Two things happen when creative director Gillian Schwartz travels: She makes a long to-do list and always winds up where the old-timers are. Here's her list of classic joints around the world that are perfect precisely because they're the way they always have been.
There's something to be said for classics and institutions — their codes of conduct, their seemingly random rules, their time-honored styles, their our-way-or-the-highway attitude. At such established restaurants, bars, and shops, the history in the walls lets me relax and enjoy the moment more, knowing so many other moments have passed before me.
I also like the owners' impassioned and uncompromising approach to their space and what they offer. Like El Faro, the Mexican restaurant in New York City's West Village, where they sold their delicious salad dressing in mini Pelligrino bottles from behind the bar. (Sadly, the place is closed for now, but I hope they'll be back.) In a way, it's the resistance to change that makes me feel at home, and I take comfort in knowing that when I return, things will be the same.
A Dozen Classics from East to West
151 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris; +33-1-45-48-53-91
No salad as a meal. It says so on the menu. Don't even try it.
46 rue du Bac, Paris; +33-42-32-22-21
No photographs at this old taxidermy shop. No matter how bad you want to.
Churros at Dia Market
Plaza del Mercado, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
There are two competing churros stands at the ancient market in the center of Jerez. They are right next to each other, and you can feel the tension between them. But there is a difference. When you're facing away from the clock, choose the one on the left.
88 Firestone Rd., Montauk, New York; +1-631-668-5992
A bar that has resisted a lot of the hipsterization that Montauk has suffered in recent years. The jukebox is filed with The Boss and Steely Dan and the place is at its best at sunset.
The Lobby Bar at Bowery Hotel
335 Bowery, New York City; +1-212-505-9100
Like the Hemingway Bar at the Paris Ritz, they keep a typewriter behind the bar. Patrons of note can type a message for the bartender to deliver the next time their friend stops by.
195 Spring St., New York City; +1-212-334-2112
I kissed the ceiling once at this Italian restaurant in SoHo, and the lip print is still there.
13702 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; +1-305-945-7770
You must push fashion limits with your selections at this boutique or you risk being ignored. Trying on basics is a waste of a trip anyway.
The Pelican Inn
10 Pacific Way, Muir Beach, California; +1-415-383-6000
It's a little British pub nestled next to Muir Beach. Overnight guests are allowed into the snug, a little room off the bar. Every room is different, but room #2 has hundreds of initials that guests have carved into the ceiling beams over the years, including mine.
Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk St., San Francisco; +1-415-673-2757
A cramped little raw bar where they give away logo'd sponges from behind the bar. Get one for back home.
The Apple Pan
10801 West Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles; +1-310-475-3585
Of course, have a burger. Then do what regulars do and get banana cream pie.
7001 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles; +1-323-851-3313
It's strictly members only, and there are so many fabulous rules. For instance, women cannot wear pants. I am not a member, but a friend who is once showed up in a Chanel pantsuit and was turned away.
1325 Coast Blvd., La Jolla, California; +1-858-459-0746
A secret door in the back of this actual ocean cave leads you down a staircase through a rock that opens onto a view of the horizon.
See all locations mentioned in this story. (Google Maps)
Where are you most at home with the curmudgeons? Tell us your favorite classics in the comments below.