ask a waiter

At Freemans, the Deer Heads Smile and So Do the Servers

Cass Bugge

“People are pretty friendly about the deer heads — they all kind of have smiles on their faces.”Photo: Melissa Hom

Actor Cass Buggé found work at Freemans almost a year ago, shortly after the restaurant expanded and began serving brunch. Unbeknownst to her, Frank Bruni may have been one of her first customers. So does she agree with Bruni’s assessment of indifferent service? “Initially we got a bad rap for being rude,” she says. “I know that’s sometimes the rumor on the street, but if you go to Freemans, you’ll see the people are really nice. I’m really nice!” After asking her about her job, we couldn’t agree more.

So, how many people get lost trying to find the place?
You don’t get phone reception in the restaurant. When people are meeting with friends, you’ll see them yelling on their phone and they have to take it and run down the alley and see at what point they start getting reception.

What’s the best time to show up for brunch?
There are sometimes lines down the alley before we open at 11 a.m. I would say to come around 11:30 a.m. People tend to come between 1 p.m. or 2 p.m.

What’s the longest the dinner wait has ever been? When should people show up?
One time on a Friday or Saturday night in the fall, they closed the list around 8:30 or 9 at night — there was a three-hour-long wait. To be seated immediately, come around 6 p.m. when we open. Sunday or Monday you can come around 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. Another trick is that we take reservations for parties of six or more.

Do people get rowdy at the bar while waiting?
Apparently there was some woman who, when she was waiting for a table, might have flashed the host. But no one can remember who she actually was. There have been a few occasions when people were like, “Is that the flasher lady?”

Has anyone tried to bribe the host?
I don’t know. A woman was waiting for a table, and she thought she could name-drop. She had been bugging the host. She walked over to him and said, “I’m friends with Pablo.” Clearly she meant Taavo, but even Taavo has to wait.

How many diners order the artichoke dip?
I’d say a good 80 percent. When people sit down and say, “I’ll take an order of…,” I can usually finish the sentence.

Your menu rotates seasonally. What’s popular now?
People are pretty crazy about the barbecued ribs that come with homemade coleslaw and corn bread.

Your cocktails are also seasonal — are there any that aren’t on the menu right now that are worth ordering?
There’s one I really like called the Southside — it’s a gin punch with mint gin and lime juice and a little bit of simple syrup.

Do people get freaked out by the taxidermy? Has a vegetarian or vegan ever had to leave?
No. There are always jokes being made about the deer heads. Generally people are pretty friendly about them — they all kind of have smiles on their faces.

Have you had a different sort of clientele since the Times review?
I think it’s actually just that the face of the Lower East Side is changing — there are more Wall Street people living there. You’d think the preppier types would come in on Friday and Saturday nights, but you see them every night of the week.

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