Welcome to our newest feature, The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite tables.
Dan Urzendowski. [Photo: Justin Phillips/4squarephotos]
Atlantans know Bone's for two things: steak and power-meals. It's General Manager Dan Urzendowski's job to make sure both of those experiences go off without a hitch, and it's something he's taken pride in doing well for almost four years. Lauded as a can't-miss steakhouse by nearly every major publication locally and nationally, Bone's has built a reputation since 1979 as an institution of stellar food, a never-ending wine list (now on an iPad), and personalized service—service that comes from Dan and his team whom he calls, "the greatest staff in this business."
What's your background? Where have you worked in Atlanta?
I have been in the restaurant business in some way, shape or form since I was 14 years old. Twenty-eight years later, I honestly can't think of anything else I would rather be doing than working in the hospitality industry. In Atlanta, I have worked for Houston's, was the General Manager for The River Room and was affiliated with The Grape for several years. I have learned so much from my different mentors through the course of my career, and continue to grow each day from my wonderful experiences at Bone's. Atlanta is such a diversified city and we are fortunate to say it shares a wealth of great restaurants to offer its diners.
So how long have you been working at Bone's?
This upcoming February will make four years. It has been such a blessing to work side by side with what I truly believe is the greatest staff in this business. Bone's opened its doors in 1979 and has been fortunate to see different generations of its guests grow with them throughout the years. We have hands-down the best customers in the world. Their loyal patronage is certainly appreciated by all of our staff, each and every day.
What brought you to Bone's?
The challenge of being a part of what is truly an Atlanta institution. I was at a place in my career that I yearned for somewhere that I could call "home." The generosity of the owners, Ms. Susan DeRose and Mr. Richard Lewis, is second to none. They take a keen interest in every single one of their employees' well being. Not only inside the restaurant, but also in our families' quality of life outside these four walls. We have several employees who have been with us for over thirty years, which is almost unheard of in the restaurant industry. It is a family of men and women that truly share a special bond with one another. I feel an inner peace when I walk through the doors, in knowing that while I am here, everything is alright in the world.
What's your favorite table in the restaurant?
Honestly, it's hard to define just one. One of the great things about us is that we have many different dining rooms to choose from. We have private rooms that accommodate large parties, upstairs and downstairs main dining areas, and also a section of the restaurant that is called the "Wine Gallery." This is a bit more of a secluded area that allows for a little more intimate and quiet conversation.
What's your favorite thing on the menu?
It depends on what I am in the mood for. If I'm hard pressed to choose one certain steak, order me a medium rare bone in ribeye. We serve only prime graded cuts of beef that are of the highest quality in the country. A ribeye gives me that hearty, juicy flavor that I crave from a good steak. Pair it with a red wine (cabernet sauvignon for me) from our 1,300 bottle selection wine list (that we present to our guests on an iPad) and I'm good to go. We have many different fresh seafood selections to choose from as well, ranging from live Maine lobsters, colossal shrimp cocktail and several fresh fish entrees. Our sides of vegetables are served "family style," meaning they are generous portions large enough to share with other guests.
It's 8 p.m. Saturday, can you walk in and get a table? If not, what's the wait?
Although we always try to set aside a few tables with our walk in guests in mind, we will occasionally at times have to ask some guests for a few minutes of patience. We have a welcoming and comfortable lounge area to accommodate our guests while they wait. Ask one of our gentlemen at the bar for some complimentary cheese coins and, before you know it, one of our hosts will be escorting you to your table in the dining room.
Do people ever try to slip you cash or anything for tables? Has it happened to you—ever—not necessarily at Bone's?
Although some guests have tried to offer money for a table, we do not operate that way. We always try to give an honest assessment of what the wait time would be and promise that getting them a table as soon as possible is a high priority to our entire door staff. Many times, we are able to accommodate our guests with a table much sooner than what was quoted.
Do you have regulars, and what are they like?
We are so very fortunate that many of our guests choose to dine with us several times throughout the course of a week. I meant what I said earlier that we truly do have the greatest guests in the world coming in to Bone's. We have many guests that have been dining with us since we opened our doors over thirty years ago. Back then, they were bringing in their families which consisted of their young sons and daughters. Now, it is that generation who is bringing in their very own families that we are privileged to serve. From Atlanta's top CEOs that make up our dining room at lunch time, to our neighbors down the street that come join us for dinner, they all are a part of our Bone's family.
Do you get a lot of celebrities coming here at all? Anyone in particular that you remember?
We certainly have our fair share of well-known celebrities that come in to the restaurant. Many are looking forward to a bit more privacy as they dine, and we are always accommodating of this request. From movie stars to renowned athletes, you never know who you just might see at Bone's on any given night....
What happens if the restaurant is packed and a VIP comes in?
When you're here, YOU are the VIP. That being said, if somebody who is well-known in the public eye comes in and is requesting a table for dinner, we try very hard to be discreet and sensitive to the situation. We obviously do our best to accommodate everyone as quickly as possible.
What's the strangest request you've ever received from a customer?
Well, it wasn't me but a colleague of mine that sticks out in regards to this question. We had one of our guests bring in a person that had a service animal with them. While we certainly have our fair share of guide dogs that are lovable animals that assist the needs of some guests, I had never been introduced to a guide monkey. To say the least, it made for interesting conversations at several tables during this particular lunch. Evidently, he wasn't on his best behavior that day!
At the end of the day, what's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job?
I have everything I need, knowing that going into the day, I am surrounded by the best in the business. We have a staff that is inspiring to be around. They are motivated by showing true Southern hospitality to each and every guest that they serve. I learn from them each and every day and am so very grateful to be a part of this wonderful family at Bone's. Our motto is printed at the bottom of each and every one of our guests' checks: "Live to Serve, Serve to Live."
· Bone's [Official Site]
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