New York City is known for a lot of things. But one of its standout features is the number of restaurants. In fact, according to a the office of the New York State Comptroller, there are nearly 24,000 of them as of 2019. And everyone could be visited within a year with a 20 minute stop at each. That notion inspired artist John Donohue to set out on a mission in 2017 to draw all of them. And now, with that industry decimated by the pandemic, he's donating proceeds from sales of the drawings to restaurant workers.
The project started after Donohue lost his job at The New Yorker and began sketching for catharsis. He started with objects in his apartment and moved on to the restaurants after reading a profile Pete Wells did on the NYC restaurant industry. He knew it would take about 20 minutes to draw each one, a timeline that worked based on the profile. Of course, that didn't account for travel to and from the restaurants, other daily life tasks, and eateries' opening and closing. So, the mission is still very much in play.
Restaurants in every neighborhood have been featured, from Michelin-starred Per Se to the low-key Bleecker Street Pizza. Each one was chosen based on its cultural significance or reputation, and he's since covered a spot in nearly every neighborhood. Plus, Donohue makes all of his prints in lots of 365 to remind us of "how our days are numbered."
This became even more impactful when the coronavirus hit NYC. With so many restaurants having to shut their doors for good, Donohue wanted to make his drawings with so many people's memories attached to them do good. And he also survived COVID-19, bringing this poignant moment for the city even closer to home. So, he decided to donate 50 percent of sales proceeds from his prints to the Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation's Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund.
Now, you search a map of available restaurant sketches online and order one that means something to you. The goal is to bring fond memories of New York's restaurant scene back to people while knowing you're helping the very industry that helped create those memories.