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Minetta Tavern - Photography Now Banned

Was at Minetta last night. The hostess saw me taking flashless pictures of my food and came over to ask me to stop ("I'm sorry, we do not permit photography here").

Not sure when this new "no photography" rule came into effect, but it was a surprise to me. I was disappointed. I'm wondering if anyone has had similar experience or is this rule literally brand new? I don't plan to go back as long as this rule is in effect.

I guess this is also a heads-up for anyone else who enjoys documenting food via photography like I do. Add Minetta Tavern to the list of "no photography restaurants". As far as I know, these are: Momofuku Ko, Brooklyn Fare, Masa, and now Minetta Tavern.

Also, the Cote de Boeuf has had another price hike. It is now $140. They really need to update their online menu.

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

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  1. One wonder whether they ban photography only when there is someone in the restaurant who would prefer no pictures being taken.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nmprisons

      It was strange. When I told the hostess that I've seen plenty of people taking food photos and posting them online (as recently as last month, in fact), she just repeated "I'm sorry". I did not see any celebrities there I recognized.

      I've been to Jean Georges, Per Se, Le Bernardin, etc. and I'm sure they get plenty of celebrities too. However, they have no issues with photography.

    2. I had a similar experience at JoeDoe, a much less upscale restaurant in the East Village. Initially I was peeved as I have a blog & I like to document my dining experiences, but I can respect the decision. They also welcomed me to come back in-between services if I'd like to take pictures.

      45 East 1st Street, New York, NY 10003

      3 Replies
      1. re: EV_Eats

        Well, I certainly wasn't offered to come back in-between services to take pictures. :)

        Minetta has a right to institute this rule, certainly. It seemed to me this was a new rule since recent blog posts on the restaurant most definitely featured photos (with flash, actually). Or, maybe like nmprisons said above, they only banned photography for that night when a big-shot requested it. Either way, I don't agree with this rule and will vote with my feet.

        1. re: EV_Eats

          How would one take photos of the food between services, when there's no food being served?

        2. While I realize that it's a detriment to bloggers, I hope Minetta Tavern keeps this policy if only as an signal to its peers.

          Even if you're not a VIP, it's hard to relax and enjoy your meal when you're worried that your photo might turn up somewhere on the internet, which actually happened to me and my date in a CH-linked blog (not the OP who respects the privacy of other patrons and keeps them out of her photos).

          1 Reply
          1. re: peter j

            Yup-my thoughts exactly. While I personally absolutely loathe when people take pictures of their dishes, I also appreciate that some people (well regarded writers included) do it respectfully and discreetly. However, most don't. And those that are constantly taking pictures with flash don't realize (or care) just how distracting and annoying it is to other patrons trying to enjoy their meals. I thank Minetta for respecting my privacy and dining pleasure.

            As an aside, I've seen people taking videos at EMP, and have seen some online that featured patrons being filmed (unbeknownst to them). What an utter violation of privacy.

          2. What's funny to me about this is Minetta Tavern was already beginning to strike me as a trap for food bloggers and those of us who read them.

            I like the room, and I think the food is decent (not stellar though), but routinely asking if a table has "heard about the burger?" or "Did you see us on" such and such show, is overboard. Describing dishes as "famous" goes beneath fine dining, and into a whole other type of schtick. Asking every table where they're from isn't appropriate. Approaching tables about ordering the souffle before, or immediately after the entrees have arrived, then watching table after table get startled in confusion, because go figure, those people who just told you it was their first time eating at Minetta, they really don't know about your "famous souffles". After that, watching people pull out their iphone to take a picture of a half eaten burger just seems about right.

            I've never had the Cote de Boeuf, but I'm finding the quality of the meat in the burger, and bone marrow to be going down.

            1. I was able to take a couple of pictures with my Iphone just a few days ago at Minetta, I was dining in the back room. In fact, I took one with flash by accident. No one stopped me. FYI, I needed to document my meal for work related purposes.

              1. We went to Minetta for the first time a week ago Saturday for brunch. My camera was in plain sight, and I was not stopped from taking photos.

                The Black Label Burger was phenomenal!

                Minetta photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...


                9 Replies
                1. re: RGR

                  Since my last meal, I've also seen a ton of new photos taken at Minetta floating around. I think I must have been singled out. Because obviously, photography isn't banned like the Maitre D' said if everyone else before and after me gets to take photos.

