The Bon Appetit Bounce

long lines
Photo by @JRogers202

Bonne Chance getting a table at Bad Saint… Thanks to Jonathan for sending:

“5pm Saturday. The line at Bad Saint”

A couple weeks ago Bad Saint took the No. 2 Spot in Bon Appetit Top 10 Best New Restaurant List. Not that it was easy to get a table before…

3226 11th Street, NW

68 Comment

  • Well, guess I won’t be going back to Bad Saint for a while.

  • I wonder, is this good for Room 11 or no? Like, if people can’t get a table at BS, would they head next door instead? I’ve done the line at Rose’s Luxury before and remember the neighboring businesses being pretty annoyed about the line blocking their storefronts.

    • I would guess it is. Four of us went to Bad Saint a couple weeks after it opened, were told it was a 2 1/2 hour wait, and went to Room 11 and had three rounds of cocktails and a snack. probably a similar bounce in business for those that are near Rose’s Luxury.

  • pcat

    I find it hard to understand why a “service” establishment provides such bad service to its customers. I would love to try Bad Saint, but I can’t imagine that it is worth standing in line for. Surely, part of the “service” a food service establishment should provide is reservations.

    • Thats not how they roll.

    • In the words of the late Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse, “Opinions vary.”

    • I’m sure they’ll sorely miss your presence.

    • In all seriousness though, why “should” they? It seems to me that a food service establishment only needs to, um, serve food (and drink, I suppose) to fulfill their mission. Anything else they do for you is their prerogative, and if people don’t like it they won’t come.
      I too won’t stand in line for this, but there are many many other great restaurants in town where I can make a reservation and have a good meal at the time of my choosing.

    • On the one hand it’s a marketing ploy not unlike bars/clubs making sure that there’s a line out front. The line indicates exclusivity and popularity, which sends a message to passers-by that the establishment is worth checking out. On the other hand, requiring someone to actually visit the restaurant and stand in line means that only people who are in it to win it will eat there. It’s unlikely that you’ll be a no-show if you have to stand in line to put in your name, though it’s not helpful for people who are interested in going but can’t take off of work at 4pm on a Tuesday to get in line.

      • Bad Saint (and others with similar policies) still have “no-shows,” especially in later hours. Some people who are called at 9:00 or later simply haven’t been willing to wait that long. However, the difference is that they just move on to the next person on the list, and likely will be able to seat someone. In contrast, if a restaurant that takes reservations has a 9:00 no show, they likely will have an empty table.

      • Real talk though, coworkers and I were talking about going tomorrow (planned before the Bon Appetit announcement). How soon do we need to be in line on a Tuesday? Anyone have recent experience for weekday crowds?

        • justinbc

          When this was asked very recently some people who live in the neighborhood indicated that it’s this way regardless of day of the week, even before the Bon Appetit article.

        • If you get there tomorrow at 4:30, you will wait for 25 hours before you get a table, but you’ll definitely be in the first seating. (They’re closed on Tuesdays.)
          Jokes aside, I went on a Monday two weeks ago as a solo diner, got in line at 4:25, and wasn’t the first in line (by a long shot). I made the first seating, and would have made the first seating if I wanted a table for two (barely), but would not have made the first seating if I wanted a table for four.

        • Whether the line is an issue depends on whether you want to eat as soon as they open. My wife and I went on a Friday evening after the Bon Appetit story came out. I got there about 5 and the line was about 30 people. Once BS opens at 5:30, the line moves quite slowly, as they explain the deal to each group (and answer questions — see below), seat the first groups of people one-by-one, and then start taking down cell phone numbers — it was probably 5:50 by the time we gave our number, and were told to expect a text around 7:45-8, which was exactly what time we had hoped for. We had a few drinks at Room 11, and got the text around 7:45. (I thought the service was terrific, and the food was good enough to justify waiting in line that once, but perhaps not more than once. If there were no line we’d be there all the time.)

          FWIW, I asked and found out that (1) the whole party does not have to wait in line, so one unlucky/chivalrous person can do that, but the whole party must be there to be seated when the time comes; and (2) if you are near enough the front of the line to get in the first seating, but would prefer to eat later, you have to mill around letting people go in front of you until the first seating is filled, and then you can put your name down.

          • I smell a small biz opportunity for someone who works from home in the area. How much would you pay someone to stand in line for you (assuming you’re not taking first seating)?

          • Interesting info–thanks.

