Danny Meyer70 MINUTES

A new podcast series from Doug Shafer about the people behind the food and wine you love.

The Taste with Doug Shafer logo

Doug Shafer and Danny Meyer

In 1985 Danny Meyer opened Union Square Café, which became beloved in New York City for its great food and even greater sense of warmth and welcome. He’s opened many restaurants since including Eleven Madison and Gramercy Tavern, as well as Shake Shack, focusing on outstanding hospitality. Danny and Doug talk about how often the greatest success is born of past struggles. Enjoy!

For more visit: ushgnyc.com


The Taste with Doug Shafer is also available on:

Available on iTunes Stitcher iTunes Soundcloud Soundcloud

Want to hear about future podcasts?

Enter your email address and we’ll stay in touch.


FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

Doug:
Welcome back everybody, Doug Shafer here with another episode of The Taste. We have taken The Taste on the road, we are in New York City, we are in the office oftoday's contestant. And I was trying to figure out how to introduce this guy, and the only thing I could come up with that kinda sums it all up is he's just been a really good friend for over 25 years, we're here with Danny Meyer today, Danny, welcome.

Danny:
Yeah, we're ... Doug, I gotta say it's great to have you in my-

Danny:
... New York Office, and we're gonna prove I'm sure during-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... the course of this podcast that we're in New York City with some of the natural sounds of, of-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... this island. Um, I also think you and I have known each other for more than 25 years because Union Square Café opened in 1985, which is 33 years ago-

Doug:
Okay, well I was-

Danny:
... and we hosted a, a Stags Leap District, uh, lunch I think.

Doug:
Danny you don't know this, but there's been two things I've done with each of my five children, that's as, as I raised them through the years, they had to do two things with me. The first was go to an afternoon baseball game in May at Wrigley Field to see the Cubs and the second was to have a meal at Union Square Café, and I have achieved that with all five of my kids, and they know how important that is, so you need to know that.

Danny:
I'm deeply, deeply-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... honored, especially for the, the later-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... because St.-

Doug:
Well, being-

Danny:
... Louis Cardinals-

Doug:
... being a-

Danny:
... fan-

Doug:
... Cardinal fan-

Danny:
(laughs)

Doug:
Yeah, we talked about that. Um, but anyway, let's start with you, born in the Midwest, growing up with your family was the table the big thing? 'Cause I'm, I'm trying to get to what, how it started out with you. Was it the family meals, was ... I know your d- your dad was ... I know, I know you traveled with your dad a lot, I wanna hear about that, but, um, and where do you think this came from for you-

Danny:
Well we-

Doug:
... 'cause it's-

Danny:
... traveled as a family a lot. My parents were married for 25 years before they were divorced, and-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... probably the happiest two years of (laughs) their marriage were the first two years-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... and which is kind of an odd thing to say 'cause they didn't have any of the three kids those first two years.

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
But they spent those first two years in Alsace 'cause my dad was a counter-intelligent agent, uh, for the Army-

Doug:
Huh.

Danny:
... and he was on the boarder of France and Germany, and there were no altercations during those two years. So they spent, uh, all of their time traveling by car, meeting inn keepers and restaurateurs, and going to wineries, and, um, and eating, and, and learning, uh, deeply about the French culture. My dad was a language expert after he graduated from Princeton he got a scholarship to some language school in Monterey, I guess the Army was sponsoring it-

Doug:
Huh.

Danny:
... Monterey, California-

Doug:
I never-

Danny:
... and-

Doug:
... knew that.

Danny:
... and he took those language skills, and turned them into a career.

Doug:
Wow.

Danny:
And, so they got back after those two years, and all of his friends would ask him where should we eat, and where should we go, where should we travel- ... and he had, he and my mom had created this network of friends who it turned out had a loosely connected group of countryside inns in France that all had nice little restaurants, and the, the group was called Relata Compania.

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
He became a travel agent, became the first American agent for that group, Relata Compania, which then became Relais & Chateaux.

Doug:
Oh.

Danny:
And-

Doug:
... wow.

Danny:
... in those early days of his travel agency, and this now is, you know, move ahead into the, um, the 1960's, we always had at least one French person living in our home who would invariably this, be the son or daughter of one of these inn keepers-

Doug:
And they were there-

Danny:
... and they were there-

Doug:
... visiting?

Danny:
... to do two things. Translate, they worked in my dad's office, and they would translate for-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... all of his clients who, who needed help- ... and then they would serve as babysitters for us-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... at night. And what was kind of amazing is we were getting, all three of us, all three kids, were getting this incredible education in food, and wine, and French culture. There was French spoken at the table all night, um, especially when my parents didn't want us to know what they were talking about-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... and that was a good reason to learn French. Uh, we had a little dog named Ratatouille.

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
There was always a bottle of Beaujolais or something like that on the-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... table at night-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and it just became a normal thing to cook with my parents, um-

Doug:
Well-

Danny:
... and to eat, and to travel-

Doug:
This is fascinating, because-

Danny:
... and that-

Doug:
... you know-

Danny:
I just have to say-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... that was, that wasn't a typical thing in the 1960s or '70's, you know? Keep in mind-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... Julia Child was just coming on-

Doug:
Just coming-

Danny:
... TV about-

Doug:
... onboard.

Danny:
... that time, but that was a ... big deal.

Doug:
... for you guys at such a young age to be exposed to, you know, people from, you know, someone from anywhere, I never was. You know, you and I are the same era, same vintage more or less, and, I mean totally different. In the Shafer household, you know, we didn't have wine, it was bourbon, and beer, and cocktails, and if we, dad ever had wine it was a bottle of Lancers or something.

Danny:
That's so funny-

Doug:
Oh, yeah.

Danny:
... given, given what he's now done.

Doug:
Oh, yeah, well, I run into people, and they're, you know, customers that go, "Oh, your dad, what a wonderful dream he had to go out and make wine." and I said, "He didn't do it to make wine, he did it because it was a, this was gonna be a good investment 'cause the wine boom was gonna happen." So he learned it, he learned to like wine after buying (laughs) a vineyard, so-

Danny:
Well, he's-

Doug:
... it was pretty interesting.

Danny:
... taught a whole lot, you and he have taught a whole lot of other people to love wine, that's for sure.

Doug:
So great mind expanding experiences at home, so, uh, you're in St. Louis high school, then to col- What was high school like, sports, extracurriculars, where ya at ... Was there a cooking club, what, you know?

Danny:
Yeah, it was. So-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... I went to five different schools growing up in St. Louis, which is ... which is an interesting thing. I haven't talked-

Doug:
Five?

Danny:
... about this a lot.

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
Um, I went to, well, I'm-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... including nursery school, but-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... I went to nursery school, and then I went to a public school that was reasonably close to our home, rom kindergarten through third grade, and then we moved, and, so I had to go to another public school for fourth grade. And then I was dying to go to this all-boys school, which started in fifth grade ... because my first house was at the bottom of a big hill, and every Saturday I would run up the hill to go watch the varsity football game, and I wanted to go to that school.

Doug:
Got it.

Danny:
I had become a big fan of the, the Kadasco Rams, the Country Day School of Rams. So I went to the all-boys school for, uh, fifth through ninth grade, and then, uh, I transferred to a coed private school f-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... uh, for 10th, 11th, and 12 grade, so there was five schools. I did play junior varsity football-

Doug:
For-

Danny:
... at the-

Doug:
For-

Danny:
... rivals of the coed school, it was arch rivals with Country Day School, and it was John Burroughs, and I played varsity tennis and I just gotta say that it made a big, big impression on who I became. If you can imagine changing schools during those formative years of your life where, you know, learning who you are, or trying to learn who you are, and, then not even going to school with, with girls until 10th grade-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
I think that the social Danny Meyer was developed out of necessity because of always having to put myself in a very different social situation where invariably I didn't know anyone at the beginning, or maybe I only knew one or two people, and then trying to find my place within that group.

Doug:
And you're right in those formative years?

Danny:
Yeah.

Doug:
Okay, so I gotta ask you something because what you're talking about is something I've felt a long time. Um, I don't talk to too many people about it, but I can remember the years between seventh grade and senior year in high school vividly; I can remember everything that happened. If you asked me what happened in college, or my first job, or in my first wine job, I can't tell ya, it's like, it's a blur, but boy, you know, seventh, eighth grade, ninth grade, 10th, 11th, 12th-

Danny:
Absolutely.

Doug:
... it's just like ... Are you the s- are you-

Danny:
I- I'm-

Doug:
... the same way?

Danny:
... completely like that.

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
As a matter of fact, Doug, I ... To this day you know, I'll be, I'll be driving my car-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... and tuned into Sirius, and I'll flip the-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... the radio stations, and if I get something from the '70s ... there can be a song that will come on, and take me exactly to where I was, and sometimes it wasn't a good place. You know, sometimes-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... there were songs that take me to a time when I go and I'll say to Audrey, “I wasn't happy when that song came out."-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... or, "That was a great period of my life." And it's just kind of amazing how, how, how those memories stick.