                  1. re: Cheeryvisage

                    It seems unconstitutional not to allow you to take photos. I do understand that flash photography can be annoying, , especially when it is not of the food. Sometimes when people take flash pictures of their friends, it bothers people around them. But food pics you point the camera downward, shouldn't be a problem. Robataya has signs up , no photography. However I have many pictures of the food and of my friends, some are taken by the waiter. I feel bad that Cheeryvisage, was denied freedom of press.

                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                      I'm hesitant to even say this . . . sarcasm can be hard to recognize on a message board . . . but we do all know that the first amendment and freedom of the press don't protect one's right to take pictures of food in a privately owned establishment, right? Whether this policy is a good business practice or not, particularly if it's enforced inconsistently, is a whole other question.

                      1. re: cookie monster

                        I was disappointed, but the restaurant had every right to enforce whatever rule they deem fit. Alas.

                        When I first sat down, I took two photos of a wall and an empty table (neither with people in them), so it was more than just the food. But it wasn't until I snapped a photo of the main course (steak) that the Maitre D' came over and stopped me.

                        Now that I've seen that it was just me that wasn't permitted to take photos, I suspect nmprisons was right when he/she said in the first comment, "One wonder whether they ban photography only when there is someone in the restaurant who would prefer no pictures being taken." I think that's a plausible reason, especially since the Maitre D' couldn't tell me why photography wasn't disallowed for diners before me (based on flickr photos I've seen taken only a week before my meal). She probably didn't want to say, "A guest in this restaurant does not want people taking photos."

                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                          to be quoted, grammatical error and all, is a painful start to my morning. :-)

                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                            Actually, need to correct what I said above. One of my photos did contain people, but they were in the background and blurry.

                          2. re: cookie monster

                            Let's make it the 25th amendment,freedom to take photos

                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                              TMZ and the National Enquirer will undoubtedly be big supporters.

                          3. re: foodwhisperer

                            The Bill of Rights only applies to governments. It does not apply to private entities such as restaurants.

                      2. I think the intent of the management might be to limit the ostentation level in the room. People tend to use technology like cameras, phones. etc... to get attention, whether in the moment, or later online. And it can annoy other diners, just like loud talk, or too much perfume.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: knucklesandwich

                          I don't understand how on earth this turned into constitutional rights.As more people become ignorant of manners and common courtesies because of all their precious personal gadgets, they seem to think they are entitled to act rudely in public. Cameras are not allowed in theaters and concerts with good reason. I don't want anyone to be flashing their camera around the a restaurant where I am dining. It is intrusive and annoying, never mind crass. Restaurants have a right to establish their own rules be it dress, conduct, payment or otherwise.

                          1. Actually this makes sense for Momofuku Ko, Brooklyn Fare, and Masa, because they are bar seating. If customer after customer comes in using even flashless camera, I can see how the chefs would be distracted. On the other hand, if it is to avoid spoiling the mood for their "big" customers, I think that is lame from an ethical standpoint, even if they have a right to setting such policies.

                            What is important is to understand the intent behind such policies. It is easy for a customer to think of obvious reasons that turn out to be incorrect. Maybe call them and see if the rule is as stupid and arbitrarily enforced as it sounds? I think the rest of us would love to know.

                            1. I think its certainly within a restaurant's right to not allow photos. It can be distracting and take away from the ambiance--particularly of a refined, high-calibre dining establishment. It can also be difficult to enforce this rule, though, as how does one know if someone is checking their iPhone/BlackBerry or taking a photo?

                              That said, I personally appreciate people taking photos of their dining experiences and posting it on the Internet (be it blogs, Flickr, Yelp, or whatever). As someone who's planning a trip to NYC in the summer, I have sought out Cheeryvisage's excellent food photos on Flickr, as well as photos and reviews by others posted on the Internet.

                              These photos and reviews are to a restaurant's benefit, I think, particularly high quality photos. Ironically, it's the photographers with DSLRs who are most likely to be noticed (and asked not to take photos) while those camera phone users have their way. The photographers taking quality photos are losing out to those taking dark, blurry photos which do nothing to showcase the food.

                              I don't see the harm of someone taking a flashless photo of their food. People take photos of their dining companions (particularly if its a special occasion) all the time.

                              And if a restaurant wants to disallow it, it should be a rule for everyone. Perhaps they should put up those signs like in museums: a picture of a camera with a line through it. No photography allowed without permission. But discrete photos of the food and place settings--who does it harm?

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: canmark

                                A few facts. The Constitution (which, as Sneak said, applies to governments) does not permit making laws against taking photos in public places. Owners of private premises, like restaurants, can make their own rules.

