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.
French-born Sebastian Tribout has a masters degree in law, something which he definitely uses as the main gatekeeper of Lincoln Road hot spot Meat Market, where he serves as GM. After an extended stint overseeing various Emeril Lagasse restaurants, Tribout joined the sceney steakhouse, where he maintains law and order in his most diplomatic way.
It's 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table?
What about earlier in the night?
It all depends on the night but usually 20 to 30min.
Is there anything I can do to make my wait shorter? How about gifts or cash to speed things along?
I have been offered cash, airplane tickets, all inclusive hotels stay? but I am still waiting for a sport car!!!
How many seats are in the restaurant?
Inside we can seat about 80 people and another 70 on our patio.
Tell us about your favorite customers.
The ones that comes back frequently. You can really maintain a great relationship with them. You are really part of their life. They like a certain table, a specific dish but they also want to try our new menu items, want to know about new cocktails? they brings their out of town friends and family, they ask about you and your own family. That type of interaction is what we are all about here at the Meat Market.
You get a lot of celebrities---real celebrities, not reality stars or celebs in their own minds. What sort of special treatment do you give them? Who's been the biggest tipper?
Yes, we do get a lot of celebrities. We’re really trying to accommodate their needs as much as we can -- like with any customer – and try not to “overdo it.” For the most part all they want is to eat in peace, enjoy their evening; we respect that.
How do you deal with VIPs when there are no tables left to give?
I go in the back, grab an extra table and push on the walls hoping to make some room. Somehow we make it work.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer that you've accommodated?
It was 10:30 p.m. on a New Year’s Eve, the restaurant was packed and the President of a country (which shall go unnamed) showed up with his entourage (18 people total). He wanted to be seated immediately in a “quiet corner” and did not care for the only menu we were offering that evening. The Chef did not talk to me for a solid week!
Any requests you couldn't accommodate?
Anything that would make my staff feel uncomfortable.
What's your favorite seat in the house?
I love our Chef tables. Those 4 tables are great to have a romantic dinner or a quiet business meeting.
Any secret off the menu items people can order?
The 20 ounce Kobe rib eye but it’s not a secret anymore I suppose.
When you're not at Meat Market, where are you eating?
My breakfast at my kitchen counter.
What's your most important gatekeeper tool?