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.
Walk into Blue Ribbon at 2 AM on a Thursday and see if the wait isn't 60 minutes. Meet Magnus Leveaux.
Magnus: We have a wide variety of customers, pretty much anyone who lives in New York. We have a lot of restaurant people, as most other restaurants close before 12AM, we’re open until 4AM. We serve such a cut of the industry, from young sous chefs, to out of town restaurateurs, to James Beard House visitors, to Mario Batali.
Let me put it this way:
(7) 2 tops
(4) 4 tops
? And that’s the room.
One time, standing outside at ten past four in the morning, a guy offered me $15,000 to unlock the door and seat him and his party. I asked him if he had the money on him. He said “no,” so I didn’t let him in. I wouldn’t have opened the door, even if he did.
No one really gets in faster. We don’t cater to celebrities. We will always do what we can, but we’re not going to bump someone up on the list. Never have and never will.?
We have a limited amount of reservations, essentially there are only 3 tables to call for. Up front, which holds 8, and two in the back, both for parties of 6 (one of which is really a 4 top we open up). There’s no real limit on the number of days you can call out to reserve those. The hours between 7-9PM are sometimes often booked weeks in advance.
There are no loopholes here. If you come in really early (we open at 4PM), or really late (past 11PM), you more likely to be seated quicker, but you will always get seated. It just depends if you feel you want to wait or not. We take reservations all hours of the night, so really, you can call until close to check for a table.
If I quote someone 1 hour and 15 minutes, I ask people to come back in 45 minutes to check in. Someone might skip dessert, the babysitter called, or their car is being towed. It’s not entirely unusual for something like that to happen. Last Saturday we had 17 parties of 2 waiting. When we have a such large number of parties, it gets increasingly hard to anticipate with any kind of exactness what time you might be looking at. When that happens we ask people to check back every 45 minutes or so. We do not takes numbers for walk-ins. I also try to keep people abreast of what’s happening so people know that we are working on getting them in and not forgetting about them.