This is The Gatekeepers, where Eater roams the city to meet the fine men and women standing between you and some of your favorite dining destinations.
Jennifer Yin, 4/25/08
You won't find it on OpenTable, but Burma Superstar could probably make a strong case for being one of the most popular destinations in town, no matter the price point. For a little Burmese restaurant out in the Richmond, that says a lot. It currently has 1050 reviews on Yelp, lines are given on every night, wait times are the stuff of legends, and it even scored a listing in the '08 Michelin guide. And the woman with the unenviable task of quoting those two-hour waits and juggling the masses is Ms. Karen Wong.
Karen "MooMoo" Wong, Hostess at Burma Superstar: The restaurant seats 49 comfortably. Most of our costumers seem to prefer the window seats, but I personally like the three top in the back of the restaurant. Another favorite spot is the big round table. Why, one word, "lazy susan." 8 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? The average time at 8PM on Saturday night estimates to over an hour wait. It really depends on how big the party is, how many people are on the list, and how long people take during their meal.
Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? The best thing to make the wait shorter is to call ahead to put your name on the waitlist. People can call and put their name over the phone when the waitlist becomes available, and the list becomes available when the restaurant is full. Most nights, the list becomes available around 5:30PM, but it varies every night. You may also check out our sister restaurant, B Star Bar, down the block between 2nd and 3rd. They take reservations and walk-ins. ...How about gifts or cash to speed things along? No, we do not allow this. People who do this will just waste my time in doing my job, and that will make it longer to get people in and to get them a table.
Tell us about your favorite customers? Any celebs been by recently? I have many favorite customers, especially our weekly regulars. I have two favorite customers who are teachers. One, who comes in almost every other day to eat the Tea Leaf Salad. She is super friendly, and always glad to see everyone there. The teacher is really quite but really nice. He always have the Chili Lamb with Coconut Rice. But my all time favorite is our usual neighborhood couple. They come in at least twice a week and sometimes even more. They always call ahead like everyone else and never just show up. They understand when we get busy and never complains. Everytime they come, they give me a hug and they always say hi to everyone at the restaurant. Also, they always know what they want and never sit long because they know how long people wait. They are extremely considerate and friendly. They also like making friends to the tables next to them. They are so cool and I love having them there when I work. How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? I never have a hard time dealing with VIPs. Most of our regulars are very understanding and knows to call ahead. When there are no tables left, they can always check out B Star.
What’s the most outrageous request from a customer you’ve had to accommodate? One customer had put his name on my list. I think he had waited for an hour. He was one of those people that just put their names on without asking me how long the wait might be and comes back complaining that he put his name in 2 hours ago. His name was on the 3rd column. I know that he didn’t put his name on 2 hours ago but they normally claim that. Then when he came back to see how much longer, he was actually 5th on my list. He then told me he works for a magazine and demanded that I give him the next table that comes up. I told him that I can’t because other people before him have waited longer but he keeps saying how he works for this magazine and that I am making a big mistake for not seating him. I could not believe he did that, and what was surprising is that he did this in front of 2 other tables. ...that you couldn’t accommodate? I probably can’t accommodate a group of 20+ on a Saturday night. I wouldn’t know where to seat them and how long the wait would be for everyone else.
What's the most popular dish? Which dish is the most underrated? There are actually 3 most popular dishes, the Tea Leaf Salad, the Rainbow Salad, and the Vegetarian Samusa Soup. Actaully, all the dishes are quite popular because everyone prefer something different but if I had to choose one it would have to be the Shan noodles. People always choose one of the chicken coconut noodle, the superstar noodle, or the garlic noodle. People tend to look pass the Shan noodle but I really like it.
Why do you think Burma Superstar is so popular? What's the key to its success? Burma Superstar is so popular because the food is awesome and one of a kind. I’ve never been to a restaurant where people tell you what you are having in your food and then mix it for you. It’s great. What do you love most about working here? I love working because of the people. We are like one big, crazy family. The food is delicious and I love seeing people enjoy our food and our service, What’s the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? Be very clear and smile???