Throughout the year, Restaurant Editor Bill Addison will travel the country to chronicle what's happening in America's dining scene and to formulate his list of the essential 38 restaurants in America. Follow his progress in this travelogue/review series, The Road to the 38, and check back at the end of the year to find out which restaurants made the cut.
Any non-celebrity who has attempted a table at The Spotted Pig on a weekend night will know the dread with which I approached the restaurant's host stand. It was 9 p.m. on a Saturday. The front door guy, Stephen, winced on my behalf when I inquired after a table for three. "You're looking at 11:30," he said. My optimism for any less of a wait, I knew then, had been as masochistic as it was delusional. Chef April Bloomfield and restaurateur Ken Friedman's first venture—the tiny, cluttered, well-funded West Village upstart (Mario Batali and Jay-Z were among the original investors)—imported the no-reservations gastropub from Britain ten years ago. The bedlam has never quieted.