This winter is proving not so nice for New York. We still have a ways to go, and this week has already broke bad. Who wants to go out in shattering cold or endless dumps of snow and sleet? If you do, you better choose wisely; no one wants to drift from door to door, looking for short waits or elbow room at the bar. Fortunately for the brave and persistent, twin pillars of restaurant discouragement mean the masses are temporarily distracted from New York’s best food holes. It’s not just the bad weather: the increasingly frequent crapfest known as Restaurant Week has also thinned the herd. For example, I went to the Breslin last night with reservation in hand. And yet, I was pleased to see the place crowded as usual — but only amicably so, not stuffed to the gills and mobbed to the point of madness.
It was exactly enough folks to feel busy and fun without claustrophobia setting in. I was finally able to sample the mythical lamb burger fried in duck fat while gazing companionably upon my fellow diners, rather than dodging their cutlery as we ate cheek to jowl to pork belly. Afterwards, I prepared to stand around the Ace Hotel lobby, figuring on a half-hour wait before we could vulture our way onto a couch. But we snagged a spot almost immediately. Granted it was the only available spot, but that’s just further proof that the whole joint had just the right amount of patronage. Now I’m sure all lobby bets are off during high-season power-lunch hour, weather notwithstanding. But still.
Bad weather can’t be relied upon, but it’s old news that Restaurant Week is the perfect time to avoid all venues participating in Restaurant Week. There are many reasons for this strategy, but I can hardly improve upon the bullet points outlined by Eater’s Amanda Kludt back when we both worked at Gridskipper. The good thing for haters is that fans of RW feel compelled to stick to their reservations, given all the imaginary hype and preparation that goes into the scam. So those rubes will be trundling through cheap but (shall we say) highly edited versions of marquee menus, leaving the rezzie rolls of non-RW spots that much more open to the opportunist. So if RW didn’t get them, the bad weather will. At least that’s the theory.
None of this occurred to me pre-Breslin, so I relied on the reservation. And it’s not like walk-ins didn’t have to wait a little. But judging by the capacity and lack of lurkers, I’d guess a walk-in would have had a one-drink wait at the bar, max, which is really the perfect amount of foreplay. Given the white stuff falling outside, I’d be curious to see if this holds true for any other hotspots tonight, which would at least be some consolation for the climate. For my part, I’ll be doing delivery on the couch, as I am only so brave.