In 1985, at age 27, Danny launched Union Square Cafe in New York City. Danny Meyer is the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, and his restaurants and their chefs have earned an unprecedented seventeen James Beard Awards. He is the coauthor of The Union Square Cafe Cookbook, Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe, and Setting the Table, and he lives in New York City.
Question: How do you look smart when ordering?
Danny Meyer: I don’t think it’s your job to look smart when you go to a restaurant. I think you should be with the person you’re with. If you’re a solo diner that’s also good, then be with yourself, enjoy the place. But I think a restaurant that forces you to look a certain way or act a certain way, for their benefit, is automatically making a mistake because they’re not letting you be you and they’re not on your side really.
So actually one of the first things that I would gauge when I go to any restaurant is do I feel at home here. Because there is no law that says I have to go to this restaurant. There’s no law that says I have to spend my hard earned money at this restaurant. If I have heard great things about a restaurant from a friend that’s helpful because if it’s a friend then they presumably know me and they’re going to know that this kind of place is going to make me feel good or not. But my rule number one is you’re there for yourself. You’re not there for me when you go to a restaurant.
Question: Is it true that you shouldn’t order sushi on Fridays?
Danny Meyer: I don’t really pay too much attention to the notion of what night I’m ordering something. I would make one distinction; if New York City or anywhere has been in the midst of a two or three week heat wave in the middle of Summer, probably not a great time to get oysters, which just -- not that they’re going to be bad for you necessarily but they just won’t taste good. And at the end of the day, you’re buying -- when you go out to a restaurant, you’re buying an opportunity to take time off to restore yourself, that’s what the word restaurant comes from. But you’re also buying pleasure; you should be buying pleasure. I think that good restaurants today should totally be able to keep fresh fish fresh in their refrigeration system regardless of whether the delivery came in today or yesterday or the day before, and the fact of the matter is very few pieces of fish that any of us eat were swimming yesterday anyway. We would all like to believe that but a lot of the big fishing boats that go out sometimes are out for a week before the fish comes back.
Recorded on September 17, 2009