This is The Gatekeepers, a photo series Eater has commissioned from Michael Harlan Turkell. Herein, we're pleased to introduce you to the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.
Fatty Crab blazed onto the dining scene in September 2005 and has been sporting hour-long waits ever since. It is Zak Pelaccio's follow-up to Chickenbone Cafe and 5 Ninth and, now, it is certainly considered his most serious achievement to date, this being evidenced by both critical buzz and its consistently packed dining room. With lunch being the exception, there isn't much way around waiting—but if there is his name is Colin Camac, Gatekeeper and Fatty Crab GM.
Colin: Being a “GM” in a small restaurant, I work the door, call in orders, bus tables most everyday. Thursday through Saturday from 7PM-12AM, I hand “the list” off to a “host”, whereas Tuesday – Thursday I’m physically holding the pen and paper, but I’m always watching.
People call and drop names all the time ? “WE DON’T TAKE RESERVATIONS!”
It’s all walk-ins. Give your name, we give an estimated wait time, either drink at the bar which is small and can get crowded), or wander around outside. There’s not room for much else. It’s pretty straight and forward, we actually want you to sit (if not just to get out of our servers way). Be nice, smile, relax, we’re doing what we can to make it happen.
A “two top” wait time is around 20-30 minutes. Best times to get a table, before 7PM and after 11PM. Biggest party we’ll sit is 6, but it could be a long time, since we wait for three separate two tops to come up next to each other. We won’t hold tables open just for that to happen. It’s mostly twos and fours.
We’re implementing brunch. Saturday and Sunday from 11AM-4PM, featuring “bacon and eggs” (Bobolink fried eggs, braised Heritage pork belly). Two weeks ago we got our liquor license. We now have a specialty cocktail list, new late night hours and menu, with things like “fried wontons”. Wed/Thurs it will start at 11PM, Fri-Sun, 12PM. Just more times to come in and eat.
We get industry folk here, I mean we’re open until 4AM on weekends. Spotted Pig, JG, Daniel, Perry St, Del Posto ?
People come in and see the restaurant empty right when we open and try to put their name on the list and don’t come back for hours. If you do put your name on the list, you’re at the top when you return, but not if you make it obvious, like when people say, “hey, we’re supposed to meet some people here @ 1030PM,” and it’s like 8PM. People aren’t so happy and understanding when they’re hungry.