Who's the biggest thing in New York right now? Is it Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, the unlikely guy leading his team on an improbable charge to .500, collecting terrible, punning tabloid headlines along the way? Or is it Giants quarterback Eli Manning, the unlikely guy who led his team on an improbable charge to the Super Bowl, collecting terrible, punning tabloid headlines along the way?
To find out, on Wednesday we called 18 of New York's most exclusive restaurants, with one of us posing as an assistant to Lin and another as a representative for Manning. For each athlete, we were looking for a table for six people at 8 p.m. today, an off-day for the Knicks—and, this being a Thursday, a very busy one for New York's finest dining establishments. Most of the restaurants listed below are famously difficult places to find a table; some are booked up well into spring. So who got seated where (and when)?
|Eli Manning||Jeremy Lin|
|Per Se||No, 9:30||No|
|Eleven Madison Park||No, 7:45||No, 9:45|
|ABC Kitchen||No, 8:30||No, 5:30|
|Minetta Tavern||Yes, 8:00||Yes, 8:00|
|Daniel||Yes, 8:00||Yes, 8:00|
|L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon||No, 8:30||Yes, 8:00|
|Del Posto||Yes, 8:00||No, 9:45|
|Le Bernardin||No, 8:30||No, 8:30|
|Nobu||Yes, 8:00||Yes, 8:00|
|Blue Hill at Stone Barns||Yes, 8:00||No|
|Babbo||No, 8:30||No, 8:45|
|The Lion||Yes, 8:00||Yes, 8:00|
|Red Rooster||Yes, 8:00||Yes, 8:00|
|Nello's||Yes, 8:00||Yes, 8:00|
|Cipriani Downtown||Yes, 8:00||Yes, 8:00|
|Lavo||Yes, 8:00||Yes, 8:00|
Final tally: Manning had only two flat rejections, while Lin had four. Of the restaurants that offered to seat Manning at another time, only one, Per Se, bumped him from his 8 p.m. request by more than a half-hour. Lin got a better offer than Manning once: at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Linsanité!
 Eleven Madison Park: "Who would be dining?" Deadspin: "Eli, and some of our business associates." Eleven Madison Park: "7:30? 7:45 would be the absolute latest we could do." [top]
 Masa: "No, but we'd love to seat him." [top]
 Nobu: "Yes, we can do that. To confirm, your phone number is 201 ..." Eli ate at Nobu in January. [top]
 Blue Hill at Stone Barns: "That's inclusive of Mr. Manning?" Deadspin: "Yes." After a brief wait, they book the reservation. When we call back to cancel, they offer Eli congratulations and say they hope he'll be in soon. [top]
 Babbo: "We can do 8:30. We don't seat parties at 8 o'clock. I know when Mr. Manning's been in the restaurant before, we've had to inform him of the policy. I wish I could say yes—we love having him—but if I said yes for eight, we'd be letting everyone down." [top]
 Babbo: "I don't read sports, but I can't stop hearing about him, how exciting." [top]
 Brooklyn Fare, in a tone suggesting we're stupid for even asking: "We take reservations weeks in advance." [top]
 The Lion: "Will Mr. Manning be with the party tomorrow?" Deadspin: "Yes." The Lion: "I'm not seeing anything in the book, but our VIP specialist will call back." A few minutes go by. The Lion: "Would you sit on the balcony at 8?" Deadspin: "Eli Manning doesn't do balconies." The Lion: "OK, we could move some other people, and get you a booth." [top]
 The Lion: "Yes, oh my God, my boyfriend won't stop talking about him." [top]
Pat Burns and Dave Shireley contributed reporting.