Per Se: Jackets required, huh?

I'm in the New York area at the moment, doing some family things, required government-oriented paperwork and so on. Whenever I'm here I do like to treat myself to at least one interesting restaurant meal. So, this time around I thought of going to Per Se, the famed Thomas Keller establishment. I've never been to a Thomas Keller establishment.

I went to their pretty but so user-unfriendly Flash-only website (see my rant against this deplorable practice) and, after having to reload the site because it was coming up blank a few times, was dismayed to find that they require jackets (though not ties) and 'no tennis shoes' (I guess they mean shoes, how quaint) for lunch and dinner. I am travelling light and only have shoes of the 'tennis' variety, and my planned dining partner (who is a much more exacting and well-travelled gourmet than I am) is rather firmly anti-jacket, so it looks like Per Se is out for us. Bummer.

Now, I do go to some very good restaurants from time to time, in both Switzerland and France, with multiple Michelin stars and all that. In the past year or so I've been to several such places, including my favorite in Provence, l'Oustau de Baumaniere. I can't remember the last time there was a jacket-required notice at any of them. The clientele was still neatly dressed, but not necessarily wearing a jacket.

So, what's with this jacket required thing? Is it necessary anymore? Is it a U.S. thing, or perhaps an Anglo-Saxon thing? I think some London restaurants may still say this, though arguably the best 3-star restaurant in the UK, The Fat Duck (which is not in London) does not.

What do you think?

(Also, if you want to suggest a must-go-to restaurant in New York that I should check out that's not Per Se, bring it on!)

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Oo! Well, I just ate at Keller's Ad Hoc in Yountville - so delicious, decidedly less expensive, but that's a shame.

Off the top of my head:

I quite enjoy Mario Batali's Babbo - as well as Lupa, also Batali, a little easier to get into.

While I have never been able to go their myself, Eric Ripert's La Bernadin has never let down anyone I know, and is currently at the top of my to-do list.

Maybe Nobu next door if you are interested in Japanese without paying Nobu prices for something that your mother might make specially for the holidays...

If you want to go "American: Steak and Potatoes, Yeehaw", try the downstairs part of Smith and Wollenskys (it's around the corner and has the same menu (same kitchen) but less expensive and no suits required!

Public is also fun - Brad Farmerie, the chef, does creative menus of antipodean foodstuffs.

I've been to a few restaurants that do require jackets, though it may be more common amongst the older, traditional, 'fancy' restaurants in the US. I actually hate that a lot of places are relaxing their standard on this, because having to get all dressed up to go to dinner (and having everyone else in the restaurant do the same) just makes it mean a little more. Nice place, nice dinner, nice time (usually with not-so-nice bill). I guess it's a total experience thing.

Must be a New York thing. There are very few jackets-required restaurants here in San Diego! (: And like the previous poster said, those are mostly older, more traditional, more-upscale places. Come visit sunny California sometime and get yourself some tasty fish tacos -- it's totally laid-back here.

I bet if you call them up and explain your situation, they'll waive the requirement for you assuming you and your dinner date will dress sophisticated nonetheless. If you're able to get the reservations, I'd check out Momofuku Ko just to see what the hype is (or for that matter, go to Momofuku Noodle Bar or Ssam Bar.) For 3-star Michelin fine dining, I'd be interested in trying Daniel. All that said, I still think hole in the walls have the best food though :)

It is not at the restaurant's discretion to dismiss the jacket requirement. All three star michelin restaurants and Five Star Forbes restaurants are absolutely, %100 required to have all male patrons dine in suit jackets. If the michelin or forbes guide inspector happens to be in the dining room when a guest is under dressed, you AUTOMATICALLY lose your third michelin star or your fifth Forbes Star. It's an antiquated policy, but one that is non-negotiable.

Try Gotham Bar and Grill- one of my absolute favorite restaurants, and definitely no jacket requirement.

Thanks for all the NY recommendations so far! I know I'm going to sound like an awful food snob but I've been to Le Bernadin, Daniel, Nobu (not Next Door though) and Smith and Wollensky (to explain, let's say there are a lot of generous food-obsessed relatives and friends in my life. Especially my mother, father and stepfather. Now you know where it comes from.) So yeah, Le Bernadin and Daniel are wonderful places but...yeah. Nobu...I have very mixed feelings about.

