This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of the hottest and hardest-to-get tables in Miami.
Michelin-starred, Chicago-transplant Danny Grant had no difficult time creating a loyal group of fans in the Magic City. Proof is in the chef's trendy four-floor 1826 Restaurant & Lounge, where the tables are always full and scoring a seat without a reservation is seriously a problem. Eater spoke to the restaurant's general manager, Shaun Kliewer, a gatekeeper who hails from Missouri and who has spent over 15 years in the hospitality industry. His previous whereabouts include former Gansevoort's STK, Mr. Chow and Makoto. Our chat, below.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I've been in the hospitality industry for close to 20 years. When I started taking it very seriously — I started in Atlanta, Georgia. I worked for a company called Capital Grille. Then I moved to Las Vegas and started working at the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort. I moved to Miami Beach in 2009 and I opened up Mr. Chow at the W Hotel.
From there I went to open Makoto in Bal Harbour, then STK at the Gansevoort. Once they closed that, I had to find a place to call home and I kind of ran across Danny Grant at 1826 and started here in January, 2014 and I've been going full steam ever since. I'm married, 11 years, three baby girls, living the life.
What would you say is the busiest day and time at the restaurant?
Gosh, that's definitely Saturday. As far as the time, between 9 and 10:30 p.m. it is absolute high energy, in a chaotic fun way; very, very busy at that time.
So at 9 p.m. on a Saturday, what's the wait for a table?
If somebody were to walk in off the street without a reservation at 9 p.m., you're probably looking at at least an hour and a half to two hours. We have a very small dining room, it's intimate, there's not a lot of seats and it's tough to get in if you don't have a reservation.
What's the wait to get in if you do have a reservation?
There's a 50/50 chance you'll get seated right away. We like to give our reservations immediate seating. If it's not available due to our earlier tables not moving as quickly as we'd like them to go, it could be anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, sometimes 30 on a crazy night. It's not too bad.
What's the longest wait you've seen so far?
How does one pass the time while they're waiting?
We're very blessed to have a very unique venue. We have a lounge and bar on the third flour. The lounge has a DJ spinning on the weekends, great cocktails, lots of seating for people that are waiting for their tables, so it's a very pleasant, fun, energetic time while you're waiting that long wait for a table. I tell people to head up stairs, have a crafted cocktail, talk to the bartender, enjoy the view.
Do people ever negotiate for a table?
People try. We like to stay true to form and basically just do the right thing. They try, though. Money is always the way they try to do it, unfortunately, it's not fair to the ones that took the time to make the reservation. So we try to redirect them, move them upstairs, get them a cocktail and try to squeeze them in as soon as we can.
What's the most you've ever been offered?
I've seen a guy pull out a wad of hundreds, must have been four or five hundred. He's saying, "hey get me a table, I have to go to LIV." I'm like, "no, sorry, man." Here in Miami Beach, it's nothing new.
What's the most outrageous request you've ever received?
I don't get too much on the outrageous end. I get more creative things like people wanting to propose, bring out the diamond ring in a champagne stuff, just silly stuff like that.
Do you have favorite customers?
My favorite customers are loyal guests, people that are repeat guests because they had such an amazing time that they want to be back with us again. I learned a long time ago that guest loyalty is the lifeline to any successful business, so we really praise the ones that want to come back.
What is your go-to dish on the menu?
The go-to dish is the short rib. It's slow-cooked for 48 hours, just melts in your mouth. It's so good. Every time that dish come through the room, people look. It's the one that hands down every singe person will enjoy.
When you're not at 1826, where do you like to eat in Miami?
I love to go to Makoto, Katsuya at the SLS, and Bazaar. They do a really good job over there.
Do you have any advice for gatekeepers such as yourself?
I think the best thing for a gatekeeper is to be honest and be patient; treat customers with the utmost respect because they chose your establishment to spend their time, their special date, whatever they're here for, so do the best that you can.
· All Coverage of 1826 [EMIA]