With names like April Bloomfield (The Breslin) in the kitchen and Gabriel Stulman (Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey’s Grocery, Jolene, and Fairfax) in the front of house, Sailor was destined to be busy from its conception. Despite opening only a month ago, there are already lines at opening and a Resy Notify list that reaches in the thousands for their dining room of fewer than 40 seats.
In this edition of The One Who Keeps the Books, we sat down with Andrew Pisano, the general manager of this Fort Greene hotspot, to chat about how to get a table and what to order when you do.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Resy: When do your reservations drop on Resy?
Pisano: They open on the 21st of every month at noon for the entire following month.
How quickly are they filling up?
Very quickly. Usually within an hour or an hour and a half, all of the 6 to 8 p.m. slots are gone. Then we watch it fill in as the day progresses with the earlier and later slots. It’s shockingly quick. We were amazed at first when we put them up on Resy. We just couldn’t believe it.
Amazing. And are you using the Notify feature?
We do! We’re a tiny restaurant. We have 38 seats and there are hundreds and hundreds of people on the Notify list every day. Today, we have 572. Last week, we broke 1,000.
We use it a lot. We push it out because we want to fill the seats and we want as many people as possible to be able to come in and enjoy.
So, you have just 38 seats total?
Yes, there are eight seats at our bar and 30 seats at our tables. On a day when it’s beautiful outside, we have a few tables on our sidewalks that we’ll set up for dinner. If it’s chillier, we’ll do snacks and drinks outside, too.
What You Need to Know
Plan Ahead: Reservations drop on Resy each month on the 21st at noon for the following month.
Walk On In: Expect a small line to form by 4:30 p.m., before Sailor opens at 5 p.m. for those hoping to score a walk-in.
The Layout: Sailor is shaped like an “L” in a corner spot, with eight tables in the main dining room and two in the bar room, as well as bar seats.
Pro Tip: Show up in person, and don’t be afraid to enjoy the neighborhood while you wait. Take a walk or relax in the park while you wait for your table.
Must-Order Dishes: Toast with green sauce and parmesan; mussel toast; crisp veal sweetbreads with lemon and capers; half-roasted chicken with herb butter and parmesan roasted potatoes; and green salad.
Prime Time: 6 to 8 p.m.
Are you saving any of those for walk-ins?
Yes! The restaurant is kind of divided into two rooms. We’re on a corner so imagine an “L” shape. One arm of the “L”, if you will, is what we call the dining room. It has eight tables. The other arm of the L is the bar room that has the bar seats, the eight stools at the bar, and then we have two tables in there that seat four and six. That whole area is walk-in only. The outside is also walk-in only when we have it. Only about half of the restaurant is reservable.
Are the walk-ins usually filling in right when you open?
We have been getting a little bit of a line starting at 4:30 p.m. with maybe 10 people. Sometimes on a Friday or Saturday it gets to 20. That’s the time to walk in as usually the bar fills up right away with those people who are waiting.
What’s your best tip for getting a table?
Be here. In person. Get here a little early and expect and plan that you’re not necessarily going to get that right away. It’s an opportunity to either sit on this beautiful bench that we built outside and have a glass of wine while you watch the neighborhood go by, or explore some of the great shops. I think it’s a great thing that we’re so busy and that we have this demand and this wait, but I don’t think it has to be negative from a guest perspective. It is a chance to go have some fun.
In your personal opinion, what do you think is the best seat in the house?
I have a few answers to that. There are two tables in the dining room that I and the rest of the staff probably could all agree on that are the best seats. There’s one table that’s fantastic that faces directly into the kitchen. You can see [chef] April [Bloomfield] working, you can see the huge wine fridge right in the dining room. You get a great view of the whole machine all working at once. That’s why I love that table.
There’s another table that doesn’t have a view of the kitchen, but it’s perfectly set in the corner of the “L”. It’s great because you get to see directly into the bar room and then also the main dining room. You get the full view.
Sitting at the end of the bar up against the brick wall is another great seat. All of our bartenders are fantastic human beings, so you get to chat with them, see all the people lighting up and everybody walking by. It’s a beautiful space. There’s not a bad seat in the house, but those are my favorites.
What’s the ideal order once you get a table?
Everything is delicious. I would probably start with the toast with green sauce. That’s one of April [Bloomfield’s] classic recipes from back in the days of The River Café. It’s bright, herby, vinegary, and it really wakes up your palate. I think it’s a great first bite to have to open you up to the rest of your meal.
I would definitely get the mussel toast. It’s one of my favorite things, with that warm spice of jalapeno and cinnamon. I think it’s going to be one of the classics from Sailor for sure. I get sweetbreads. If you’re a sweetbread person, April’s are delicious. It’s just right: super rich with the lemon and the butter. Then you have to have the roast chicken. Think of the best roast chicken that you’ve ever had, times about 10. You should have a green salad with it. Having salad with your chicken is great because the sharpness of the mustard and oregano and vinegar is a great counterbalance to the super rich roast chicken. I would definitely not be able to eat all of that on my own, but it would also make a great lunch the next day.
What about you? How did you end up at Sailor?
I have never not worked at a restaurant. I got a job at my local place as a dishwasher when I was in high school, and we just did that for a year or two before I moved into the kitchen. I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. By the time I was in the kitchen I was like a 15-year-old sophomore in high school working with all these 30-something big chefs. It was love at first sight and I knew right then that I would be doing this for a while.
I worked in kitchens and in the front of house. I started managing and I got briefly into the financial side of things. Then Sailor came knocking. We just knew mutual people. I had actually interviewed with Gabriel [Stulman] and his business partner a couple years ago, so we had been in each other’s orbit. It was just the right time and all the pieces fit together.
What’s it been like working with such big names in the industry?
There’s an expression in the restaurant business: Treat locals like celebrities and treat celebrities like locals. So, before I met Gabriel and April, I was nervous but I kept telling myself that. Gabriel is one of the warmest, nicest people I’ve ever met. He’s honest and fair and hilarious and the hardest working guy in this business. I was maybe even more intimidated to meet April. We met at a coffee shop in the city, and I got there 20 minutes early because I was so nervous. I was waiting and I finally saw her walk through the door. I stood up to shake her hand and she just opened her arms wide and hugged me. It’s really been so down to earth and so focused. The mood shows in the service. It’s amazing.
Is this your first experience with having a restaurant be so busy?
I had helped open another restaurant a few years ago in the city that had a similar opening boom, but this one feels different. This feels like it’s going to be a sustained neighborhood institution. I can see Sailor being a significant thing on this corner and in Fort Greene for years and years and years to come. It’s special. And I’m just grateful that I was able to be part of it.
Sailor is open Thursday to Saturday from 5 to 10:30 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday and Sunday.
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