Okay, it’s a friendly place with a dog theme (sounds suspiciously like Barking Dog Luncheonette right up the street.) Neighborhood joints are supposed to be friendly–that’s why they’re neighborhood joints. What is a neighborhood joint? It’s a place that is never a destination for anyone other than those people who live in the immediate vicinity of the joint itself. You always hear about people in the East Village complaining that outsiders are overrunning their neighborhood joints. Those places used to exist merely to service the residents within a three-minute walk of the place. Now, people from the UES go to these places because they’re “hip,” or “trendy,” or “have good food.” This is a phenomenon that is not going to strike places like Fred’s anytime soon, and as neighborhood UESers decide that it’s cooler to be downtown and at places that aren’t within a three minute walk, places like Fred’s are going to struggle. There’s just nothing cool about 92nd St. and 3rd Ave. The UWS has some cool quotient. Anywhere below Union Square has some cool cachet. Even Chelsea is cool to some folks. There are only so many nights in the year where semi-bland American food sounds like a good choice. Yes, they have burgers, salads, pastas, and some fish dishes, but nothing is outstanding enough to keep people coming back because they want to. People come here out of convenience and necessity. We need to catch a movie in 45 minutes. Where can we go that’s nearby and isn’t too heavy? I just had Italian last night, and I’m hung over and feel sick to my stomach. The diner’s too busy. Where can I get some food that isn’t going to make me barf? This isn’t what makes a successful restaurant–and if history in this space is any indication, Fred’s isn’t long for this world. [MF]