Welcome to The Gatekeepers, a new monthly feature in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite tough-to-get tables.
Elizabeth Daniels 6/11
Red O was last year's hotly anticipated collaborative effort between Mike Dobson and Rick Teasta of Ma'Kai Lounge and Mexican maestro chef Rick Bayless. The internet was in a tizzy when word first broke of Bayless' involvement, and since its debut just over a year ago, Red O has garnered solid support from at least one critic. And who can forgo the "bouncer" outside Red O who turns away diners (without reservations) left and right? Make it past him to meet and greet Tiffany Tyler who will confirm your reservation and eventually show you to your table.
It's 8 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? If you have a reservation, it should be no time at all! If you don’t, there is a good chance we won’t even have room at the bar. We usually close the door on Saturdays around 6:30pm; after that its reservations only.
Is there anything I can do to make my wait shorter? If there is a wait, it’s because people are taking longer than planned to dine. During the weekdays, we have very little wait; on the weekends?it gets tough. We have a basic formula as to how long people dine, sometimes though they are a little longer. In this case, the guests who are the most considerate and understanding to the host staff always make more of an impression. And if for some reason a guest has to wait a bit, I find that the margaritas help pass the time!
How many seats are in the space? Approximately 150.
Tell us about your favorite customers. I don’t have a favorite. Anyone that comes into the restaurant and is eager to know more about the cuisine or the business or the restaurant in general, is always appreciated. We have quite a few guests that come in regularly and are always considerate and nice to the staff. These are definitely restaurant-wide favorites, who the waitstaff sometimes fight over to serve!
Do you get a lot of celebrities? We do but we keep that private as most that come, come to enjoy dinner and leave quietly. (We often have a few paparazzi staked out at the front door but we have quite a few tricks up our sleeve to evade them when our guests want to leave!) Some guests though like to have their picture taken, so then by all means?we let it happen! But honestly, our Chef, Rick Bayless, is the celebrity that gets the most attention. It’s amazing how many people in LA are familiar with him due to Top Chef Masters, his PBS cooking show and his cookbooks. He definitely turns some heads when he’s in the restaurant!
How do you deal with VIPs when there are no tables left to give? Sometimes we have last minute cancellations so then we can fit a celeb in at the last minute, otherwise we are equal opportunity. If you made a reservation a month out, it is my priority that we honor that.
When you're not at Red O, where are you eating? Often at home! I enjoy cooking myself.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer that you've accommodated? Fortunately at Red O, there haven’t been too many! We often have people that want to move tables, which is always interesting. I remember following one couple around the entire restaurant checking each table to see if it was a good vantage point to see everyone coming and going. After five minutes, they ended up at the initial table I had sat them! (That can tell you a lot about people!)
What's your favorite seat in the house? Red O was designed so that there is no ‘best’ table. It really depends on what type of mood you’re in, and what type of experience you’re looking for on that particular night. There are several different dining areas in the restaurant, so some people go for the community table where all the action is from the bar area, some like the lounge-y feel of the tequila lounge, and others love the dining atrium, especially when we open our roof and all of the windows. The most common comment I hear about the space, is that no matter where you sit you feel like you’ve been transported to a resort in Mexico.
What's the deal with the guy at the door? Why not let customers in to drink at the bar without a dinner reservation? We generally do let everyone that wants to come in, come in, with the exception of Friday and Saturday nights. Then it is just a space factor: there is not enough physical room for everyone to stand or sit. And we try as best as possible to maintain a good vibe for the restaurant. If we allowed everyone who wanted to to come in just for drinks, the restaurant would be a madhouse. The bar scene would inevitably dominate the vibe of the restaurant and would compromise the dining experience for our dinner guests. We are a restaurant first and foremost.
Anyway to bypass this system? On the weekends, no. It is basically crowd control!
What's the best dish on the menu? I would have to put the Cochinita Pibil and Tinga Poblano close to the top of my list. They are Bayless classics and always wonderful. You won’t get anything comparable, unless you buy a plane ticket to Chicago or Mexico! I’m really loving the Shrimp and Calamares ceviche right now. It’s so fresh and light and great for sharing. And I love the plantain chips that it comes with.
All Red O Coverage [~ELA~]