May 11, 2007 | BITE: My Journal

Odeon Never Grows Old. It Is Old. 


                      Still the same vintage feel at Odeon. Photo: Steven Richter                                                        
        I can’t remember the last time I was in Odeon…years, decades.  We gathered tonight for 7 o’clock drinks at a friend's loft on Hudson Street and our pals suggested Odeon for dinner after.  They’d run into chef Tom Valenti and his wife having burgers there recently. Ah, yes…a reminder of Odeon’s iconic burgers and fries in the intense days of 1980, when foodies and nightlife nomads first ventured downtown to J.S. Vandam and Capsuto Frères.  And the giant red neon spelling out ODEON became a beacon for the eclectic chic.  (Are you old enough to remember the late Patrick Clark in the kitchen?)  Those were the golden days, when the London-born McNallys were a triumph of three; brothers Brian and Keith (fresh from success at Café Un Deux Trois, One Fifth, and Mr. Chow), and Keith’s wife, Lynn Wagenknecht.

    What was once desolate West Broadway is now a vibrant restaurant row in a vinaigrette of tempting boutiques - lots of ruffles and tempting big summer hats. Odeon’s sidewalk tables are full on this mild evening.  Inside, it looks the same. If only we did. The green and red neon clock is reflected everywhere. Are these the first mirrors hung tilted to feed the need to see and be seen?  Or was that at the grand cafe, Joanna? (Let me know, please.)  I like to imagine some of tonight’s savvy boomers at big round tables are original Odeon fans, back with their teenage kids in tow. Against the wall is a woman who looks like she stepped out of a Hopper, very 50’s, Odeon before the McNallys.

    Sorry, but the $16 bacon-cheddar burger is no competition for the elite oeuvre at Old Homestead’s Prime Burger and Union Square Café, or our favorites at Brooklyn Dinner and  Fairway Cafe. But it’s good enough - the thick bacon, especially - and the fries are first-rate (eat them hot).  The waiter personally asks the chef and reports my $27 salmon cannot be both rare and warm inside – so it is rarish and a little bland, but appealing with the greenery of spring vegetables and a green sauce. A nice toss of salad green is properly dressed. But I could weep for the pitiful unrealized macaroni and cheese - I am a hopeless fool for mac’n’cheese.  Underneath its good layer of crunch float unfulfilled pasta in soup.

145 West Broadway between Duane and Thomas. 212 233 0507.