Doug:
Well, fast forward, m- just for fun m- on the same theme. I've been at Shafer for 35 years, and I can remember the first six or seven years again vividly, and those were the toughest years. I walked into a mess, had to clean it up, I made another mess, had to clean it up, there was a fire drill every two weeks, I can remember everything. And then after that from s- year six or seven on to now again, it's a blur. Was that ... Do you have the same type of thing with when you opened Union Square.

Danny:
I, I think that my memory has a slight advantage over yours when it comes to work because we've done so many different projects-

Doug:
Good point.

Danny:
Meaning that I can, I can absolutely relate to the ... The first 10 years of my career there was one restaurant, Union-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... Square Café. That's like having one baby for 10 years before you have a second kid, which was Gramercy Tavern, but those Gramercy Tavern years are deeply etched-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... um, lots of scar tissues, (laughs) fro- you know-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... from those early days. And then Eleven Madison Park and Tabla, which opened within four weeks of each other, and then after that, um, uh, you know-

Doug:
That just-

Danny:
... a profusion of new restaurants, whether it was Blue Smoke, The Modern-

Doug:
The Modern.

Danny:
... that, uh, Shake Shack-

Doug:
Shake Sha- (laughs) or, yeah, oh.

Danny:
... um, and then a bunch of places after that, Maialino, North End Grill-

Doug:
Right, on and on.

Danny:
... on and on. I won't name 'em all right now, but-

Doug:
M- ye- ye- well-

Danny:
... but the-

Doug:
... we don't have-

Danny:
... the deal is that-

Doug:
... enough time, (laughs) you know-

Danny:
... I have, I actually-

Doug:
You're right.

Danny:
... have ... all these different-

Doug:
Uh, du- You had-

Danny:
... opportunities.

Doug:
... triggers ... Well, right-

Danny:
Exactly-

Doug:
... because they're-

Danny:
... they were triggers-

Doug:
... were the startups-

Danny:
... of my-

Doug:
... right.

Danny:
... memory, and I-

Doug:
Got it.

Danny:
... can remember. And something that I've said many, many is that creating restaurants ... There, there was a moment when we had four kids in four restaurants, and people were joking now you have a restaurant for-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... every kid-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and Audrey said, "Why did you have to go compete with me, and have more restaurants than-"

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
"... than I have kids?" But, uh, restaurants like kids are really, really fun to conceive.

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
Um-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... they're not-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... all that much fun to manufacture-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... and, you know, in the first six to 12 months you don't get a lot of sleep.

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
But then they start to become rewarding after a while when you learn who they are, and who they become, and one, one of the things I love about all these different restaurants ... I mean by the way, you've done that with different wines, so-

Doug:
Right, and there's an-

Danny:
... even though there's one-

Doug:
Well, there-

Danny:
... Shafer Vineyards-

Doug:
Well, there's an, there's an evolution.

Danny:
... every single wine you guys have created has its own story, and back-

Doug:
Oh, yes-

Danny:
... story.

Doug:
... that's true, and then-

Danny:
And I'm sure-

Doug:
... there's an evolution-

Danny:
... that that helps you-

Doug:
... of style, and you tweak it as you go on, and, and, uh, sometimes it becomes a little different thing you envisioned.

Danny:
Right, but you for-

Doug:
Yeah-

Danny:
... example c-

Doug:
... good point.

Danny:
... probably have stories about Relentless that-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... you may not remember the year, you probably do 'cause you have vintages too.

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
So-

Doug:
Yeah we've ... And-

Danny:
... you're giving-

Doug:
... that's evolved-

Danny:
... yourself short-

Doug:
... that's evolved.

Danny:
... shrift, you have a great memory.

Doug:
Okay, (laughs) thank you, sir. All right, well, sl- uh, slipping back after high school, co- Where did you go to college? I don't even know that.

Danny:
Well, college-

Doug:
Of whe-

Danny:
... um I was lucky to, to get in because I applied to only three schools, Princeton where my dad and his father had gone ... and I was rejected. Brown which just seemed like the, the hotshot school that year, I was rejected there. And Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut-

Doug:
Oh, that's right.

Danny:
... where I was wait listed. So I was heading nowhere-

Doug:
Oh-

Danny:
... and-

Doug:
... ge-

Danny:
... it was not a good day, um, and my grandfather in Chicago was actually a trustee at the University of Chicago at that time ... and my mom called and said-

Doug:
(laughs) Okay.

Danny:
... "Danny didn't get in in anywhere."

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
My grandfather said, "Well, that's easy then, he's coming to University of Chicago." ... and I said, "I'm not doing that. I'm not ... It's, it's, it's a great school, but I, I don't wanna spend the rest of my life feeling like-"

Doug:
Granddad had-

Danny:
"... it was just-"

Doug:
... helped-

Danny:
"... handed-"

Doug:
... yeah.

Danny:
"... to me."

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
And, so I wrote probably the best (laughs) letter I've ever written in my life, got off the wait list at Trinity, and, uh, d- in my freshman year there I'm pretty sure I got straight A's. I was pretty distracted at, uh, having just joined this coed school in high school 10, 11, and 12, I wasn't really thinking about school work too much.

Doug:
Understood. (laughs)

Danny:
Who am I, how do I fit in with-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... with a whole new group of people, with girls for the-

Doug:
Girls, and-

Danny:
... first time-

Doug:
... all that.

Danny:
... and ever, and, uh, I didn't deserve to get into all these schools. Um, but I d- In a weird way that moment of not getting in anywhere, has actually followed me around my whole life because I seem to do my best work in anything when someone says you're you're not measuring up. And some ... In- Interestingly almost every single time we've opened a restaurant-

Doug:
Huh.

Danny:
... with only one exception, which was Tabla, which got three stars from the New York Times right out of the-

Doug:
Right, uh-

Danny:
... gate.

Doug:
... right out of the gate, I remember that.

Danny:
Every other restaurant has been sort of spanked by the critics right when it opens-

Doug:
Wow.

Danny:
... and, and it almost takes that in a, in a odd way. I don't ... I, I wish I could skip this step, but it almost takes someone saying you're not measuring up for us to kick into a higher gear, and to say oh, yeah, wait 'til you see what we do, just, just give us some time, and that's been the case with my life almost all the time. I'm not a fast starter, but you tell me I can't do it, and I'll, I'll pull our team together, and-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... and we'll show you we-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... that we can.

Doug:
I can relate, I can relate, I can-

Danny:
Do you ever ha-

Doug:
... I can, yeah-

Danny:
I'm, I'm-

Doug:
... I can remember-

Danny:
... I'm sorry to-

Doug:
... the early days.

Danny:
... interrupt you, but-

Doug:
No, no.

Danny:
... do you ever have wines that-

Doug:
Uh, yeah.

Danny:
... you taste them out of the barrel, and they're not that great, and then they take years, but they stitch together, and they're some of the best wines you've-

Doug:
U- Um-

Danny:
... ever made?

Doug:
... m- m- doesn't-

Danny:
Or is, is that a bad-

Doug:
M- No, it doesn't work with wine that way 'cause once it's made you're there. I mean that's why ... You know, we're in harvest right now, Elias is, you know, get, not getting any sleep because it's all right then. That first, um, when you pick the grapes if, uh, how you ferment 'em, what yeast, how you treat it early on, getting it to barrels, um, and mostly, you know, the ripeness of picking is what we've learned about. And if you don't nail that you're just against the, you're against the eight ball the whole way, and, uh, so wines don't change that much from when you make 'em. What, what we learned, our challenge was trying to figure out how to do that first step, that first three, or four, or five weeks, when you first pick the grapes and make the wine. And here's, (laughs) You know, all that, all these chefs get all these accolades, you know, the starship. You know, you know, easy peasy. You know, they get ... They miss ... The mess up the sauce one night, hey, the next night they get another shot m- m- unbelievable. Wine making one shot a year, baby, one shot, and it's like if you don't hit it you're toast, and if ... And, and, and then you, you pay for it 'cause that wine's not as good as it could have been, and you have to wait a whole year to do it again. So the learning curve on wine making is one-

Doug:
... year at a time.

Danny:
And expensive-

Doug:
Expensive-

Danny:
... if you don't-

Doug:
... and that's-

Danny:
... get it right.

Doug:
Yeah, and that's, that's tough, and I can, I can kinda relate. It's like, you know, we didn't do it, we gotta do this better, you know, and, so that's why the harvest it's fun, it's joyous, and all that, but man, the pressure's on. And we know it, and it's like, uh, when we start making good wine I remember Elias came to me one time and said, "Man, you know, the pressures are really on every year." 'cause we gotta nail, and we only have-

Danny:
Well, you've had-

Doug:
... one shot.

Danny:
... the pressure on ever since that famous-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... wine you guys took to, to Europe in 1974 was it?

Doug:
Well, it was '78. My dad-

Danny:
'78.

Doug:
... it was dad's first wine, the '78 Cab-

Danny:
Yeah.

Doug:
... which won everything. And he's, you know, for years he would come (laughs) into Elias and me during harvest saying, "When you guys gonna make a '78?"