Momofuku eh... hmm yeah. may go that route. If things turn out well will report back. ^_^

Last I checked le bernadin, daniel etc... Still require jackets- what did you wear then?? I think getting dressed up is a sign of respect for new yorkers (I'm a new yorker), also you get dressed for significant events, weddings, prom, funerals, and fancy restaurants are still events here in the city!

Were it not NYC, the jacket-only issue can be solved with a quick trip to a resale shop for the most horrible plaid, lemon cream or powder blue blazer they've got. Sadly, it being NYC, all the affordable ones have been bought up by Village and Park Slope hipsters to wear while drinking $3 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon....

A friend went to Nobu about three(?) years ago and described the experience as "seven tasty and well-executed dishes presented without theme, explanation, rhyme or reason." Neither he nor I know if that was typical or some transitory experiment in randomness, but if there was anything binding the courses into a meal, the message was completely lost.

Wow Peter, that is a great description of what Nobu offers. Kudos to your friend! I had rather similar feelings.

The places I can recall recently having a 'jackets required' code were mostly either -

1) Divided into a formal 'dining room' and a more casual 'club' room. The fancier room often had a dress code.

2) Located in particularly touristy and/or athletic locales. I can understand in a situation like that it might be necessary to be a little strict to keep sweaty golfers or hiking bums from disrupting the dinner aesthetic.

We dine out several times a year with my grandparents (who would aptly be described as the 'country club set') and it is still relatively common to see these requirements at the sort of restaurants they choose, though again, most of them have a more casual option from the same kitchen.

I live in the Detroit area and as far as I know there are not any jacket required restaurants in the area. there are a number of establishments that do not permit jeans and such, but I have not run into anything that requires jackets.

On the other hand last time I was in New York the restaurant I went to required jackets and I was not aware(the didn't tell me when I made my reservation). I showed up in decent clothing, but no jacket and they didn't seem to care. I think some places put up those requirements simply to discourage people from showing up in ratty clothes, however they may not always be 100% enforced.

I've found that a lot of places that require jackets will often have a few in varying sizes for "borrowing" in case you don't happen to have one with you. I've never heard of no tennis shoes/sneakers though, that's a bit weird. I'm like kakugori - when I go to a more upscale place for dinner, I like dressing up. It just makes the whole experience a little more special than the everyday drudge.

I haven't been to New York in about 4 yours years so this place may not even be open but there is/was a place called Pelligrino's in Little Italy that I fell in love with. They obviously serve Italian food and I melted a little bit more with each course they brought out so I was practically a little puddle of happiness by time the meal was over.

Per Se has jackets they will lend you if you still would like to go but don't have the proper attire. Also, there's the per se salon (definitely not the same experience but it's the same food) and I think their dress requirements are much more lax.

If you go to a Momofuku, try to go the Noodle Bar for their fried chicken dinner (their southern style is awesome!). What about Jean Georges for lunch? I'm not sure about their jacket policy, but when I went, I saw a bunch of people in t-shirts and jeans. Hope you enjoy your time here!

I've never eaten in a restaurant that required a jacket and specified the kind of shoes you could wear. I suppose this is part of the entire "environment-setting" attempt that some restaurants make, but unlike the "no photos" rule that some restaurants have (including quite a few in Japan, as I recall), your clothes can't actually impinge on other diners unless they insist on letting themselves be bothered by it. So I don't really see the necessity of such rules.

I hope you have a good experience wherever you wind up!

(However, the use of "sneakers" vs. "tennis shoes" is simply a regional variation in the US, and people who originate in the Midwest, such as Ohio, etc., often use "tennis shoes" as the default term. It doesn't have anything to do with being dated. If you look here, about 41% of American English speakers chose "tennis shoes," while about 45% chose "sneakers." :))

-- (for English learners) (for teachers)

I know that jackets can be borrowed. But something in me rebels against the whole concept, of having to borrow an (often ugly) jacket just to conform to some rule set by the restaurant. The thing is, I never even thought twice about it before when I lived in NY...but now...I guess my way of looking at it has changed.

Maybe I am mistaken, but I thought that the jackets were more for men. I rarely go out and only in a blue moon do I go to a fancy restaurant, but if I wear something nice like a skirt or dress I don't usually have a problem.

