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Why the wait at Bouley Bakery

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Why the wait at Bouley Bakery

Steve Plotnicki | Dec 25, 1999 10:04 AM

Having read the threads below about Bouley Bakery, I thought I'd post some observations about the various delays that occur there. First lets deal with seating.

Certain "regular" customers request particular tables. So if you're there waiting and a table for two comes up, that table might be spoken for. In addition, the maitre'd might have assigned tables in advance. So it isn't unusual for people who come in after you (or at least appear to) to be seated before you. I'm not discounting the "celeb" factor either. Certain President Clinton would be (and should be in my opinion) seated before you if he decided he needed a slab of Chilean Seabass on some Butternut Squash Puree on the spur of the moment.

The next thing that is unique to this restaurant is that people who order tasting menus are treated "better" than people who order off of the regular menu. When I say "better", that's the equivelent over being fawned over in the "Worst Experience" post below.

The entire thrust of Bouley Bakery is that David is a genius in the kitchen and you are really there to allow him to cook for you. If you sit down at your table and can communicate to the wait staff and maitre d' that you have come prepared for that experience and discuss the food and wine in that manner, I assure you that you will be treated as well as anyone else in the restaurant. Of course you can just order three courses off of the menu but your entire experience will be of a different caliber.

The final thing, and what really makes it an excruciatingly slow dining experience and a maddening wait at the bar for a table is that they take ubelievable care of the "regulars." If you dine there twice a month or more, and the staff gets to know you they prepare special food for you each time you go. In effect, they would never serve you the same dish twice. I don't know how they do it but they seem to keep track of who's been served what dish. So the "fawning" discussed below is as much motivated by gastronomic issues as much anything else. Obviously people who order tasting menus are spending more money than the people ordering three courses.

I've also been told by the staff there when David is in the kitchen doing the cooking himself it slows everything down even more. Besides the fact that he's a perfectionist, supposedly he is often improvising and creating dishes on the spot. That just goes back to my earlier statements about his artistry and why you go there. Believe me that while you might be grinding your teeth at the bar waiting for a table, there are people who are sitting down that are freaking out because they keep sending courses of food out at an excruciatingly slow pace. Believe me I've been there.

Now I'm not saying that anyone has to like or agree with any of this but it is what it is. It's not going to change just for you. I can't tell you how many stupendous meals I've had there which have included gracious service but I have to tell you that "getting with the program" is an integral part of recieving that treatment.

I'm not sure if there is another restaurant in NYC that is quirky in this way. But now that you have a bit of understanding as to what makes this place tick, maybe you can make it work for you. After all, going out to dinner should be fun.

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