The Manhattan brasserie reaches its second decade on April 21, an incredible age for a New York restaurant. It's a landmark now, but originally, 80 Spring St was a tannery and leather warehouse, the stench infesting the derelict street where the city's underbelly lurked at night. Back in 1997, Keith McNally, Balthazar's owner, now saddled with his own restaurant empire, had been crafty in keeping the restaurant's construction on the down low to avoid break-ins. There was always brown paper in the windows.
The night it opened, though, the unsheathed windows spilled golden light onto the pavement, and on the red awning in a blocky, Art Deco font was the word "Balthazar."
"I'm in Paris!" cried a famous French chef that first night. "Balthazar is an elaborate recreation of an imaginary place -- not a fake, but a delicate hybrid, a product of this city, of New York, as much as Paris," said Adam Gopnik who writes about, amongst innumerable other things, restaurants for the New Yorker. Not only does Balthazar conjure up Paris, it has also influenced restaurants around the city, the country, and the world.