Curtis Duffy’s Grace, one of the most highly anticipated restaurants of the year because of the chef’s Alinea, two-Michelin-star pedigree, will open next Tuesday, December 11— a date, we are told, that was widely reported before it was quite firm enough to be true. In any case it’s true now and though Tuesday was instantly booked, other dates are open between now and the end of the year. But last night, six days before that official opening, a party took place in the private dining room of the otherwise empty restaurant, and nine guests became the first people to eat there. Who were these VIPs? What immense pull did they have to get into one of the hottest restaurants on earth before it was even open? Was it Mayor Emanuel? Michelle Obama? Michael Jordan? Naah, none of that, says Michael Muser, general manager of the restaurant. It was just some regular guests who really lucked out.
“I took this reservation three, four months ago,” said Muser before service last night, “and at the time I’m thinking, there’s no way we’re not going to be open by December, I mean, come on, we’re talking [opening by] late October, early November at the worst. Technically we’re open now, we’re ready to go, but we’re still playing and tweaking with things; Chef’s not quite where he wants to be, I’m not where I want to be. But I took this reservation, so I honored it.”
How’d the guests feel about being Grace’s accidental guinea pigs? “They’re super excited. I mean, look, we’re ready. There’s no question these guys are going to get great service, there’s like 9 servers for 9 people,” Muser laughed. “Thank God we just finally said December 11, because if you left it up to Curtis and I, we’d be open in like four months, because we’re never going to stop.”