This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the land meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.[Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux]
Boxing Room is the NOLA-themed venture from the Absinthe restaurant group that's been creating the best kind of ruckus in the original Citizen Cake space for about six months now. In the beginning, people were excited about the fried alligator, and other novelties to San Francisco like boudin balls, muffuletta and 20 beers on tap. Then the critics chimed in with applause, and the crowds haven't really let up since the joint opened in June. As exec chef Justin Simoneaux holds court in the kitchen, Zach Pacheco is the smoothly spectacled man always working the floor and greeting people at the door. We recently sat him down to find out what it's like getting a table at Boxing Room these days.
7:30 p.m. on a Sat. night, what's the wait for a table? Usually the wait is about an hour for a table, but we typically have seats available at the bar or oyster bar—both of which have a great view of the kitchen in action.
As one of the hottest restaurants in Hayes Valley, you've surely been offered gifts or cash in exchange for reservations or a table. What have people tried? Cash is usually king with guests. As a rule, I do not accept gifts, but some guests will insist, in which case I give it to the hosts.
Tell us about your favorite customers. I like to take care of new parents that have not been out in a while. They typically do not have a lot of time for themselves and I like to help make their time at Boxing Room special.
How do you deal with VIPs when there are no tables to give? We will offer them seats at the bar or oyster bar. Luckily, most of our VIPs are okay with that option.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer you've ever had to accommodate? I had an elderly lady at lunch that wanted the music to be turned off. I spoke with her and told her that I could turn the music down, but for the experience of all of our other guests, I needed to leave the music on. This was not an option for her. Upon further discussion, I discovered that what she really had a problem with was the type of music playing and really wanted to hear Beethoven. So, for the rest for her meal we all listened to Ludwig.
Where are you eating when you're not at Boxing Room? On days off my girlfriend and I are fans of Puerto Alegre in the Mission. On work nights chef and I will go to Absinthe for burgers and garlic pretzels at the bar.
Were there any reviews that led to significant bump in service, or a change to the type of clientele at Boxing Room? Michael Bauer’s review gave us a bump – which was easy to notice because guests bring the article with them and read it at the table.
At the end of the day, what's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to get the job done? For me, it has been and always will be staff. As managers we cannot be everywhere at once and need to be able to trust that our team are representing the restaurant as we would.
For more Gatekeepers published today from across the Eater Universe, head over to Eater National.