What is 'table 61' at Balthazar? Restaurant lingo explained in Corden row

Alexandra Ciufudean October 19, 2022
What is 'table 61' at Balthazar? Restaurant lingo explained in Corden row
Photo by Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images

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In the viral story of comedian James Corden’s banning (and subsequent unbanning) from one of NYC’s most sought-after dining spots, one detail stood out – does ‘table 61’ have any special meaning in restaurant – and indeed Balthazar – lingo?

The plot reads like a Disney villain redemption story – Balthazar restaurateur Keith McNally 86’d the Late Late Show host accusing him of “rude” behavior to his servers only to retract the ban 24 hours later after the comedian called McNally and “apologized profusely.”

“All is forgiven,” McNally wrote in a follow-up Instagram post. “So Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Corden, Jimmy Corden.”

Happy ending, right? Almost. Some of those watching at home are still hung up on the possible secret meaning of ‘table 61’ – is there anything to it?

Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images

James Corden walks into Balthazar…

It sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s actually the latest food versus Hollywood controversy.

On Monday (October 17) Keith McNally, owner and restaurateur behind popular NYC French restaurant Balthazar, posted an Instagram rant in which he branded actor and comedian James Corden “the most abusive customer to my Balthazar servers since the restaurant opened 25 years ago.”

“I don’t often 86 [slang for get rid of] a customer but today I 86’d Corden. It did not make me laugh,” McNally added before launching into a couple of examples of Corden’s alleged treatment of staff.

McNally wrote: “In June, James Corden was here [at Balthazar] on table 61. Although this is diabolical, it happens very occasionally in all restaurants.” The restaurateur went on to claim Corden found a hair in his food and proceeded to be “extremely nasty” about it, allegedly demanding “another round of drinks this second.”

The Balthazar boss then claimed Corden visited his restaurant on October 9 in a rant about the now-infamous egg yolk omelette, which online foodies have wasted no time in trying to recreate.

But hold on, Twitter interjected after reading McNally’s rant, does table 61 at Balthazar have any special meaning? Is it restaurant lingo for something?

Why is table 61 diabolical?

What is table 61 at Balthazar?

If you’re feeling out of the loop, fret no longer. As it turns out, table 61 at Balthazar doesn’t carry any special meaning – other than being one of the most desired seats in the house.

The Balthazar bible – At Balthazar: The New York Brasserie At The Center Of The World, an “irresistible, mouthwatering narrative driven by the drama of a restaurant that serves half a million meals a year” – explains tables 60, 61 and 62 are “those big comfy red booths” at the back of the restaurant.

The mirror above table 61 gives occupants a panorama of the brasserie while keeping them reasonably secluded from its hustle and bustle.

If someone wanted to book one of these sought-after spots, “charm often helped.”

Food writer Ben Leventhal admitted in a 2022 article about Balthazar’s post-covid reopening that tables 61 and 90 are his favorites. “I have only ever seen McNally at 10 or 62,” he added.

Does table 61 have special meaning at a restaurant?

The above information, usually only available to patrons of the select New York brasserie, was understandably missing over on Twitter, where confusion about table 61’s possible meaning persisted.

Does it mean something in restaurant lingo?

It doesn’t seem so. The table numbering system is usually based on rows, so in any eatery 61 would be the second table in the sixth row.

As other commenters pointed out, McNally’s “diabolical” comment apparently referred to Corden finding a hair in his order. The sentence was likely omitted in the final edit of his Instagram post, leading to the “table 61” confusion.

The only reason McNally even mentioned the number, some argued, was because guest incident reports have to be meticulously detailed.

Regarding James Corden’s apology, Keith McNally wrote on Instagram he “strongly believes in second chances” and explained the comedian was no longer banned from Balthazar.

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Alexandra Ciufudean is the Head of Entertainment at The Focus where she manages a growing team of outstanding writers. On a day-to-day basis, she hunts for the latest in online trends and keeps her finger on the pulse of US culture, politics, and celebs. Alexandra helped launch The Focus in 2020 and developed the site into an expert online news source. A language nerd through and through, she boasts 5 years of experience as an editor, writer, and content specialist across web, video, and social platforms, and a master's degree in Comparative Literature.