First, the question everyone always asks — what’s the best way to score a reservation?
The lines open at 3 p.m. and the bookings [for that day] are done by 4 p.m. The hostess is literally like, “I’m going to get a cup of coffee now,” because we’re booked. 6 p.m. is a good time for people to stop by [for one of the bar seats]. We don’t sit four at the bar— it’s usually one, two, or three. Late at night is great—before last call. But don’t waste your time coming to PDT if you just want a rum and Coke— why go through all that when you can get that anywhere?
Okay, so it’s annoying when people order boring mixed drinks. Any other pet peeves?
To ask, “Can I have that cocktail but with vodka?” The bartenders sometimes spend months working on a cocktail. I’ll have to explain, “We can’t serve it that way because the gin is infused with roses and that’s part of the cocktail.”
What do you say to someone who says something like, “What’s good that has tequila in it?”
I might recommend a tequila old-fashioned. If they like a margarita I might suggest the El Puente. It has a rinse of mescal, and it has a dry vermouth and tequila and a lime-juice element. It’s a little bit dry.
Is “dry” part of the cocktail lexicon?
Dry means it’s sort of a simple cocktail— it stays more true to the spirit; there’s not much of a juice element.
Do people try to show off their cocktail knowledge?
The funniest thing is men that come in and they’re a little bit afraid of the glasses; they’re like, “Don’t give me anything that’s in that little girlie glass.” Or they’re like, “Get me something strong.” I say, “I’m going to get you a Staggerac— it’s 147-proof.” It’s funny to watch them sit through that. It’s like having four drinks in one.
You’re sort of an industry clubhouse; who can you find there on an average night?
People from Momofuku, Tailor, Per Se, Blue Hill. All the bartenders from Milk and Honey, Death & Co., Little Branch... In some way they feel like we’re a little family.
Is there a “mayor” of PDT—someone who’s there all the time?
Wylie Dufresne and his wife have a standing [weekly] reservation. They’re bar people. He’s really into trying what the bar is working on.
Do industry types have to go through the reservationist like everyone else, or do you hook them up?
That’s one of the perks of knowing someone that works here; you can give them a call and say, “I would like to come in tonight— put me on the list for a reservation.” Yes, we’ll do that for you.
So does David Chang come in and eat the Chang dog?
I think he came in once and had it. He usually likes his whiskey on the rocks.
Have there been other inventions like that?
John Deragon created the bagel hot dog — it was a moment of genius for him. It’s basically a deep-fried, half-pork-half-beef Crif Dog with scallions and cream cheese— it’s so wrong it’s so good.
Do people get confused about the telephone booth that serves as your front door?
One night this gentleman was really drunk and bought a Crif Dog g-string. He thought it was the bathroom. He was in the phone booth and our hostess opened the door to see this man taking his pants off. He didn’t have his g-string on yet. We were horrified. I was like, “Please get your pants on and leave!”