My Mom’s Five Tips For Scoring A Table At An Impossible-To-Get-Into Restaurant

My mom may not cook, but she’s an absolute authority when it comes to eating out at restaurants. She and my dad eat out almost every night of the week and they do so with a real zest for excitement and experience; they love to patronize busy restaurants, especially ones that are hard to get into. Which is why I had the idea to call my mom, this morning, to ask her for her tips on getting into an impossible-to-get-into restaurant. What follows is her top secret advice.

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It Gets Better (Cooking for My Boyfriend & Our Families)

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When I told my friend Alex that I was cooking a dinner for my parents and Craig’s parents at the end of last week, Alex (who knew me in college) said to me: “Did you ever think, 10 years ago, that this would ever happen? That you’d cook a dinner one day for your parents and your boyfriend and his parents?” The answer to that question was most definitely: “No.”

It’s hard to get back into the headspace where that dinner would’ve seemed impossible. But in recent weeks, there’ve been so many tragic gay suicides–13 year-old Seth Walsh, 15 year-old Billy Lucas, 13 year-old Asher Brown and, perhaps the most publicized case, Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, who jumped off a bridge after his roommate broadcast his sexual encounter with another man online–that getting back into that headspace seems important. And so, inspired by Dan Savage and his “It Gets Better” campaign (in which openly gay men and women tell their stories to encourage suicidal gay teens that it, indeed, gets better) I’d like to tell you how I got from that world of impossibility to the dinner I cooked on Friday night.

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What Makes A Great Steakhouse

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1. It must be dark, like you’re underground. The consumption of red meat is such a primal, bodily act that darkness–like darkness in the bedroom–opens one up to experience pleasure with reckless abandon.

2. There must be a piano player with a bad toupee singing Neil Diamond songs or a cheesy duo of guitar player and female lounge singer doing their best cover of K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Even Edmund White, in his classic “A Boy’s Own Story,” describes such a figure when his family takes him to a steakhouse, “a place where the overweight ate iceberg lettuce under a dressing of ketchup and mayonnaise, steaks under A.1. sauce, feed corn under butter, ice cream under chocolate, where a man wearing a black toupee and a madras sports jacket bounced merrily up and down an electric organ while a frisky couple lunged and dipped before him in cloudy recollections of ancient dance steps.”

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Recent Meals at Adour & Prune

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Brillat Savarin famously said, “Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”

As much as I’d like to believe that most people go through their lives believing this, my hunch is that most people don’t think it’s a character-defining moment when they sprinkle Splenda into their coffee. Instead, I think many people subscribe to a different notion. Their adage might go something like this: “Tell me WHERE you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”

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A Modest Proposal

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We approached The River Cafe with trepidation. “Shhhh,” I told Craig. “They could be outside.”

“They won’t hear us,” he said. “You’re being ridiculous.”

Was I? You see my parents arrived at The River Cafe at 8 pm with Michael, my brother, and his girlfriend Tali in the same car. The plan was that Michael would take Tali for a walk and Craig and I would arrive at 8:30 to find that either (a) my brother was engaged or (b) Tali ran away in tears and Michael had jumped into the river.

Or (c) it hadn’t happened yet. What if he was taking his time? And what if we were walking right into the most romantic moment of their lives?

“Just keep your voice down,” I said sternly. “We don’t want them to hear us.”

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Bagelworks, Boca Raton

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Comfort of comforts–the white fluorescent lights, the angry senior citizens shoving in line–is there a taste more sweet than the taste of a Bagelworks bagel, shmeared with lox spread and whitefish salad, topped with sliced tomato and onion and washed down with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice? Welcome to Bagelworks in Boca Raton, the locus of my happiest eating from ages 11 to 18: from middle school through high school, with several visits between college and now. On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I asked mom to take me here before going to my dad the dentist for a cleaning. The past flooded into the present as I entered that sacred space: a space that knew me as a gawky teenager, a first time driver, a failed candidate for student council president. There among my people–New York Jews transplanted to Florida–I eat the way I was meant to eat: with my hands, unafraid of bad breath, wiping cream cheese off my lips with a napkin and eyeing the waitress to refill my water. When I’m at Bagelworks, I’m at home

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