            The Other Jason: there’s already a bevy of apps for that–Task Rabbit for instance. Last year, the Post reported it was between $30 and $40 per hour to have someone wait in line at Rose’s Luxury.

    • justinbc

      If your restaurant is full every night what need do you have for reservations…?

      • I guess it depends on whether you’re actually interested in hospitality, or just trying to pack em and maximize sales every night. Obviously Bad Saint and Rose’s Luxury will continue to do just fine without my business, and I don’t believe every restaurant in the city needs to cater to my desires, but places that adopt customer-unfriendly policies like this shouldn’t claim to be in the hospitality business.

        • justinbc

          If you’re not eating there (by your own choice), then you really can’t comment on their hospitality. Hospitality is how you treat your customers, and you’ve chosen not to be a customer. They may be giving foot massages to all the diners and you’ll never know, but judge them on their hospitality of not holding a table just for you (to potentially back out on)?

          • Sure I can. They make their customers line up on the sidewalk in the hot sun. That’s not hospitable. I mean, if I invited you to my home for a dinner party, and then made you stand around outside for an hour before inviting you in for a delicious meal and a foot massage, would you describe my behavior as hospitable? Hospitality means treating your customers like guests, not seat-fillers with credit cards.
            Restaurants all over the world have figured out how to profitably accept reservations. The idea that Rose’s, Bad Saint, or Little Serow can’t do it because someone might back out is laughable.

          • justinbc

            Just for clarification, they don’t -make- their customers do that. When the restaurant opens its doors at 5-530PM whoever is in line is allowed to come in and sit down to eat at the very limited number of seats available. Those people -choose- to stand in line because they want to ensure they get a seat. Nobody from the restaurant is forcing anyone to eat there.

          • + 1 to justinbc.
            Believe it or not, in some countries, a long line outside of a restaurant is actually a signal of a restaurants quality, and people will stand it in even if they had no prior knowledge of the place.

        • I feel like I have to post the same comment every time this discussion comes up, but “customer unfriendly policies” and “actually interested in hospitality” are in the eye of the beholder. I know that’s your opinion, and it’s a perfectly reasonable one, but I disagree. There is not an objective standard – as I said above, opinions vary.

        • It’s about creating an experience – and it works if you are a restaurant that is good enough. Many will be left behind because they are looking for an appointment, and not an experience.
          I don’t do it often, but when I do stand in line for a great meal it has always been more than worth it.

    • I went to Rose’s Luxury the other year – right before it was named best new restaurant – and found the host to be insufferable. It could have been an off night, but the guy acted like a complete jerk to my party. I doubt this would have happened had the place taken reservations, as he wouldn’t have had as much as a reason for the holier-than-thou attitude.

      • justinbc

        Of all the times I’ve been to Rose’s I’ve received nothing but exceptional hospitality from every member of the staff I’ve interacted with, so I would likely write it off to a bad night for that guy, rather than a reflection on a reservation policy.

        • I’ve only been once, but the server was so incredibly high that it distracted us from anything else. I know a lot of servers use coke while on the job, but they can usually stay under control and hide it better!

    • Ashy Oldlady

      I just read a great article about the psychology of waiting in line. To a lot of those people in the queue, the actual waiting may be as important to them as the food at the end of the line, though they might not admit it.

      • Fascinating. So I guess they enjoy the anticipation or something? Maybe in their minds it somehow means the food is going to be better, or it’s part of the “dining experience.” For me (and I’m guessing others) it’s the reason I’ve avoided places like Little Serow and Rose’s Luxury, though if it works for the restaurant then it’s their prerogative.

        • That’s really interesting. They say people enjoy an experience more if they rev up to it with planning and anticipation (say, booking a trip a year in advance instead of going on a whim) but standing in a line like cattle would definitely cheapen the experience for me.

  • justinbc

    I wonder how many of these people actually read Bon Appetit?

    • I would guess that the answer to that is hardly any…..
      Of course I look at that photo and see sheep not gourmands.

    • They may not read Bon Appetit. But there’s a pretty good chance they may have read about the Bon Appetit article, which was covered by old media and new media extensively.

      • justinbc

        Sure. But my point was more that if you don’t read a particular publication why would you place any stock in their opinion of a place?

        • It is Bon Appetit, not Canoe & Kayak. I might trust Canoe & Kayak to point me to a great scenic river trip, but not grant the same to Bon Appetit. And vice versa.
          The age of the internet hasn’t completely destroyed publications that speak with some authority on a topic.

