Friday, January 7, 2011

Table for One - Post written 11-30-10

Last night I was very rudely reawakened to the fact that getting a table for one at any decent Los Angeles eatery is sometimes one of the most difficult things to score.   My daughter was in town for Thanksgiving and I dropped her off to meet some friends for dinner in Los Feliz.    They had invited me to join them, but I had other plans and, after dropping her off,  headed for West Hollywood to seek a quiet dinner and go over some writing I've been working on.

I didn't want to go too far because she was going to take a taxi to meet me if they finished before me, so I called a very popular Italian osteria on Highland for a reservation.  I'd been there thrice before and knew it was not an easy one to get.   It was almost 9:00 p.m. on a Monday and I thought my chances might be good though.   The hostess told me they could seat me at 9:15 and smiling at my good luck, I headed over there.

Not surprisingly, the restaurant was very crowded and the hostess said they were still waiting for my table to clear so I headed for the bar and a glass of wine while I was waiting.

The bar was crowded too so I turned around and set my glass on one of two great French marble top tables that serve as standing only extensions of the bar.  As I stood sipping my wine, I noticed that the large round table in front of me was occupied by a husband and wife who have a hit weekend night TV drama and one or two of their ensemble fellow actors and their spouses.  I smiled to myself because this same nice looking couple had said hello to me as they passed my table leaving another restaurant in Beverly Hills earlier in the year.  You know, your eyes casually meet and you smile at each other, perhaps recognizing something in the other that is like you...

Anyway,  I continued to wait and take some time out to relax and day dream a little. Meanwhile they were seating larger parties and parties of two and three.  Of course I understand that larger parties are more lucrative for restuarants,  so one of the maitre d's comes over and apologizes and tells me that they have lots of room at the dining bar (where they usually direct people without reservations).    I tell him I prefer to wait for the table, as I wanted to kick back and relax.  The hostess had told me they had one for me.

Well, to make a long story short, half an hour and another glass of wine later, I was still waiting for a table when the maitre'd came over and asked me how I was doing.   "I was doing a lot better when I got here!"  I smiled.    I noticed they were cleaning up a small  table on the bar side of the room, and I looked at him and he looked at me and I know he knew what I was thinking.  Five minutes later, they showed me to the table.

By that time, I knew I was the topic of conversation at the star studded round table.  I had avoided looking their way, but I think they were sympathetic and maybe a little curious.

I don't feel bad dining alone.  Sometimes it is a choice because I enjoy discreet (in this town) people watching, hoping for ideas but also because I do some of my best writing with a good glass of wine and great food in a congenial atmosphere.  I'm really very content and am secure enough to know that I am also a topic of interest and don't mind it,  but I have to say that last night I earned some points in someone's book because I, for some reason, had to stiffen my spine considerably in facing the upscale crowd at this popular foodie restaurant.  

The attractive actor-director husband kept looking my way.  I tried very hard not to look back after the first eye contact and proceeded to order my favorite salad (noting to the waiter that they had changed it somewhat from my previous visits) and followed that with the short rib over polenta with horseradish gremolata entree and lots of crusty fried bread and butter.

I had just pulled out my small pad and was making some notes when I got a text from my daughter asking me to join them for dessert.    I playfully showed it to the third very solicitous male who came to my table to see how I was doing.  I have a feeling they thought I might be a food critic since I had pointed out the difference in the salad (regular bacon that used to be pancetta and soft boiled egg when it used to be a quail egg).   The grapefruit sections were missing too.

Perversely,  after showing him the text message I asked him if I should join my daughter or have her join me as planned?   Of course,  I was going to join her....and took a small satisfaction in telling him.  The apologies for the wait and the fact they knew I was a little annoyed, even though I was smiling,  kept coming.

Meanwhile, from my periphreal vision, I noted the director  (putting on his fedora) looked my way again as they were getting ready to leave.  I wondered if he too got story ideas from observing people (even at restaurants) and wondered whether I might see a sympathetic story arc on the plight of females seeking "tables for one" in one of his shows.

By the time I asked for my bill, the crowd was thinning.  I signed the check then made a point of going to the bar and tipping the waiter cash for the two glasses of wine they had carried over to my tab.  He smiled at me gratefully and I turned around and straightened to my full height,  making as graceful an exit as I could manage.

Once at another popular restaurant a good looking, young bartender I'd made friends with came over and sat down at my table during his break.   He wanted to know what the hell a woman like me was doing dining alone and without a man paying my bills?   "A woman like me likes to pay her own way."  I told him.  But  if I ever meet that one special fellow that is "worth it" again,  then perhaps I'll let him pay.

Until then and for the writing ideas and excitement... I'll keep being a "table for one" kind of gal when the mood strikes me.  As for this particular restaurant, I'll be back.   I like the food too much.   Hopefully they'll remember me.  

Songs out of tune, the words always a little wrong...Canzoni Stonate

Note from the author:

There are some very well known restaurants that started out like this, where I now not only get a table,  even when they are busy, but a kiss on the hand or a hug from one of the principals.  Persistence pays off.

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