This is The Gatekeepers, where Eater roams the city to meet the fine men and women standing between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.
Jennifer Yin, 2/7/08
The front of house operations at Dosa are pretty much run in full by the husband and wife team of Anjan Mitra & Emily Mitra, who also happen to be the owners. Since taking the plunge and opening Dosa in the Mission about two years ago, the first-time restaurateurs have already notched a place on the Top 100 list in both years of existence and have been swamped with crowds almost from Day One.
Anjan Mitra, Owner and Host at Dosa: We have 58 seats and 12 bar stools. If you're coming in for a quick bite to eat, sitting at the bar is an easy and comfortable option. The bar seats by the window, facing in, will give you a full-view of the restaurant ... For an "in-the-Mission" experience our window tables are excellent where you can watch the colorful and diverse parade of Mission hipsters while you eat. For a larger group I would recommend table 14, which is the corner table in its own little nook right below the "Dosa" print. Btw, the print was made by one of our servers, Hilary Williams who has since become a very successful local artist in the Mission.
8 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? Generally, anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes ... we hope! However, always check in at the front desk even if there is a crowd outside. Sometimes the crowd might have just finished their dinner and is about the leave and there might just be an open table for two. Also, keep in mind that a wait-time quote is an inexact science based on estimating how long people will take to complete their dinner. While we are generally pretty close there are occasions when we are over due to forces out of our control. Just to be clear we do take a few reservations a night for groups of five or more. However, a majority of the restaurant at any particular time is set aside for walk-ins.
Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? Not really ... You could start with a glass of wine and an appetizer at the bar that will make the wait seem shorter. If there is no place at the bar you could always leave your phone number with us, get a drink in the hood and we will call you when your table is ready ... As long as you walk-in before we close (10 pm on weekdays and 11 pm on the weekends) we will serve you. ...How about gifts or cash to speed things along? We love gifts and cash but it won't help you jump the line. A little patience and understanding will get you our undying love and while it still won't help you jump the line it might help keep us all in better spirits.
Tell us about your favorite customers? Any celebs been by recently? We love all our customers. We have so many regulars that we don't believe in playing favorites. Some of our customers have been coming to Dosa almost every week since we opened over 2 years ago. A few celebs (or well known personalities) are Philip Kaufman (director of one of my favorite movies The Unbearable Lightness of Being), Tracy Chapman, Vincent Gallo and Coral Smith (from the Real World)
How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? Everyone's a VIP at Dosa. Unfortunately our space is fairly small and we don't have tables that we can set aside for "VIPs." We keep it very egalitarian and they need to wait just like everyone else! We might offer them a glass of wine or an appetizer. Generally people are fairly easy and understanding if you give them a relatively accurate quote. ...the owner's friends? The same. Actually, we do make very few exceptions with family and die-hard regulars – who come in week after week – if they give us prior warning. It's a bit like an airline reward system where "premier" frequent flyers get upgraded or get to board before everyone else.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer you've had to accommodate? We try to be pretty accommodating with customer requests and since we're a restaurant we don't get very outrageous requests. There are Indians from religious community of Jains, who are certainly not outrageous, but they do have very strict dietary guidelines which include not being able to eat onions, garlic, potatoes and root vegetables. We have been able to accommodate them on a couple of occasion, with prior notice, but it can be challenging for us. ...that you couldn't accommodate? Permission to eat a full Pizza at Dosa!! It was actually for the teenage kids but we felt the smell of burnt pepperoni was in direct conflict the wonderfully aromatic food at Dosa ... not to mention a little disrespectful.
What's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? A little glass of Emergency followed by a cup Madras coffee or Soy Chai to kick-start the evening! If I'm hungry I sip on cup of Rasam "Fire Broth" soup, which is light, spicy and nutritious and keeps me nourished without slowing me down.