Waiting for a Table

Back when I lived in Washington D.C., my friends and I were getting another friend up to speed on the local restaurant scene. In response to our education, this other friend ended up buying a copy of the D.C. Zagat guide, which happened to have been released recently. She dutifully looked up a type of cuisine she wished to have, and made her choice for a night’s dinner accordingly.

As we walked to the restaurant, she felt relatively proud of herself, as she finally was able to demonstrate her own level of research, mixed with that ever-present curiosity we all have when we’re about to head to a new, untried restaurant.

We turned the corner, saw the restaurant, and noted that there was a line of people waiting to get into the place, most with the same basic plan that my friend had: Explore Zagat, pick a restaurant, go out to eat. The problem now was that it was 9 o’clock on a Friday evening, and we were faced with a ninety minute wait to get in (the place was a small Italian joint that didn’t take reservations).

Here’s where I feel the adults are separated from the children…or better yet, the tigers are separated from the sheep.

There are three options at this point:

  1. Wait the ninety minutes. After all, Zagats said it was great! And we sure as hell don’t want to miss out on that.
  2. Find another restaurant.
  3. Give up on dinner, and head home.

I feel that there is only one response in a situation such as this: Find a new restaurant. This is the option my friend chose. This option works doubly well when you’re in a city such as D.C.(or San Fran, or New York), where there are a plethora of excellent options all within walking distance. I can count on my hand the amount of restaurants in this country that are worth a ninety minute wait, and a small Italian bistro can nary be found amongst this list.

Now of course you are not me and you may feel that the wait may indeed be worth it. So let’s say you stayed around for the ninety minutes and waited for your plate of perfect pasta. One block from this Zagat rated place was a well established upscale restaurant. We got in immediately. I ordered the scallop risotto, which was wonderful, and an espresso panna cotta for dessert. We left 80 minutes after we were seated, and you, who decided to wait for the Zagat rated place, would jut be following your hostess to your table.

Who had the better meal? There’s no way of truly knowing of course. The Zagat rated place may have had food made by Gods for all I know. But there’s little to convince me that any restaurant out there worth a ninety minute wait.