Danny:
Wh- Wh-

Doug:
It's like- (laughs)

Danny:
Yeah, what did you-

Doug:
... oh, God.

Danny:
... guys do?

Doug:
Still brings it up. Um-

Danny:
And that's a guy who didn't-

Doug:
Uh, uh-

Danny:
... drink wine-

Doug:
Oh.

Danny:
... growing up.

Doug:
Pretty funny. Um, so Trinity College, so after college right into the food business?

Danny:
Not at all, not at all.

Doug:
Not at all, what happened?

Danny:
No, I mean I was, I was absolutely in love with restaurants, and as a matter of fact at Trinity I spent a semester in Rome. I was a poli-sci major-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... and Trinity has a campus in Rome where we were studying international politics, um, and of course I made international politics my minor that semester, and spent all of my time as a major going to trattorias. Um, so I always loved food, but in those days nobody thought about ... No one my age in that era with a liberal arts education was saying oh, I'm gonna go be a restaurateur.

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
And, so, um, what we ended up doing was, I, I was starting to think about should I, should I do the expected thing and get a law degree, which is what you're supposed to do after-

Doug:
Poli-sci, right.

Danny:
... poli-sci.

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
I thought for a little ... I loved politics, um, a matter of fact I've lived in Chicago right after graduating, uh, Trinity, and-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... I worked for an independent presidential candidate in 1980 named John Anderson-

Doug:
I remember that-

Danny:
... and John-

Doug:
... I remember him.

Danny:
... Anderson had lost the Republican primaries to Ronald Reagan-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... and decided okay, but I'm still gonna run 'cause I'm a different kinda candidate. And I loved his politics, he was-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... fiscally conservative, socially progressive. And I got a job in Chicago that nobody with my lack of experience would have gotten with a Democrat or a Republican-

Doug:
Ah.

Danny:
... 'cause there was no organization.

Doug:
'Cause there was no, and it-

Danny:
So I was-

Doug:
Got it.

Danny:
... Cook, Cook County field coordinator, which was a big deal. Keep in mind Cook County-

Doug:
I-

Danny:
... is what-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... delivered John Kennedy the, the presidency in-

Doug:
Hu- you know-

Danny:
... 1960.

Doug:
U- U-

Danny:
Uh, and, uh, we got 7.5% of the vote, which was enough for me to get my matching, um, funds, so I got my last paycheck of $214.00 a week.

Doug:
(laughs) I know.

Danny:
But with that campaign I actually learned one of the most important leadership and management skills of my life, which I still use. Everyone who worked for me, was a volunteer.

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
I was 22 years old, most of the people working for me were older than I was. I didn't have the opportunity to reward someone with a paycheck or a raise, I didn't have the opportunity to punish (laughs) someone for not having done their job.

Doug:
Right, right.

Danny:
And what it taught me more than anything was that even when I became a business person, and I was paying people, that I still wanted to treat people as if they were volunteering to work here, and I still wanted to give people a higher purpose for their job other than the task itself. And I think that, we wanna hire people at the Union Square Hospitality Group, and at all of our restaurants, who are good enough that they probably could have got another 10 or 15 job offers somewhere else. And, so the fact that they chose to work here is in its own way a form of volunteering-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... so volunteering to bring their gifts to us. And, so I think that lesson, which was the first time I was ever anyone's boss, minus being able to pay them, is something that has carried through how I, I lead today.

Doug:
Okay, this is so great, I love, I love doing these, these shows.

Danny:
(laughs)

Doug:
I mean I'm finding out ... You know, I've known you 30 years, and I m- didn't know about that. We need to have more meals together, and-

Danny:
Well, we need to have more-

Doug:
... ah-

Danny:
... wine together.

Doug:
... way more wine (laughs) together.

Danny:
I'll provide the food, you just keep bringing that-

Doug:
Oh-

Danny:
... great Shafer.

Doug:
Ah. (laughs) So John, after John Anderson, um, and somehow you got into the food business.

Danny:
So after John Anderson, I was pretty burned out because when you work in politics you realize that, uh, you know, once that first Tuesday in November hits every single day leading up to that first Tuesday in November is a day that you didn't raise quite enough money, you didn't-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... reach quite enough voters, and you're just burned out. And, and it's kinda sad, it, and it's a great team effort, but that was the moment when I said all right, you gotta get your life together, you gotta do something-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... here that's, uh, you know, either, either get your law degree, I was also fascinated with journalism, um-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... and I thought maybe I'd go get journalism degree, and I started looking at schools. I went to Berkeley School of Journalism, and-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... um, Northwestern School of Journalism and I wasn't quite ready. So, but I d- but I did spend a lot of time in New York City when I was up at Trinity in Hartford. Loved jazz here, loved the restaurants, I actually loved going to horse races at Belmont Park, going to, loved going to theater-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... and I said to myself just, just do a year in New York and see what happens. So I got a job, a bizarre job, the same grandfather who was trying to hook me up with the University of-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... Chicago, this time I, I took him up on something, and he helped me get a 16,000, $16,500.00 a year job working as a special assistant at a new company that he had invested in, a public, a newly public company-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... called Checkpoint Systems. This is a bizarre tail in my story, but Checkpoint Systems, um, is one of the leading companies that makes the electronic tags that, that stop shoplifters-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... in, in retail stores.

Doug:
Got it.

Danny:
And they had come up with this product that I found kinda neat, which was that instead of only having those white tags with pins in them-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... that, you know-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... adhere to people's clothing, they had a printed circuit on a pressure sensitive label that could look like a price tag, which meant that you could now protect supermarkets, and libraries-

Doug:
Oh, cool.

Danny:
... and, uh, drugstores, where, where you obviously can't stick a pin in a book-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... but you could put one of these pressure sensitive labels in a book. And about six or eight months into my time at Checkpoint Systems I got an apartment in New York City-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... I was commuting down to Thorofare, New Jersey (laughs) of all-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... places-

Doug:
Living the there.

Danny:
... every now and then.

Doug:
Got it.

Danny:
The New York City, um, sales person left to go to the competition, and Checkpoint handed me the entire New York-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... territory, which included New Jersey.

Doug:
Oh.

Danny:
... Westchester County, Putnam County, Orange-

Doug:
Oh, many.

Danny:
... County, Long Island, all five boroughs, and I just crushed it. I, I became-

Doug:
Yo-

Danny:
... the company's top salesman for three years in a row, and ev-

Doug:
I never knew this.

Danny:
Yeah, and it was a great experience, um, i- in two ways. Number one is I was, I was a kid who actually, and I say a kid, I was still pretty young-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... back then, I was in my early 20s. Still lacked a little bit of the kind of self-confidence I would need in-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... putting yourself out there in a sales job, cold calling, mostly hanging out in some of New York City's worst neighborhoods where shoplifting was, was the highest. Learning to, to m- negotiate with retailers who are some of the toughest negotiators in all of New York, opening up some big national accounts, um, like Duane Reade, and Burlington-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... Coat Factory, and ShopRite. Um, and then ultimately doing a lot of traveling because they wanted me to share whatever sales gifts I had with, with other folks around the country, and, uh, I gotta say making a lot of money. Um, I was really, really driven by commission-

Doug:
Got it.

Danny:
... and, um, by the time I was 23 I was taking home, I think $125,000.00 a year-

Doug:
Wow.

Danny:
... with no one to support, and I just would spend almost all of my time, keep in mind this was obviously-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... before the internet, but I would plot out my sales calls throughout New York based on where I wanted to eat lunch that day.

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
And I was learning about all the different neighborhoods, sometimes I would eat ethnic food, sometimes I'd go, just go to a Greek diner, uh, Popeyes fried chicken-

Doug:
S-

Danny:
... had just-

Doug:
U-

Danny:
... come to New York.

Doug:
M- So the food, so the food thing is, that's still-

Danny:
Couldn't get-

Doug:
That's-

Danny:
... it out of-

Doug:
You couldn't-

Danny:
... my mind, and-

Doug:
... get enough.

Danny:
... and I was always cooking at home, and-

Doug:
Got it.

Danny:
... entertaining friends. And finally just what this leads up to is after three years of selling anti-shoplifting tags and, you know, dealing with some pretty unsavory characters. I gotta tell ya one story.

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
I was in a, I was in a supermarket in, uh, in Detroit, uh, I think it was Giant supermarket, and, I'd been training the entire staff there not only how to use these things, but what do you do when you catch someone-

Doug:
M-

Danny:
... shoplifting-

Doug:
Yeah-

Danny:
... you gotta-

Doug:
... how do you-

Danny:
... train the whole thing.

Doug:
Oh, boy.

Danny:
And I'm in, I'm in line in the, uh, in the supermarket, and I'm about to be working with the cashier, 'cause how does she ... You have to actually deactivate the tag when someone actually buys the thing-

Doug:
Got it.

Danny:
... so they don't beep on the way out-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... that wasn't so easy. So all of a sudden the guy in front of me is bleeding in his head-

Doug:
Oh.

