Arriving at the chic Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan for a nice Friday lunch we noticed the security immediately. Snazzy Gramercy Tavern is one of those restaurants “Everybody” eats at, hence its prices, and my treating my editor to a fancy lunch there.
We were trying to work out whom the security detail outside belonged to. Never ask the lapel-pin guys with short haircuts and those squiggly little earphone cords (can’t get Bluetooth?) – they’ll never tell you. They enjoy being coy, it’s the pay-off for standing around waiting for people more important than they are. But a little crowd was forming on the sidewalk and inside the restaurant there was a buzz. The chattering classes were speculating.
While waiting for our table at the bar I noted the Maryland tags on the SUV outside. Maryland is the CPAC Conference, I thought. “Is it Gingrich: Do I have to order a cream pie for his face?” I wondered. Ted Cruz? I fondled the bread knife… But it couldn’t be Gingrich because girls were waiting for whatever celebrity was with us at Gramercy this lunch, and I’m told Cruz only eats live puppies – which they don’t serve.
So who? In 20 minutes (social media flash-mob, you see) a surprisingly large crowd started to form on the street, gossip between strangers continued, and the human electricity in the restaurant charged.
Then it all made sense: “President Obama and his friends are eating here.” The tension grew, our table wouldn’t be ready because nobody was moving. But we knew the moment he left the private dining room because the restaurant exploded. A huge unanimous applause erupted: the cheers, whoops, and cellphone lights were held aloft, almost in modern salute. At an unhurried pace he wafted waaay from the private room in the back of the large restaurant, through a specially spread crowd corridor, shaking hands randomly, receiving thank-yous, and grinning from big Obama ear to ear. Manhattan magic, and not a red Make America Great Hat to be seen. It turns out he was in town taking his daughter Malia to the Broadway show “The Price.”
The Obamas like the Gramercy Tavern. The manager told us Michelle visits, and as Business Insider reported a more spectacular presidential visit in September.
As his small party exited the sidewalk erupted in applause. He got into the heavy black Maryland SUV with the thick doors, and was driven off at a relaxed pace. It was all too short. We’ll miss you in Manhattan Mr. President, as will America.