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.
It was an unlikely ascent, but Steven Starr's Buddakan is now the reigning king of the Meatpacking District/NoMeat dining scene, taking the throne from Spice Market. Of course, the venue, with its 320 seats and 81 tables isn't for the faint of heart. But those looking for a true taste of MePa madness will not be disappointed here. Don't even think of showing up without a table, of course, unless you know Corry Arnold.
Corry: There are 320 seats. 81 tables. 2 bars, a main and one downstairs. We do 900-2000 covers on weekends, all this and we’re almost all reservations. We want walk-ins, come on by at 530PM, or after 11PM on weekends, otherwise call a month in advance. The lines open at 9AM. If you call past 4PM on a Saturday, it’s not likely you’re getting the table you want, so plan ahead.
We’re entirely electronic. We have a “Starr” reservations department that opens at 9AM and takes reservations one month to the day, they work all day on the phones trying to squeeze people in and trying to accommodate all requests and special occasions. On ‘Open Table’ reservations are pages and pages long, and the floor plan is four. It's a massive undertaking, and we don't want to seem dismissive to anyone.
Its not TOO expensive to eat here...we try to use cancellations and no shows to be accessible. And the average night is probably 600 to 800 covers, 900 to 1000 on Saturdays. Reservation confirmation is 2 days out. At 530PM/6PM day of, we’re watching the book, so it’s a good time check.
There are buyout options. We held the VMA after-party here and shutdown the entire restaurant. We had to shut down the whole place and most of Ninth Avenue. I suppose, for any amount of money, you could buy out the main bar, but the library room comes with a bar in it, so it is a more feasible space.
I’m the front door maitre d'. I have three maitre d's staffed to support me and 12 hosts staffed to support them. There are also two literal door managers that help with the crowds with a team of security to support them. Citysearch users are generally less than pleased with my ability to accommodate each and every request. On weekends, you can’t even get in the front door without a reservation.
As per tipping/gifting etc ? people have been more than generous.