Welcome to The Gatekeepers, a 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 8/11
Son of a Gun is the newish sophomore effort from the food dudes, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, the twosome responsible for matching foie gras and SPAM with surprising harmony at Animal, their solo debut. The seafaring restaurant, Son of a Gun, is nearing its six month anniversary and, not surprisingly, remaines packed to the gills. Here now, the captains steering this ship, Director of Operations/Beverage Director Helen Johannesen and General Manager/Sommelier Daniel Warrilow, on the ebb and flow of service plus advice on scoring a last minute bite.
How far in advance do you need to call to make a reservation at Son of a Gun? HJ: We take reservations 30 days in advance, and we have 10 tables that can be reserved. The other half of our dining room is made up of a bad-ass 20 seat communal table and five seats at the bar that are all first come first serve. So really, you don't need to call for a reservation at all, you can just walk in with great ease. DW: if you find yourself craving a lobster roll at the last minute, you can also give us a call and we can let you know if there is even a wait at all.
It's 8PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? HJ: The last couple of Saturdays there hasn't been a wait for the communal table. The most you would end up waiting is about 15 to 20 minutes, not too shabby! Have a drink at the bar, maybe slurp down some oysters and poof you have two seats at the communal table. And of course, if people do not show up for their reservations we give those tables away to waiting customers. DW: The most important thing to remember is, over half of the restaurant is dedicated to walk-ins, so the chances of you sitting without a reservation are better than trying to make a reservation the day of.
Is there anything I can do to make my wait shorter? HJ: If you head on in at 6PM it's like shooting fish in a barrel. You pretty much have the lay of the land. Otherwise I'd recommend having a cocktail to ease your anxiety. Our goal is to serve food and drink to everyone who comes to our restaurant, it's our priority to not have you wait too long. DW: I would walk in, put my name on the list, and take a stroll down 3rd St, it helps pass the time until we give you a call.
Has anyone tried to slip you a bribe or name drop at the door to get a table? HJ: Bribes? Not so much. People try and name drop all the time. Sometimes I don't even know whose name they are dropping. But if it's the night of, usually there's not much we can do if every seat in the house is already taken, and we'll try our best to accommodate people as soon as we can—no matter who they say they know. DW: I've encountered a few pushy folks that "know" people. Whether they "know" someone or "are" someone, it doesn't change the fact that we serve the same great food to everyone, no matter who you are. That goes the same for tables, we only have 10, it's not like we can setup a woodworking shop to make new tables anyway.
How many seats are in the space? HJ: There are 55 seats.
When you're not at Son of a Gun, where are you eating? HJ: Jinpachi, Mozza, Bouchon, Jitlada, Red Medicine. DW: Terroni, Bouchon, Red Medicine, Robata Jinya.
What's your favorite seat in the house? HJ: The captain's chairs at the bar for some big fishing. DW: Same here, front row for some cocktail action.
How do customers respond to the no alterations policy? HJ: They respond really well. Generally people don't have an issue with it, and for those who do, it's a new experience for them, so perhaps a part of what they don't like is them accepting something they're not familiar with. DW: We have an amazing clientele that understands what we are doing, and respects our vision. Sometimes we have newcomers, by the end of the meal, they are in love with the food, and wouldn't change a thing.
Do you find customers compare Animal and Son of a Gun? HJ: Of course they do, but we do look at them as two totally separate restaurants. I've found that people who go to both of our restaurants love them each for different reasons, but they still find a familiar thread that links them together. We try and spread good vibes all over our restaurants!
Do you have a lot of repeat guests? HJ: Yes, we do. We love you regulars! DW: Ditto, thanks everyone!
Tell us about your favorite customers. HJ: I won't mention anyone specifically, but obviously we love it when friends, family, and other restaurant industry people come in. My favorite customers are the ones who understand what we're trying to do and accept, relish, and throughly enjoy the experience of eating at Son of a Gun. Any guests that leave happy are my favorites. DW: We love everyone, sometimes my favorites are the people that don't expect to have a great meal. It gives us the opportunity to blow their minds!
Right now Son of a Gun is open daily for dinner. Any plans to launch lunch service? HJ: We do have plans to launch for lunch. We don't have a specific date set, but it is in the near future—a few months away, hopefully.
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