I launched this project in New York City on January 1, 2017, inspired by the late Jason Polan’s Every Person in New York and James Gulliver Hancock’s All the Buildings in New York. At that time, according to a New Yorker profile of the critic Pete Wells, there were some 24,000 restaurants in the city. It is mathematically possible to visit all of them in under a year by spending 20 minutes at a stop. Luckily, it takes me almost exactly 20 minutes to draw the façade of each place, working strictly from life, in ink (without a pencil or erasing anything).
In a perfect world, I would have finished New York City in twelve months. Of course, my calculation didn’t take into account openings and closings, travel between each one, sleep, work, outside responsibilities, and coloring and printing. Or black-swan events like the Coronavirus pandemic. So, I have been at it ever since.
Since 2017, I’ve expanded my reach to include Paris and London and (hopefully) beyond as I expect to continue doing this work for the rest of my life—which is precisely the point. I first conceived of this site’s title as intentionally hyperbolic, but it has a deeper meaning. For when I say, “All the Restaurants,” I’m being more aspirational than descriptive. It’s my aim to draw forever, and your support of this project makes that goal achievable.
I draw at least twice a day, and if you are curious about why, details are in the articles below. In a previous life, I was an editor at The New Yorker magazine, where I also published a few cartoons. In 2011, I edited “Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for their Families,” a best-selling anthology featuring recipes and essays from Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, Mark Kurlansky, Stephen King, Jim Harrison, and many others. I also used to write about cooking at home on my blog, Stay at Stove Dad.
— John Donohue