food snobbery

One month ago, I called Restaurant X in Manhattan to make a dinner reservation, exactly one month to the day-their maximum allotment of time to take reservations. I thought I had the advantage, being on the west coast, getting in the call at 9:00 PM PST while most people were theoretically sleeping on the east coast. But NOOOO. The only time slot I was able to secure was 6:00. 6:00! The sun is still out! During dinner! That’s just downright pedestrian and could be considered criminal in some cities. I admit, a part of me felt lucky to get in at all. After all, securing a weekend reservation at Restaurant X is likened to scoring a touchdown at the Super Bowl. With two seconds on the clock.

(I must preface that my use of the words, “Restaurant X” is due to Jim’s belated birthday surprise. He knows not of where I’m taking him.)

I was told to confirm the reservation two days prior to dinner so I called up Restaurant X this morning to confirm that I, indeed, have a table waiting for me at 6:00. “Yes, you are confirmed at 6:00 PM, however, I have to warn you there is another party coming in to take your table at 8:00 PM.” What? I only have two hours to spend having a quiet, elegantly leisure dinner? I was shocked and appalled by this blatant, capitalistic food snobbery. I was angry. I don’t think I have ever been told of a time restriction when dining. This isn’t Starbucks kicking me out because I didn’t order another Grande Mochachino. This is a multi-starred, highly regarded restaurant where I would imagine the chef wouldn’t dream of rushing the patrons. Ha! Putting a time limit on ME. The Gfork!

So sat down and calmly wrote a thoughtful but pointed letter to them requesting more time, stating that I’m coming in from San Francisco, I’ve been looking forward to this dinner for quite a long time, yadda yadda yadda. I received a thoughtful, polite reply back asking if 5:30 to 8:30 would suffice and although that meant starting dinner even earlier (egads), I gave in since it does give us more time.

I regaled my concern to a native New Yorker in my office and she didn’t seem to think the time limit was so unusual. After some online reconnaissance, I did, in fact, find this was not an unusual case in upper crust restaurants, that the time limit is put in place in consideration of the diners who proceed you. It wasn’t just about me. It was about everybody. I realized this is the reason why New Yorkers eat so late…because they don’t want to be rushed. I was humbled and embarrassed by this epiphany. NOW, who’s the food snob?

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