Nick Paumgarten: THE MOST EXCLUSIVE RESTAURANT IN AMERICA

New Yorker – Damon Baehrel’s methods are a marvel, and his tables are all booked until 2025. Or are they?

The first time Jeffrey Merrihue came across the name Damon Baehrel, he was amazed that he hadn’t heard of him. “I didn’t understand how the secret had been kept,” Merrihue said recently. “The people I go around with, it’s hard for us to find something that is genuinely unique and new.” The people Merrihue goes around with are gastronomes, the trophy hunters of haute cuisine, the kind who travel the world to dine at famous, or famously obscure, restaurants. After a trip to Cape Town this spring, to a restaurant called the Test Kitchen, Merrihue, who lives in London and produces promotional videos for restaurants, became, he says, the second person to have eaten at every restaurant on the so-called World’s 50 Best list. He’s also been to eighty of the restaurants to which Michelin has granted three stars.

Around Christmas in 2013, a friend of Merrihue’s alerted him to a Bloomberg News piece about an unranked contender, which Bloomberg called the “most exclusive restaurant in the U.S.” It described a gourmet operation—in Earlton,…

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