Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hank's: In the holding pen

How do you feel about the restaurant policy of not seating you until the full party is present? There is an elaborate discussion of that in Chowhound, which you can check out here. For me, I can see both sides of the issue, and rather than take sides, I argue that it is all about how the policy is executed.

Here are my criteria for how such a policy could work successfully:

1) Have a spacious bar or other area where people can wait for their full party to assemble
2) Be flexible: if it is early in the evening and/or there are tables available, consider seating the early arrivals.
3) A good attitude can go a long way.
4) So can really good food (maybe).

One restaurant that flunks abysmally on all these criteria is Hank's Oyster Bar. They have a tiny bar area, a completely inflexible policy, and a sucky attitude in enforcing it (hmmm...maybe inflexibility and sucky attitude go hand in hand). But it is the lack of appropriate space for incomplete parties that is the clincher for me at Hank's: if you are doomed to arrive ahead of your dining companions, and the tiny bar is full, and if it happens to be a cold winter night, precluding you from strolling around on the sidewalk -- well, then, your only alternative is to wait in Hank's Holding Pen, a tiny area between the hostess' podium and the door, which is further cordoned off from the restaurant by a thick curtain. Perhaps these indignities may be worthwhile if the food was really to die for, but frankly, after multiple visits -- and really wanting to love Hank's, after all the hype -- it's really not.

Update, September 13, 2011: Since I first posted about Hank's, the restaurant has expanded and now has a bigger bar and a lounge area. So, the problem of having a dignified place to wait for your party has been addressed. Attitude and food are about the same. And the curtain rod (though not the curtain) is still in place near where the hostess' podium used to stand (look for it on the ceiling in the front right hand side of the dining room). On the bright side, the cheese bar upstairs looks tempting, and I do think the private room is quite beautiful.

Hank's Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

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