Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Clintons at the Minetta Tavern

My dad and I were utterly charmed by Frank Bruni’s review of the new Minetta Tavern. So charmed that we had the same idea: this would be the perfect spot for our Saturday night dinner in September, my birthday dinner. My parents still live in Seattle, where I grew up, so these twice-yearly visits of theirs to New York City are much anticipated on all sides. They revolve around eating and we have made it our custom to get a babysitter on Saturday and go out someplace really fancy. The Minetta Tavern would be a bit of a break from tradition--it’s a steak house in the West Village—but Bruni made it sound so fun and fabulous that it seemed worth it.

When the only reservation we could get was for 6:00, we hesitated: do we really want to settle for such an unfashionable time? After all, the city has many, many other grand restaurants. My dad and I held fast and, since this was for my birthday, I held the day.

That block of MacDougal Street is still caught in the 80s: falafel shops and beer dives, tourists eating lousy looking nachos, thinking they’re experiencing the West Village. My husband and I walked around the block to see Il Mulino, where Presidents Clinton and Obama had lunched a few weeks back. That was exciting and funny, too: on the one hand, Il Mulino is tucked away. On the other hand, it’s across the street from NYU law. Not hard for them to find, we thought. The Minetta Tavern inside leaves the falafel far behind; it is full of old world charm: just as lovely and hip as Frank Bruni promised.

We walked in at 6:00 and couldn’t be seated right away. It was packed and the energy was young and vibrant. Passing from the bar to the dining room, I overheard one waiter/manager say to another: “San Francisco chef and restaurant owner; position three.” It seemed we were in a happening spot. Little did we know. When our waitress came to take our order, the hostess and maitre d’ were opening and shutting the side door; we could see red flashing lights; our waitress was distracted.

Five minutes later, we could see why: Hillary Clinton came in with two aides.

That was exciting, but it was even more amazing when, a few minutes after that, Chelsea and her boyfriend arrived.

When, ten minutes after that we heard a familiar voice say “Sorry I’m late,” as the Big Dog himself sidled into the booth.

It was very, very exciting! And distracting. And fun. Hillary Clinton looked beautiful—really happy and rested and lovely in a pretty ivory jacket with boucle details on the lapels. Chelsea is very, very pretty, too, in a black sleeveless tank and a gorgeous necklace of gold loops.

It was hard not to gawk or ask for an autograph. We did keep track of their orders—beet salads for the Clintons to start, burger for Chelsea and fish for Bill at dinner. Not a lot of wine at all. (The four of us, on the other hand cruised through a bottle of champagne and 2 reds.) I wanted to meet Hillary Clinton especially, but once it was a family dinner any intrusion seemed cruel and wrong. We giggled that I should start mentioning my days at Wellesley and Yale really loudly, but, in the end, we let them eat in peace. So did everyone else.

That is, until Rob Reiner came in with his family. (I know!!!) Meathead, as I still love to call him, greeted the Clintons and President Clinton greeted the Reiner family while Reiner talked with Hillary.

(Turns out, there was a tiny little Streisand concert at the Village Vanguard last night…)

It is very strange to think of the Clintons as people, to see that they are real. Hillary’s charisma was palpable from the moment she entered: she was powerful, kind, beautiful, and self-posessed. Bill, in tattersall and a blue blazer, was more like charisma in retirement: stunning, but in repose. I have been thinking, this fall, that maybe I’m becoming a New Yorker (with a Jersey zip code) but this knocked me right back. I was utterly star-struck.

10 comments:

Eloisa James said...

Wow -- WOW! That's amazing! WOW.

starstruck, Mary

Anonymous said...

How exciting! I've felt that way about Hillary since the fall of 1968, when she (as president of the student body) spoke to my freshman class at Wellesley. To me, she was intelligent, articulate and sophisticated, even then. I still have my Hillary bumper sticker on my car!

Ellen

E Cornell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E Cornell said...

So cool...and I'm glad to read I'm not the only one who would monitor what they ate and drank!

Paul said...

It's a long way from Capitol Hill! I remember one your excursions to a Bouley restaurant when we were all in New Haven--I was impressed then and am more impressed now!

Megan said...

How lovely of the Clintons to stop by for your birthday!

Kidding.

That's such a fantastic surprise, I can't even handle it.

Happy Birthday,
M

Megan said...

PS-Mary and I ran into that Streisand concert, too. It was IN-sane. Unbelievable.

Louise said...

But what did you all eat?!

Anne said...

Steak!!!!! Delish!--Anne

maelo622 said...

so, we weren't the only ones 2 whom this happened! we were there that night, having been sat @ about 6 PM by the most beautiful hostess I've ever seen. she told us she might have an unconfirmed table available, but we'd have 2 return it after 90 mins. we sat in the booth right next 2 the exit door. I couldn't resist making goo-goo eyes @ Madame Secretary of State. when we left, not only did the hostess give my friend the unlisted number 2 the Tavern, but we bumped in2 a flush-faced Mr Reiner, for whom apparently we'd had 2 abandon our table... .