Welcome to The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.
Serious Pie, an Eater 38 restaurant, is a perennially packed downtown pizzeria operated by Tom Douglas that draws both residents and tourists. There is a newer Serious Pie location in Westlake. We asked Serious Pie Maître d’ Crasta Duggan how she manages balancing both constituencies and whether she had any advice on how to minimize the wait for a table.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I'm Crasta Duggan, I am an East Coast transplant, here since 2004. I've been working the front of the house since 1999, either serving or managing. My first restaurant job was over a summer in Provincetown, MA, and I've been hooked ever since. In NYC, I worked at Home & Good, both in the West Village. Here in Seattle, I worked at Restaurant Zoe for several years before coming to work for Tom. I opened up Seatown and then came over to Serious Pie a little over a year ago.
It's 8pm on a Saturday. How long's the wait for a party with no reservations?
Well, we only just started taking any reservations, and we only take them for one special table. We call it the Kitchen Table, because it's in the back, where we shape the dough by day. So if you have between 6 and 16 people, you should ABSOLUTELY think about booking that, because the dining room is tiny and the waits can be lengthy. We only have 48 seats in the dining room, and they're all communally seated. On a Saturday night, it could be up to two hours depending on the party size, for two people an hour is probably average. Come early and get on the list, and make sure you bring a working cell phone; we will let you wander around and get drinks nearby while you wait and then call you when we're ready
Any recent celebrity sightings?
Conan O'Brien! Very cool.
Tell us about some of your favorite regulars.
We have so many awesome regulars. There's Mike who likes the pies nice and charred- we put "Mike Style" on the ticket and the kitchen knows to burn those edges. We have a great young couple who comes in all the time, the guy is an artist and leaves us amazingly detailed drawings on coasters. We have some folks in the apartments across the street who consider us their kitchen and we will see them almost every day.
What are some of the challenges you face regularly?
People who come in "Hangry"- so hungry that they are angry. Nobody likes hearing that the wait is an hour, but hangry people... well, you can imagine. Sometimes I want to hand out fruit roll-ups to turn people from The Hulk back into people.
What are your personal favorite menu items/cocktails?
I like the classic buffalo mozzarella pie and a kale salad (everyone's favorite), with either the Elliot Bay 3.14 ale or a bottle of the Lambrusco.
What about when you're not at work? Where do you like to eat and drink?
I'm in love with Canon for drinking, I'm looking forward to a special occasion when I can get the punchbowl ($95/min 4 ppl). I honestly eat at the other Tom Douglas places a lot, Palace Kitchen's burger is the best in town, maybe the world, and I still love Seatown. For fancy food, I recently had my socks knocked off at Altura. Sit at the bar and watch the show.
So, what's your most important gatekeeper tool?
Humor, patience, and the telephone.