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The Gatekeepers: Sarah Gaskins & Nekisia Davis, Franny's

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This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.

Kalina, 3/11/08

Franny's, the two-starred locally-sourced pizza joint in Prospect Heights, has a bit of a rabid following. They don't take reservations, the wait on the weekend can span hours, and though it is ultimately a neighborhood joint, Manhattanites will often brave the trek to the Heights for a slice of Franny's pie. If you go on most weeknights and all weekend nights, you have a long wait ahead of you and Sarah Gaskins and Nekisia Davis are what separate you from your dinner.

Nekisia Davis, Assistant Manager: We have 40 seats in the dining room, 10 at the bar and 4 at the counter. We both love dining at the bar or at table 13, which is adjacent to the kitchen. Sarah Gaskins, General Manager: The bar can be crowded but there is a nice view of the whole restaurant and also an opportunity for conversation with some of our local bar clientèle. Table 13 looks directly into our open kitchen with a beautiful brick oven (the chefs make for a pleasant view, as well!). 8 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? ND: Because we seat on a walk-in basis, the wait varies. Generally, though, on Saturday night at 8pm, you'll wait somewhere around an hour. Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter?

SG: No, there is nothing you can say. The reason we don't take reservations is because we want everyone to have the same shot at a table. So just trust us; we will get you a table as soon as we can, and it will be worth the wait. ND: Our little secret is dining at the counter, which overlooks the street. It's a full service dining area, but most people just consider it a waiting spot....How about gifts or cash to speed things along? SG: We don't accept bribes for tables, but patience and a pleasant disposition go a long way.

Tell us about your favorite customers? Any celebs been by recently? ND: Celebs, for us, are chefs, cooks or service staff, and we serve them in abundance. SG: I have so many great relationships with our regulars. There are people who come in two or three times a week and they feel us much a part of the franny's family as any member of our staff. How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? SG: People who love what we do at franny's know the deal by now. We're always busy and we don't take reservations, so if they don't want to wait they come in for an early dinner or for lunch on the weekends. ...the owner's friends? SG: Even Franny knows she would have to wait for a table if she came at 8pm on a Saturday night. Franny and Andrew's parents can call in and put their name on our wait list, but other than that we try not to bend the rules.

What's the most outrageous request from a customer you've had to accommodate? SG: We once sat 25 people who were on a New York pizza tour. They showed up in a school bus with a mega-phone. After ordering eight pizzas and taking over the whole restaurant, they moved on to the next stop. ...that you couldn't accommodate? ND: We once had a woman ask a server to pick the lavender out of the chamomile and lavender blend tea. "Picking out the lavender" has sort of become a staff joke and is often referred to when a guest is being unreasonable.

What's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? ND: The promise of a shift drink at the end of the night. When you're not at Franny's, where are you eating? ND: We both really like Pearl Oyster Bar, Tia Pol and Momofuku, when going into Manhattan. SG: Diner is my favorite Brooklyn spot and we both love Beer Table here in Park Slope.

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