Welcome to Tough Doors, in which Eater talks to the chefs, GMs, and restaurateurs behind some of the world's most in-demand restaurants and gets the lowdown on how best to get in.
Aimee Olexy puts the finishing touches on the farm table [Photo: Talula's Table]
One could easily make the argument that the toughest reservation in the Philadelphia area is the farm table at Talula's Table, the Kennett Square address that's a market by day and intimate restaurant by night. To get in, you've got to call exactly one year to the date you'd like to book, and you have to commit to bringing at least ten people with you on the night you've managed to score. In the following interview, owner Aimee Olexy explains the best ways to get in and shares details on another option at Talula's: the semi-secret kitchen table.
For those that may not be familiar, what is Talula's Table?
Talula's Table is a gourmet market that opened in 2007. It's located in historic Kennett Square. It is open seven days a week, from 7 AM to 7 PM. Then, every night starting at 7 PM, we turn it into a little kind of private restaurant.
How many people does it seat?
At full capacity, it seats 20 to 22. There are two tables: a large farm table — the centerpiece of the market by day, which seats up to 12 — and then a butcher block counter/kitchen table. By day that is the baking and prep table.
Do they offer the same menu?
The menus and the price ($100 per person) are the same. It's a ten-course menu, with hors d'oeuvres and mignardises. It's also BYOB. The reservations policies are distinct.
What are they?
For a reservation at the farm table, we book reservations every morning starting at 7 AM by telephone. We accept reservations on a first come, first served basis for exactly one year away. In other words, if you call on March 1st, 2012, you will be making a reservations for March 1st, 2013. We only accept one reservation each evening — you are responsible for filling the table with a minimum of ten people.
And you only accept reservations for the farm table by phone?
What is the deal with the kitchen table?
The other table is by invitation only.
How does that work?
Based on people's regularity to the market or because they're in the industry or because they've expressed interest in getting to the farm table but can't get a party of that size, we do our best to honor as many people as they can. It could be a couple that lives across the country that is coming in somewhat sooner than one year and won't have eight other people to join them, for example. It's our way of relieving some of the demand for the farm table.
Safe to say both are always full?
Both are full every night.
How would you characterize the demand?
Every morning we get anywhere from ten to fifty calls for the farm table. If it's for a Saturday, the demand skyrockets. We'll continue to answer calls after the table is booked so we can inform people and answer questions. But safe to say it gets booked by 7:15 AM, the latest.
Do you have a wait list?
We post our cancelations on our website, in the shop. It allows people that are frequent visitors to our site and our market to see what has opened up. Some people like to set up Google alerts — that's especially effective for people that are locals or live in the northeast. We typically get one cancelation a month.
What, in your view, is the best way to get into Talula's Table?
First and foremost, simple patience. I would encourage people to consider aiming for weekdays. We're very close to many vineyards, to Brandywine, to museums, so if you can plan on taking a day off and making a short trip out of it, that could be great. It's going to the be same food as on the weekend. People who try for a Saturday are often let down.
Of course, check for cancelations and do feel free to e-mail us. If you have some willingness to be flexible with your dates, we might be able to offer you the kitchen table. We will work with you. Also, if you can, come down to Kennett during the day, hang out with us, and the staff here will help you out with the kitchen table and explain the options to you. It may not be available for six months or something like that, but it's a way of getting immediate answers.
It's hard to say this, but we genuinely feel bad. We really want people to get in. They wake up and want to make a reservations for their wife's sixtieth birthday or something like that, so we try our best to make it work. The farm table is the one table where you can host your own party and dine within the market — it's very special. And then the kitchen table is a bit more raw, culinary. But please, call and talk to us.
It sounds like the kitchen table might be a bit easier?
Your odds of getting into the kitchen table are a little better, I guess I'd say. Less people know about it. I seldom talk to people about it. We generally wait for people to ask us about it before we present that as an option. We kind of hide it, a little bit. We're happy to have people come for it, but we figure the less people know about it, there will be a touch more access for locals, industry people, or those that have tried really hard to get in. We don't have as much flexibility with the farm table, since we never block it out for friends and run it completely democratically.