Danny:
... and, and I'm going like oh-oh, this is not good, he's bleeding, and, and finally he gets up, he goes out the door, and he had been stuffing steaks underneath his hat.

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
And he gets caught right there-

Doug:
Under his hat?

Danny:
Under his hat-

Doug:
I've seen in-

Danny:
... and a-

Doug:
... the coat, and down-

Danny:
There, there-

Doug:
... the pants-

Danny:
And I saw-

Doug:
... but under his hat.

Danny:
... enough stories like that. As well-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... you, you may or may not it, but almost every department store in New York has a jail in the basement-

Doug:
No.

Danny:
... and, you know, hanging out with unsavory people in the clinker in the basement. I just finally said, "Okay, I, I did it, that's enough, and n- now-"

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
"... now it's time to get my law degree. It's time to go get real at this point." And I-

Doug:
I'm with ya. I gotta ask you though 'cause I'm not a restaurant ... I've been in back doors of restaurants, do restaurants have jails in the basement?

Danny:
We've never-

Doug:
I ... Or-

Danny:
... put one into-

Doug:
... okay. (laughs)

Danny:
... our-

Doug:
Good, I just wanted to check.

Danny:
We do have wine cellars, but that's a whole lot-

Doug:
Okay. (laughs)

Danny:
... more fun than a jail.

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
But anyway, um, it was literally-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... having taken the Stanley Kaplan, um, LSAT class-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... it was on the eve of taking my LSAT's, I was out to dinner with my-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... aunt and uncle and my grandmother, and I was in a shitty mood (laughs) because-

Doug:
Yeah, yeah.

Danny:
... they're all drinking Chianti and having really good pasta, and, and I was in a foul mood 'cause A, I couldn't drink, and B, I had to take my LSAT's the next-

Doug:
The next-

Danny:
... Saturday morning-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... the next morning. And it was my uncle, uh, Richard Polsky, whose art, uh, adorns-

Doug:
That's right-

Danny:
... Union Square-

Doug:
... that's right.

Danny:
... Café, um, to this day who turned to me and he said, "I don't know what's bothering you, but, (laughs) but what's going on here?"-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and I said, "Well, I gotta take my LSAT's-"

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
"... tomorrow." and he said, "Well, of course you do, you wanna be a lawyer?" and I said, "Actually I don't." and he got furious with me-

Doug:
Oh, wow.

Danny:
... and he said, "Do you not realize that you're gonna be dead forever, and you're gonna be alive for a moment relative to how long. Why in the world would you do something you don't wanna do?" And I said, "'Cause I don't know what else I would do or could do." And he was like I at that meal, this was in 1983 who said, "You gotta be crazy. Uh, all I've ever heard you talk about your whole life is restaurants and food, why don't you just go open a restaurant?" and it had never ever, ever dawned on me that that was a-

Doug:
A possibility of-

Danny:
... a valid-

Doug:
... something you could do.

Danny:
... career choice.

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
So I took the LAST the next morning, never applied anywhere, I probably did poorly on the test, my heart wasn't in it.

Doug:
Of course not.

Danny:
But that next Monday-

Doug:
Which-

Danny:
... I applied to take a class at the New York Restaurant School, which is probably not even in business-

Doug:
(laughs) I-

Danny:
... anymore-

Doug:
... know.

Danny:
... and I hooked up with a pal from, from Trinity, and I said, "You be the money guy, I'll be the food guy, let's do this." And he was working in a bank at the time, he didn't tell his parents 'cause he knew they wouldn't approve.

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
They caught wind of it after three classes, and said, "No son of ours is going into that nasty business." and he felt so bad that he introduced me to the only client his bank had, a restaurant called Pesce-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... on 22nd Street.

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
I got a job there-

Doug:
I remember Pesce, okay.

Danny:
... I was the assistant lunch manager-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... and earning 250 bucks a week-

Doug:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Danny:
... a big, (laughs) a bi- big decrease from what I had been doing at Checkpoint, and it turned out that I ... And I said to myself, "Just do it, just get it out of your system. You're either gonna hate it or you're gonna love it."

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
And I did it, and I loved it, and that was where I met Michael Romano who became our chef-

Doug:
Your chef at-

Danny:
... for many, many years. That's where I met a young actress who was waiting tables named Audrey Heffernan, and who became my wife-

Doug:
Ah.

Danny:
... and the mother of our four kids, and that's where I met my career. And, and I-

Doug:
At Pesce.

Danny:
... can actually see it out the window right now as we're talking, it's just, it's kinda neat-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... how that all worked out.

Doug:
Wow. So-

Danny:
And you just ... Can I just say something?

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
You kinda think about how life presents so many doors that you didn't expect to be there, and I, and I think back to w- what, what if I had never gotten off the wait list at Trinity? What if I ... What if on the very first day of Trinity when there was a pick up softball game outside the dorm-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and we ran out of baseball gloves, and, so I had to lend my glove to this guy, and this guy lost my glove, and this guy was the same one who introduced me to Pesce many years later, um, who became one of my best friends. I wouldn't have, I wouldn't have met my career, I wouldn't have met my wife, and it just ... The different ways that life can go, and, and, and all, and all of that came out of the adversity of, of almost not even getting into any college whatsoever. So I, I think about that a lot because we are all, you know, we're dealt some good cards and some tough cards, but sometimes some of the best things come out of the tough cards you're dealt-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... unexpectedly.

Doug:
Yeah, I, I've, I've got a bunch (laughs) a things flooding back right now. It's like yeah, at the time-

Danny:
Can I hear-

Doug:
... i-

Danny:
... one of yours?

Doug:
(Laughs) one of mine. One of the toughest was, uh, uh, being early on at Shafer, I walked into a mess that, um, that my predecessor had left, and, so clean that up over a couple of years, and hired Elias, um, but that was easy because that was a mess someone else made. But then within about a year or two after cleaning it up I made my own mess. I had a couple of wines that I made, I was the winemaker, I made 'em, aged 'em, bottled 'em, and before we released 'em, there were two wines, uh, realized they were really flawed, I mean really flawed like, like it smelled so bad 'cause a hydrogen sulfide thing, you know about that, but in the bottle it got really worse. The only good thing is we caught it before we released it, these two wines, but we had to rebottle 'em, and rebottling means you're pulling corks on 7,000 cases of wine, and we did it by hand. And, dumped 'em back into a tank, and did some blending, and fixed the sulfide problem, rebottled 'em, and, um, a funny, funny ending to this story, a year later it was the, um, what years? It was the '85 Merlot and the '84 Cab, rebottled 'em, they were fine, but had to filter 'em, bottle 'em again, the whole thing, which, you know, we really beat 'em up. And, uh, released 'em-

Danny:
I like the timing of the siren's coming-

Doug:
Yeah-

Danny:
... to the-

Doug:
... the sirens- (laughs)

Danny:
... to this particular-

Doug:
... 'cause it was a-

Danny:
... you know, story.

Doug:
... it was a fire drill-

Danny:
(laughs) Yeah.

Doug:
... we got a fire drill. And, uh, a year later in the December 15th issue of the Wine Spectator, which was my birthday, December 15th, I remember this well, both wines were reviewed, one got 92 points, and one got 93 points, and it was like, I looked at Elias and said, "This is a (laughs) really crazy business, man."

Danny:
Wow. That's-

Doug:
But the point-

Danny:
... uh-

Doug:
... is, uh, you know, I've never been so low in my life. These are ... You know I, I failed, and, um, but basically it made me a better winemaker because it's like I'm never gonna let that happen again, and what else could possibly happen 'cause I'm never ... So I mean I became the master of check it once, check it twice, check it three times, you know, and Elias as he took over I said, "Check it once, check it twice." you know, whatever that process is, and-

Danny:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
... additions, and all that, because it's like that's never gonna ... And that I think has helped, helped us get to the quality level we got to, and it's-

Danny:
That's a-

Doug:
... a beautiful-

Danny:
That's remarkable.

Doug:
... thing.

Danny:
And speaking of quality my favorite way to describe Shafer m- uh-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... is one of basically three wineries in the world I know that do not know how to make a bad wine.

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
I don't know, so thank goodness that you had that experience.

Doug:
So I've a gotta ask you a question. So dad met you ... My recollection is dad met you at Union Square early on, right, you had started, and I remember he came home 'cause he was traveling, I was dealing with wines. And he comes into the, uh, cellar, uh, after his trip, he goes, "I met this kid, I met this kid, he just opened a restaurant, his name is Danny Meyer. He's really neat, he's really cool, you gotta meet him, you gotta meet him." And then I think within a year or two you came out, and that's when we started off. But-

Danny:
Yeah-

Doug:
... I wanna ask you-

Danny:
... that makes sense.

Doug:
... I wanna ask you a question, jus- a personal question. M- Wh- Do you remember meeting my dad, and wh- what was your impression of ... I'm just ... A selfish question here, what was your impression-

Danny:
Oh, I-

Doug:
... or what, what-

Danny:
... totally remember it. Yeah.