I think the jacket-required thing is only for the really fancy places and since that's really not that many, I don't mind. Plus, it's kinda nice when it's a very special occasion to get all-dressed up.

Also, I went to The French Laundry in September and wasn't all that impressed. A few friends have been on the dence about Per Se.

My favorite non-jacket required places are Perilla, Sushi Yasuda, Degustation, Convivio, Gottino, Saul Restaurant (Brooklyn).

Hmm, Perilla is the Harold from Top Chef restaurant right? Being a miihaa (translation: whore? hehe) I may try it...^_^

A side note - the "tennis shoes" thing is a colloquial for New York and also Michigan (which is where I'm from) - the term is just more common than sneakers. Just a regional language thing, like TV vs the telly in the UK.

First-time caller, long-time listener. Love your work here.

Welcome to NYC. Sorry about the jackassy, I mean, jacket requirement. As a NYer & a costume designer, all I can say is that it's an old-fashioned holdover designed to class the place up, as many have already suggested, & that they should indeed have loaner jackets (I know: WTF?). It's rare for restaurants to have the rule anymore here.

So check them out, anyway, or try Nougatine (good prix-fixe Frenchy deals from Jean Georges & pretty park views) or Il Buco (lovely fresh & seasonal Italianish, funky downtown).

Bon appetit. xo

I would skip Momofuku Ko especially if you're Japanese and been to the Robuchons in Tokyo, or other Michelin starred places like Nihonryori Ryugin, it would be a total letdown of a dining experience.

I'll be in NYC next week too, and will be trying Daniel for the first time. I love Le Bernardin (my current favorite in NYC out of the limited few that I've tried), and Jean Georges for lunch is pretty good too.

I've been to a few restaurants in New Orleans that are jacket required for dinner, but as someone else stated, they have jackets to borrow.

Re: New Orleans. When I was last there (admittedly a long time ago...2001) I went pretty nuts with the eating out - what an amazing food town it is! - and I don't actually recall being turned away from any place, even Commander's Palace, even when my dining partner(s) (all of whom were web geeks since we were there for a conference) went with no jacket (but a nice shirt). Maybe because of the weather? We didn't go dressed like slobs for sure, but I was wearing black leather-top sneakers, i mean, tennis shoes ;) ...(my standard travelling shoes...comfortable yet discreet)

Also, just to repeat myself but, I was a long time Noo Yawker, for more than a decade, and my Dad still lives here, so yeah..I know how how things work, I think ^_^

I guess I was just a bit taken aback to see it right there on the reservation page of the Per Se site. Again, it's probably because I haven't encountered this in a long time. And well, they seem to be all booked up next week anyway, so it's rather a moot point now!

Pre-Katrina, I doubt it would have been an issue at Commander's if your crew were nicely dressed, but at Antoine's, Galatoire's, or Court of the Two Sisters it might have been. It has relaxed a bit now, just because they need the business. But then, a lot has changed with the fact that so many people just left and never came back. The restaurants in particular were short of help for a long time.

...but then, New Orleans is one of my all-time favorite places. Nothing like having a big, fancy dinner, wandering around for a while afterward, and then a midnight snack at Cafe du Monde.

Bellavitae, on Minetta and 6th/Avenue of the Americas, is a fantastic Italian restaurant. The food is great--the best pasta I had in NY--and it has a warm, cozy atmosphere.

I had dinner at The French Laundry earlier this year, and they also have a jackets-required dress code. They do enforce it (my friend left his jacket in the car, and had to go back for it), but they have a closet with loaner coats, and the definition of jacket has some fluidity. There was a man at the next table over who was wearing a casual jacket--round collar, windbreaker material, definitely not a blazer. The dinner was perfection incarnate, and I still remember every detail.

Just to share my Per Se's Salon experience.
I was in NYC 2 weeks ago for 10 days.
I couldn't get a table at Per Se and I really wanted to try out Per Se so I opted for the walk-in option, the Salon.
I arrived at 8.30pm. There wasn't any table available. We weren't seated till 10.30pm.
I must say the service was impeccable but I really didn't find any of the dishes I had extraordinary.

The lunch I had at Eleven on Madison, that's an unforgettable meal.

