A week before we left for New York we realized we had to make dinner reservations for our wedding night, and we forgot that even on a weeknight, it’s hard to get into some of the more popular restaurants in New York. Our main picks were Minetta Tavern and Raoul’s. At Minetta, we’d be eating burgers. At Raoul’s we’d be eating classic French. We liked that both were classic New York restaurants with history, and visually pleasing.
We had our heart set on Minetta Tavern, a restaurant with history dating back to the 1930s, but they were booked up. Apparently you have to make reservations one month in advance. My name got put on the wait list, but we knew it was a long shot. So we moved on to Raoul’s and astoundingly got a reservation there for Thursday night at 8:00 pm. Raoul’s is a bustling family-run French bistro that opened in the 1970s that’s got a mixed vibe of elegant, eclectic, and bohemian. But on Thursday, on what would have been our wedding day, I got a call from Minetta Tavern saying I got the reservation for that night. I was taken aback. I agreed to take the reservation for some odd reason. I called back and explained our situation about our last-minute wedding change and long story short, the wonderful man on the other line gave us a reservation on a Friday night at 8:30 pm with just one day notice. Luck was on our side. We almost couldn’t believe it. We felt bad about cancelling Raoul’s, but we hope to go there in the future to celebrate another special occasion, perhaps an anniversary.
There’s a bouncer at the door to Minetta and you enter through velvet curtains. It felt a bit disorienting, like we were entering a nightclub. The small restaurant was incredibly crowded, especially at the front bar area. In order to get seated at our table in the back, they literally have to pull the table out since, with the exception of a few prize tables, all two-seaters are essentially elbow-to-elbow with your neighbors. Minetta is also incredibly loud. It was funny because all night long Grant and I said to each other “what did you say?”
We didn’t mind the noise or the crowded seating. We were just happy to be there on our wedding night. The restaurant was absolutely stunning. Visually, it’s up me and Grant’s style alley. It felt like stepping back into the 1930s. Now we understand why they describe themselves as “Parisian steakhouse meets classic New York City tavern.” It felt like something straight out of a French novel or a Woody Allen movie.
The service was the best service we’ve encountered in our lives. It was simply impeccable – from our phenomenal, friendly waitress to the outstanding gentlemen constantly cleaning our tables (literally, each time there were bread crumbs, they were taking it off our tables) and refilling our water without us every having to ask for it. This was top-notch service at its best. All restaurants – regardless of price – should offer this level of service: highly attentive, quick, efficient, and most importantly friendly. Our waitress and bus man was always smartly checking in on the tables without being in-your-face. The restaurant was a mix of people probably with indispensable income to casually dressed young couples who had saved up money to come here to specifically try their Black Label Burger. And we noticed that no matter how you were dressed or what your status was, everyone seemed to be treated equally wonderful. And folks like us really appreciate that.
First time people often go to Minetta Tavern to try their Black Label Burger which many claim is the best burger in the world. Grant ordered one, and to offset the price, I ordered the cheaper regular burger. Both came served with heaping mounds of fries. And from what I can vaguely remember, the burgers were fantastic and I could see what the hype was all about. However, because we had such a long day, and we had just stuffed ourselves with a basket of enticing bread that was just so so good, we were full and kind of loopy by the time we got our burgers. Regrettably, I can barely remember how the burgers tasted in complete detail. Both the Black Label and regular burger were good. They were juicy. And the portion was caveman size. The fries were perfect.
But, more than food, my memories take me back to the overall experience of the restaurant. How beautiful the restaurant looked. The palpable buzz of New York energy. The gold medal service. The fact that our first meal together as husband and wife were burgers. The couple from Brooklyn Heights sitting next to us who had moved from Florida not too long ago who was so excited to hear we had just gotten married and informed us they too had eloped. It was just an incredible dining experience.
And as an icing on the cake, when we got our check and I thanked our waitress for making our wedding night superb, she said to me “you see, these are the kind of things you’re supposed to tell us at the start of your meal.” A few minutes later, she had brought over two glasses of champagne for us – something we wanted to order but couldn’t afford it. It was a nice gift from the restaurant. Thank you, Minetta Tavern!