Building Suspense, Using Plastic and Plywood

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I recently read a story in The New York Times about bloggers who write about hot new restaurants before they open. These gastrobloggers report obsessively about new places in the days, weeks and months leading up to their openings. Often, there’s not much to say. One took photos of the plywood-covered windows of a Keith McNally restaurant under construction and published them under the headline “VITAL Plywood Update.”

I understand the impulse to know what’s going on behind that plywood. In my East Sac neighborhood, The Waterboy’s Rick Mahan is planning to open a casual pizza place called OneSpeed. He’s been renovating the old Cafe Milazzo at 48th and Folsom for months. Every time I walk by, I strain to see what’s happening behind the heavy plastic covering the windows. Once, there was a small tear in the plastic, and I stared shamelessly, looking for signs of progress. (I could see a newly built bar.) But the next day, the plastic was repaired, and I was shut out once again.

There’s a reason restaurateurs try to keep us nosy parkers from sneaking a peek. It’s why the bride doesn’t let the groom see her before the Big Moment in church. It’s why Ty Pennington parks that big bus in front of every extremely madeover home before the Big Reveal. It’s for the drama of it.

Oh, there’s another reason, too. A friend of mine recently passed by a soon-to-open restaurant that didn’t have plastic or plywood covering its windows. She looked in and saw a bunch of toilets sitting in the dining room.