This week's column was not supposed to be about the little restaurant tucked away in the shopping center behind Trader Joe's. It was supposed to be about a totally hip, underground club. But walking out of a movie on Friday night (Harry Potter, go ahead, judge), and into the bar to grab a glass of wine, I was reminded why I just can't stop loving Après Diem, even though the service is hit-or-miss and people seem to wear an inordinate amount of black.
The place bills itself as an international bistro and with its exposed brick walls, groovetastic music and endorsement of indoor smoking, Après Diem really does give off a hip, international vibe. With each table speaking a different language — Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Korean — it's a veritable Midtown United Nations.
But really, Après Diem is all about the pookie-boos.
The candle lighting and dark-paneled walls. The red wine specials and the fruit and fromage plate. The art on the walls and down-tempo beats. The place is clearly targeted toward one goal — sealing the deal.
Couples fill every nook and cranny: Two people on the heated patio leaning in over a giant slice of coconut cake. A gay couple at the bar laughing. Another couple whispering on a couch. A guy at the bar ordering an Irish coffee and an Appletini for his date.
That said, it's also a great place to meet people — assuming your type is a guy who rocks tight jeans, a blazer, scarf and oversized hipster glasses. (If you don't meet the man or woman of your dreams, feel free to strike up a game of "Gay or European?" It never gets old here.)
"I love how we encourage people to come together," says Après Diem manager and native Englander, Sam Kolty. He points to a blackboard over the pick-your-poison dessert cabinet; it reads "Compassion" in 17 different languages. (Of course, Mr. Kolty's compassion is limited: A staunch supporter of London's Chelsea football team, he walks away mid-sentence if anyone dares to utter a complimentary word about Sir Alex and his red devils.)
Compassion seems to be most evident at the bar, where barkeep Oscar patiently waits for a couple to stop canoodling so he can finish making his wine recommendations. Suddenly, everyone's attention is diverted by the sound of a woman speaking at top volume.
A pretty brunette is regaling two male companions with stories and words of advice. The waitstaff is keeping a list of her nuggets of wisdom. Some of our favorites?
"You can't be happy unless you experience true despair."
"I mean, like, take heaven. You'd think it would get, like, full or something. I mean, World War II. All those people. They died. Think about that."
"Energy is, like, so important. It's so underrated."
"He was really abusive, but he was totally rich, which would be the only reason I'd date him."
They attribute the list to "Douchebag in the red hat."
After looking at the men to whom she is speaking, I can't help but wonder: Are they really that drunk? Or, are they thinking that since they have listened this long they might as well see it through until the end and potentially get something out of it?
By 1.30 a.m., the place has mostly cleared out, save a few couples who seem to have decided it was just fine to stay on the couch.
Suddenly, the front door opens and a group rushes in. The women are decked out in feathers and fringe. The men are pulling off their pinstripe jackets to reveal suspenders.
"We're partying like it's prohibition," a girl in a fur stole says.
Considering Après Diem is only closed on Christmas Eve and Super Bowl Sunday, they've found like-minded souls.
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
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