National: VIP 101

It wasn’t too long ago that we found ourselves eating dinner a few tables away from — no, seriously, ready for this? — Posh and Becks. The hyper-cheekboned ubercelebrities from Britain were pouting at each other over a white tablecloth not ten feet from ours. It was pretty fantastic — not only to watch them consume a near-silent dinner (Posh’s back was to us, so we can neither confirm nor deny any aspect of her eating habits), but to watch the waitstaff perform an elaborate dance of plating, clearing, and surreptitiously throwing in little extra courses like a second amuse, and a third amuse, and extra sorbet, and a flute of champagne, and petits fours was exhilarating.

We were a few courses behind the wonder couple, so we kept expecting to get what they were getting. And we kept not getting it. Why? Because they’re Posh and Becks, and we’re … well, we’re us. About the only person who gives us the special treatment is our grandma, and even then it’s only if we’ve remembered to call home often enough.

Enter Will Schwalbe, former editor-in-chief of Hyperion East books (where he oversaw titles from folks like Bobby Flay, Simon Hopkinson, and Nigella Lawson). Schwalbe claims that his food-world celebrity collections aren’t the reason he always gets treated so well when he goes out — instead, he claims he’s just happened onto a set of behavior that gets him the VIP treatment at the sort of restaurant where you want VIP treatment — the Slanted Doors and Restaurant Gary Dankos of the world.

Schwalbe’s hints are old hat to anyone who’s used to the cutthroat world of foodieism: Be one of the first customers to dine at a restaurant once they open. Introduce yourself to the bartender and the maitre d’. Tip well (we’re talking 25% or more). Critically important: Don’t be a demanding jerk.

It’s a helpful compilation of tips, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. And for all that being a perfect guest will help keep you from getting actively neglectful service, it certainly won’t guarantee that you’ll be the toast of the dining room. To be treated like a king, after all is said and done, there are two routes: One, which Schwalbe hits on, is to become a regular. Visit often, engage with the staff, and bring guests. And two, which is just a smidgen harder, is to land that leading role in a feature film, accidentally release your sex tape with the mayor, or score that reviewing gig at the Chronicle — you know, be an actual VIP.

9 Tricks for Getting a Table (and Being a VIP) at Hot Restaurants [Four-Hour Workweek]
The Slanted Door [MenuPages]
The Slanted Door [Official Site]
Restaurant Gary Danko [MenuPages]
Restaurant Gary Danko [Official Site]

[Photo via noinput’s Flickr

National: VIP 101