One aspect of my NYC trip that I haven't really dived into, for many, many different reasons but all equally puzzling & strange, was this dining experience that reminded me that there are some spaces that I still don't believe I belong in. To be fair, it was more of an attempt at a dining experience because I didn't even make it into the restaurant.
I booked an excursion to NYC as a gift to myself for my birthday that included some truly chaotic travel plans I've referenced in a previous post. My goal was to experience this city as an adult & take a deep dive into a city that has always found itself at the center of culinary, wine and hospitality experiences. Setting the Table by Danny Meyer is one of my all time favorites books, so I was rereading it in lieu of the trip & getting excited about what my palate was potentially going to experience. All my big dinner plans were slotted for Monday night, a night I thought would sku towards the quiet side and provide me with multiple restaurants to try without the long waits or need for reservations.
I was SORELY mistaken. Monday night felt like a Saturday evening at peak hours with lines spilling out of every door & a clear need for a reservation booked several months in advance. I initially tried to support a new restaurant, Tatianna by Chef Kwame, since I had been following his journey for months prior to the trip. I tried to make reservations the week prior, but it seemed like no time slot was available, so I decided to take my chances as a walk-in on this aforementioned Monday masquerading as a Saturday.
"A Monday night that felt like Saturday on steroids----I was in the weeds, mentally & physically, just watching the staff members of different restaurants do their thing."
Rain was quickly descending on Lincoln Center as I was entering into the restaurant & I breathed a silent prayer that I'd be able to score a seat at the bar of this restaurant. The host team promptly informed me that they were fully committed for the evening----no surprise considering how new the restaurant was------but I could try my hand at the bar which was first come, first serve. Currently rolling my eyes as I type this because I already knew that was not gonna happen, and not because I'm a pessimist, but because I work in the industry and that eight seat bar was full of patrons just beginning their dining experience. Needless to say, I didn't eat there that night.
I dashed back outside and treaded underneath a concrete awning for protection from the torrential down pour covering the entirety of Lincoln Center. I wasn't prepared to pull out my umbrella just yet and needed a second to look-up what restaurants were within walking distance. It crossed my mind to visit The Modern by Danny Meyer, and have a full circle moment. I didn't want to pay the hefty $240 price tag for the coursed menu with wine pairings, at least not at this juncture where I was so hungry, I could feel my stomach touching my back. I was also all dressed up----y'all can call me salad----and didn't want to waste the look on just any restaurant. Somehow, every restaurant I was calling or trying to make reservations for was fully committed....WTF is going down on a Monday in NYC? I finally noticed that Bar Boulud was right across the street from me, and they oddly had a reservation for 6:45pm available. I made the reservation, darted across the street with my umbrella doing God's work, and felt a lurch in my stomach just as the large glass windows to Bar Boulud fully came into focus.
"For the first time, in a long time, I felt like I didn't belong amongst these people a space that always comforted me."
A gorgeous dining room filled with smiling faces dressed to the nines from the staff to the diners greeted me. An image that should have come across as deeply warm and inviting, and possibly would have under different circumstances, halted me in my tracks. When looking at all of those diners, laughing & enjoying their meals through the window, I realized that the only one of them that looked like me was my reflection in the rain-soaked panel. I couldn't bring myself to walk in there, despite having made the reservation & despite being fully able to enjoy my time there just like everyone else. I felt like dining there would suddenly expose me as some sort of sea monster. Even amongst the crowd I would be just as alone as my reflection, relegated to always being on the outside looking in. The feeling was so great, I cancelled my reservation as I tried to process the very, very strange revelation.
Before I turned to away from my own haunting reflection and seek out another eatery, all the power in Lincoln Center went out. Bar Boulud, Tatianna, and every nook of that area had suddenly went dark & shrouded its patrons in a veil of darkness. All the General managers from the restaurants popped outside to check if their neighbors were experiencing the same phenomenon. A smirk crept across my face as I stepped back out into the rain to hail a taxi. Was this completely by chance or a divine sign that I wasn't missing out on anything? I'm inclined to believe it was that second scenario because there is no space that I should deny myself from for simply being. When that feeling, God forbid, ever lurches into my spirit again, I'll be reminded to make some space for myself at the table and so should you. Ah, thank you for coming to this Ted Talk spurred by random dining in NYC-----the hospitality industry has gifted me a well full of them, ha!
"There is no space I will deny myself from, and I'm reminded I must be ready to create a seat for myself at the table, even when it feels uncomfortable------EVERYTIME."
~A Confession from The Certified Wino~