                                Given that it's entirely legitimate to take photos of diners before they set foot inside a restaurant and as soon as they leave, I think concerns about the privacy of diners are trivial. If you are with someone you don't want to be photographed with, don't go out together.

                                While restaurants have a legal right to prohibit taking pictures, a prohibition against non-flash photography is itself rude and intrusive. I might have some respect for it if restaurants also banned people from texting, checking messages, or using cellphones on the premises.

                                1. re: Wilfrid

                                  All the techno-onanism you just listed is dubious behavior in any expensive restaurant.

                                  1. re: knucklesandwich

                                    rights be gone ... a veritable, single-handed, culinary contrapositive … bravo!

                                  2. re: Wilfrid

                                    "... a prohibition against non-flash photography is itself rude and intrusive. I might have some respect for it if restaurants also banned people from texting, checking messages, or using cellphones on the premises."


                                    1. re: Wilfrid

                                      It's not legitimate to take photos of other diners and post them on your blog without their permission. It may not be illegal but it's certainly inconsiderate and reeks of bad taste on the part of the photographer.

                                    2. re: canmark

                                      I, as well, appreciate photos taken by Cheeryvisage and others. Her photos has helped me immensely, I don't have the time or budget to dine at hundreds of NYC restaurants; her blog, photos on Flickr especially, has helped me make informed decisions as to which restaurants I should dine at or recommend to clients. I can't rely on reviews alone.

                                      As long as people are taking photos discreetly with the flash off, of the food itself, it doesn't affect other patrons.

                                      1. re: Marina1222

                                        "As long as people are taking photos discreetly with the flash off, of the food itself, it doesn't affect other patrons."

                                        Except 99.9% of camera people use now have an LCD screen that is really quite bright so it does affect other patrons.

                                        1. re: kurtt

                                          I used to bring a camera with me, now i use the bright LCD screen cell phone camera. I will continue to take pictures. If someone is so uptight that the are disturbed by it. I'll buy them a drink to calm them down. If the management says something, i will discuss it with them. I will quote a famous person , Anonymous " the customer is always right."

                                          1. re: kurtt

                                            If the LCD screen was so bright, you could say something... Just last week, I was at the movie theater with my husband, the teenager next to him was using his "bright" LCD screen cell phone for about a hour. After asking the kid - politely - to turn the phone away from him, the kid respectfully turned his phone off for the rest of the movie.
                                            But my husband is 6'3. You don't want to make him angry. BTW we were watching the Avengers. ;)

                                            I already admitted in my initial post that I had my flash on by accident, on my cell phone when I first used it, but I wasn't sitting close enough to anyone, so I did not disturb other patrons. Flash was turned off and my LCD screen is always kept very dim to save battery. Took another few seconds to take two pictures and the phone was back in my purse. No one even noticed.

                                            I try not to disturb others, but if I need to take pictures, I will.

                                            1. re: kurtt

                                              That's not even true. Smartphone screens can be dimmed.

                                              1. re: calf

                                                What's not true that 99.9% Of cameras being used in restaurants have LED screens? If it's not true then how are these screens being dimmed?

                                        2. I respect many of the posters on this board, and know some take beautiful pictures. However, the way I view taking pictures of food from the perspective of a diner is the same I feel about taking photographs of art. I feel it removes me from the pleasure of the piece. I want to feast on a dish with my eyes, my nose, and my mouth. I'm too engrossed with the sensual experience of food to interrupt it with a camera. Just not my thing, and the more trendy it becomes, the more I tire of all kinds of electronic devices on dining room tables. Maybe I'm just old fashioned.

                                          The constitution arguments are completely laughable, although it speaks volumes of how little privacy or discretion are valued in current society.

                                          1. Thank you to those who find the food photos useful. I'm glad to be of help to your trip-planning.

                                            For me, I accept the fact that a restaurant can enforce whatever rule it wants. It's a little troubling though, when it appears that I was the only one to whom the "We do not permit photography" rule applied. The feeling of being singled out isn't very nice.

                                            If a restaurant wants to enforce a no photography rule, it should clearly state this (a la Brooklyn Fare, for example) and apply this rule to everyone.

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                              I'm curious whether you plan to return to Minetta Tavern, and if so, whether you plan to bring your camera now that others have managed to take photos since your last visit.

