In a 2008 blog, gossip columnist Perez Hilton described Jennifer Aniston trying to have lunch at the Ivy in Beverly Hills, writing, “If you’re a celebrity, you usually hit up the Ivy on Robertson Boulevard to get the paparazzi to get picture, right? Everyone knows it’s no place for a celebrity to be skinny. Anyway, Jennifer Aniston must be really dumb or really lame. On Friday, she showed up at the Ivy for lunch and was very upset about the attention she got from the dirt.
The article, written long before Perez tried to rehabilitate his public image and apologize for the cruel and often misogynistic commentary he wrote about his famous subjects, is oozing venom that is shocking to audiences in 2022. But for anyone who paid attention to pop culture in the early days, the blog and the restaurant it contains are cultural relics worthy of the Smithsonian. For years, Ivy provided similar blog fodder, acting as the ideal backdrop for celebrity romances, business meetings and other snaps for tabloid heavyweights like Nicole Richie, Tara Reid, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian . Getting snapped in Ivy’s yard meant something: you, or someone you were sitting next to, was not just famous, but famous enough for the paparazzi to make a living. You were helping to support the tabloid economic ecosystem.
What was once so spectacular about the Ivy has faded in recent years, though the restaurant itself remains a popular dining spot for Hollywood powerhouses. Celebrities switch hot spots, hideouts and pap walks faster than clothes, but they almost always gather in the same places, moths to the flash of a paparazzi camera for as long as it suits them.
Craig’s in West Hollywood is among the latest restaurants in the Ivy mold: Just a cursory Google search reveals that within the year, celebrities like Lizzo, Muni Long, Olivia Jade, Kim Kardashian, Nicky Hilton, Eric Dane and more have dined at the Institution, their heavy visits as a patient to the gynecologist. For celebrities, Craig’s appeal is that it offers the best of both private and public worlds; the paparazzi are lined up outside, providing the perfect location for reliable, enjoyable and mostly controllable photography. If you’re a celebrity in the middle of a PR crisis, a trip to Craig’s – dressed in your trendiest finery – is as good an opportunity as any to show you’re having a good time. Consider Vanderpomp Rules Star Lala Kent was all smiles and glowing cheekbones as she appeared in the midst of her dramatic split from producer fiance Randall Emmett.
What’s attractive about Craig’s, as opposed to Ivy’s yard, is that the paparazzi exposure lasts only as long as the celebrity wants it to. Inside, the windows are tinted and the photographers are gone, allowing the celebs to eat — or not eat — and bend over, or get drunk, or act in all the photographically unappealing ways that us regular folks consider taken for granted. Even when indoor dining was off-limits at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it debuted an elegant outdoor dining setup with wood-clad walls and glass partitions that shielded diners from prying outside eyes. Craig’s clientele wants to be seen, but on their own terms and with their own contrived desire for privacy.
Other restaurants across the US promise the same model: Carbone (in New York and Miami) provided a recent backdrop for not one, but two dates for the short-lived and much-publicized romance between Kanye West and Julia Fox; celebs like Amber Rose and Tyga flock to Miami’s Strawberry Moon located at the Good Time Hotel (co-owned by Pharrell); low-profile celebrities love the leather booths of Little Dom’s in Los Feliz, Los Angeles.; and surf and turf restaurant Catch (in NYC, LA, Aspen and Las Vegas) hosts Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade and Justin Timberlake.
Perhaps no other restaurant has reached the level of celebrity power that Nobu in Malibu, where Robert De Niro is a co-founder. (To me personally, Nobu is only as famous as the celebrities it regularly hosts.) In the early months of the pandemic, the Japanese restaurant temporarily closed its doors, leading to a host of celebrity heartbreaks. After its Malibu location returned with outdoor dining in June 2020, attention-starved celebrities reemerged as post-hibernation bears. And they keep coming: Months after announcing her pregnancy, Rihanna was spotted at Nobu. Justin and Hailey Bieber, the KarJenners, Kanye West, George and Amal Clooney and many, many more have been spotted there recently.
Celebrities who legitimately want privacy know how to stay photo-free, even when dining out. There are places – like the private membership club Soho House – that meet these needs, offering great security, regulated phone use, private rooms and low, dark lighting. For those who want something lower maintenance, there are places like Little Dom’s, which offers semi-enclosed booths and a local crowd less eager to appear excited by the presence of Jon Hamm or Ryan Gosling. Of course, there’s still the risk of being photographed on an iPhone by a fan, as Tom Holland and Zendaya experienced while enjoying a meal at a casual Thai restaurant.
But even those kinds of photos can work in a celebrity’s favor. A picture of Holland and Zendaya on a casual date is comforting to the celebrity-obsessed, the same way it is to a grandma who needs to keep an eye on you to make sure you’re eating enough. It’s a reminder not only to order the first block the next time you’re at Universal City, but also that your favorite celebrity couple are both close — they eat sometimes, too! – and going strong.
There are prominent cases when celebrities They are photographed under duress – maybe they got punished too much in the club or it’s a windy day – but the relationship between celebrities and paparazzi/tabloids is largely symbiotic. Dine long enough in New York City and you’re bound to find yourself sitting next to Maggie Gyllenhaal, Justin Theroux, or LegacyGreg’s cousin at one point caught a photographer in the eye. That’s because they know where to go where the paparazzi are not. Meanwhile, head to the Sant Ambroeus Soho location and – like Craig – you’ll be dazzled by the paps’ lenses as they snap Naomi Campbell, Taylor Swift or Sarah Jessica Parker. (It’s fun and stressful to witness, almost like going on safari!)
ex Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Star Lisa Vanderpump had a quote to describe her small Los Angeles restaurant empire (which has its own celebrity following with fans like Jennifer Lawrence): “Villa Blanca is where you take your wife, SUR is where you get the lady”. [Editor’s note: Villa Blanca is now permanently closed.] To rephrase it for our purposes: Craig’s is where you take your friend who watches E! News and a no-name sushi restaurant in a Valley mall is where your famous friend takes you.
Mariah Smith is a comedian, writer and producer in Los Angeles.
Marylu E. Herrera is a Chicago-based artist with a focus on print media and collage.
Fact checked by Kelsey Lannin
Copy edited by Leilah Bernstein