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, 3/27/08
Surely one of the more accessible Michelin stars in town, One Market is in the midst of a comeback of sorts. As pointed out by Michael Bauer in his recent 3.5-star update of One Market, the Embarcadero restaurant has experienced its ups and downs in the 14 years since Bradley Ogden first opened it. Now with Mark Dommen in the kitchen, it's safe to say that a rejuvenation is in full swing, one capped off by the splashy Michelin star last fall. With both lunch and dinner being prized attractions, keeping things under control in the front of such a big house is no small task; just ask Larry Bouchard.
Larry Bouchard, General Manager & Partner at One Market: Depending on the configuration of the tables, between 120 and 150 [seats]. My favorite tables are those with the dead-on views of the Ferry Building clock tower at night when it's lit-up like a mini Big Ben. 8 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? Rarely more than thirty minutes. We're a big restaurant so someone's always going when someone else is coming.
Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? "Yes, I have a reservation." Seriously, if we can take you we will. Our job is to say "no" as little as possible. ...How about gifts or cash to speed things along? That's a huge no-no.
Tell us about your favorite customers? Any celebs been by recently? My favorite customers are the ones who are genuine in their recognition of our efforts. As for celebrities, we never "seat-and-tell." How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? In the words of Tim Gunn, we "make it work." ...the owner' friends? Our owner's friends typically refrain from trying to pull last-minute strings. Like our owners, they're all incredibly organized and prepared, so the reservation is usually made ahead of time. I guess it's partly why they're friends in the first place.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer you've had to accommodate? We were once asked to accommodate a guest by providing them with a plate so they could share their lunch with a doll. ...that you couldn't accommodate? I just couldn't bring myself to talk to the doll.
What's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? Open Table. It's almost worth every dollar per cover.