“Hurry up lady, we’re in a rush.”
This greeting, proffered by three 20-somethings hovering around my cab door as I paid the fare, was the beginning of a divine dining experience at the '21' Club.
It could have gone the other way. I’ve had those nights, I’m sure you have too, where I wanted to cut my losses early and if not for a date I’d been looking forward to, a work colleague waiting for me or for tickets already purchased, I would’ve been better off at home.
But the first reversal of the evening was when that curbside “greeting” was immediately rectified by the '21' doorman who said: “I’m so sorry,” and looked equally horrified by such surprisingly rude behavior. '21' doorman and I had a big laugh about and I thought to myself: This might be a very cool night after all.
I was ushered into '21' Club's elegant front room, instantly familiar to me from All About Eve and Sweet Smell of Success. I relished the clubby, cozy, living room/historical feel. Sometimes in these kinds of places I feel about six years old, out of place, out of my league; but here I felt comfortable and welcomed.
My dinner companions including Deb Fortune of Fortune PR, fellow panelist during the Bulldog Reporter Food Marketing & Publicity 2008 Summit, were waiting in the cocktail lounge. (Now there’s a cozy nook I want to go back to). Pausing at the host’s station, I saw my name and my allergies clearly delineated. Things were looking up.
We were brought to our table, named “Bogie’s Corner”. Yes, that Bogie. And yes, his corner table, where he reportedly proposed to Bacall.
I was feeling mighty good by then and wondering about the next hurdle: the food. How Allergic Girl safe was the whole experience going to be?
Our knowledgeable and fellow native New Yorker server Anthony--who said he grew up with another Jewish Sloane (she of park Avenue, me not so much)--had my allergies written down and memorized. He said the chef was prepared for me and happy to make any necessary accommodations.
I ordered the chicken soup without noodles and then, (sorry, Tessa) a burger. "21" Club is famous for its burger; it’s made with duck fat. Deb and I split the burger and the kitchen created two mini burgers, one for each of us. My bun-less burger was fatty and rare, well seasoned and yum. And it came with steamed veggies, without my needing to ask.
You see how good this evening was getting? Nice doorman, allergies all spelled out, great table, fun company, yummy safe food...
But then there was more. So we are all laughing and drinking and eating and enjoying the two gentlemen at the table next to us, octogenarians, ordering steaks with Châteauneuf du Pape when our excellent server Anthony leans in and asks me the best question of the night.
“Do you want to go downstairs?”
“Oh yes,” I replied. Without hesitation.
“What’s downstairs?” my dinner companions asked. Why, “21” Club’s “secret” wine cellar of course and we were in for a personal tour. We had a few minutes to wait so Anthony poured me a second glass of champagne, on him, and we continued to eat, now dessert, fresh berries for me.
We toured the downstairs secret bootleg cellar (which if I tell you about I might have to hurt you), walking through the kitchen to get there. On the wall of the kitchen, I espied a list of the top 8 most common allergens and what to do in case of an emergency.
On the way out, the same doorman, grining said, “Hey, Hurry up!” And we all had an even bigger laugh about it.
I left wondering how did I get so lucky? Is this how they treat everyone with allergies? Like celebs?
Thank you "21" Club for a great old New York night on the town. I felt welcomed, I ate well, our server Anthony was a star and no allergic issues.
21 West 52nd Street,
New York, New York 10019
(212) 582 7200