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On Seating and Closer Tables; See Also Table #69 at Alto

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One of these tables isn't like the others.

The taxonomy of New York restaurant table types has four categories.

First, there are the Sucker Tables. These are generally located closer to the door and/or host stand than the laws of physics would seem to dictate possible. Or they defy the time/space continuum in another way, such as that they're set for four at one time when no more than two could possibly eat comfortably. When presented with a such a table, one either politely asks for the next available table or leaves.

Next, there are your Average Tables, such as two-tops along a long banquetted wall. Everyone has to put up with these seats now and again. Average tables happen to good people. It is what it is, etc etc.

Third, there are Primo Tables—often banquettes, more accurately—that are roomy, comfortable and with excellent views all at the same time. Categorically, this is the type of table where one hopes to sit, or, if the gentleman has planned his date correctly, he'll ask for by number ahead of time. The back corner at Balthazar, for example, is table number 62. And so on.

Table number #69 at Alto; Set by request, mostly, or on a particularly busy night.

Fourth, there are Closer Tables, which, let's put this as plainly as possible, handle a lion's share of the work. The front booth at Milk & Honey is such a table, for example. It's also known as "Table Sex"—back to front the other tables in the bar are numbered one, two, three, four, and five. There is a new entry to the category, Table 69 at Alto, Chris Cannon and Michael White's midtown Italian restaurant. The table (pictured above) is elevated a story above the main dining floor, in a corner that is empty when the table isn't set. It is a thing of beauty: it has an excellent view of the dining room, it is private without feeling isolated, and it is a move as strong as they come to secure it. Cannon wouldn't lock himself into how and why one gets the table, but would acknowledge that it is available to friends of the house and others who ask, and perhaps pay, nicely.