A few Saturdays ago I was one of the hopefuls who lined up outside Red Hook Tavern at 5pm, the hour they open their door and give away their bar seats to the crazy people who line up outside a bar at 5pm. Within four minutes, each one of the 18 stools were spoken for. Insane, right? There are millions of restaurants in New York: Why on earth were we choosing to eat at the one everyone wants to go to?
Because it’s fun to score a seat at the place every Eater-reading, Resy-making person wants to try. Also: summer is conducive to waiting. When the sun sets at 8 and you don’t need to hide from the cold, it’s easy to justify standing outside or ordering a round of drinks nearby as you kill an hour to be called.
José Andrés’ Mercado Little Spain is another one of these hyped food destinations that felt worthy of a pilgrimage this summer, after the New York Times’ impressive digital feature that called out each of its delights. I went solely for the gazpacho, and I should have only purchased that—it is deceptively easy to drain your bank account here on jamón and wine. But the tapas at La Barra were mostly exceptional, and it was fun to watch the throngs of food-obsessed folks, and those who had come to see just how close it approximated home. (One woman I met, who’d just returned to the states after 20 years in Spain, claimed it was just as good.) I can’t imagine it any more busy than the Tuesday night I visited though; it’s even more mobbed on Thursdays through the weekend, a server said, a problem even summer can’t fix.
The truth is, the city never totally empties out, but summer does make attempting those hard-to-get-into spots more palatable. You can take your pick of reservations right now at Claro, for instance, and at Sofreh, the wait is nowhere near as long as it once was. You can even eat dinner at the best new restaurant in America, Frenchette, almost any night this week. It may be incredibly late, but the nights are still long, so why not?