Doug:
What was he like?

Danny:
So m- we were trying to, um ... You know, back in those days the, the, um, mid '80s-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... when Union Square Café opened believe it or not, I know this sounds crazy, but-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... California wines were still not a huge, huge thing-

Doug:
Oh, we-

Danny:
... in-

Doug:
... couldn't sell wine-

Danny:
... New York.

Doug:
... in New York.

Danny:
We couldn't sell wine-

Doug:
I know-

Danny:
... here.

Doug:
... that sounds-

Danny:
Yeah.

Doug:
... crazy, but-

Danny:
No, no, it's true, it was all European wines here-

Doug:
And, so-

Danny:
... I remember it.

Doug:
... we decided at Union Square Café that the power of storytelling, whether it's where did this recipe come from, or where did this ingredient come from, and certainly where did the, the wine come from, that I wanted to share stories with people-

Danny:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
... and, and educate people, and hope that they would spend more time enjoying wine and food in the restaurant. So we came up with this idea, first on Saturday lunches-

Danny:
Okay.

Doug:
... 'cause we weren't open back then for Saturday lunch, and then Sunday dinners because back then we were not open on Sunday nights, of having either a wine lunch or a wine dinner-

Danny:
Okay.

Doug:
... and we would bring in winemakers. The one that I remember just almost like it was yesterday was the Stags Leap, uh-

Danny:
Well, uh-

Doug:
... District-

Danny:
... the group-

Doug:
... lunch-

Danny:
... okay.

Doug:
... and we brought in your dad, and Warren Winairski-

Danny:
Okay.

Doug:
... and, um, Bernard-

Danny:
Bernard-

Doug:
... Portet-

Danny:
... Portet from-

Doug:
... from Clos Du Val.

Danny:
... Clos Du Val, and Dick Steltzner.

Doug:
Dick Steltzner, those were the, those were the four horsemen-

Danny:
Those were the-

Doug:
... yeah-

Danny:
... four-

Doug:
... they were the guys. (laughs)

Danny:
I remember it, and-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... and, so it was a Saturday lunch that's completely sold out-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... and what I, I ... Look, it was all the wines were good, but Shafer was the best. All the winemakers were nice, your dad was the nicest.

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
And it could have been that we connected because we're both Midwesterners, it could be that, that I stood out as being a nicer than usual New Yorker-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... because I actually was not a New Yorker. I have to say I think New York's become a much nicer place-

Doug:
It has.

Danny:
... than it was in-

Doug:
I-

Danny:
... 1980-

Doug:
... I do remember-

Danny:
... so it was-

Doug:
... that.

Danny:
... kinda scary back-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... then. And, um, we just hit it off, and, and it was a combination of-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... um ... Look I love your dad, I loved him the first time I met him, genuine, generous, and I've always ... You know, when I tell stories about wine, when I tell stories about any chef, I've always believed that there is a complete straight line between who someone is and the product that they make-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... and when you have someone who is authentic and generous you're gonna get an authentic and generous wine in the glass, you just are. Um-

Doug:
Or, hmm, or-

Danny:
... you're-

Doug:
... or a meal in a restaurant-

Danny:
I think s-

Doug:
... from the chef.

Danny:
I, I, I do think so-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... I think when, when you understand the motive for why someone's in business for the first way, I, look, you're dad's a, a very, very smart and insightful business person. But just because he picked your place, your premiere place in the Napa Valley-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... and said, "This is industry at this time, and in fact this specific place, is where it's at." there's a genius there, that's-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... one thing.

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
But then the, the way you do business thereafter, and the commitment to quality, and the commitment to building relationships as you guys have done brilliantly throughout the world that when someone sees the label that says Shafer it means a lot. And, uh, le- let me just say one more thing. When somebody buys a bottle of wine in a restaurant, and that bottle of wine is sitting on their table-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... for all to see, it becomes a billboard that says as much about you and your taste as-

Doug:
Interesting-

Danny:
... the car-

Doug:
... yeah.

Danny:
... you drive, or the watch you wear-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... or the shoes you wear, or the purse you carry. And I, and I think that what the Shafer label says when I see that on someone's table is I want the best. There, there is not a better quality wine at this price, and they're not inexpensive, but they are way better at their price point than many, many other wines that cost a lot more, and that tells me that I'm smart when I buy that wine.

Doug:
(laughs) Oh, your-

Danny:
And I think-

Doug:
... a sweet-

Danny:
... it's an-

Doug:
No.

Danny:
... amazing, and-

Doug:
Well-

Danny:
... and I-

Doug:
... thank you.

Danny:
... think that all, uh, starts with who your dad is, I really do.

Doug:
Thank you, I was just ... I appreciate that, that was a personal question there I needed to hear. So jumping ahead, '91, '92, I'm on a bit of a boondoggle cruise in the Baltic. It's the only time I've ever done a Winemaker Cruise, so it's 10 days on a boat, well, they call them ships, m- it's m- it was a small one, but very exclusive, 200 people, and I was the vintner, and then there was a chef for the week. And, um, and this, the chef was Tom Colicchio, and who I did not know, but I had to do a couple of wine seminars and the dinner, and he had to do a cooking presentation. And he had one day in Finland where they went to the market, when, and go, go with Tom to the market to look at the fresh vegetables, which there weren't any at that time of the year, or whatever it was, it was kinda funny. But of the 2- Instead of having 200 people on this ship there was only 28, so it was empty. So I got-

Danny:
You guys-

Doug:
... to know-

Danny:
You guys spent-

Doug:
Well, well-

Danny:
... a lot of-

Doug:
... actually-

Danny:
... time.

Doug:
... 28 people, you know, by the time, you know, my wine seminar came around everybody just laughed 'cause we, I knew everybody, it was a lotta fun, but I got to know Colicchio really well. And they had just closed Modrian, but we had a great time, and, uh, we stayed in touch, when I come back I'd see him once in a while, and one time I came back within about a year or so and he says, "Hey, I got this new thing." and we, we're having dinner and he goes, "Let me show, let me, oh, show you this spot." So we drove down to where Gramercy is now and it was dark, it was a dark night in the glass windows, I said, "Yeah, I'm, I'm working with Danny, and I think this is gonna happen." A year later I came back, and, "How's it going?" he goes, "Well, let's go look at this spot." it was still dark, mm-hmm (affirmative). I said, " Yeah, is it gonna happen?" and he goes, "Well, I think it's gonna happen, I don't know what's (laughs) gonna happen."

Danny:
That wasn't a year later, come on, uh-

Doug:
Oh, okay, it wasn't, all right-

Danny:
(laughs)

Doug:
... whatever, but it, it took a while, but it was cute, but it, but this was your second child, and it was nine years after Union Square-

Danny:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
... and I remember taking to you at the time, and it was nerve-racking for you. Tt was m- a big deal 'cause I ... Uh, yo- you're, you want things to be m- m- perfect-

Danny:
Yeah, well Gramercy-

Doug:
... like we all do-

Danny:
... Tavern were-

Doug:
... and, and, uh, has it to-

Danny:
Yeah, it-

Doug:
... pro-

Danny:
... absolutely, and, you know, I was a huge, huge fan of Tom's cooking at Mondrian-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and we had actually gotten to know each other because I was heading up the Share Our Strength Taste in the Nation back in 1990 and-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... 1991, and he was my favorite chef-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... by far, and, and he also cared a lot about the topic of childhood hunger, it wasn't just food. Although I remember exactly what he cooked at the first one, which was a, uh, s- it as a parfait with sea urchin, and, um, curry, and mashed potatoes, which is kind of odd, but it was really, really delicious.

Doug:
Man, how can pull that back? That just blows me away.

Danny:
So, no-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... that was, that was amazing. But Gramercy Tavern was nerve-racking because I was trying to prove to myself that I was not an imposture. I thought-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... Union Square Cafe's success had been a fluke, that somehow it had been handed to me, I have no idea why I felt that way.

Doug:
Handed to you? You built it, you se- you-

Danny:
... but I felt-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... I just felt-

Doug:
Ah.

Danny:
... a need to go prove that it had not been fluke-

Doug:
I-

Danny:
... and, and, so-

Doug:
Okay, all right.

Danny:
And, uh, to this day, Doug, I, I think that some of the most successful restaurants, and probably this is true of other businesses, are when the core team of people responsible for running it -

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... each have something to prove. So I think part of the reason Gramercy Tavern became such a success, and it was not overnight, we were busy overnight, but we got slammed by the press-

Doug:
Ah.

Danny:
... uh, at the beginning, just slammed. Tom had something to prove, he had to prove that-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... Mondrian going out of business was not his fault.

Doug:
Was not his deal-

Danny:
I had to-

Doug:
... yeah.

Danny:
... prove that-

Doug:
You could-

Danny:
... Union Square Café was not a fluke. Claudia Fleming, who is our opening pastry chef, who is remarkable-

Doug:
Right-

Danny:
... to this day-

Doug:
... right.

Danny:
... had to prove that the restaurant she had cooked at, which had closed, wasn't her fault.

