Ask a Waiter

Prune’s Cynthia Rojas on Diners Shy and Naughty

“They freak out over the sweetbreads because they think they’re brains.”Photo: Melissa Hom
Ask Cynthia Rojas what she overhears in Prune’s tiny dining room, as we did, and you might blush (as we did). She often finds herself defending bone marrow to the finicky, but here she tells us how to beat the interminable brunch line.

Cynthia Rojas

54 E. 1st St., between First and Second Aves.; 212-677-6221

You work in a tiny 35-seat space. Ever overhear anything interesting?
Couples fighting. It’s definitely interesting to see a dinner go sour. Occasionally there’s sex in the bathroom. One time, you could hear and see the couple — they were up against the door, with the curtain flailing. They were probably in their mid-40s, from uptown, slumming it. The sex didn’t last long.

Prune, meanwhile, is notorious for its wait time at brunch …
It’s an hour to an hour and a half. Sometimes two hours. They wait in the snow, the rain. I would never wait anywhere for brunch. I’m capable of making an egg at home.

How do you avoid it?
Arrive about ten minutes before we open [at 10 a.m.]. Usually there’ll be a line, but if we open the doors and the restaurant immediately fills up, your wait will only be half an hour. Saturdays are less busy than Sundays.

Is there pressure to turn over tables?

Tons. There’s a server who has a funny, superstitious trick, which I don’t think works: She’ll sprinkle a little salt on the floor behind the table.

How do customers respond to the small-room experience?

They’ll befriend the table next to them, share food. There are a lot of exchanges of phone numbers and e-mails.

Are people grossed out by dishes like the bone marrow served inside the bone?

There’s something about people who have never gone to a farm and have never thought about where their food comes from. Even the idea of a whole fish freaks people out. They freak out over the sweetbreads because they think they’re brains.

Have things changed since April, when chef-owner Gabrielle Hamilton had a baby?
Prune is all about her aesthetic and her interests and her style. Without her there as much, you do lose a bit.

Daniel Maurer

Prune’s Cynthia Rojas on Diners Shy and Naughty