When going to dinner on a Saturday in New York, one only has a few options: eat early, eat late, or eat at home. Last night we were confronted by Williamsburg Saturday-night economics, four restaurants in a row with over an hour wait, and I was reminded of a story that I read ages ago entitled Pocketful of Dough. The author, Bruce Feiler, is paid by Gourmet magazine to bribe his way into restaurants:
Curious, I hatched a plan. I would go to some of the hardest-to-penetrate restaurants in New York armed with little more than an empty stomach, an iron-clad willingness to be humiliated, and a fistful of dough. Most people (including the editors of this magazine) assumed I would get turned down at half the places on my list. â€œYouâ€™ll never get into Daniel,â€ said one. â€œUnion Square Cafe?!â€ said another. â€œForget it.â€
My plan was to show up between 8:15 and 8:30 on varying nights of the week. I would go with a different companion each night. I would try to get a reservation by telephone that afternoon and go only if I were turned down. And I would carry a twenty and a fifty in my left pocket, and a hundred in my right pocket. I did have an incentive: I could eat at any place I could successfully finagle my way into.
What results is a classic piece of journalism that I cite at least twice a year. That is to say, I am only referring to it, not a practicing bribe-maker. Since the cat has been out of the sack for over 7 years now, I wonder what effect Bruce Feiler has had on wait times in New York? Next time I go to Williamsburg on a Saturday night, I will definitely bring some dough and report back on the timeliness of this technique.