Discover more from The Supersonic
The 8 Worst Words to Say to a Loyal Guest
A seemingly innocent question that makes a restaurant’s best customers feel like their love is unrequited
I’ve been told I have commitment issues. Each month, JP Morgan Chase and I have a heart-to-heart, where my credit card statement suggests that my dining habits look a lot like someone trying to navigate the modern New York dating scene — I’m always moving on from one restaurant to the next. In some ways, my commitment issues have been a superpower: dining around has helped me learn the city, meet new people, or seem cool for having dinner next to [insert random movie star or Knicks player] in SoHo. My friends and colleagues know that I’ve always got the intel on the newest openings, up-and-coming chefs, fire menu items, and exclusive tables. And because of this, I’m constantly bouncing around the city, from one culinary fling to the next. But amidst my endless chase to dine everywhere, connections to individual restaurants have been fleeting. The intimacy of being known, of being remembered, of feeling special, has been lost, and when I do sometimes start settling down with a place, going multiple times a month, making it my steady regular, I’ve had my heart broken by eight seemingly innocent words:
“Is this your first time dining with us?”
Imagine that. Dining at a restaurant you’ve been to many, many times, that you’ve brought plenty of friends to, or have been to celebrate some of your biggest life moments, and each time you sit down, you’re greeted as a stranger. Each time you sit down, a waiter offers to walk you through the menu as if you couldn’t recite it from memory top to bottom.
“Is this your first time dining with us?” No, it’s actually my 16th time here and at this point in our relationship, the fact that you don’t know my name, birthday, and favorite dish is utterly offensive and is grounds for breaking up.
“Is this your first time dining with us?” feels like being on a fourth date, and the date forgets my name. Are they even paying attention? That simple question is a harsh reminder that no matter how much I love the restaurant, I’m just another face in the crowd. For all of the moments we’ve shared together, what do I have to show? A few restaurant-branded matchbooks? Bragging rights? Hefty credit card statements? What kind of relationship is this? Where is that enduring sensation that makes me feel…special?
In the last year or so, I think I’ve found it. I found love in Minetta Tavern. It serves what I think is the best damn burger in New York City. Our first date was six years ago but we’ve hung out plenty since then. When I lived in the West Village, we saw each other frequently. When I moved to San Francisco, I saw Minetta on my occasional visits to New York. Nowadays, there’s a really dope bartender that doesn’t remember my name (yet) but knows my face and knows that if I walk in solo, I’m looking for a seat at the bar asap and that I’ll be having a “Minetta Burger, medium-rare, no tomato please.”
On a recent visit, a friend and I sat at the bar and got a slice of their coconut cake on the house. The act itself was far from groundbreaking—I’ve received freebies before— but it felt different coming from a bartender that recognized me as a familiar face and loyal patron. That slice of coconut cake was Minetta Tavern expressing feelings; the restaurant knew I had a crush and Minetta was crushing back. As my friend and I enjoyed the cake, I couldn’t help but think: “Damn, did this restaurant just shoot its shot at me? Are we serious now?”
I actually dined at Minetta Tavern this past Friday, and can confirm: we are indeed serious now. No freebies this time around, but amidst the influx of patrons arriving for 7 p.m. reservations, a warm “Welcome back” from the bartender told me everything I needed to know. We’re going to take things slow because (1) it’s a little pricey and (2) I’ve been cutting back on my red meat, but this relationship is far beyond casual.
Minetta Tavern and I, we’re definitely building something special. But to all the lovely restaurants reading this, please don’t be dissuaded from shooting your shot as well – my heart is big enough to share the love (my wallet may be a different story) so I’m always open to new romances. But before you shoot your shot, just remember that “is this your first time dining with us?” is the worst pickup line ever.