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May 29, 2007 02:08 AM

Treatment at River Cafe

Have always wanted to go for drinks so called first to see if we needed reservations. We were told that we didn't so took a ride over. Upon arrival, we were told that the bar was full, and that no amount of waiting would allow us to get in, even for one drink. We asked if we could have a quick look from the observation area and when we went out there, were glared at a by a bouncer type man. We then asked if we could make reservations for the next afternoon/evening and they said that they don't take reservations for the bar. So my question is this, How does one get to sit at the bar and have a drink? The staff were less than accomodating, offered no suggestions, left a bad taste in our mouths, and helped us decide not to return. Based on the reviews I had read on Chowhound, I was surprised and disappointed. Wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience.

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  1. Did you try "greasing" anyone's palm?
    Always helps.

    1. I have always been treated well there. There have been times when I have been turned away because they were simply too busy/crowded and completely welcomed other times. I think it all depends on your timing. Try a weeknight if possible.

      1 Reply
      1. re: AmityGal

        Well, if there's no room, they don't take reservations, and the waiting list extends to closing, there's not a lot that can be done aside from kicking out people who haven't turned over their table quickly enough or seating you on a raft in the river!

        That said, I do get annoyed with restaurants that pretend they are too breezy to have a reservation system but that can rarely accommodate walk-in traffic. To keep my blood pressure down I avoid those places during prime weekend hours or choose a place near a couple other options.

      2. In most restaurants in NY they won't take reservation for the bar area. So it is not that River Cafe did something different. You go to the bar in Babbo or Gramercy Tavern and they will not take reservation for the bar area as well. The only way to get a drink will be to make sure that you arrive at the restaurant right at the minute they open the bar. In fact at Babbo you are likely to see a line before the restaurant opens for dinner as people are eager to take a bar seat (or get on to the wait list).

        1. I've never experienced the treatment you received, but I disagree with the 'palm greasing' philosophy. There are far too many people who expect a gratuity for merely doing their job, sometimes poorly. I'm also going to open a pandora's box by asking what you were wearing. How did you 'look?' Might you have been excluded for not looking the way The River Cafe wanted you to look?

          3 Replies
          1. re: pds8232

            I'm no beauty queen but the three of us had on dress up, Saturday night attire; mostly black with a splash of color. Didn't think about the "greasing of the palm". Now I wonder if that would have helped.

            1. re: bostonhound

              Nope, no need to pay anyone off. It's not about that (even though someone might have taken your $$, it's really not the norm there). I'm verrrry surprised at your treatment and there's only 2 explanations; first, something might have really turned them off about you (I cant imagine what, so...) or you just hit on a really slammed night. The bar only holds 6-8 people and they may have been very backed up on reservations, although they're usually the type of place that gives themselves breathing room. This is the type of place that likes to look laid back and open and they wont allow the bar to get even two deep. However, they have an entire informal deck area that, unless there was a private party, I would have expected them to offer you to sit and drink or wait for the room's bar to open up. It isnt anywhere near as nice as sitting at the air conditioned bar looking at the beautiful room and abundant flowers and listening to the piano music but it should have been offered. I really dont understand what happened and it isnt the usual. I've been going, off and on, for over 15 years and was just there on last Monday (5/21) for our anniversary so I'm pretty sure your experience was unusual. Which doesnt make it any easier I'm sure. Did you at least go to the next door ice cream place and get the same view from the public area?

              1. re: bostonhound

                Forget about palm greasing, they either have room for you or not. I've never had a problem there on non-holiday weeknights.

                Chalk it up to your going at the end of a long holiday weekend when a lot of the staff are burnt out. They probably have a hundred requests on a holiday for bar seating and no room to accomodate.