When Carol and I are in New York City to see a Broadway musical or two our trip is not complete without a pre-theatre dinner at Sardi’s Restaurant. Why Sardi’s?  First it is the perfect spot to dine because the staff knows that we are going to a Broadway show and time is important, but there is a far more important reason. The first time we visited more than two decades ago, the Maitre d’ was George. George was the perfect image for the restaurant – gracious, charming, personable, impeccably groomed, and witty. He made us feel that we were in exactly the right spot and that we were in his personal care for the evening. What a talent! What an experience! George had the ability to make us feel as if we were his only concern. He was absolutely present in the moment with us.

On a subsequent visit just before 9/11 we were disappointed to learn that George had retired. It was a real letdown; however, we still had a delightful time. On our most recent visit I inquired about George and if our waitperson had known him. “Oh yes,” she said. “The patrons adored George, but we hated him.”

“Why?” I asked. “He was so good at what he did.”

“He was a strict task master. He questioned us about the menu items. If you did not know the soup of the day, he would send you home. If he saw you eat something in view of a patron, he would reprimand you. You had to be properly dressed or George would have a talk with you. Don’t misunderstand me. He was kind. He was strict but always fair.” Every detail was important to George. Nothing escaped his notice.

Now I understood why we enjoy Sardi’s so much. It is that absolute attention to detail that seems effortless. There are literally hundreds of places to eat in the theatre district, but most give you that hurry-up feeling. We need your table for someone else. This never happens at Sardi’s. Although the dinning room is full, the atmosphere at Sardi’s remains for the patron calm and relaxed. Everything outside might be in a rush, but not inside.

The atmosphere is such that it promotes friendliness and good will. The walls display all of those caricatures of famous show biz celebrities and of course there is the off chance that you will see one of the stars.  Conversations spring up between total strangers and you share one of those delightful moments that will never occur again. It is friendly and relaxed but never intrusive.

From a customer service perspective, I would award the restaurant five stars. I am not a food critic, but our food has always been excellent, except for the bread pudding which I have learned not to order. If you want bread pudding go to Poogan’s Porch in Charleston, South Carolina.