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The Five Components of an A+++ VIP Table, With Ratings

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[Spotted Pig, Casa Lever Photos: Krieger]

Every restaurant has a ‘best table,’ where the owners like to seat celebrities, important business associates, beloved customers and family members. Most of the time these tables only reveal their true potential after the restaurant opens and they become coveted by guests, other times they are put into the floor plan before the place is even built. Although there are a lot of different VIP tables in the city, they all share some combination of five key components that make them so special, which we've outlined below. Their application is relatively universal, and can be used to gauge exactly which table is the best one at your favorite restaurant, no matter how fancy or humble it may be. As a bonus, we’ve also broken down some of Manhattan's most sought after tables based on these criteria and ascribed them handy 'A+++ Index' ratings.

casalevervip.jpg1) The Banquette Factor: Booths and tables that incorporate a soft, sofa-like banquette are always the most coveted seats in the house. In addition to providing comfort, this style of seating encourages close, often times side-by-side interaction between guests, in a way that free standing chairs simply can’t offer. [photo: the second tier, leather-lined booth at Casa Lever, Credit]

altovip.jpg 2) Elevation: Apart from the fact that an elevated table usually affords the diner a prime position to watch the action going on in the rest of the room, there’s a not so-subtle psychology in play when one table, or set of tables, is raised above the others: the customers at these tables are being put on a pedestal by the restaurant. In some places, the elevation factor is used for one or a few tables in a single-framed dining room, but most of the time elevation is used in bi-level spaces were the VIP table is somewhere on the second floor. [photo: the ridiculous VIP table at Alto]

eastsideviptable.jpg3) Seating/Accommodation:A great VIP table can be big or small, but the number of guests and how it accommodates them is key: no one wants to sit at “the head” of the table, or be stuck in an L—shaped configuration, and the table should generally be able to comfortably fit one or two more guests if they stop by. If the VIP table is a booth, or incorporates a banquette, no diner should ever have to ask more than one other seated companion to get up when they go to the bathroom. [photo: a well designed VIP booth at East Side Social Club, credit]

keensvip.jpg 4) Décor: Most big restaurants have one room that’s cooler looking than the others — it’s almost always where the VIP table is. The optimal placement of the table within that space is at a point where the table is not actually a part of what makes the room look so stunning, but rather in a place where the diners are facing the details that make the room special. The decor value is also upped if the table is next to a window, preferably one that looks out not onto the sidewalk, but a garden or outdoor space that's not accessible from the street. [Photo: the second floor "Lamb's Room" at Keen's, Credit]

mareavip.jpg5) The 'See and Be Seen' Factor: VIPs want to sit somewhere to see and be seen, in that order. It’s often a hard balance to strike, because if a celebrity or person of influence is sitting in a spot where too much of the room’s attention is put on them, in too close proximity, the gawking might distract from their enjoyment of the meal. [Photo: a masterfully lit 'see and be seen' section of Marea, Credit]

And What Makes For a Bad VIP Table?: There should be no hierarchy within the seating at the VIP table. In other words, no half banquette/half chair combos, or seats where the ideal view is obstructed. Also, communal tables should never even enter the conversation, nor should spots near the host stand, bathroom or kitchen, unless it’s an open kitchen, or a place with counter seating, although these dining rooms rarely have VIP tables anyway.

Rating the ‘A+++ Index’ of Five Of New York’s Hottest VIP Tables: (each criteria ranked 1 out of 10, for a possible score of 50)

minettavip.jpgThe Center Booth At the Minetta Tavern: There’s really no bad table in the back room of the Minetta Tavern, but this is the best seat in house: it’s in the center of the action, with great views of the comings and goings of the room, and, thanks to that magical McNally lighting scheme, it does not draw too much attention to the diners who sit there. Keith himself has been spotted sitting alone at this table on a busy Saturday night, eating a steak and reading the newspaper.
Banquette Factor: 10
Elevation: 2
Seating/Accommodation: 8
Décor: 10
See and Be Seen Factor: 9
Total A+++ Index Rating: 39

lionsthroneviptable.jpgThe Lion’s Throne: This table, in the clubby back room of the Lion gets high points in several categories, for being fifteen feet above the main dining room, having its own staircase, its own bathroom, and only being able to accommodate eight people. It has padded, free standing chairs, and sits across the room from a wall with windows onto some kind of garden outside.
Banquette Factor: 5
Elevation: 8
Seating/Accommodation: 7
Décor: 7
See and Be Seen Factor: 10
Total A+++ Index Ranking: 36

lecapricevip.jpgThe Back Booth at Le Caprice: The restaurant only has 20 tables, laid out in one straight line. This high backed VIP booth near the kitchen gives diners a great view of the entire action of the dining room, in a dark and somewhat shadowy space that’s roomy yet intimate.
Banquette Factor: 9
Elevation: 1
Seating/Accommodation: 9
Décor: 5
See and Be Seen Factor: 7
Total A+++ Index Rating 31

monkeybarvip.jpgThe Corner Pocket at the Monkey Bar: Though it's lost its luster a bit since opening, Graydon Carter’s Midtown spot boasts one of the most carefully designed VIP seating schemes in the city. The corner booth, reserved for “young and media moguls” is elevated two tiers above the main floor in a nook that allows a complete view of the schmoozing going on at basically every table, while being positioned in a power seat that’s designed for ultimate exclusivity and intimidation.
Banquette Factor: 8
Elevation: 7
Seating/Accommodation: 8
Décor: 7
See and Be Seen Factor: 9
Total A+++ Index Rating: 39

spottedpigviptable.jpgThe VIP Lounge at the Spotted Pig: Before New York’s favorite gastropub had a truly exclusive third floor PDR, accessible only via a secret entrance, it had the corner space on the second floor, which opens up to the main dining room. This tree house-like space boasts an awesome mural of Manhattan with a window onto a picturesque West Village garden. It is frequently opened up on busy nights to accommodate very important people and a few lucky not-as-important diners to sit at one of its banquette-lined tables.
Banquette Factor: 8
Elevation: 6
Seating/Accommodation: 5
Décor: 8
See and Be Seen Factor: 5
Total A+++ Index Rating: 32

Minetta Tavern

113 MacDougal Street, Manhattan, NY 10012 (212) 475-3850 Visit Website

Monkey Bar

40 Budapester Straße, Bezirk Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Berlin 10787 030 12-022-1210 Visit Website

The Lion

62 West Ninth Street, New York, NY 10011 Visit Website

Le Caprice

2 East 61st Street, New York, NY 10065 Visit Website

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