We’ve been coming to NYC for years. Many moons ago, our dear friend, Nancee, the great connector, made arrangements for us to go to dinner at Balthazar – a French brasserie in Soho. We were staying in midtown and decided to walk down to the restaurant on Spring Street. I can’t remember what time of year it was, but it was a nice evening for a walk. As we neared Union Square, the sidewalk started to get crowded with lots of people coming up the subway stairs. And there was chanting. And there were signs. And the streets were packed. And there were lots of police. It was one of the first Black Lives Matter marches and we were swept up into it without knowing it. As the crowds gathered, the police and the crowds started to block the streets. We couldn’t get through in the direction we needed to go and honestly, we didn’t really know what was going on. Everything was at a standstill so we decided to forego the reservation and head back toward midtown. (Believe me…now I’d be right there with the marchers.)
Luckily, on our next trip to NYC, we made sure to go to Balthazar and ever since then…it’s been a staple on our schedule. There’s just something about the ambience, the service, the food – the vibe that brings us back again and again. I think I’ve been there 6 times on this trip alone. We’ve been for breakfast and lunch, but today I asked Glen if we’d ever made it for dinner. We don’t think so which is kinda weird except if you know us…we turn into pumpkins when it gets dark.
Anyway, I digress…On this trip we’ve taken all of our guests to Balthazar. We met Ahmad, our Chico connection for lunch, we brought our Texas friends for lunch and Blair for breakfast. We’re never disappointed. On one of Glen’s trips, I went for lunch by myself (which I think I wrote about in an earlier post). I was wowed when the maitre’d brought a glass of champagne which they offer to all of their “solo” guests.
Today after we went to the Banksy exhibit (Glen’s writing about that, I think), we went for lunch. It’s the first time we’ve been without a reservation because I couldn’t get one. I wasn’t worried though because I follow Keith McNally on Instagram. He’s the owner of Balthazar and he sometimes posts the daily review from the maitre’d which notes the number of reservations, walk ins, cancellations and no shows. There are always plenty of walk ins so I figured…no problem. Well, when we got there, there was a line at the outdoor maitre’d station. I sort of snuck my way up and asked for a table for two and was told to just hang on a minute. More people came up and were told it would be an hour. Hmmm…The maitre’d returned, asked us inside or out? and took us to the table right by the entrance which was an awesome seat for people watching!
As he seated us he said something about the table being at the “center of everything” and I said that it was fine, but he had to let us know if someone famous came in. He laughed and said he would. AND as soon as we were settled in, a waiter brought us two glasses of champagne from the maitre’d. I think just because we were patient and polite (unlike a few people outside).
But that’s not even the best part! As we were sitting down, I looked over my shoulder and said to Glen, “That might be Keith McNally, the owner.” I opened up IG and showed Glen some photos of him. Glen thought it might be him and asked our waitress if it was him and she confirmed it. She said he’d been there all day and she’d had to be ON her game! Glen encouraged me to go talk with him, but me being me…I asked a different maitre d’ if Mr. McNally liked people to go up to him and he said no, that he is shy. So I didn’t. He did say that Mr. McNally likes to get postcards that diners receive with their check. I remembered that in an article I read about him mentioned that he has had a stroke and he doesn’t like to do interviews because his speech is impaired which may be why he doesn’t like to talk with random strangers! Shortly after that Mr. McNally left and there was a visible relaxation by the wait staff. Everything that I’ve read about the restaurant says that the pay is good, staff is treated well and they are loyal – some have been there since the beginning. And apparently, Balthazar got PPP money and the staff was all paid through the pandemic and Balthazar survived – actually it looks like it THRIVED!
So before we left, I wrote a note to Mr. McNally letting him know that we always enjoy our meals, that the staff is awesome and that I’ll “see” him on IG. So here’s my picture “with” the famous Keith McNally! Should I post it and tag him?