Tina Girouard, Carol Gooden and Gordon Matta-Clark in front of Food in 1971. Photo: Dick Landry/© 2024 Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

For New York’s anniversary, we are celebrating the history of the city’s restaurants with a series of posts throughout the month. Read all of our “Who Ate Where” stories here.

In 1971, Carol Goodden, age 31, was living in a loft on East 4th Street with her artist boyfriend, Gordon Matta-Clark. His work was never restricted to something you could hang on a wall: slice holes in old buildings, or, in partnership with the curator and MoMA PS1 founder Alanna Heiss, a pig roast under the Brooklyn Bridge. One evening, after a big birthday dinner party, the couple hatched a plan to open their own restaurant, staffed by and designed to feed their friends downtown. They called it Food. “It was going to be a kind of clubhouse. We could all invest. I put in $100,” remembers Heiss.

Gooden, who had a bit of family money, leased an old coffee shop on Prince and Wooster, and they renovated it — a bit badly (Heiss recalls that they miscalculated the amount of concrete for the floor and it was never even). “Gordon’s way of cooking was in big vats,” says Heiss, which meant that the menu was mostly gumbos and soups. After dinner, he’d sometimes string together the bones from the broth to make a necklace for the diner. Nonartists would come to see John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg and dancers like Trisha Brown eat. Or just to be inspired.

For a while, it was a place where everybody knew each other and each other’s business. “My husband for the first time ever didn’t come home and I see him looking happy as a clam walking down Greene Street,” Heiss recalls. “I called him in. Most people in the restaurant knew he was having an affair” — and with whom, another artist from the scene — “but I did not.” She confronted him. As it happens, the filmmaker Paul Mazurksy was sitting in the next booth, overheard everything, and drew on it for his 1978 film, An Unmarried Woman, starring Jill Clayburg as a gallerist whose husband leaves her for a younger woman. Heiss says she got paid $700 by the production to find lofts for them to film in. But the break-up scene was filmed in Spring Street Bar. “They thought Food was too grimy.”

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