Is Restaurant Karma a Boomerang?
I've never bought into the idea that New Yorkers are particularly rude—at least, no ruder than people in certain other cities (but don't get me started on that). So I was caught off-guard by three incidents that happened this week:
1) I went with a friend to the ever-delightful Soho bistro Raoul's for an impromptu dinner at the bar; we were both craving the aptly named bar steak. The place was packed, so we waited for two stools to open up. When they did, the bartender motioned to us. We sped over, but a guy who'd just walked in beat us to one of the seats. We told him, politely, that we'd been waiting, but he wouldn't budge. The bartender didn't try to unseat the guy—but then, that's not really his job (is it?). The upside: The steaks rocked, as did the warm cauliflower salad with arugula and pickled ramps. No hard feelings, Raoul's.
2) After I put my name down for a table at the East Village's always-mobbed Lil' Frankie's and waited for my friend Z, another woman walked in and hovered near me. Z walked in moments later, and as we were heading up to the hostess stand, the woman's date arrived and they raced past us, flagging down the hostess and scoring the next table. Z and I didn't want to make a scene, so we sat at the bar. A few glasses of Dolcetto and a perfect, crispy-crusted, mozzarella-basil-tomato-topped Margherita pizza later, we were in a much better mood. But my faith in the human race, at least the NYC-restaurant-going portion of it, was in freefall.
3) Last night at the Chelsea barbecue spot R.U.B., I met up with a group of 16 (six more people than expected). Half of us sat at one table; the other half had to grab a table in another room. Allen, the night's meat-savvy host, offered to buy a round of drinks for a group of strangers if they'd switch tables so our party could all sit together. They said no. Our split group still had a fun night—and the juicy ribs, sweet-and-moist cornbread and pork-loaded baked beans were some consolation. (But we unanimously agreed the bbq at Daisy May's and Hill Country mostly beats R.U.B's.)
A week of good food and weird vibes behind me, I'm wondering if might is always right, even when it comes to dinner. Rude guests often get their way—except when, as Nobu co-owner Richie Notar once told me, they get secretly punished with extra-long waits. Can't say I saw that happen this week—but I guess at restaurants, you can't always count on instant karma.