This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite hard-to-get tables.
Forget Michael Schwartz. If there's one person you need to know at MGFD and any of the chef's other culinary endeavors, it's Director of Operations Charles Bell, who started working with Schwartz in 1995 when he was GM at Nemo. After a few pit stops as GM of China Grill and F&B director at the Delano, Little Palm Island and NYC's Hudson Hotel, Charles returned to work with Schwartz as his main gatekeeper, a position he has, uh, genuinely mastered.
It's 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table?
Walk-in? 30-45 minutes
What about earlier in the night?
We get a later crowd, but if it's a weekend night we'll start running a line earlier.
Is there anything I can do to make my wait shorter? How about gifts or cash to speed things along?
We do our best to accommodate everyone as fast as we can.
How many seats are in the restaurant?
Tell us about your favorite customers.
Everybody's a favorite!
You get a lot of celebrities in the restaurant. Do they get special treatment? Who were the coolest? Who were not so cool?
We try not to reveal our celebrities so that they can have a low-key Genuine experience.
How do you deal with VIPs when there are no tables left to give?
Our hosts and managers both get involved to shift the restaurant around for rain, or reservations, sometimes tables need to be adjusted. We do our best to ensure everyone leaves Michael's happy.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer that you've accommodated?
(Evil laughter)....there was an incident many, many years ago... involved certain celebrities- the sink fell off the wall! A request for the bathroom to be closed turned into a bathroom out of order.
Any requests you couldn't accommodate?
Dogs. We know people love them like children, but we cannot let them in the restaurant, unless they are a seeing-eye dog.
What's your favorite seat in the house?
Any booth, or any outside table
Any secret off the menu items people can order?
The San Marzano pizza with MGFD house-made BACON- my favorite!
When you're not at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, where are you eating?
At home (sarcasm HA HA HA) At Harry's!
What's your most important gatekeeper tool?
Be friendly to everyone!