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Jan 15, 1999 08:28 AM

Fountain Cafe --Attractive or Coffee Shop?

  • k

The Fountain Cafe was recommended highly but I want to
make sure it looks gorgeous enough for a small party.
Maybe the word "cafe" made me doubtful. I'd like an
eyefeast and entertainment too.

Any comments?

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  1. Do you want a separate party room, or just a place to
    gather a few friends? The Fountain Cafe is pretty
    small and not fancy. It does have a lovely little
    fountain in the middle of the floor, and there were
    toys floating in it when I was there last. The food is
    very tasty, by the way.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Jessica

      Thanks for the superquick response! I've heard so
      many raves about the food so I'm keen on that. But
      I'm after some atmosphere too for this small party of
      maybe ten. It's so hard without seeing the joint.

      1. re: karen

        What do you mean by atmosphere? I just went to a
        birthday banquet there this evening with about 20
        people, and they laid tables end to end in the middle
        of the floor. There was plenty of atmosphere coming
        from the grill in the open kitchen. The mezze are
        particularly good, with some of the best baba in town,
        smoky, garlicky, oily. Maybe you'd be much happier at
        Layla in Tribeca, where the decor is the best part.

        1. re: Robert

          Lighten up, Robert! Some people like a "nice atmosphere," and there's no crime -- food may be the most important thing in life, but it's not the *only* thing! (And the food at Layla is quite nice, even if not up there with the best in NYC.)

          1. re: steve d.

            Hey Steve, I apologize for not being lite enuf, but my
            original question still stands--what was the original
            correspondent looking for in a restaurant, design-wise?
            Forget for a moment that most of us are much more
            interested in the food. To me, I appeciate restaurant
            design that's less distracting, less filled with the
            strains of the Gipsy Kings, less kitschy. I often feel
            like barfing when a place is over-decorated with
            quasi-ethnographic stuff to put me in the mood. Maybe
            this is a class issue, but I'm always suspicious when
            more effort has been put into making me "comfortable"
            that into satisfying my appetite. My vote goes for the
            real place instead of the theme-decorated restaurant
            every time.

            1. re: Robert

              Robert-- Believe me, I know exactly where you're coming from, and personally I'm much happier when I can take people out to eat without regard for anything but the food. But the fact is that there are a lot of people with additional requirements in an eatery, and it simply does no good to treat them as somehow less deserving of a good time. They may love food as much as thee or me, but not be able to enjoy it as much in "low-rent" or "hole-in-the-wall" surroundings. Their loss, I know, that they'll never be able to appreciate, say, Kebab Cafe ('bye, grandma...), but there are plenty of wonderful restaurants in NYC that have both good food and "atmosphere," and I think it's our job to direct them to them as straightforwardly as if they needed a good place that didn't serve meat (however much you and I may love meat). And come on, you know what they mean by atmosphere -- not in detail, but I don't think they have detailed requirements, they just want a place that Aunt Ethel will feel comfortable with: pleasing decor (rather than grease-stained plastic), waiters they can easily communicate with (rather than using sign language or testing their high-school Spanish), food they can understand without having toured the Yucatan... Surely you have an Aunt Ethel?

              I guess I can sum up my message by saying: let's try to avoid reverse snobbery. All food lovers are created equal, even if not all are lucky enough to be true chowhounds...

              1. re: steve d.

                OK here`s my 2 cent`s worth. As a Chef food is always the thing. I appreciate hole in the walls, knock around joints and cutting edge designs. To me a rest. experience is the whole package. Food, service, decor, ambience.Good food can be hamppered by Loud music, dim or way too bright lighting, lack or snobby service. Of course these imperfections would``nt stop me from going back. But what I hate is when a new place opens and it does a dated design(80`s)or gaudy, or just plain bad taste and think their a happening new spot,those are the ones I dismiss.(this usually happens in the outer boroughs)Well thier it is. On another note recently went to cafe cubana on prince off houston. the cuban sandwich was just ok but they had a interesting cieling...

                1. re: JG

                  Hey dig this! Robert and I were at the same party!
                  The food WAS fabulous. However my initial question was
                  made since I thought it would be nice to make a big
                  deal out of our friend Amy's 40th birthday and take her
                  somewhere beautiful. I love a hole-in-the wall joint
                  as much as anyone however I don't see why bitchen decor
                  is considered a detriment to good food.

                  1. re: Karen

                    To me, it was the perfect place for good friends to
                    throw a birthday party. Clean, not too expensive,
                    informal enough so the kids could run around to their
                    hearts' content, a place that lets you bring in your
                    own beer and wine (and some pretty impressive labels
                    were toted in, and one where you can dress anyway you
                    like and not feel out of place. When I'm complaining
                    about overdecorated and fakeily decorated places, I'm
                    only stating my own preference for what makes me feel

                    As for luxury places--to me there's nothing worse than
                    finding yourself in a place where all the people are
                    wealthy, the men are about 20 years older than the
                    women, the meal moves at a snail's pace, the good
                    bottles of wine cost more than $30, the food is
                    someone's pictorial fantasy, and all women wear little
                    black dresses and carry little black handbags.

