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Hacks, Luxury, Travel

It’s All In The Numbers, And They’re Hiding In Plain Sight

When I find something I like, once is never enough.

Depending on your point of view this makes me either a connoisseur or incredibly boring.

For example, it’s not that hard to locate a great restaurant, but to find yourself at a table you really enjoy is a stroke of luck and therefore something I’m determined to repeat. Similarly, we might book an outstanding hotel or B&B and by chance be assigned the perfect room, which would again demand that I return.

In both cases an unusually good experience, brought on by pure luck. So now, what are the chances for a repeat?

A guy will say, “Well, I make my luck.” And the same guy walks down the street and a piano that’s been hoisted drops on his head. The truth of the matter is your life is very much out of your control.                                           –  Woody Allen

That’s an interesting observation, but probably Woody was thinking about more than just reserving his favorite table at a restaurant. (You can read his entire interview here.) Since we’re not Woody Allen, who I doubt needs any luck at all to secure his table, let’s see if we can figure out a way to finesse our reservation that doesn’t require truckloads of luck.

The most obvious approach is to just call the restaurant and request to be seated “at that really romantic table in the left back side of the front room, facing the moose head and stuffed owl”.  At which point you’ll be labeled OCPD, harmless and amusing, but mostly to be ignored and probably seated over by the swinging door that leads to the kitchen, and facing the restrooms.

Ah, but there’s a better way, and it doesn’t demand that you somehow give an impression you are reviewing the restaurant for the NY Times. It turns out that the computer revolution, which puts those clever machines in virtually all restaurants these days to track orders and spit out your bill, insists that each table have a number. And as we all know, nobody in their right mind ever argues with a computer.

So at the end of that wonderful meal, at your extra special table, you must look at more of your bill than just the itemized list of dishes and total cost. Cast your eyes up to the tippy-top of the bill and you will see, wait for it,  the table number, and even the name of your server. Mon dieu!


Tabs from Keens Chophouse in Manhattan and Mission Ranch in Carmel, CA
We were seated at Table 31 in Keens and Table 9 at Mission Ranch.

Armed with this information, the next time you call for a reservation, you will simply say “I’d like to request Table (insert number here), it’s our favorite”. If you get carried away you could even add that you hope “Salvador” or whatever the server’s name was, will be working that night. Now that you’ve just elevated yourself to the status of a knowledgeable, repeat customer, the odds you are going to get that table rise into the realm of possibility.

Kidding aside, my own experience has been that with this approach I’m invariably seated at the requested table. Whenever possible I use Open Table to make reservations, putting that request in the proper box, and it seems to work fine.

Your mileage may vary, just keep a sharp eye upward for falling pianos.


And now the postscript, for what blog post (sic) would be complete without a personal recommendation.?

Since going Low Carb a bit over two years ago I’ve become quite a fan of good steaks, and actually pretty savvy considering that for all of my life had been ‘eating healthy’ and avoiding red meat. In any case without question the best Porterhouse I’ve ever had anywhere is at Keens Chophouse in Manhattan. And the best Prime Rib I’ve ever had is at Mission Ranch in Carmel, CA.

Our favorite table at Keens is #31 and it’s the one featured in the picture above, just under the portrait of the happy fellow who looks like he has a stick up his arse. It’s our favorite because we like tables that are a bit remote from the rest of the dinning room, and this fits that bill perfectly. You might like one further back in the thick of all those stimulating [noisy] NYC conversations.

Unfortunately our table number tip doesn’t do you a bit of good at Mission Ranch, simply because they don’t take reservations. No kidding. But you get to wait in the piano bar, and if you are lucky might wind up bumping into Clint Eastwood who rescued this 1800’s ranch, one of the first dairies in California, from condo developers and renovated the entire property. Table #9 was great, but like I said knowing that won’t get you there.

As my mother used to say, “Enjoy”!



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