Liz Esqueda of Michael’s Is Not Impressed by Laura Bush

"Dan Quayle was sitting there last night. He was really nice, very friendly."Photo: Melissa Hom
Foodies may not be familiar with Michael’s, but for Manhattan media movers, it’s the center of the culinary universe — from noon to 2 p.m., anyway. (Check out Fishbowl’s weekly rundown of boldfaced lunchers.) We asked server Liz Esqueda to take us into the belly of the beast.

The editors and journalists who eat there must be pretty jaded. Has anyone ever electrified the room?
Laura Bush walked in a few weeks ago, and people raised their eyebrows.

How do you distinguish the important executives from the average Joe?
We have a meeting before we’re on the floor every day. We’ll go through the list of who drinks what. Ron Perelman always has a Diet Coke.

How do you lay claim to the coveted booths in the front of the room?
It’s how often you come here. There are people who’ve been coming for seventeen years. They’re treated like kings.

Who’s eaten at table one recently?
Dan Quayle was sitting there last night. He was really nice, very friendly. Bette Midler. I think I served Neal Sedaka, the singer.

Why is Joe Armstrong the "Mayor of Michael’s"?
He’s here pretty much every day. He’s very funny. He’s from Texas so we have a special boot on his table that another customer bought for him. We put it out with the flowers in it. Willie Nelson came in here last year, and he actually signed it.

When’s the best time to get a table?
Wednesdays are probably the most difficult day. It’s chiller in the summer. Towards the end of season, November, December, it’s a lot more difficult. Usually Mondays and Fridays are the easiest, but lately they’ve been very busy as well.

Michael’s used to have a mandatory 15 percent tip. What’s your average? What was your biggest?
I usually average between 20 and 22 percent. Sometimes I’ll get 40 to 50 percent; Diane Sawyer actually did [that].

Has Michael Wolff come into his former lunch spot since publicly swearing it off?
[Pause.] I don’t know the name. Maybe I’d know him if I saw him