The other day, I was scouring the internets, as I often do, looking for offbeat dining options, and one very tantalizing item caught my eye – a restaurant with no address and no phone number. I love a challenge.
In order to dine here, you have to get the number from someone who has already been there or you have to be invited by the owners to make a reservation after sending a request by email.
This sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Sometimes, Groucho Marx’s old saw about never wanting to be in a club that would have him as a member is exactly wrong. Who’d want to go to some restaurant that makes you jump through that many hoops just for the privilege of shelling out a bunch of money to eat dinner?
Yes, I’m that guy. I’m not ashamed to say that I desperately want to go to the speakeasy restaurant. I want to show up at the unmarked door and tell the guy the secret password or do the special interpretive dance, or whatever else is required to gain entry. Oh please let me into the speakeasy restaurant!
Those of you who have been to Chumley’s, that great former actual speakeasy in Greenwich Village, know what I’m talking about. Chumley’s waited for you behind an unmarked door in a courtyard at the corner of a quiet residential street. When you opened the door you passed from one world to another. True, you didn’t need an invitation to get in or any of that, but you had to know it was there. To sit in a little snug in Chumley’s was to be a member of an exclusive club that anyone could join as long as they knew which unmarked door to push. Mind you, this was before the internet, which has revealed every last secret possible. Sadly, the bar closed suddenly in 2007 when a chimney collapsed. Apparently the owners have spent the past seven years in the permit office and battling lawsuits from the neighbors as they attempt to bring the old place up to code. It conjures up the worst remodeling nightmares I can imagine. Mr. Blandings builds a speakeasy.
As for this mystery restaurant, since I do not have the secret phone number, nor do I have any friends who have the secret phone number, I attempted the digital equivalent of tying a note to a rock and tossing it over the fortress wall. I sent a note to the email address on their very cryptic website. “Please let me come to your restaurant,” I whinged, and hit send, and waited, with pathetic wallflower self-loathing.
My spirits soared the next day when the reply arrived.
“Not yet,” it said, more or less. Before we grant you a reservation, we need to know a little more about you, the note explained.
I was undaunted and unashamed. I can be interesting if I absolutely have to be. My wife and I quit our jobs, sold our house, and we’re on a world tour, I begged. We’re interesting! Then I started worrying that they’d think I was trying too hard. “Oy,” they’d say. “Another world tourer. How gauche.” Or worse. I could almost hear the eyerolling. “Not that cock and bull story again. These people.” I was transported back my early twenties, in which I would try to reconcile my desperation to get a date with a tendency to be a bit forward. I wasn’t Rico Suave lounge lizard forward, mind you. I was just trying a little too hard. I scared more than a few away. Who wants a desperate oversharer for a boyfriend?
Thus I was worried that I’d overdone it with the speakeasy people. On the other hand, my crazy story had the added benefit of truth. I was prepared to provide the closing papers on our home sale if that’s what it took to eat a speakeasy dinner.
I needn’t have worried. The response was swift and positive. We’ve been given the magical top secret number to call for a reservation!
I considered the following reasons why I might have been successful:
- They believed my story and felt honored to have such a fascinating guest at their restaurant.
- They felt sorry for someone who was so desperate for a reservation that he would make up such a lame story.
- It’s all hooey designed to make the place feel exclusive. Anyone who bothers to try to get a reservation gets one anyway.
No matter. We’re in! You might have noticed that I have not mentioned the name of this special place. I’ll withhold that bit of information until we consummate our evening, lest they deny me entry when they find out that their guest is a famous blogger with over fifty readers.
Our dinner is next week. I can’t wait. I’ll let you know how it goes.