August 12, 1998

    Any self-respecting, late-night diner has been to Florent at least once. The diner-style restaurant is open all night, open to anyone who will make the journey to the meat-packing district to get there.
   Around 3 one morning, an Asian woman in a long, straight dress, sitting with two friends, polished off a bowl of steamed mussels, had a dessert of cigarettes, then laid down on the long banquette to take a nap. The server came by and picked up the empty bowl without batting an eye.
   Meanwhile, Flotilla DeBarge, a caberet performer, grooved to the disco music as she made her way through the mussels. "I'm hyped after doing a show," she said. "I come for a cup of coffee, the lentil salad and the mussels and frites."
   "You don't know who or what you're going to see in here," she said, paused, then smiled, "Like me." Though she has spotted celebrities like Matt Dillon and Marilyn Manson, she added, "I don't want you to think it's some celebrity-gawking place."
    Ms. DeBarge brings her own music for the restaurant to play, too. "Yeah, that's what drag queens do," said Jose Pita, the manager, as he passed by with a plate of fried eggs. "They bring their own music. They don't tolerate anyone else's."
   A tone of tolerence is the beauty of this place. Worlds that might normally collide in daylight, seem to harmonize under Florent.

   FLORENT 69 Gansevoort 212.989.5779
   Hours: weekends, 24 hours; weekdays, closed 5 to 9 A.M. Reservations accepted
   Prices: appetizers, $1.50 to $8.25; entrees, $5.95 to $13.95; desserts, $3.50 to $4.95.
    Crowd: from drag queens to lawyers.