Doug:
Wasn't her fault.

Danny:
And it's kinda neat, you know, we had an, we had an opening service and wine director named Steve Olson-

Doug:
I remember-

Danny:
... who-

Doug:
... Olson-

Danny:
... who-

Doug:
... he was-

Danny:
... had a lot-

Doug:
... great.

Danny:
... to prove.

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
He had-

Doug:
Yeah, yeah.

Danny:
... to prove that, you know, even though he had come from Arizona at that point, that he-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... could-

Doug:
Make it in the-

Danny:
... he could-

Doug:
... big city.

Danny:
... make it in the big-

Doug:
Hmm, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... city. And everybody seemed to look at Gramercy Tavern as being their platform for doing their best work, and I think that's what I try do when building a team with a new restaurant is to not only seek people who've got a lotta talent, but who at this point in their career actually has something to prove, and it doesn't have to be an unhealthy thing to-

Doug:
N-

Danny:
... have a little chip on your shoulder.

Doug:
I don't know, I'm with ya. Ta-

Danny:
I bet you had-

Doug:
Eh, yo-

Danny:
... to do that-

Doug:
Uh-

Danny:
... you know, when your dad showed you the 1978, you had to prove you could do it-

Doug:
Oh, yeah.

Danny:
... too.

Doug:
Well, and a-

Danny:
And then after that-

Doug:
Uh, o-

Danny:
... wine you were just describing-

Doug:
Well, and also, um, well, I talked to Cathy Corisin a while back, and she was cute, she was ... We were talking about her era, and she was right ahead of me. She said, "You know, things were booming in Napa." and she said, "The, the ladder was a ... It was a short ladder to become a winemaker." I mean you're one or two years in the cellar, and all of a sudden you're a winemaker. Where today that's changed, you know, it might take you seven, or eight, or nine years to be a winemaker because there was all these new place. So she s- So the, the learning curve was short and steep for her, and for all of us, it was for me, and especially ... I've ... I think I've always had something, but, you know, I'm like, I'm like the son, did I get it on my merit, or I did 'cause it's a family thing. That's a, you know, it's I probably won't admit that readily, but that's probably in the back of mind, sure.

Danny:
And if-

Doug:
Um-

Danny:
... if that motivates you to do even better-

Doug:
Sure.

Danny:
... the world wins.

Doug:
Dude, did you know ... Did you do that on purpose hiring these people, or is this the bus- just turning and looking back at it now it's-

Danny:
I think it's looking back on-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... it now, um, because, yeah, I, I just ... I think that there's, there's magic in that bottle called Gramercy Tavern-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... to this day, and, and I think that, uh ... I do to thi- Uh, you know, we just had a leadership retreat for Union Square Hospitality Group earlier this week. We took all of our chefs, and GMs, and b- you know, a bunch of the people who run USHG down to Asbury Park, New Jersey for two days, and we covered a lot of territory. But I really try to encourage people to look at this job as being their platform to do their best work, professionally and personally, and it's hard, it's hard. We ask a lot of you, we ask you not only to be constantly looking at every day as an opportunity to improve what you do, but to look at every day as an opportunity to improve who you are while you're-

Doug:
Who-

Danny:
... doing it, and that's a lot-

Doug:
That's a-

Danny:
... a lot-

Doug:
... big ask.

Danny:
... to ask.

Doug:
Yeah. So Gramercy hits and runs, and then a few years later ... I've never asked you this question, I've always wanted to ask you, because Eleven Madison and Tabla opened at, with, on the-

Danny:
Within four weeks of each other-

Doug:
But, so I-

Danny:
... which is crazy.

Doug:
... gotta ask ya, yeah, as a m- good friend, and I love when I say this, but what were you thinking? (laughs)

Danny:
Yeah. Well, what the hell was I thinking? You know, those were, um ... here- here's what I was thinking. I, I was thinking about how much work we had done with Union Square Café to help revitalize Union Square Park, supporting the green-

Doug:
Right-

Danny:
... market.

Doug:
... right.

Danny:
And when I saw this opportunity to have an op- or re- or really the, the, the chance to invest in a park that had been ignored forever, Madison Square Park-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... which nobody even knew in New York-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and you would just pass by it. It was, it, it was sort of dangerous, but it was definitely forgettable.

Doug:
Right, I agree.

Danny:
As a matter of fact Madison Square Garden, uh, the original Madison Square Garden was on Madison Square Park, that's where the original of Madison Square Garden got its name-

Doug:
I didn't know that.

Danny:
... but no one knew that-

Doug:
I didn't know that.

Danny:
... no one knew that.

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
And, I loved the opportunity to actually have windows on a park, which Union Square Café never did-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and to really get into that park early. And, so the very first conversation we had with our landlord, which was Met Life at the time, was even before we talked about the terms of our lease we said, "Would you join us in revitalizing Madison Square Park?"-

Doug:
Huh.

Danny:
... and they said, "We will, but it won't work because we've tried for many years, and the city never supports us." and I said, "You just wait. If you can support financially I'll support through some leadership." And together we raised eleven million dollars to restore Madison Square Park. We passed the hat to, you know, lots of businesses that overlook the park-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... and New York Life, Credit Suisse, First Boston at the time, and, and we did it. And, and now we had two restaurants overlooking the park.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
For the third straight time I named a restaurant after a park, we had Union Square, Gramercy-

Doug:
And Gramercy.

Danny:
... and now Madison-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... Square, oh Eleven Madison Park. And the only reason we did two restaurants, which I never would have done as that it's, it was a historic building-

Doug:
Ah.

Danny:
... and there was a dividing wall that could not come down, and, so there was a necessity to do two restaurants at once.

Doug:
That's right, I'd forgotten-

Danny:
And at that time-

Doug:
... that. I had-

Danny:
... Michael Romano-

Doug:
... forg- I had, I had forgotten that.

Danny:
... was completely in love with everything Indian, spices-

Doug:
That's right, and he's-

Danny:
... women, food, everything-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... and I said, "Michael, get those Indian spices out of Union Square Café, they do not go with our-"

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
"... wine cellar, and let's create a restaurant that-"

Doug:
That can-

Danny:
"... that shows that-"

Doug:
The showcase.

Danny:
"... Indian flavors-"

Doug:
Showcase that.

Danny:
"... can-"

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
"... can be modernized.", and-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... that became Tabla. So if I had really thought it out I never would have done two restaurants at the same time, but-

Doug:
But it-

Danny:
... it was-

Doug:
... it-

Danny:
... irresistible-

Doug:
But it-

Danny:
... to do it-

Doug:
But it-

Danny:
... on this-

Doug:
... works.

Danny:
... park-

Doug:
I remember it was-

Danny:
... and then-

Doug:
It-

Danny:
... that lead to Shake Shack.

Doug:
Uh, wow, those two worked. Well, okay, so e- I'm pausing here because I have a, we're ... Collect my thoughts. So I have-

Danny:
(laughs)

Doug:
There's a wonderful woman that sells Shafer wine here in Manhattan, you know her, Coral Fernandez, and she's m- m- m- you know, pr- probably sells more Shafer than anyone in the-

Danny:
She's-

Doug:
... whole world-

Danny:
... got the easiest-

Doug:
... every year.

Danny:
... job in the city.

Doug:
Well, yeah, yeah, she's got some great accounts, but she always has had, you know, you, all your restaurants, the all your, uh, Union Square restaurants has, has been hers. And, um, whenever I come to town I try to come up with new ideas to meet trade, you know, the typical trade luncheon with five or six people in a restaurant with f- five or six sommeliers, beverage managers, which is great, we do it all the time. And, and then one time she said, m- "Hey, we should do this in the park at Shake Shack." and I said, "What Shake Shack?" she goes, "Oh, Danny's got this place over in the park, it's, you know, burgers- and French fries, and we'll, you know?"

Danny:
And half bottles of-

Doug:
And half bottles-

Danny:
... Shafer when-

Doug:
... of Shafer.

Danny:
... we open S-

Doug:
We can-

Danny:
Yep.

Doug:
... we can bring in some more stuff if we can figure out how to do it. We never did do it, but, but I'll never forget we talked about it for two or three years, it's like Shake Shack, we should go do a, you know, trade lunch at Shake Shack in the park. And then all of a sudden a few years later the thing just blows up, so I gotta hear this story because I don't think m- m- It was just gonna be a one spot deal wasn't it?

Danny:
Oh, absolutely.

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
In fact it was never even gonna be a one spot deal. What, what happened was-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... when we were planning-

Doug:
Or, or-

Danny:
... the-

Doug:
... seasonal even, yeah.

Danny:
When we were planning the restoration of the park we had always hoped that there would one day be some type of food there but the city reneged on its promise, and the promise was that if there were food in the park-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... that a, that a percentage of every sale would go back into Madison Square Park 'cause my vision was to have a self-sustaining park.

Doug:
Right, right.

Danny:
And the-

Doug:
Smart.

Danny:
... city reneged saying, "If you have food there that money will go to the New York City Parks Department at large, which actually goes to New York City's budget at large.

