I grew up in what can easily be described as a stereotypically California casual environment. Dress codes were non-existent, uniforms were totally alien, and I never called anyone by their last name until I got to college. When I had to address someone as "professor-or-mister so-and-so," it felt awkward and weird. My dad once bought ugly top-siders to begrudgingly visit the Harvard Club with a cousin, only to never touch them again.
But because of this lack of formality I love to dress up when given the rare chance. I'm not suggesting we return to the era of putting on suits and pillbox hats for air travel (though that would be sort of awesome), but I'm 100% with Frank Bruni on the issue of respecting restaurants' dress codes.
For younger diners and jacket-adverse diners to ask the Le Bernardins of the world to ditch their dress codes strikes me not as egalitarian but as slightly selfish, even solipsistic. It disregards the many diners whose preferred fancy-restaurant experience is one in which the people around them are at least somewhat dressed up; in which the beauty of the room and the elegance of the service are matched by a certain sartorial polish; in which torn jeans aren’t in view and flip-flops aren’t even imaginable.
Places that fit this description are few in New York, and are practically non-existent in Los Angeles. Does anyone here have a dress code? Maybe Melisse, Bastide, or La Cachette? I hope someone does, for chrissake. Dude, I'm getting old.