Restaurants & Bars

French Laundry reservation policy (long)

Carb Lover | Mar 9, 200501:24 PM     55

Given that I'm generally a cheap ethnic eats w/ good bistro food thrown in kind of gal, it seems a bit odd to be inquiring about THE French Laundry. But well, special occasions are meant for such grandeur dining and ventures into other parts of the gastronomic spectrum. "A Cook's Tour" episode where Bourdain dons a blazer and is served a tobacco-infused custard always comes to mind...

The special occasion I'm referring to is our 5th wedding anniversary coming on July 1st, which happens to fall on a Fri. I hadn't given it much thought, but I was pleasantly surprised when my hubby was giving me highlights of his day over the phone last night and mutters something about the FL before moving on to the next topic. WAIT...rewind...what about the FL? Sigh...romance is still alive.

Unfortunately, he sounded annoyed and launches into a controlled rant (I'm the hot-headed one) about their reservation policy. Oh no...I can already anticipate what's coming. After calling them all AM and getting busy signal after busy signal, he finally reaches them around 3pm. He inquires about their reservation policy (he didn't think it was crystal clear from their website) and is baffled by their "rigid" policy of needing to make a reservation exactly two months prior to the day.

He directly asks why this is so and reports getting a run around, unsatisfactory response..."something about wanting to give everyone a chance to eat there...blah, blah, blah." He thought the guy on the other end sounded anxious, knowing he didn't really have a good response.

By now, you may have guessed that my husband is of the belief that if he is willing to shell out $500 for a meal, he better not be the one groveling. To a large extent, I agree w/ him (that's why we're still together). He's not a self-entitled guy, but needs logical justifications and wants to be treated w/ respect. Otherwise, bells of pretentiousness, exclusivity, and snootiness start clamoring in his head...and for that moment, he'd rather toast our anniversary at a BBQ joint.

I do respect that restaurants have their own systems for handling things. And that being a good guest means honoring such "rules." And that certain chefs have holy-like powers that deserve a bow. Unlike my hubby, I am aware of all the reservation hoops and tricks to get a coveted reservation and am willing to "grovel" a bit.

I don't know what we'll ultimately do (may just spend a weekend in SF and hit a bunch of moderate places I've been wanting to try), but what I'm curious to hear from hounds and industry insiders:

1) What are all the reasons for such a rigid reservation policy? Seems counter to the "equal access" spiel hubby was given.

2) Why have you personally been willing to jump through such hoops to go?

3) Was it worth it in the end?

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