Oh, I was in a shirt, pants and sneakers, that day.

I think that's a snooty, archaic thing. We have a gorgeous little bistro here that serves, uh, uppercrust(?) food. I have no word and they have no Michelin stars but I almost died when I had their creamy cauliflower soup with caviar. Out of this world. They have no real dress requirements, but obviously out of respect people usually wear smart casual or better.
On to New York suggestions! This blogger lives in New York and often tempts me to brave the scary Northerners to try one of the restaurants she reviews.

Have fun on your trip!!!

Per Se is so well known that I'm guessing that it hasn't seen a drop-off, or at least a significant drop-off, in business in this economy. I live in the DC metro area, and recently read an article about one upscale restaurant relaxing its dress code for fear it was turning customers away.

I agree with Leanne's sentiment above. Dressing up when going out to a really really nice restaurant does make the occasion just a bit more special.

Forget Per Se--
Try Eleven Madison -- Chef Humm has elevated the craft of cooking to an artform.

Check out my review.

I work with most of the top chefs in NY and my go to restaurant is always Babbo, you might have to go in early or very late, try eating at the bar, it is a great experience....and Mario Batali's version of 'jacket required' is a vest, clogs and shorts. The lamb tongue is sublime.

Blue Ribbon Bakery is wonderful too, casual and the food, ambience and service are perfect.

Balthazar is fun and lively.

Blue Hill wonderful farm to table fare, Obama went there when he came to town.

So many to choose from....

Keen's is an old time steak house with deep history.

Mermaid Inn casual and fun.

Have fun! Picnic in Central Park!

A fantastic "fancy" restaurant is Sapphire. It's an Indian restaurant and the service is excellent and the food is fantastic. Have a bite if you're into it.

if this isn't too late, and you go to momofuku, my favourite is ssam bar. def get the brussels sprouts and the pork buns... and then pop next door to momofuku milk bar for dessert (strawberry milk and soft serve.. or the crack pie).

have a great time!

I was in Osaka last week and understand that the jacket/no tennis shoes policy is standard amongst fine dining restaurants there ?

I had a reservation at Hajime (the only 3 Michelin star place in Osaka) so had to go out and buy the gear for dinner...

Haha, that's Thomas Keller's high-end restaurants for you. I live in California and have been to French Laundry... twice. First time in 2001, when they were still nice and quaint. Second time in 2005, when they got all 'snooty'. I've vowed never to go back. I can go on and on with other Michelin-starred restaurants in California. I think Americans are trying to create an oasis in these restaurants for people who will pay to experience the "formality" that's been missing in their culture. Whatever.

I ate at The Fat Duck in 2006 and that was a breath of fresh air! Excellent, professional and friendly service, right?

P.S. I'm a fan of jusbento and this website :-)

Hi Maki - I can't really offer much high end dining advice. I went to gramercy tavern for my bf's work and hated it (and so did everyone else at the work dinner but the rest of the world seems to love it?) and to be honest, can only rave about dessert at jean-georges. I'm just so sad because I wanted to find something to like at those restaurants, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, What about eleven madison park's prix fixe lunch, reviewed on seriouseats, or the new momofuku in midtown chaired by tien ho? Serious eats also has a great eating guide to nyc by Ed Levine, period. In particular for a casual no coat experience I love Caselulla (maybe I'm mispelling it), in my neighborhood, hell's kitchen (it's much cleaner now and that name doesn't really apply anymore) for the most amazing cheese and wine pairings?

hope this helps and that you're enjoying the amazing weather. happy almost thanksgiving!

As someone upthread suggested, Blue Hill is a fine substitute for a more casual Per Se if you are still around.

I would also highly recommend Corton and Aldea as two of the better newish restaurants.

I'm going to Per Se tonight. I googled "dress code" just to make sure I've picked the correct attire and I came across this thread. Looks like I'll be fine. So, thanks!

Also, next time you're in NYC, and if you are at all interested in creative, innovative molecular gastronomy with impeccable presentation, (and delicious food, of course) no one should miss out on a meal at WD-50. Wylie Dufresne is both a chef and a magician.

Guess what? It's one of the best restaurants in the world and you should dress accordingly. We've lost formality in too many areas of our society, so if you want to appreciate the opulence of the food and the environment, put on a jacket.