The Polo Bar, which, frankly, everyone likes. Photo: Vincent Tullo for The New York Times
I’m having a discreet, anonymous lunch with the wealth consultant for Succession at Michael’s on 55th Street at her husband’s usual table underneath a brightly colored Hockney lithograph. We’ve ordered the famous Cobb salads, which arrive chopped as finely as grass passed through a lawn mower. My dining companion, who is also an author and interior designer, served as the inspirational touchstone for many of Tom Wambsgans’s blistering insults about “Bridget Randomfuck” in the first episode of the new season. The writers gave her a scenario like “Greg is going to bring someone who doesn’t belong to Logan’s birthday party. How do we know she doesn’t belong?” And so she told them, “Her dress might have a print on it and everyone else is wearing a solid. She’s going to have a big bag with her shoes in it. And she’s going to eat all the snacks when they’re coming out of the door.”
She agreed to act as my adviser as I debated where the Roys would dine out in the city. I also asked Susan Stanton, a writer and supervising producer on Succession, as well as Succession viewers who work in fine dining, politics, and media. Everyone had different answers depending in part on whether they thought a character actually had good taste. (Some thought Logan would have a table at Rao’s; others didn’t think he would be eating so well. Everyone was stumped when it came to Shiv, whose chameleonic, Beltway quality made her seem most likely to eat something her personal chef left in the fridge.) More than anything, the Roys exist in a bubble of wealth and notoriety so stratospheric and deoxygenated that they’re beyond national boundaries and social conventions. Their surroundings often mirror their interiority: blank, bloodless, lonely, private.
“If the characters go anywhere, they could be seen, and who they’re meeting with could be seen,” says Stanton. “So when we were doing research, there were a lot of places that had PDR — private dining rooms.” Stanton herself used to work at the Soho Grand Hotel, and whenever celebrities like Katy Perry or Leonardo DiCaprio arrived, they would take the service elevator. “They’d be spirited in and out. It’s very weird, but they come in the same way the staff does.”
The head waiter at one of these restaurants told me the industry codes they use for this caliber of diner: “PX” for personne extraordinaire; “PPX,” a person particulièrement extraordinaire; and finally “WTW,” which stands for “whatever they want.” Whatever they want, I learned after a week of frequenting billionaire-baiting restaurants, is food that resembles a children’s menu: burgers, crab cakes, spaghetti, chocolate sundaes. I was also surprised to see so many actual children: After 6 p.m., it was family hour at Greek megarestaurants like Avra or Estiatorio Milos in midtown, which have become a favorite of wealthy right-wingers. As I watched a small boy wearing Thom Browne stroll into Caviar Kaspia at the Mark Hotel at 9 p.m. on a Friday, I realized that a baked potato with caviar did seem like what a kid would dream up as fancy food.
The caviar at Kaspia ranges from $95 (for 30 grams of white sturgeon) to $540 (for 80 grams of “Sélection Oscietra”). I took my friend Juliet, who says her family “comes from old money but lost it” and has an inspiring ability to ask for something better. Initially, we were going to split the difference and go with 50 grams of imperial Baeri ($175), which the waiter recommended for its lighter flavor, but then a nearby couple stopped us. “It’s okay,” the husband, who “works in textiles” said, frowning. “It’s not the best.” Juliet decided we would get the Royal Oscietra ($290). We got real food, too — king crab tagliolini that tasted like buttered noodles and rock-hard halibut en papillote that Juliet sent back — but the caviar was the only thing worth eating. As I spooned it into my mouth with its mother-of-pearl spoon, I felt both hungry and ridiculous. Caviar Kaspia, which fashion people have called “our cafeteria,” is perfect for the Ozempic era, little bites of expensive food that create the impression of eating.
For Logan, most people suggested the Grill, and not only because it was the setting for Connor’s rehearsal dinner in a recent episode. “The Grill at lunch is less a power place than it used to be, but it’s still very important,” says the wealth consultant. “Logan has an account. He doesn’t ever pay a check. He has a usual table and a usual order. It’s understood who he is when he walks in. No fuss.” The Grill’s cavernous space in the Seagram Building, high-modernist aesthetic, and sculptural mass of brass rods hanging over the bar like a murderous chandelier are something straight out of The Fountainhead, architecture that sends the eye into perpetual vertical motion. The prices seem to know no upper limit either. The New York strip steak, once $65 is now $98; meanwhile, the Seagram crab cake has increased $15, to $51, in a sure sign of an incoming recession.
I invited a former editor of mine to join me for lunch. Older, wiser, and more dignified, he wore a jacket, whereas I showed up sweaty in a short-sleeved button-down. We were seated on the perimeter, away from the round tables of suits in investment-banker blue along the far wall. Logan, sans Marcia, would definitely get the steak, here cooked medium rare and served with a ring of caramelized onion and a bulb of garlic roasted to the consistency of soft butter. We also had the Cajun snapper, which was underseasoned and looked like something Logan would rib Tom for ordering. “Fish, huh?”
