Word to the wise: It never hurts to call ahead if you're planning a large group gathering at a restaurant, even if they don't take reservations and even if it's a rainy weekday night. A few weeks ago, I I learned this lesson the hard way, having organized an informal farewell celebration for a friend at a local restaurant only to find out the day of (via a Web site announcement) they were closed for renovations.
With just a few hours until launch, I was in a panicked frenzy (not an unusual state for this neurotic girl). I called a few places, none of which could guarantee me space for a party that large, especially one comprising some people ordering just drinks, some people ordering food and some, perhaps, nothing at all. Understandable on their end. But hoping against hope, I called The Queen Vic and told the hostess my sob story.
Her response? Sure, we can reserve you a table for a party of nine to 12 people, not all of whom will arrive at once. Sure, it's okay if some people order dinner, some just happy-hour bites and some just house wine. She even promised to look into seeing if we could have use of their private space, the Prince Edward Room. And, no, I did not tell her I was a food blogger for the Houston Press. I doubt she would have believed me anyway, given the way I was incoherently babbling into the phone.
When I arrived at the Queen Vic later that evening, I found a large table carefully set with water carafes, menus and daily special announcements, and a mild-mannered server named Josh. I warned him that there would be people coming and going at different times, ordering willy-nilly, and probably requesting separate checks. Unfazed, he kindly assured me it wouldn't be a problem; I thanked him heartily.
And then a wonderful thing happened: I almost forgot about him.
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In the three hours that followed, our server deftly and unobtrusively took food and drink orders as guests trickled in, answered questions about the constraints of the happy hour menu, and itemized at least eight different bills. I, on the other hand, was able to toast my friend (repeatedly) and enjoy the surrounding company.
My Royale with Cheese, a plump, juicy burger covered in gobs of melted gruyère and topped with crispy onion rings and a fried egg that bled yolk into the brioche bun, would have been delicious regardless of the service. It tasted all the sweeter (well, savorier), however, because I wasn't worrying whether or not my friends were having a good time. For that, I thank the patience and good humor of Josh, and the general accommodating attitude of the Queen Vic, which saved my butt. Now, if I could only get them to install a drive-thru window, so I could get the Royale with Cheese to go...