                                              1. re: Riverman500

                                                I don't plan to return to Minetta in the near future because this incident has left a bad taste in my mouth. But perhaps eventually, I'll finally get over my resentment and try again (with a camera). Other than the photography incident, I enjoyed all other aspects of my meal. The server was cordial and capable, the ambiance lively and warm, and the food wonderful and satisfying.

                                                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                  What's the noise level like at Minetta Tavern? Obtrusive or not?

                                                  1. re: salvati

                                                    I went on a Monday for dinner. The noise level was just shy of having to raise your voice to be heard. I imagine the place is even busier on more popular days like Thursday to Saturday.

                                              2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                Is part of your enjoyment of a place like Minetta built around documenting it?

                                                As much as I find photographs useful (often more so than the text) when browsing reviews, it's sounding less and less like this is something you approach as a hobby, and just enjoy doing when able. I'm reminded of the approach some people take when dining at EMP, expecting extras. Your primary focus should be the food, and enjoying a meal, and perhaps your company as well.

                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                  For me, taking photos when eating out isn't terribly different from photographing vacations or special occasions. Don't most people like to take photos when they visit a tourist attraction, or attend an event such as a graduation?

                                                  I haven't heard of anyone criticizing the parents of a graduate saying, "You shouldn't be taking photos because your primary focus should be watching your son / daughter's graduation." Or, "Why are you taking photos at Disneyland? You should be focusing on playing with your son / daughter." What if Disneyland decides to ban photography? And they don't disclose this ban until you have already arrived? What if Disneyland allows everyone to take photos, BUT you?

                                                  Heh, the last example was a bit extreme. But my point is, photography and enjoyment of the event (and company) are not mutually exclusive. You can do both at the same time.

                                                  1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                    Cameras=cellphones=Blackberries. No toys at the table.

                                                    1. re: knucklesandwich

                                                      The times they are a changin'


                                              3. I saw some flashes going at Minetta tonite. I do not know if they were told to stop taking pictures or not. I meant to take some pictures of the food but I was too involved in conversation. I think I could have gotten away with it, without a flash. The place was so busy , no one would have noticed. By the way, although I did not enjoy my bone marrow at all. I did enjoy the pork truffle sausage with salt pond oysters, and the Black Label Burger was one of the best burgers I've had anywhere. The fries I thought were better at their other restaurants i.e. Pastis, Balthazar. But I think there must have been a complaining customer when you were there, because it seemed Ok to take pictures.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                  Thanks for the report. I think at this point, it's pretty clear there isn't actually a no photography policy at Minetta. It's unfortunate that this isn't consistent for all diners and some may experience what happened to me.

                                                2. Hey, folks, a lot of this thread is getting pretty personal and judgmental about other hounds and whether they do or don't take photos of their meals. We'd ask that people refocus the conversation on what the policy is at Minetta. If you've got recent experience with either taking pictures there or not being permitted to take pictures there, please do post. But arguments about whether people should or shouldn't take pictures are really better suited to Not About Food. Thanks.

                                                  1. I agree with those what believe you should be able to take pics of the food. I don't understand why a restaurant would get offended by a diner taking pictures of their food. It is an obvious compliment to the restaurant and a way for bloggers,reviews, etc. to promote their product. Unfortunately, it seems Minetta is developing the reputation as "one of those restaurants". You know the ones who become overly popular and self absorbed with themselves they lose sight of pleasing the customer. Like those that make you reserve tables online. Ban photography. Have bouncers at the door. It almost becomes a burden and uncomfortable for someone to dine in a place like that. When you go out and spend money on a meal (especially at their prices), you want satisfaction in every way possible and for many this includes being able to snap a few pictures here and there. Obviously, if you can do this without being obnoxious and disturbing to your neighbors I do not see the problem.

                                                    I really hope that Minetta isn't becoming "that type" of restaurant because it is admittedly one of my favorites. I've been for dinner and brunch on a few occasions and had nothing but incredible food and good service. The cote de boeuf is one of the best steaks I have ever had anywhere. The pommes anna and aligot are potato heaven. The burger in incredible. The souffles are terrific. The prime rib and duck confit hash at brunch are gut-busting deliciousness. The atmosphere and environment is a lot of fun and transports you can to a prior era. But I am reading some posts where people are saying the waiters are saying things to upsell themselves like "Have you heard about our famous burger"? Seen us on food channel? etc. Obviously people know about you if they are there. I personally did not experience any of this but hopefully this is all untrue. And yes, the cote de boeuf has surged to $140 which is ridiculous even for a steak as incredible as that bad boy. It started as $90 back in 2009 and in 3 years has increased in price by 49%.

