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The Gatekeepers: Aaron Dickens

The theme for today is restaurant survival. All day long, we'll be running items on venues that have, for one reason or another, out-lived their expected life span or Deathwatch sentence. We may obsess over a venue's demise now and then, to be sure, but we can certainly appreciate a good survival story as much as the next guy.

On we go with The Gatekeepers, a photo series we've commissioned from Michael Harlan Turkell. For the next several weeks, we'll be presenting portraits of The Gatekeepers: the very folks that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.


Butter is an unlikely member of the half-decade club, having survived its initial hotness and matured into a bonafide restaurant and lounge. Monday nights, downstairs, remain the venue's signature evening for people watching, yet now the restaurant's dining room is full on most nights as well. Hospitality, you see, is everything.

Aaron Dickens: “Our biggest challenge as Gatekeepers is on Monday nights. Our owners throw a private party in our downstairs dining area and we also have regular dinner service upstairs. It’s definitely an A-List crowd that comes to dine and have a good time. A few years ago, Butter was almost exclusively considered a “lounge” spot but now, it is also considered a dining destination.

What really excites me is when people come in that haven’t read about that but say things like “we heard the food here is great” or “our friends had such a great experience here last week.” Those types of people are inspiration to us.

We have a good amount of hotel referrals. We treat those guests to a glass of champagne and a middle course to make them feel special. It’s also the first-time diners that we want to impress the most. Naturally, we want them to become regulars! New York is filled with so many great places to go that courting repeat business successfully is essential for a restaurants survival. Butter is soon to celebrate its 5-year birthday. We all take pride in that and hope it shines through in our work.

As for the “floor plan”, the best and most sought-after table in the upstairs “Great Room” is the second from the last on the right. It’s private and yet also has a full view of the dining room. As for our downstairs “Birch Room,” which definitely has a more casual feel, the second booth on the right has the best view of all the tables in the room. I have been working here for a few years and feel very invested in the growth of the restaurant. For me, greeting guests and hoping each person has a great experience here makes my work much more than just “going through the motions.”
Browse previous Gatekeepers.

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