                    Hey are you the one that gave her the underpants? I'm
                    glad I didn't try that!

                    1. re: Robert
                      Kenneth Watson

                      Robert Sietsema wrote: "As for luxury places--to me there's nothing worse than finding yourself in a place where all the people are wealthy, the men are about 20 years older than the women, the meal moves at a snail's pace, the good bottles of wine cost more than $30, the food is someone's pictorial fantasy, and all women wear little black dresses and carry little black handbags"

                      That's the very essence of reverse snobbery.

                      Snobs frown on cheap, regardless of what one can get out of the experience. Reverse snobs frown on expensive, regardless of what one can get out of the experience.

                      Chowhounds (if I understand the term correctly) embrace anything good and seek to enjoy all sorts of worthy dining experiences on their own terms.

                      Scoffing at people solely for their income or dress, or denigrating food and wine solely for its cost, is just as backward and idiotic from whichever perspective you happen to take.

                      1. re: Kenneth Watson

                        Kenneth--Without getting too embroiled in the specifics of your response to Robert, I'd like to say that I do strongly agree about enjoying different experiences on their own terms.

                        For many many years there was a nearly uncontested presumption that any food served without linen tablecloths, etc, is Unserious Food. In the last couple of decades, there's suddenly developed a great deal of interest in cheap food and "ethnic food", and a separate corp of reporters began to cover that scene. But there remains an unspoken assumption among the food establishment that most readers who follow such press and eat in such places are scruffy gluttons in dirty raincoats who simply can't afford the Good Stuff. Anyone with taste and means eats at "better" places (I realize that I'm preaching to the choir here, but you'd all be very surprised how many people still think this way)

                        I have a more postmodern outlook. I believe categories are horizontal, not vertical (see my editorial/manifesto on this at www.chowhound.com/editorial.html), and that to pronounce one realm of well-cooked food superior to another is artificial and snobbish. Delicious is delicious, period. I'm never fooled by fancy trappings alone--chic and sleek are not enough--but linen is NOT the enemy. I thought Steve Dodson put it very cleverly, actually: just because food is the most important thing in life doesn't mean it's the ONLY thing.

                        But it's been incredibly difficult for me to try to get the message across to the non-chowhound mainstream; it's been continuously misunderstood by the press. For example, Time Out wrote, in an otherwise positive review of my book last week, that I "probably wouldn't be caught dead at Balthazar." So because I like really good pizza or arepas made by Columbian street vendors, I couldn't possibly own a suit or eat, say, foie gras or drink Bordeaux. Nothing could be further from the truth (in fact, my book includes some REALLY expensive places, all of which I love dearly). But those who value holes-in-walls are pigeon-holed (and thereby marginalized) as bottom-feeders.

                        Perhaps we need to go through a period of "high-end boosters versus low-end boosters" (or, to use your terms, snobs versus reverse snobs) before society's able to reconcile the extremes. Try as I might, the idea that great food is great food doesn't seem to compute for most people, especially for much of the "Food Elite" (an oxymoron that of course underscores the problem).

                        1. re: Jim Leff

                          Attention! You may now climb down off your pedestals everyone. I apologize for writing without submitting my copy to an editor first.

                          My only point was where I like to eat the most, and to poke fun at fancy places, which is always in good taste as far as I'm concerned. So sue me!

                        2. re: Kenneth Watson

                          Kenneth -- Thank you! When I read Robert's defiantly Manichean posting I was despondent at the thought of once again having to take up the cudgels for tolerance and good sense, but then I read your response and was happy to see you'd done it for me. Robert-- It is *not the case* that there are two kinds of restaurants, good cheap funky ones and bad evil expensive ones with fat capitalists in top hats leering over young innocents about to be debauched over $300 bottles of Bordeaux! There are *all kinds of restaurants* out there, and making a restaurant look nice is not an automatic recipe for bad food and worse morals! Verbum sapientis satis est.

                2. re: Robert
                  jonathan gold

                  Don't you just hate it when you walk
                  into an Indian restaurant and the owners
                  take off the bitchen film music they
                  were listening to and slap on some
                  tired ragas instead? Or perfectly
                  pleasant glass-top-table cafes,
                  decorated last week in travel posters
                  and maps of the chef's home region, suddenly
                  look like a disco VIP room circa 1983?

                  I almost find it axiomatic: the better the
                  noodle shop, the more likely it is to
                  be playing Vietnamese versions of Paul Anka
                  songs; the more faded the map of Cuba,
                  the better the moros y cristianos, the
                  grimier the takeout window, the tastier the ribs.
                  If you want capital `A' Ambience, there's
                  always Le Cote Basque...

        2. Don't go to the Fountain if you're looking for decor.
          It's not homely, but it's little more than a brightly
          lit room with a small fountain in the middle.

          The service is usually very good, though sometimes a
          bit slow. The baba ganoush is the best in the city,
          smoky and delicious. Everything else is very good but
          not unmatched by many other Middle Eastern spots all
          over town.