It’s probably no surprise that the person I thought might eat well is Gerri, whose taupe hat at Connor’s wedding allowed me to conjure a fantastic rich-bitch lifestyle. I asked my friend Rachel Tashjian, the purveyor of Opulent Tips, to have dinner with me at Majorelle, which we agreed was the best-smelling restaurant we had been to in a long time: freshly cut lilies perfumed the vestibule, and the springtime arrangements continued in giant centerpieces with budding cherry branches. The restaurant was extremely adult with slate-blue velvet upholstery and engaged Doric columns. The food was seriously French. Sweetbreads were creamy with a crisp golden exterior, uni risotto fell away with just a kernel of starch at the center of each grain, and leafy petals of fennel melted under a grilled snapper and anise-scented beurre blanc. The passion-fruit soufflé was perfectly fluffed in the soufflé-specific oven. I could imagine an airy spoonful sending a shiver down Gerri’s spine before she absconded to the Lowell Hotel upstairs with a younger lover tout de suite.
Kendall, the Roy most likely to consider himself “a foodie,” who would have been absolutely furious at his assistant, Jess, for not telling him about Yoshino before it got four stars from the Times, would probably stick with standbys such as Sushi Noz, Shuko, and 69 Leonard. Nighttime would bring backroom Twitter scrolling with Eric Adams at Zero Bond; he would be slobbering over Jeff Klein to get into the new San Vicente Bungalows at the Jane Hotel. In my best Kendall drag, I went to Casa Cruz, another members-only space in a Beaux Arts mansion on East 61st Street that allows seating for the hoi polloi on the second floor. The restaurant has a dress code that “encourages collared shirts and/or sportcoats” and prohibits sportswear, tank tops, baseball caps, and jeans. Of course, these rules apply only to poor people because seated next to us was a white man looking slovenly in a gray thermal and stonewashed blue jeans. (The food was deeply mediocre.)
During my week of eating beyond my means, the only place that made me want to engineer a hostile takeover was the Polo Bar, the Ralph Lauren–themed restaurant near Trump Tower. Everything, from the trademark plaid curtain in the window to the countless equestrian oil paintings and polo equipment mounted on the walls, creates an enchanting game of make-believe. One is suddenly aware of dressing up and of the artifice and pleasure of such an endeavor. But unlike, say, the Rainforest Cafe, the Polo Bar thrives on exclusivity. For my own designs, I asked my friend who works in fashion, who asked her husband who works in hotels, to get us a four-top for a double date.
Even getting seated is like a video game: There are three host stands. The first host stands sentry outside with a tablet in hand next to the Henry Koehler mural of a polo match. If you have a reservation, you enter the bar, a long space of warm oak and hammered brass with a leather banquette running parallel to create a people-watching runway: The men were old and wore jackets; the women were hot and wore dresses. We got cocktails and bar snacks — surprisingly pungent garlic potato chips, fried olives, and warm spiced nuts — until the hosts at the second stand, at the end of the bar, signaled we could head downstairs. There the final boss awaited, chic in a sequined blue-and-white-striped shirt to take us to our table. We sat next to former Real Housewife Sonja Morgan, who was eating chicken. The food might be the most delicious kids’ menu in the city. Yes, I got the cheeseburger, and yes, I devoured it. The crab cake with a bird’s nest of potato on top was one of the best I’ve had. For dessert, we finished off the meal with a moist and fudgy chocolate cake, as proper children do.
Logan: “Very classic, very .01 percent, not democratic in feeling,” says the wealth consultant. “San Pietro, Daniel, Le Bernardin are all classic and quiet. Maybe the private club at Rockefeller Center up at the Rainbow Room, or in the company dining room.”
Kendall: Early-season Kendall would be most like Nicholas Hoult in The Menu — pleading, pathetic. “Kendall would be like, I absolutely trust you, and then cut off the person who’s the expert,” says Stanton. He would frequent the bromakase joints, the private clubs, and the backroom at Carbone. My colleague Olivia Nuzzi also suggested L’Avenue, a slightly eerie carpeted space in Saks Fifth Avenue where the SNL cast sometimes have their after-parties.
Roman: “He might either drop into something very pretentious and pull it down or go someplace where he would enjoy how crappy the food is,” says Stanton. “Like, would he go into a BurritoVille just to cause total chaos?” That said, I think in his heart of hearts, he would be ordering McDonald’s via Postmates and maybe going to J.G. Melon when he’s feeling nostalgic.
Tom: “Nothing too new because he needs his ego to be reassured when he walks in,” says the wealth consultant. “He’s from the Midwest, he’s climbing, he’s a striver. He needs to walk in somewhere where they know who he is.” Her thoughts: Estiatorio Milos, Marea, Union Square Cafe.