Wait. How can one begin to review the 5th best restaurant in the world? A restaurant with not one, not two, but three Michelin stars. My expectations didn’t exist. Zilch. All I ever wanted was to enter New York City’s Eleven Madison Park, dash past the host stand into the bar, and maybe grab a couple of bites with a few drinks. Surprisingly, our reality in the end was the best restaurant experience of my entire life. I can’t imagine being any happier than those few hours sitting at… the bar.
Yes! The bar was indeed the key to no reservation happiness. We amazingly unlocked seat-joy without a reservation. What is up with that? For those who do not know, getting a table here doesn’t happen fast. Open Table promised we should calm down and forget about it because there was no way we would be dining until around 28 days from the attempted moment of trying to dine. I usually believe Open Table, but decided to go with my heart. If you want something bad enough, and actually believe it can be achieved, then anything is possible. This is how I feel, so it must be true.
The plan we initially planned can be found— here. Please follow the blue link and read the article carefully. This is the only way to be on the up and up with what’s going on. (Five minutes pass…) Now that all internet people have read the previously planned attempt to get into Eleven Madison Park without a reservation, just wait until you read the following fairy tale food story. Please prepare to cry, sniffle, and sneeze.
Our cab driver’s name is— Arson— and he was almost as excited as we were about sneaking into Eleven Madison Park. We didn’t even say “Arson? Like burning something on purpose?” We knew he had probably grown up with everyone asking such an annoyingly obvious name-relation question. He probably was in such a great mood our entire cab ride because we never said anything about his name being– Arson.
It wasn’t even five o’clock when mom and I attempted to open none other than the Eleven Madison Park door. With a mini-push, this door suddenly opened. Heaven has never divided cumulus clouds this fast, opening the sky to let at least four dozen choirs of angels belt out songs of intense door-opening-early joy. To the right was the only person who could crush our dream within seconds– The Hostess. She owns the words of complete devastation, which are “Do you have a reservation?”
Instead, she let us know the kitchen wasn’t open yet and to simply have a seat at the bar. Come again? Maybe she thought we had a reservation and arrived a bit early, like responsible customers probably do. Mom and I acted Oscar-worthy as we pretended the employee’s words were no big deal as we casually took a seat at– the bar. And there we were. Two people sitting at the only place that mattered.
None of the bartenders were Biff-like in the least. They were so nice it almost hurt. They chatted even when they were busy, gave recommendations, and unknowingly helped us begin our journey into a la carte menu ecstasy. One bartender even suggested we sit at a two-top at the bar, which is an actual table. Having a table without a reservation? Just when we thought we couldn’t handle anything else, a reserved sign arrived. Double wow.
It was at this moment we began to put pieces of a massive puzzle together. We noticed the manager repeatedly walking by. My mother thought maybe the gig was up. Did he realize we weren’t worthy? Did he know we were winging it without a reservation, even though a reservation isn’t necessary at the bar? Was our charade of belonging unraveling out of control? So many questions surrounding the mysterious manager circling us like a crow– an attractive crow, though.
He finally walked over to tell me the bartenders let him know I had written an article about eating without a reservation. He first asked if it was the article from Grub Street. He then asked when the article was written. I told him it was written the day before while I was on a plane headed to New York City. He said calls to the restaurant had doubled the same day it was written. He said they couldn’t figure out why and had even asked his PR people if the restaurant had sent out a press release of some kind. This makes me feel validated as a writer. Go figure. Is anyone else excited? Can the roof be raised higher? Even the haters must raise the roof for Almost Veggies. It’s the right thing to do.
We were soon in the kitchen taking a look behind the scenes and it was bucket list AMAZING. It was double, triple, and quadruple wow all over the place. There’s a special spot they take their #1 customers to, like mom and I, for a perfect view of the kitchen in action. A lady walked over and quickly began making a snow cone that isn’t actually called a snow cone because it is way more important than a snow cone. Mom listened to details about this cone of glorious colors, but I could only stand locked in a slow motion moment of Eleven Madison Park kitchen shock.
After returning to our spot at the bar, because we decided we love the bartenders more than our reserved two-top, we stuffed ourselves while slowly soaking in the highest level of unbelievable happiness. This is when a signed copy of Daniel Humm’s cookbook was gently placed in front of my face. Are you kidding me? Please. At this point we had to either leave or explode.
A very special thank you to Chef de Cuisine Chris Flint and his almighty tattoos, the manager, and especially the bartenders wearing the fanciest black glasses in the city. You all made our dining experience one that will forever be treasured.
Food Pictures With Hardly Any Descriptions…
TEN: Check Pulse, Please. May Have Died From Happiness
FIVE: High 5!
FOUR: Please & Thank You
TWO: Double Wow
ONE: Wow + Ouch = Wouch
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY