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.
West Village: Joey Campanaro and Mikey Price's Market Table has been attracting crowds since it opened in 2007. While some may think Market Table is sometimes overshadowed by The Little Owl, its sister restaurant, one visit during the insanely busy brunch service (or any other service, really) puts any question of the restaurant standing on its own to rest. Its seasonal, market driven menu and comfortable ambiance make it a no brainier neighborhood hangout. With VIPs and regulars to deal with, getting a table will involve some waiting. In order try some of Mikey's food, you'll have to talk to Peter Lucania.
Peter Lucania, General Manger/Beverage Director: We have 52 seats, with about seven at the bar. It's 8p.m. on a Saturday night, what's the wait for a table? If you're coming in without a reservation, you could be looking a bit of a wait.
Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? Not really, just be cool. Understand that it is a busy restaurant and we want to get you in, the nicer and more patient you are the better. One great thing we do is take cell numbers and recommend bars in the neighborhood for people to grab a drink and we’ll give them a call when we have a table. ...How about gifts or cash to speed things along? Nice gesture but it’s not going to help.
Tell us about your favorite customers. We have a lot of great regulars, neighborhood people who are more friends at this point than guests. Any celebs been by recently? Of Course! But I want them to stay comfortable coming in so I won’t name names. How do you deal with VIP's, when there are no tables left to give? Are we talking walk ins? We do the best we can to get them seated as soon as possible given the situation at the time.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer that you could accommodate? We don’t get too many outrageous requests, but the most common is to switch dishes up; putting different proteins with different sets. Mikey is always cool with it. And one you couldn't accommodate? Wanting a table for a large number of people on a busy night with no notice.
Since you have a relation with the Little Owl, do you get a lot of cross over as far as customers are concerned? Yeah, we do share clientele. We also keep in contact throughout the night and send each other business. Do customers ever ask for a dish served at the Little Owl when they come to market table? Occasionally. The Pork Chop.
Being a restaurant with a seasonal menu, do regulars get upset if their favorite dish goes off the menu? I have a regular in particular who doesn’t like when the whole fish goes off the menu. The hush puppies and the beet salad also.
What's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? Charm, sense of humor and of course patience. Wait, that’s three, sorry. When you're not at Market Table, where are you eating? I have a few standard go to’s. Our sister restaurant The Little Owl (who doesn’t love Joeys food?), The Red Cat (my favorite restaurant in town) and if I’m with a group of people Crispo.