July 3, 2008— -- Actor Paul Newman wants his regular seat, but suddenly Sen. Hillary Clinton is in town and needs a table, too. What to do?
At Michael's in New York City, where both Newman and Clinton are regulars, owner Michael McCarty calls it "social chess."
Everyday America's most influential converge to "power lunch" at a few select watering holes across the country. From clubby steakhouses to Denny's diner, here's where the movers and shakers "power lunch" near you.
New York's media and publishing elite made Michael's in Midtown their default power lunch destination decades ago. Regulars include Paul Newman, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Warren Buffett, Katie Couric, Lance Armstrong and Elton John. The California cuisine -- and double-width leather club chairs -- help make it a natural fit for the entertainment industry.
Cobb Salad: Maytag Bleu Cheese, Julienne of Bacon, Hard Boiled Egg, Cherry Tomato, Avocado, Chicken Breast Filets, and Baby Greens in Balsamic Vinaigrette, $36
"You consistently get wonderful food and are always made to feel as the most important person in the room," explained Aaron Simpson, CEO of Quintessentially, the exclusive private concierge service, who also recommended Jean Jorges, the Modern restaurant and Nobu Tribeca for a New York "power lunch."
As Hollywood's hub has migrated more toward Century City some of the best new restaurants have followed, and the 10,000 sq ft Craft L.A. (including an 80-seat outdoor area) ranks at the top. "It's amazing ... the coolest, hippest, high-end cafeteria-like atmosphere," says Chris Huvane, the West Coast editor of GQ magazine. Top agents from next-door CAA are regulars, along with execs from nearby ICM, HBO and MGM.
Ling Cod & Gribiche, $31
L.A. is a city that lunches and the runners-up list is long. Highlights include Sur, which is popular with power publicists whose offices are nearby in the design district, as well as Ammo, which Huvane describes as "the Eastsiders' great place to go for lunch."
Washington insiders can tell you that much of the backdoor dealing between lobbyists, politicians and reporters happens in plain view at the city's many "boys' club" steakhouses. Among the most popular is Morton's, just a few blocks from the White House on Connecticut Avenue. A favorite of the first President Bush, regulars now include former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the current secretary, Robert Gates, and CNN's Larry King.
Double-cut filet mignon, $42.50.
Runners up include the Capital Grille, which boasts a view of the Capitol building itself and the Palm – "where James Carville and Terry McAuliffe set up shop after Bill Clinton was inaugurated," writes Portfolio magazine lifestyle editor Sarah Clemence.
For more than a century, Boston's elite have headed to Locke-Ober's in the Back Bay for important meetings and celebrations. Once a men's club, the old-school dark wood décor is still in place -- "a bit of a throwback to a different era," says Boston Globe style editor Hayley Kaufman – but now with a new female owner and an award-winning chef, the ambience has a "new, interesting twist," she says. That includes a more female clientele, and a "delicious" contemporary 3 ½-star menu.
Wiener Schnitzel á la Holstein, $22
When the Celtics won the NBA Playoffs they chose Locke-Ober's for their victory feast.
The technoscenti of Silicon Valley have long favored the greasy spoon scene. When Google billionaires Larry Page and Eric Schmidt negotiated the purchase of YouTube they chose the Denny's restaurant chain near the Bayshore Freeway, according to the New York Times.
Hamburger $7.99, $8.49 for cheese. Vanilla milkshake, $3.89.
When you can get gourmet food for free in your own cafeteria – Google's Mountain View headquarters boasts 18 different cafes – why splurge on dining out?
Perched between the financial center and the arts district on the 16th floor of the Trump tower, Sixteen is the power-lunch destination for Chicago's movers and shakers. The new restaurant features stunning views of the river and city skyline from an opulent main dining room that includes a 19 karat Swarvoski crystal chandelier. "It's one of the highest tickets in town," said Penny Pollack, dinning editor of Chicago magazine. "The second they opened for lunch my boss wanted to go, and it was already booked." Its global-inspired contemporary cuisine has earned Sixteen widespread editorial recognition, including Chicago magazine's Best New Restaurant of the Year and Best Dish for Duck Percik.
Soft Shell Crab Club with cobb-smoked bacon and green tomatoes, $23.
In Chicago's urban sprawl, power brokers have long been just as likely to meet for a game at Wrigley Field as to carve into a T-bone at Morton's. Now some say Sixteen may be changing all that, staking its turf as the Chicago power scene.
"The higher the price of crude oil, the faster the tables fill up at Tony's," according to Forbes.com. "Kings of crude" and coiffed Texas socialites come for award-winning contemporary cuisine (Italian roots, yet Asian influences) and the impressive décor, featuring a cascading water fountain and Robert Rauschenberg paintings.
Three Graces-Seared Sea Bass atop Potato Sausage Cake, Grilled Shrimp topped with Pineapple-Mango Chutney and a Crab Cake with a Robust Tomato Shallot Reduction, $22.
San Francisco takes its seafood seriously and so does Aqua – earning two Michelein stars for its Gascon-inspired take on all things from the sea. Quintesessentially CEO Aaron Simpson describes it as "a swanky, noisy and impressive place ... permanently packed with the business set." Perhaps that's not surprising, since it's conveniently located in the heart of the financial district.
First course: Tartare of Ahi Tuna, Moroccan Spices, Lemon Confit, Fresh Herbs $20, Second course: Tombo Tuna & Veal Cheek Bourguignon with Fava Bean Purée, Bacon, Truffle Jus, $31.
Blue Ridge Grill serves up Southern hospitality with a clubbish air that keeps Atlanta power brokers coming back. "It's an impressive place to entertain and 'deal central' for the business sector," according to Zagat. Creole-influenced seafood never made so much sense in a log cabin setting.
Horseradish Crusted Grouper with grapefruit butter sauce, $19
One of the best known restaurants in south Florida, Joe's Stone Crab has been a favorite with the "in-crowd" since it opened in the then-backwater beach town in 1913. "A Miami staple, many locals prefer the restaurant for lunch to avoid the tourists," Simpson said. Though they don't take reservations, the meaty crab legs and homemade key lime pie are worth the wait.
Two Jumbo Alaskan King Crab Killer Claws (chilled or steamed), $61.95. Joe's Original Key Lime Pie, $6.95.