The word “cool” is insanely overused. I’m as guilty as anyone at spewing the word in the direction of far too many things that are only slightly above average and was thinking I should chill on my use of “cool.” Recently though, I discovered an amazing new use for the word, making it a fantastically specific descriptor. Here’s how it happened: I had a great meal at a popular new restaurant but when someone asked me what kind of food it was I found it difficult to explain. When I shared this with a friend who had recently eaten there he said, “Just tell them it’s cool food.”
My friend’s emphasis on the word cool was so pointed that I instantly knew exactly what he meant, it even conjured up an image of the kind of place where you might eat such a meal. Cool food is served in a happening place, the clientele may or may not be friendly but they will be well dressed. The average age of people eating there will be mid-twenties to early forties but no one will look- or dress- over thirty. The music will include songs found mainly on alt stations, have a retro bent or be in a foreign language. It will be at best cacophonous and at worst full on noisy. The decor will most likely be European-bistro-meets-Brooklyn-flea-market; they use or at least contemplated using Edison lightbulbs. And just to confirm you are in fact in a cool restaurant, as you walk in one of your friends will look around and utter something like, “I wish their decorator could do my apartment.”
At this mecca of cool you will eat food that defies a single cuisine category and forces you into excruciatingly lengthy explanations of individual dishes in an effort to describe it. “Well, it’s all fresh, local, season ingredients, like, farm-to-table but not as rustic…I mean, the fish had miso so kind of an Asian influence I think but the roasted carrots we ordered had cumin on them but it wasn’t Middle Eastern at all. If anything it maybe was kind of French but their pasta was really good and they had wood oven pizza. It’s for sure not an Italian restaurant but if you want Italian, like I said, they have some good stuff. The desserts were insanely good, traditional but not, basically a twist on American classics but more modern…” And so on, and so on.
I have always agreed with the saying that a restaurant that does everything does nothing well. However, over the last few years I have had more and more great meals at places where the chef clearly has multiple influences and the confidence to play with his food genres. And now, thanks to my friend, I no longer have to struggle to describe theses spots when I recommend them. I can just shrug and say, “It’s, you know, cool food.” I’m really excited to try more of these restaurants as they open except I have one problem: another defining feature of a cool restaurant? You can never get a reservation.♥