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 impossible-to-get tables.
Raised in Fort Lee, New Jersey, Jonathan Lazar refined his taste buds early in life. With his enthusiastic and epicurious father, he sampled the latest dishes at varied New York City notables, while more casual Sunday dinners with his mother’s family introduced him to the comforts of Italian cuisine. A degree in fashion marketing and merchandising and a job in finance didn't quite cut it for Lazar, whose migration to Miami led him to his true passion: Sustain Restaurant + Bar, where, as managing partner, he enjoys sharing his love of of food, design, and, of course, sustainability. Sustaining a reservation on a busy night is another story, however.
It's 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table?
Typically without a reservation it is a 30 minute wait.
What about earlier in the night?
Arrive early without a reservation and you should be fine.
Is there anything I can do to make my wait shorter? How about gifts or cash to speed things along?
There is no greasing of the palms here. No gifts or money will get you a table. If you do not have a reservation and there is a long wait patience and a smile go a long way.
Tell us about your favorite customers.
My favorite customers are the ones that really respond to what we do here. Guests that keep coming back because they love our vibe and our food. Guests that are intrigued and dying to discover and try something new. Guests that are constantly asking questions about farmers, different types of wine and spirits and really interested in where their food and drink comes from.
Let's say a celebrity walks in and the place is packed. What do you do with said celebrity?
Everyone laughs loves and cries the same way. We are all human. Special treatment and overlooking loyal consistent customers is something that is not practiced here. Just because you are a celebrity does not mean that you are anymore special than the person standing next to you. Usually when a celebrity like Dwyane Wade comes in, I receive a phone call hours before his arrival and make sure that things are worked out so he has a table waiting for him, without sacrificing a regular customer.
How do you deal with VIPs when there are no tables left to give them?
I do my best to re-work the seating of the room and accommodate them best I can. Most of the time they are understanding and will have a seat at the bar and enjoy a great cocktail while waiting for their table.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer that you've accommodated?
It was a beautiful day outside during brunch with the temperature hitting 85 degrees and a customer asks if we can turn on the portable heating lamps because they were cold. I did what we do in the hospitality business and granted the request, but I was in shock that someone could be cold sitting in the sun when its 85 outside. Mind boggling.
Any requests you couldn't accommodate?
I try my best to accommodate all requests but when things are asked for that are not food and beverage related and certainly not legal, that’s when I draw the line.
What's your favorite seat in the house?
My favorite seat in the house are our high top tables on the other side of the bar. You get an amazing view of the dining room and direct view of the open air kitchen. Sitting there you get the best perspective of both the dining room and bar action.
Any secret off the menu items people can order?
Not one in particular but if you have certain desires or food allergies Chef will be happy to accommodate you .
When you're not at Sustain where are you eating?
Sushi Deli, my sanctuary.
What's your most important gatekeeper tool?
Having an awareness of who is in the restaurant and making sure both new and return guests leave happy.