    • justinbc

      Great read, what a unique man. Although I can’t say I trust anyone who eschews butter, sugar, and cream…

      • +1!

      • Agreed. I am perhaps overly cynical, but I have to wonder, if we had the opportunity to go through the trash, if we’d find bags of King Arthur Flour, flimsy plastic bags from the Wegmans produce section, and white Styrofoam trays from the supermarket butcher shop.

    • Fabulous article, thanks for sharing! I think this sums it up nicely: “A gourmet meal is a kind of magic act, a sleight of hand and heat, often performed with a little misdirection and some fast talk. Many restaurateurs mythologize their cuisines and pretend to be doing better than they are, to stir up interest.”

    • well, one difference is the restaurants in DC we are discussing clearly serve food every day and if you get in line early enough you can have some. The New Yorker article suggests Baehrel may not actually be serving diners regularly, and also raises questions about whether he is serving what his marketing claims.

  • andy

    Dude I have lived in DC 20 years and places I will never go that others variously now consider must do landmarks include Georgetown Cupcake, Rose’s Luxury, Bad Saint, Little Serow and so many others.

    I love eating out, like creative food, celebrate local succeeds…but I’m just not one to wait in line for such an experience. Guess I’d make a bad Soviet or Venezuelan.

    • justinbc

      The difference is that Georgetown Cupcake is famous because it was on a TV show, it really shouldn’t be lumped into a category with places that actually make good food.

      • maxwell smart

        What? You don’t like paying 4x the price for grocery store quality cupcakes? Actually that’s unfair… I think Safeway probably has better product than Georgetown Cupcake.

      • Georgetown Cupcakes “hospitality” (re: above) is actually pretty bad once you’re in the store though. I have been twice and no longer go for that reason. The college kids who pack cupcakes are too busy talking about their social lives to actually tell anyone when their stuff is ready….

    • I was at Bad Saint on a Friday night a few weeks ago, and it really wasn’t a big deal. We put our name down and an hour and a half or so later they called us. We just walked around Columbia Heights and got drinks across the street at El Chucho. Experience at Little Serrow was similar.

      These are super small spaces. Can’t blame them for wanting to minimize the amount of BS they need to deal with by not taking reservations, especially when they have a huge line of people every night.

    • Same here! My time is worth far too much to waste it standing in line outside for the privilege of giving someone money for food.

  • Things like this make me glad I rarely have an interest or need in eating out.

  • maxwell smart

    So… once you factor in 3-4 cocktails (and hopefully round 1 of food) at a nearby bar, plus whatever the prices are here (guessing dinner without drinks is in the $40+ range)… per/person this is a +$100/person night out. Yikes! People in DC clearly have WAY more disposable income than I do.

    • Or they choose to spend their disposable income differently.

      We all have things that we consider non-negotiable that are clearly negotiable for other people. Whether it is saving money to splurge on a meal like this once a year or it is forgoing cable (a friend of a friend has not had internet at home for the past 5 years) or it is having scrimped to pay off student loans early, there are ways to eat at Bad Saint and Rose’s Luxury without being rich. If you have $10 a month disposable income, you can do this once a year by own your own numbers.

      And this is DC. It’s a city. Of course there are rich people.

      • maxwell smart

        And it will take all year to get a table!

        • Maybe to accrue the vacation time to take a half day to get in line to get a table.

          (I’m tempted to try it in the winter when the waiting might suck more. It seems more accessible to a single diner than Little Serow. “Family-style service” is not a welcoming phrase to a person who chooses to dine alone.)

          • Little Serow is GREAT for a solo diner. You sit at the counter, chat with the servers – tons of fun. Plus, when you’re along “family style” turns into a traditional dining experience – one portion per plate, rather than dividing it up with your companion(s).

          • justinbc

            Yeah, to be honest, the only complaint I’ve had about Little Serow is there are too many dishes that I absolutely do not want to have to share!

    • justinbc

      You needed this photo to let you know that some people have more disposable income than you? Shouldn’t that be a given for practically anyone not named Gates, Buffett, etc?

  • I was in that line. It was something fun and different to do! I certainly wouldn’t want to wait in line for 2 hours every day for dinner but I was with friends and we chatted and talked to other people in line. Also if you want a table (there are only 2) you basically have to be in line really early. The rest of the seats are just bar seats.

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