This is The Gatekeepers, wherein Eater roams the city to meet the fine men and women standing between you and some of your favorite dining destinations.
Randall Fleming. [Photo: Jennifer Yin]
It's been about seven months since Plow brought a much-needed brunch and lunch oasis to its stretch of Potrero Hill. Just as owners Joel Bleskacek and Maxine Siu hoped, the restaurant has swiftly become a clutch go-to for local families and other neighborhood dwellers. But they didn't expect their humble creation to become a destination for daytime diners across San Francisco, not to mention the Untermagnificent. Now there are long brunch lines every weekend and a weekly lunch rush of hungry anglers for a seat in Plow's sun-filled room. More often than not Mr. Randall Fleming (pictured) or Bleskacek himself is manning the door. Here the two gatekeepers play along with our burning questions.
Let’s start with the basics. How many seats are at the restaurant? And which are your favorites?
Randall: 35 inside and 12 outside.
Joel: My favorites are at the counter: front row seats to chaos!
What's the longest average wait time?
Randall: There is really no "average" wait time because it all depends on what's happening with the list when you come in to add your name. As for the longest wait time I quoted someone. It was 2 hours on a very busy Sat morning.
Joel: It can be over 90 minutes on a Saturday or Sunday, but a
30 to 45 minute wait is more common.
Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter?
Randall: If there is, I haven't heard it yet.
Conversely when can I show up and just slide on in to a table?
Randall: On the weekends, singles and deuces have a better chance of sliding into a table early in the morning or late afternoon like 1:30
Joel: Most weekday mornings and 8 a.m. sharp on Saturday and Sunday.
With over a year under your belt, what have you learned?
Randall: That I will be hustling form the beginning until the end of my shift.
As much as I may try, I will not be able to please everybody.
Joel: That being friendly and kind is contagious!
Tell us about your favorite customers.
Randall: They'll have a positive vibe and a big ole smile on their face.
Joel: Those who come in and treat their time in the restaurant as a break
from the daily grind. We also love seeing families from our neighborhood that make Plow their weekly destination.
Have you ever had VIPs drop in? What do you do about it?
Randall: Yes we have. I'll offer them coffee and explain the estimated wait
time. Then I'll try to get an autograph. Joke!
Joel: Yes, and we treat them just as well as everyone else.
What’s the most outrageous request from a customer you’ve had to accommodate?
Joel: Fortunately, we don't get too many crazy requests aside from the
occasional party that is dismayed that we are unable to accommodate a
twelve top at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning.
...that you couldn’t accommodate?
Joel:"Do you have room for 13"?
Where are you eating when you're not at Plow? At home, the same simple types of food we serve at the restaurant. We have a tiny garden in the backyard and our kids are thrilled when we are able to harvest and cook our own veggies! When dining out, we often find ourselves at our neighborhood restaurants, Umi and Serpentine. We are also fortunate enough to have Maxine's mother cook Chinese food for us every Friday night; a real treat for all of us.
What’s the item on the current menu that more people should know about?
Randall: Mimosas are now avaialble.
Joel: The menu changes frequently, but the "legs + eggs" is an indulgent treat; fried chicken thigh and drumstick that's been brined with two eggs and crispy potatoes. It was our daughter Ruby's idea hatched at the dinner table.
Is there anything that happened in the early months that you can associate with a bump in business?
Joel: I think making people feel welcome and comfortable certainly helped get the word out in the beginning. We have been fortunate to have been busy from day one but whenever we receive a review or are featured in the press we tend to see a bit of a spike.
Since you just got a liquor license, tell us what the beer and wine program is looking like.
Joel: Our wine list, although small, seems to cover all the bases. We tend to support small, local producers like Lioco, broadside, Nedrock, and County Line. We also have a few more recognizable names on the list like Robert Sinskey and Billecart-Salmon. Of course we offer mimosas which tend to be a big hit on weekends. Beers like Scrimshaw Pilsner (draft), Anchor Steam, and Hamm's. Yes, Hamm's.
At the end of the day, what’s the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job?
Randall: Patience and a positive disposition.
Joel:A sense of humor!
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