The Humble Item That’s Become a Restaurant Status Symbol

On a recent spring day in the West Village of Manhattan, as employees balancing trays of tagliatelle and Gran Classico spritzes darted from the Via Carota kitchen to the sidewalk seats, one laborer seemed to be working harder than any other: the chore coat.

The utility jacket, in shades of tawny brown and cream, clung to the shoulders of the runners hauling pasta and cocktails, of the bartenders pouring out jiggers of Aperol, and of the servers unfurling menus. Each coat was cropped, slightly rumpled and projected an important message: This is a seriously stylish — but not serious — restaurant.

Via Carota may have been one of just a handful of restaurants to feature such a fashion-inflected look when Rita Sodi and Jody Williams opened it in 2014. But today, the humble coat has become the de facto uniform for restaurants of a certain ilk.

You won’t see it on a McDonald’s cashier or the maître d’ at Le Bernardin. You will see it at “a casual restaurant that has all the foods and wines you could get at a two-star Michelin restaurant, without any of the fuss,” said Arjav Ezekiel — an owner of the restaurant Birdie’s in Austin, Texas.

Over the last decade, as work wear made its way into street fashion and cultural fascination with the hospitality industry has reached a sweaty, flushed-cheek fervor, restaurateurs across the country have adopted the style in lieu of the stuffier sport coats, vests and aprons of yore.

Arjav Ezekiel, an owner and the beverage director of Birdie’s in Austin, Texas, rotates through a collection of 15 chore coats for each night of service.Credit…Sarah Karlan for The New York Times

Back to top button