Keith McNally doubles down on Israel remarks that sent shockwaves through NY restaurant biz

Everyone seems to have gotten used to Keith McNally’s inflammatory Instagram shtick by now.

But the famed restaurateur stunned and appalled customers and fellow industry insiders Monday with a post about the recent attacks on Israel — even infuriating associates connected to his own fabled eateries.

The Balthazar boss has become a social media favorite in the past couple of years with unguarded posts in which he’s exposed rude celebrity diners, seemingly outed adulterous guests, and vigorously defended Woody Allen, among other click-inducing matters.

But he seems to cause real angst in the wake of Saturday’s terrorist attacks against Israel, when he told his followers: “The More Utterly Repugnant The Facts, The Greater The Responsibility Becomes To Listen To The Other Side.”

Several notable New Yorkers — including top hospitality names from Surf Lodge and Sixty Hotels — were so disgusted by his post, they threatened to never set foot in his restaurants again.

Meanwhile, sources told us that McNally’s partners in flagships Balthazar and Morandi had even asked him to take the post down.

McNally denied that. But he admitted that an associate related his famed Meatpacking spot Pastis had confronted him about the remarks.

Gaza Strip

Israel launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after the Hamas surprise attack on Saturday.
AFP via Getty Images

“I only have two partners in my restaurants. Stephen Starr in Pastis and Helen Benham in Balthazar and Morandi. I’ve not heard a word from either one today,” McNally told Page Six.

He suggested our sources might have been “referring to Pastis’ landlord’s partner, Jared Epstein, who emailed me earlier mistakenly thinking I wrote ‘Support The Other Side’ and not ‘LISTEN to the other side.’”

Oddly, Epstein told us he didn’t recall emailing the British dining mogul, but said he had replied to the post, writing, “Oh boy, I am sure this heinous post will lead to many lost friends, supporters and followers of you including myself.”

Epstein told us, “This attack is not just against Israel but against all Jewish people. Hamas is an enemy of Christians, Hindus, minorities, LGBTQ, atheists, people of color and anyone who differs from their extremist idealist ideology that all Jews must die. We all have skin in the game and must show our support for Israel.”

Keith McNally

McNally is the famed restaurateur behind New York staples Balthazar and Pastis.
Patrick McMullan

But Epstein told us he fully supports Starr and said he believes “in my heart that no Pastis employees or patrons share Keith McNally’s views.”

A spokesperson for Starr Restaurants told us in a statement: “The horrific acts carried out by Hamas against the Israeli and all Jewish people are indefensible and barbaric. This was a terrorist attack. Starr Restaurants and Pastis do not in any way share the opinions expressed today by Keith McNally.”

McNally also sent us a statement that he’d sent in reply to various critics of the post online, “I’m part Jewish. In the 1970s I lived for long stretches of time on an Israeli kibbutz. My older brother Peter risked his life spying for Israel. I think the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas are vile, barbaric and totally repugnant.”


McNally said the Hamas attacks were vile, barbaric and repugnant.
AFP via Getty Images

He added, “But I stand by what i wrote this morning: THE MORE UTTERLY REPUGNANT THE FACTS, THE GREATER THE RESPONSIBILITY TO LISTEN TO T HE OTHER SIDE. This doesn’t mean forgive. This doesn’t mean not retaliate. It simply means listen. There’s nothing to lose by listening. Nothing whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, Jayma Cardoso, founder and creative director of Montauk’s sceney Surf Lodge, wrote online that she has vowed to “never set foot in any of [his] restaurants again,” while calling his posts as “inflammatory and not necessary at this time.”

She told Page Six McNally’s comments “are unintelligent and shortsighted” because they “ignore the horror of the actions perpetrated against Israeli civilians at the hands of Hamas.”

Keith McNally

McNally told his followers to listen to the other side in an Instagram post.
Instagram/Keith McNally

Keith McNally

McNally insists he’s still a partner in Pastis despite buzz that he’s no longer involved.
Erik T. Kaiser/PMc

“He used his platform to spread ignorance,” she said, “and has yet to rectify his comments in any respect. Shame on him.”

Hotelier Jason Pomeranc, of Sixty Hotels, wrote, “There is no political justification for genocide. Did you think 911 was a time for witty banter or for moral clarity?”

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