Doug:
Oh, no.

Danny:
And, so we just said-

Doug:
S-

Danny:
... "If you don't get back to your deal we're, there just won't be any food." So we parked it for a while, the idea for food-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... however we then came up with the idea of having modern art in the park to join their ... Um, uh, Madison Square Park actually has the city's best collection of, of 19th century sculptures, all these old, dead people that-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... you'd never even heard of half of 'em, it does. And unlike Union Square Park there's no plaza for a green market-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... so how do you get people to use this newly beautiful park? And we said, "Maybe art would do it."

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
To this day Madison Square Park has extraordinary art shows-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... in fact it'll be in the Venice Biennale, which in next May, which is incredible. Anyway the ver- One of the very first artists that we brought in was a sculptor from Thailand. We were working with the Public Art Fund of New York City, and this guy had this crazy idea to have two New York City taxicabs on stilts-

Doug:
Yeah, uh-huh (affirmative).

Danny:
... and he dressed up a hot dog cart to look like a taxicab, and they needed somebody to operate the hot dog cart. And, so I said, "Well, we'll do it, and we'll, we'll cook stuff out of the private dining room kitchen at Eleven Madison Park." and my team looked at me like I was crazy, and I said, "No, let's actually test this theory of hospitality 'cause I'm sick of people saying hospitality is only for fancy restaurants."

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
"I wanna see if we can actually show that it works even with something like a hot dog cart." So they came along with the deal, and we took four out of season-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... coat checkers, it's the summer of 2001-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... which was the summer of Gary Condit, uh, if you remember that-

Doug:
Yes.

Danny:
... leading, leading-

Doug:
Yes.

Danny:
... up to the-

Doug:
Yes.

Danny:
... awful things that happened here, um, in September of, of 2001. But we, we opened this hot dog cart, we cooked Chicago-style hot dogs, and the reason we picked that as an idea is A, I love 'em-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and B, they've got eight toppings, and I wanted to prove that we could remember ... Everybody's, everybody's got a way they like it different, like I like everything except pickle relish-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and you like everything except sport peppers, or whatever.

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
And, so we did it, and we got Vienna Beef hot dogs in from Chicago, that's all it was, we, yeah, we did a couple other things-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... like homemade beet stained potato chips, and-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... lemon verbena ice tea-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and Rice Kris- homemade Rice Krispie Treats-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... and that was it though, and, you know, 100 people would be in line literally every single day for this hot dog cart.

Doug:
What did ... What was that? That must have blown you ... Did that blow you away totally? I mean-

Danny:
It did, and we were-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... ha- It were ... We took something that-

Doug:
(laughs) I-

Danny:
... was really-

Doug:
... know.

Danny:
... just meant to be fun. Um, I think there's a, uh, there's a little hot dog cart sitting in my window-

Doug:
I see it.

Danny:
... right over-

Doug:
I see it.

Danny:
... there, which is-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... that's kinda where it all started.

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
And, so anyway, eh, we did this the, the next year, or th- there was a new artist, but the community said, "Can you please bring back that hot dog cart, it made us happy?" and everyone was pretty depressed in 2002-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... economically-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and emotionally. And then 2003 they said, "Can you bring it back again?" and we did. And, um-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... and then finally in 2004 we went to the city, actually we did this in late 2003, and we said, "How about if we make this thing permanent, and we will philanthropically gift a kiosk to the park? Eh, the park will then become our landlord-"

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
"... if all of the proceeds of the rent can go into the park. We will own the business, but the park will now own the building, and therefore collect the rent."

Doug:
Collect the rent.

Danny:
"And wouldn't it be a neat thing if we could draw people to the park from 11:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night keeping the park safe? And wouldn't it be a neat thing if we could come up with an idea that, you know, it was broadly accessible-"

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
"... to people price-wise, and-"

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
"... concept-wise? And wouldn't it be a neat thing if that actually raised money for the park?" Now, we had no idea ... And we called it Shake Shack, and we had absolutely no idea that it would work. In fact the other thing we, you know, we basically said let's take our hot dogs, and we're just gonna ... I just sketched out a menu on the back-

Doug:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Danny:
... of a, of, um, of scrap paper, which-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... we now have framed, and that menu is 90% of what's on Shake Shack's menu today. All we basically did was add burgers, and frozen custard, and-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... fries, to what we were already doing with, you know, the hot dogs, and, the same drink menu, et cetera-

Doug:
Huh.

Danny:
... and Shake Shack took off. And we still didn't think about it as being a scalable business although the, the, the back story here, Doug, is that, we were using Eleven Madison Park's wine cellar as the office-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... for Shake Shack, and a lo- We developed the Shack Burger, and developed all our recipes in the private dining room of Eleven Madison Park. Shake Shack was actually subsidizing Eleven Madison Park for a full four years without which I'm gonna, I'm gonna pretty much come out and say Eleven Madison Park may have gone out of business, um, as Tabla did. Tabla did go out of business in 2011. But Shake Shack was-

Doug:
Because of Shake-

Danny:
... funding-

Doug:
... Shack, yeah.

Danny:
... was funding Eleven Madison Park-

Doug:
Interesting.

Danny:
... and then finally we bought Shake Shack from Eleven, from us-

Doug:
From u- (laughs)

Danny:
... but we gave the proceeds to Eleven Madison Park-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... and Shake Shack became its own independent-

Doug:
Ye-

Danny:
... company after that.

Doug:
It's all ... It's its own company now.

Danny:
Yeah, so it's, it's a great story-

Doug:
It's, it's fantastic, and there's-

Danny:
... and we got-

Doug:
Uh, my count-

Danny:
... a nice-

Doug:
... there's-

Danny:
... business-

Doug:
... a hu-

Danny:
... out of it.

Doug:
... there's 168 Shake Shacks around the world.

Danny:
There are, but we didn't open a second one for five years-

Doug:
For five years.

Danny:
... and the only reason we opened the second one, I shouldn't the only reason, but a primary was if there was one recurring complaint about Shake Shack in those early years it was the line is too-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... damn long.

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
And, so we decided wouldn't it be great if-

Doug:
I heard that-

Danny:
... if-

Doug:
... I heard that all the time.

Danny:
... if we could-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... cannibalize ourselves by opening a second one-

Doug:
Oh.

Danny:
... and mitigate the like line?

Doug:
Where was the second one?

Danny:
Second one is, uh, 77th and Columbus.

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
The line only got longer at number one when we opened number two-

Doug:
Oh, Danny.

Danny:
... 'cause more people knew about it, and now-

Doug:
Oh.

Danny:
... we had a tiger by the tail.

Doug:
What di- Oh.

Danny:
And, (laughs) and, so I s- I still thing the second Shake Shack m- deserves a lion share of the credit because if that had not worked there wouldn't be a company.

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
It's, you know, it's kind of like Gramercy Tavern for me, the second-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... one proved that the first-

Doug:
Proved you-

Danny:
... one was not-

Doug:
... could do it-

Danny:
... a fluke.

Doug:
... and then off ya go.

Danny:
Yeah.

Doug:
168 all over the world, Seoul, Tokyo, London, Hong Kong, Moscow, Beirut, Dubai, and recently Southern California-

Danny:
Yep.

Doug:
... and soon, Northern California soon? We were talking about that, or-

Danny:
Any minute-

Doug:
Any minute.

Danny:
... and we just opened in Seattle-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... uh, very, very recently, and we just announced that we'll be opening in Mexico, um-

Doug:
Great.

Danny:
... the Philippines. Yeah, it's, it's really cool-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... to see how this culture works everywhere.

Doug:
That's incredible. Well, good on Seattle 'cause I just took, uh, number four to school, just dropped him off three-

Danny:
Quart-

Doug:
... weeks ago.

Danny:
Quarto in Seattle-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... University of Washington?

Doug:
Yeah, he's a-

Danny:
Oh-

Doug:
... Husky.

Danny:
... that's a beautiful school.

Doug:
He's ... He ha- We have launched him successfully. And, um, you know, we got the meal plan, right, and, and they've got great options compared to when you and I went to school, I mean there's, they've got all sorts of things. And all of a sudden, you know, we, he's, "Ah, I need more money in my other account, other account."-

Danny:
Yeah.

Doug:
... and we looked at the thing, and he's going out, (laughing) and he's, you know, he's, he's, he's going into Seattle, and eating at great restaurants. It's like Tate -

Danny:
Who-

Doug:
... you know-

Danny:
... who, who-

Doug:
... you gotta-

Danny:
... did you-

Doug:
... yo- yo-

Danny:
... think you were bringing up?

Doug:
Well, yeah, I'm still hope, you know, we, we're trying to reign that in, but, uh, that's been fun. Um, hospitality ... I gotta ask you because, what was the moment ... I mean you have great restaurants, great food, great service, but, you know, early on, and your main theme has been hospitality and service. Was there a moment that triggered that, or is-

Danny:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
... it just all the moments put together?

