Inside Power Lunch Spot Michael's: A Guide to Who Gets the Best Seats

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Longtime customers are often given priority over celebrities when it comes to getting the coveted tables (like Table 1, where Bill Clinton, Michael Keaton and Warren Buffett have dined) in the front of the house. Just don't get stuck at one of the less desirable tables toward the back. Here's where the power regulars perch.

This story first appeared in the April 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Owner Michael McCarty says his education in the delicate art of seating began when he opened in Santa Monica in 1979. "My God, it was insane," he says. "People were coming from Ma Maison and Chasen's, and that's when I initiated a democratic approach in which priority is based on loyalty. Nobody who doesn't eat here on a regular basis walks in and tries to push anybody around." Even the regulars, he says, are "flexible."

Though all of the tables at Michael's are round — "I've hated square tables and banquettes from day one," says McCarty — they are not perceived equally. "The best ones are closer to [55th] Street," says New York Social Diary's David Patrick Columbia. Media and celebs tend to sit in the front room (pictured on map). The most desirable spot for power players like Bill Clinton, Warren Buffet and Katie Couric is Table 1, the catbird seat in a central alcove by a bay window. GM Steve Millington notes the alcove traps conversation, making it ideal for VIPs who want to be "seen but not heard."

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