I’ve never bribed my way into a restaurant. I’ve never slipped a C-note or greased a palm. In truth, I’ve never even considered it. I’ve assumed, of course, that people do such things. I’ve seen my share of Cary Grant movies. I’ve heard—and wondered whether such old-fangled gestures would work in the high-stakes, high-hype world of New York City restaurants. For everyday diners in Manhattan, cracking the waiting list at Nobu is said to be harder than getting courtside tickets for the Knicks. But is that true?
Curious, I hatched a plan. I would go to some of the hardest-to-penetrate restaurants in New York armed with little more than an empty stomach, an iron-clad willingness to be humiliated, and a fistful of dough. Most people (including the editors of this magazine) assumed I would get turned down at half the places on my list. “You’ll never get into Daniel,” said one. “Union Square Cafe?!” said another. “Forget it.”