Side Dish

Upping the Ante; She's a Grand Old Dame; Zao and Then; Howlin' Wolf

Upping the Ante
There's a new player in the world of online reservations, and it's aiming to revolutionize the way restaurants view themselves. The site's not yet public, but Harry got a sneak peek, and I liked what I saw. You know how airlines work their bookings: If you call way in advance and stay over a Saturday you get a cheap ticket. Conversely, if you need a last-minute flight on a Friday prime time -- well, you're gonna have to pay a little bit extra for that.

DinnerBroker.com, a San Francisco start-up founded by former restaurant staffers, is bringing this supply-and-demand idea to the restaurant industry. With the help of 26 dining rooms -- including Masa's, Eos, La Folie, Fog City Diner, and Stars -- the site is offering tables all around town. The deal is this: If you're willing to eat at an off-peak time, like 5:30 or 6 p.m., you get a discount on your meal of 10 to 20 percent. If you need a four-top at 8 or 8:30 -- prime time -- then you've got to pay a small premium ($5 to $10 per person) for that table. There's bound to be some consumer and business resistance to this system, but I think it's an idea long overdue for our industry.

She's a Grand Old Dame
The lovely and historic Hotel Majestic on Sutter at Gough is undergoing some changes in preparation for its 100th anniversary in 2003. The sunny dining room with its wood-rich bar has a new operator. Brooks Bayly, who ran the house at the Inn on Union Square for more than a decade, takes over as GM and former Jack's chef Geoffrey Blythe will be creating the menu. Look for an adventurous prix fixe and a chef's tasting menu. The hotel's 58 rooms will also get a major redo before their big centennial birthday.

Zao and Then
The chain of post-pop chopstick shops, Zao Noodle Bar, is opening its largest store yet this week at 16th and Market streets. The former Josie's was gutted to make way for Pan-Asian one-bowl meals. Unlike the other Zaos, this site will have a "great table" in the middle for single diners or larger groups. The back patio bamboo garden is perfect for alfresco or private parties. And two words: sake bar!

Howlin' Wolf
Popped into the Coyote Club, up where the Rat and Raven used to be on 24th in Noe Valley. The bar is pretty much the same, but the place is all cleaned up. Wood-grain Formica tops the expansive bar now, and an extensive beer tray collection sets off the cheerful yellow walls. 'Sides that, Chesty Wryly still holds up one end while the customers stomp their feet to the great C&W selections on the juke. Aaawwoooo!

 
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