This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite hard-to-get tables. This week: Stefanie Childs of Olivia.
Stefanie Childs, Olivia. [Photo: Jon Bolden]
It's 8:00 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table?
Anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.
Earlier in the night?
We always encourage people to come in earlier if they want to sit down immediately. We do serve the full menu in our bar and patio area, so if we are on a wait around 7:30, 8:00 we always try to encourage people to sit at the bar. We have a chef's table as well that we can seat people at. We try to get people in anyway we can, try not to make them wait too long.
Do people ever try to slip you cash or anything for tables?
No. [laughs] That's funny you say that. At my old job they used to do that, but not at Olivia. No, if it ever happened it was probably a holiday, like Valentine's or New Year's Eve or something like that. But yeah, that doesn't happen at Olivia.
How many seats are there in the restaurant?
We can seat 150, that's including the bar and the patio. The dining room is about 75? Probably 75?
What are your regulars like?
Our regulars are like family. They are just so loyal and so sweet and we've just gotten to know each and every one of them by first name, by last name, all about their families, where they live, where they go on vacation. It's really nice when they come in, it really makes everything feel relaxed. I love our regulars. They're just great, great, great.
Do you get a lot of celebrities into the restaurant?
There have been a few. Not crazy. We've had a few musicians, a couple movie stars. Couple chefs. It kind of seems like it's more a seasonal thing, it seems like we get more famous people in the winter and fall, I don't know why. In the summer it kind of slows down a lot, I think a lot of people go out of town. It's so hot, you don't see that many people.
What do you do if VIPs come in and there aren't any tables open?
We accommodate them as fast as we can. Get them set up at the bar, anywhere we can. Usually try to slide them in as soon as a table gets up. We always take care of our VIPs at much as possible.
What's the most outrageous request you've ever received from a customer?
It's not really outrageous but kind of surprises me: sometimes people will want to taste certain things. And it's like well, we can't really give you a taste of this fish without giving you an order of this fish. Just kind of weird requests like that. I mean, I understand with sauces or something like that, but if somebody wants to taste the steak or they want to taste a piece of fish or the quail or something we'll say no, we can't really do that. Somebody came in the other day and asked to taste our fries. And we were like well, we can get you a half order, or just fry you up a bowl?kind of strange.
What's your favorite table in the whole restaurant?
I really like the booths at the restaurant, we have four booths that are nice. But there's also one table, table 55, it's up in the corner of the restaurant and you can see everything. See what's going on outside, watch people come in and out. I like that one.
What's your favorite thing on the menu?
I would probably have to say our scallop dish. Our scallop dish is ever changing, it's with risotto probably about 95% of the time, and just the way the chefs change it up. It's always consistent. The flavors always work. They always just have it spot on.
When you're not at Olivia where else do you like to eat around town?
You know what? If I go anywhere I probably go have sushi. Because I feel like our restaurant's fantastic — I think we're sort of the pioneers of what we're trying to do in Austin. I'll go try a new place, you know, and I just always feel like I'm reading our menu. And so if we go out, we go have sushi because we don't serve sushi at the restaurant.
Where do you like for sushi?
We prefer Umi. It's at Stassney and 35. Great place, inexpensive, never crowded, never have to wait.