The opinion of New York Times food critic Pete Wells can make or break your restaurant.
That’s why even though the famous foodie tries to remain as anonymous as possible, New York restaurants often have his picture hanging in the back so their staffs can treat him like royalty if he ever shows up.
So it was shocking that in his most recent review “A Seredipitous Trip to Spain,” it was revealed the most famous man in the NYC food industry was left waiting so long for a table that he went to eat somewhere else:
“They say we’re looking at two hours. They will call us.”
This was the grim report from inside the latest East Village restaurant to have turned its no-reservations policy into a viral marketing campaign. A small, hungry mob was gathering on the sidewalk. Hoping to find a pleasant place to drink and snack until the phone rang, I herded my group to Huertas, a new Basque-leaning tapas place a few blocks away.
This restaurant’s staff — if they know who they are — must be kicking themselves. Instead of eating at the original mystery establishment, Wells walked to Huertas a few blocks away and gave them an absolutely glowing two star review:
The room smelled like garlic and smoke. A cured pig’s leg sat at the end of the bar, its ankle held tightly in a clamp. A sharp knife had exposed its interior architecture of meat and fat and sinew. Later, we ordered a few slices of this Iberico ham, and as it melted on our tongues, warm and salty, we all traded looks. We did it again when we ate crumbly shards of aged manchego that tasted of brown butter and caramel. The looks meant: This kitchen knows where to get the good stuff.
Later on the other restaurant did call to let the Wells party know their table was ready, but “we didn’t want to leave.” Ouch.
No word yet on which restaurant turned Wells away for two hours, though it is in the vicinity of the Momofuku Ssäm Bar, which doesn’t do reservations.
Moral of the story: Never keep Pete Wells waiting. And get a reservation at Huertas because it’s about to get extremely busy.
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