                                                    Based on my personal experiences I love the place and still will return. I will report back to see if anything seems different.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: steakrules85

                                                      I think it's more a decision to please one group of customers over another. As you can see from this thread, many of us are actively offended by diners taking photos of food in the dining room, even at other tables. You can disagree with us, but that's how we feel. There's nothing wrong with some restaurants' catering to us, just as other restaurants cater to you guys.

                                                      It's like Carnegie Hall's having a policy that audience members may not text during performances. Some people want to be able to text, and claim they're not really bothering anyone else, as long as their phone is set on silent. Others assert they ARE bothered, and that live performance requires at least the appearance of general audience concentration. Carnegie Hall chooses to cater to the latter crowd -- although by doing so, it necessarily contravenes the wishes of the former. Are they wrong? I don't think so.

                                                      1. re: Sneakeater

                                                        But I think Minetta is wrong to single people out. Either no one is allowed to take photos, or you allow everyone to do so. The restaurant needs to be very clear with their policy and be consistent when enforcing it.

                                                        This is my problem with this whole incident. The inconsistent practice of only imposing a rule on one diner, but not others. Momofuku Ko and Brooklyn Fare both clearly state photography is not permitted and they enforce this rule at every single service and on every single diner.

                                                        The same goes for Carnegie Hall's texting policy. I mean, would you really be okay if Carnegie Hall lets 5 audience members to text to their heart's content while everyone else has to follow the rule?

                                                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                          Just for the record, I agree that it may be wrong to single out individuals for selective enforcement.

                                                          If I were you, I'm sure I'd be pissed off, too.

                                                        2. re: Sneakeater

                                                          I agree with Sneakeater.

                                                          For context, Brooklyn Fare doesn't allow any electronic devices or note-taking and I do think that it creates a more focused and enjoyable food experience for everyone, even though I can only remember half the dishes the next day.

                                                      2. Were you doing a Mike Myers and going "yes, yes, no, no" while taking pictures?

                                                        So is the cote de boeuf worth the new price tag? I thought that should be the discussion here. Nonetheless, perhaps if you didn't take the first couple of photos discretely, then some other patrons might have complained to the powers that be. Personally I don't like taking pictures at a restaurant, and would be annoyed if someone next table is snapping away with a Nikon D3x. However, I rely heavily on bloggers' comments and pictures in making decisions to attend a restaurant, so I guess if photography taking is done discretely then I'd be fine with it.

                                                        In this case, though, I have a sneaky suspicion that if "Chuckeats" or "Wandering Epicure" were the ones taking pictures, nothing would have been said.

                                                        1. I went to Minetta last thursday - as an aside, though the Cote de Boeuf has increased (exponentially it seems!), it is still incredible; we had four marrow bones to go with it; in addition, pommes anna, their brandade which is out of this world (just the right amount of salinity from the fish) and the oysters and pork sausages - and didn't see any flashes, though that could be because no one was taking pictures.

                                                          It's funny, reading this entire thread, I thought for sure I would be in the anti-photography group but thinking about it and my Minetta experience actually changed that. For one, I really enjoy reading food blogs and more often than not, I feel like something is missing when there's not a photograph accompanying the write up. Secondly, if someone was actually being intrusive (ie using their flash quite brightly, trying to take photos of the dining room as a whole (I don't want to be photographed), I would just ask them to stop, or ask the FOH to ask them. It doesn't seem right to me to be so rigid or strict; it's more on a case by case basis, especially since I've more than once whipped out my iPhone to take photographs of something in front of me.
                                                          But lastly, you know what really made me change my mind? Photography was hardly the most intrusive thing at Minetta on Thursday. It was the drunken boors who come there to party and "be seen." My dining partner and I were seated next to a party of 6 males (and one unfortunate female) who were clearly *many* drinks in and they were shouting across the table for no reason. I wouldn't have minded if they were quietly taken photographs of the food at all. On the contrary, part of me wishes they would have. Then, I could have laughed about it and moved on, being able to enjoy my dinner AND hear my companion.

                                                          As an aside, I was once at Astrance and this couple was taking photographs and the waiter came over and told them they needed to stop. Not because there was a photo ban, but because they were taking too long to eat the dishes and the temperature was incorrect by the time they finally got around to tasting what they had so carefully photographed.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic

                                                            I've dined with two excellent food photographers who frequently post on these boards. They are extremely quiet when they take their photos and when they dine.