Last month, chefs and fans turned out in droves to say goodbye to wd~50, Wylie Dufresne's trailblazer of modernist cuisine on the Lower East Side. The final meal has now come and gone, but before vacating the space for good, Dufresne still has to unload everything up to and including the kitchen sink. And so yesterday, two weeks after the final dinner service, the public was given one last chance to patronize wd~50—by duking it out over spoons, dishes, banquettes, and kitchen equipment at a public auction. Eater was on the scene, to see what went down as the legendary restaurant was sold off piece by piece.
Dufresne himself was there at the beginning, but he left early. Was it too much to bear? In June, he told the Times that hadn't looked at the plans for the new condo replacing wd~50, because "I haven't been particularly eager to look at what my headstone's going to look like."
The auction took place right in dining room (where the walls have now been defaced with doodles, well-wishes, and goodbyes) and basement, and included over 200 lots, comprising everything from the giant onyx wall hanging to the utensils and glassware. And so, over the course of several hours, the restaurant, which once drew praise from the likes of David Chang and René Redzepi, ended unceremoniously in a flurry of auction-speak, with auction house owner Michael Amodeo himself quickly calling lots from atop a ladder.
Many of the bidders, both restaurateurs and private buyers, were there just hoping to snag a tangible piece of restaurant history. Amy Lau, owner of Hoboken's Maroon Cafe and a wd~50 fan, came to the auction hoping to buy plates for her restaurant's second location, while Franco Robazetti of Jersey City's Zeppelin Hall remarked "these plates brought three Michelin stars."
Nonetheless, most of those plates sold for less than retail value, and the heavy tables only sold for about $100 each, while the plastic shelving units were purchased by the auctioneer's transportation guy after no one else wanted them. But a few things did go for a premium. A set of five otherwise ordinary saucepans sold for $70 each, while that giant onyx wall hanging was purchased by an art collector for $1500. The bar on the other hand, which was made from the same onyx, sold for a mere $400.
Ben Sandler, the owner of The Queens Kickshaw, was bidding on wd~50's POS system for his new cider bar on Orchard Street (he didn't get it). As he put it, anyone bidding high on a pot or a spoon was no doubt "paying to get a little piece of history."