Danny:
Well, it's all the moments put together. I think growing up in St. Louis made me realize that, the restaurants I fell in love with in retrospect were actually nicer than they were yummy in, in many cases. Uh-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... the, the food revolution now has hit St. Louis, but it really hadn't when I was growing up, but thank goodness 'cause that's where all the ideas for things like Blue Smoke and Shake Shack came from.

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
But nonetheless I think working for my dad as a tour guide in Rome one summer, and realizing that, I'd be with these, I'd pick up these cranky jet lagged tourists at the airport in the morning and I had this innate desire and ability to turn the crankiest into the happiest five days later. And I wasn't f- still thinking about it all that consciously 'til another thing happened, which was I think in the 1980s, it was really when we started hearing about chefs as celebrities, and a lot of the journali- food journalists were writing about these chefs as personalities. Um-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and you would go these restaurants helmed by these famous chefs, and they weren't very nice to you at the restaurant, and it started this dichotomy of the kinda restaurant, I just started asking why can't you get great food at a place that's also nice?

Doug:
(laughs) Yeah.

Danny:
And, and-

Doug:
A simple question.

Danny:
And I think it was 1995 when, soon after opening Gramercy Tavern-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... that I actually named it for the first time because that was when we had two restaurants for the first time, so Danny couldn't be at the front door a hundred, wherever I was-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... I was not at the other. And every time I went to Gramercy Tavern in those early days something different happened there that I would not have done. We were not being generous with, with guests, uh, we were not, we weren't trusting people, a- and it occurred, and I ... And my stomach was just completely upset. Uh, as a matter of fact our bookkeeper who is now bookkeeping for both restaurants-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... I went in early one morning, and he had two sets of keys on his desk, and one had a smiley face, a yellow smiley face, and one had a yellow frowning face, and I said, "What the hell's that?"-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... and he said, "Well, you know, the frowning face is Gramercy Tavern 'cause that's how we're treating people here. And the smiley face-"

Doug:
Huh, oh.

Danny:
"... is Union Square Café."

Doug:
(laughs) You're kidding.

Danny:
And that was-

Doug:
I've never heard that-

Danny:
I called an all-

Doug:
... wow.

Danny:
... staff meeting, and, and that was the first time I named hospitality as something that we were going to really be differentiating from service because service ... Um, and this had been burning in mind-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... when we, Union Square Café won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Service in America in 1992.

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
I once again felt like an imposture 'cause I knew there were way better, more refined service techniques in other restaurants across the country, and I knew that service as a word was not capturing what we were actually being rewarded for. And yeah, the service is good at Union-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... Square Café, but it was how we were making people feel, not the technical service, but the emotional hospitality.

Doug:
The emotional, how you feel-

Danny:
And-

Doug:
... when you leave-

Danny:
... that was-

Doug:
... right.

Danny:
... when I basically said, "Look, performance, how good the food is-"

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
"... how beautiful the choreography of the decanting of the wine is, all that gets ... If you do that all perfectly the performance, including service, you get 49 points maximum, which leaves 51 points if you wanna get 100 on your test-"

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
"... for how did you make someone feel while you're doing all this." And all this was coming together every year because back then the only feedback we got on an annual basis was this Zagat, or s- there was the Zagat survey. And I kept seeing Union Square Café rising, and rising, and rising-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... in the category called New York's Favorite Restaurants, but it would always hover around 10 or 11 for food and service-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... and I didn't understand how we could be New York's favorite restaurant when so many restaurants below us actually had, on that list, actually had higher scores for food and service-

Doug:
Food and service.

Danny:
... and certainly décor. And that's the year that I said, "Guess what?" said, "Zagat forgot to ask about hospitality, it's a very, very different thing, and that's the X factor."

Doug:
So that's when it happened?

Danny:
And that's when we named it, our-

Doug:
Who-

Danny:
... group, The Union Square Hospitality Group, and I said, "Yeah, we constantly wanna make our food, and wine, and décor, better, and service, but we gotta just triple down on our core competence, which is how do you make people feel."

Doug:
It's the two keys, the smiley face and the frowny face.

Danny:
Yep. (laughs)

Doug:
Wow, never heard that one. (laughs) Um, as usual you're not standing still, tell me about Tacocina.

Danny:
Tacocina.

Doug:
Tacocina, I'm sorry, lo siento.

Danny:
Oh, that was good. So d-

Doug:
Thank you.

Danny:
... yeah, Tacocina wa- is just a really, really fun opportunity to, um, once again land in a brand new public park, which is called Domino Park, which was created, um, by a, a visionary company in Brooklyn. They bought the old Domino Sugar factory, which has been an eyesore for many, many years-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... on the, um, East River in Williamsburg. Completely restoring it, and that's gonna be offices, they're building residential towers behind it, and as part of it they created a brand new beautiful park right on the river. And they invited us to conceive something to put there that would give people a reason to wanna use it.

Doug:
M- Don't you love getting invitations, look at you-

Danny:
I love those kind-

Doug:
... look at you. (laughs)

Danny:
... of invitations, and clearly, um, we wanted to do something new. We, we said, you know, "Let's not do Shake Shack, that's kind of-"

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
"... obvious, but let's once again ask ourselves what would be a kind of food that anybody could eat-"

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
"... m- um, where the price points not an object." And, you know, it, it took me back to, uh, an experience I had many, many, many years ago in Santa Barbara at a place called La Super-Rica, I bet you've been there before.

Doug:
No, I have not.

Danny:
It's a little taco shack, Julia Child used to love going there-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... when she lived in Santa Barbara, and we'll see, it's, it's had a great first season.

Doug:
Cool.

Danny:
Um, cold weather is not its friend so far. It's open, but, um-

Doug:
(laughs)

Danny:
... on warm days and warm nights the place was just jumping-

Doug:
Good.

Danny:
... all summer.

Doug:
And the other one, uh, Manhatta.

Danny:
Yep. So Manhatta opened, about three months ago-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... on the 60th floor of a building that many, many New Yorkers have never gone to called 28 Liberty.

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
It used to be, uh, Chase Plaza, it was the headquarters, um, and in fact David Rockefeller's office was in the building, and, and we're on the 60th floor, which has some of the most commanding views you will ever see of this city-

Doug:
Wow.

Danny:
... and i- We m- developed an amazing bar, um, and, and a really, really fun restaurant.

Doug:
Yeah, I've heard the bar is great, I gotta get up there.

Danny:
Yeah-

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
... you s- you should just go because-

Doug:
Go for a drink.

Danny:
... you know, for that kind of view in New York you mostly have to pay to get up the elevator-

Doug:
Right. (laughs)

Danny:
... seriously. And just go take in the view, and, and-

Doug:
Okay.

Danny:
... it's great.

Doug:
All right, it's on the list. So I've gotta ask ya one last thing. Personally Union Square Café, I've got memories, my daughter Katie, seven years old, her first oysters. She's ... The, the server came over, and m- Katie, she at seven said, "I'll have, I'll have the oysters." and I was like, "That's a new one." and they, they came out, and I, she, first one went down the hatch no problem, I said, "Wow, that was impressive." Second one, (laughs) the second one was great, you know, I'm watching her, she takes it, she's gives, she looks at me, she gives me the look, it's like well, there's an issue, so I had a napkin boom, right back out. And the server was just like so good, just came over, and just-

Danny:
(laughs)

Doug:
... gracefully, it was like totally cool. Um, m- the college boy, "Tate his first birthday, um, birthday lunch. My dad's 85th birthday-

Danny:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
... where my whole family was there, and somehow you found a bottle of vintage 1924, his birth year of wine, I forget what wine it was too, but you found it.

Danny:
It probably-

Doug:
Uh-

Danny:
... went ... It probably Madera.

Doug:
Yeah, it was actually, so thank you for that. So m- when you started out did you ever think you woulda become a maker of memories because that's what you've done?

Danny:
I will say thank you to that. No, but, uh, but I, I think that that's ... The, the role of restaurants I think are twofold. Number one is to be a placemaker. If you can create a place that changes the way people look at where they are, that's something, and then if you can create a place that people enjoy enough that they wanna go back and create memories then you've really got something. And I feel like my favorite restaurants in the world do both of those things.

Doug:
Yeah.

Danny:
Um, you know, i- What ... The greatest compliment in the world-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny:
... is when I'm traveling, or someone else is traveling, and the very first place you go off the airplane in a new city is that restaurant, you're going there because that restaurant actually has terroir in the city-

Doug:
Hmm.

Danny:
... I, and I have restaurants like that where I know I'm where I am-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... while I'm there, and-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... it could also be the last restaurant-

Doug:
Right.

Danny:
... before getting on the airplane. So whenever we see suit cases we go, "That's a place that means-"

Doug:
That's cool.

Danny:
"... something even more than I'm hungry." It means I, I, I, I wanna know where I am, and I wanna remember what happened.

Doug:
Wow. Danny Meyer-

Danny:
(laughs)

Doug:
... thanks man, it was great. Thanks for taking the time.

Danny:
Love you, Doug-

Doug:
It's so-

Danny:
... thank you.

Doug:
... seeing you, be good.