my spot when they first opened and I lived practically across the street. Great place for coffee and a book…those chairs are so comfy.

  8. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Erin: I know! I love them! Did you know they were super cheap Ikea sofas? Here it is:

    I’m tempted to buy them for my house.

  9. spillboogie Says:

    @ aliya. yep. ex- boss was balling that night. the office had about 9 people on staff. he ordered full course dinners for all and at least 3 bottles of champagne. we weren’t even celebrating anything.
    he also had a very sick sense of humor and liked playing a little betting game at the end of the meal to see who got stuck with the tab. just the kind of thing to break up the fun and make everyone feel uncomfortable. :/

  10. carlito Says:

    i dunno… i’m kinda a dick about getting excited about people/places/things other people get excited about. not hatin’ at all. just always been that way.

    like, i don’t get excited by being at a spot where i happen to be sitting next to Martin Scorsese — unless i’m there WITH him, and we’re discussing OUR project.

    that said, i have to agree re: Mr. Chow’s. the buzz about that place busted my ear drums long before i got to see it (taste it, more like it) for myself, and i was definitely NOT disappointed. the food there is some whole other universe type thing.

    and when i do the do via the book deal, via the TV deal, via the “get Lito a nice, fat check” deal, i think i owe it to myself to get a nice table there and generate some buzz about me being there, lookin’ all happy and whatnot.


  11. carlito Says:

    ps. i’d never even HEARD of Michael’s until your post.

    see?! i’m sooooooo not “the writer.”


  12. Bridgette Says:

    This is my first time reading your blog and I like. Lots. Cori Murray put me on and since I’ve been a fan of your writing for a minute, I wasted no time checking it out. There is such honesty here. I will be reading regularly for sure.

    Anyhoo, I still would like to go to Michael’s for the same reasons you described in the beginning of your post. Maybe I’ll make it my business to eat there in ’09? But, I’m happy that one of my dear friends and I went to The Plaza Hotel to have tea before it closed in 2005. (Apparently it has since reopend though…) We got all dressed up to drink tea out of little cups and eat tiny bland sandwiches and of course people watch in the famed midtwon hotel. The ish was way overpriced — I think we grabbed pizza like two hours later — and overrated but it remains one of my fave NYC memories. ;-)

  13. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Bridgette: Thank you so much! I welcome you to all my honesty, warts-and-all. And yeah, I would still recommend Michael’s too. It’s just one of those things you do, y’know? And I would soooo love to go to a proper tea at the Plaza. But I can’t go now. I don’t want to go to a reopened Plaza ! I wish I could have gone pre-reno. Y’know?

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