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How often do the worlds of numerology and haute cuisine align? Maybe as often as you get a date like 11/11/11.
At first it might seem like just an excuse to send out a press release: an eight-year-old restaurant, whose address (and name) just happens to include 1111, capitalizing on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drum up some business. After all, a self-styled "Wine Country bistro" that serves up a mean dry-rubbed rib-eye with Tillamook cheddar-potato gratin on the side would hardly seem the type of haunt for the crystals-and-auras New Age set.
But Paul Hamilton, owner of 1111 Mississippi in Lafayette Square, maintains this isn't just a gimmick. "In about 2009, that's when we saw people starting to make a big deal about it," he says. The "it" being November 11, and as the calendar rolled to 2011: "We had people calling before the end of last year."
That included several requests to book the entire restaurant for weddings or private parties, which Hamilton declined, preferring "to just be open for our regular customers."
The restaurant has also nobly stuck to its reservation policy, which only accommodates parties larger than 12 when booking more than six weeks out. This has led to a strange phenomenon: superstitious foodies (which would seem to be a fairly disparate population) banding together into groups of upwards of 30 so as to be certain to be among the lucky crowd savoring starters of sauteed crab cakes or air-dried sopressata on that most auspicious of dates. Hamilton says he already has reservations for about 120.
"And they're booking later in the evening," he says. "They want to be there at 11:11 p.m."
But beginning today, exactly six weeks away from 11/11/11, the restaurant is accepting reservations for smaller parties; make that call quickly, though, to 241-9999, as a full house is guaranteed.
And for those not fortunate enough to land a table on 11/11/11 itself, Hamilton and his crew have a whole week of celebratory gestures planned. From Monday, November 7 (lucky number 7!) through Friday, there will be a round of mimosas on the house every day at 11:11 a.m., and a complementary champagne toast at 11:11 p.m. every night. The restaurant is bringing back a number of as-yet-undetermined items from its debut menu as specials, as well as returning the price of its beloved "B.L.T." (bourbon apples, Maine lobster and thyme remoulade) to its original $11.11. Hamilton is also offering 1111 Mississippi's signature three-course prix-fixe "Tuscan Tuesday" menu every night that week.
So what's the big deal about the number 11? "You go onto the internet, there's all sorts of stuff about it-stuff about aliens and conspiracy theories," Hamilton says. Indeed, depending on where you poke around, 11 is either a symbol of "balance," "new beginnings" and "purity," or it's no less than the harbinger of the apocalypse.
And, as avid numerologists will no doubt delightedly point out to skeptics, consider the word "Mississippi." Eleven letters. Which essentially reduces the name of the restaurant to...11/11/11.
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel...like a glass of Merlot.