When the Clintons darken a restaurant’s door, everything stops, at least for a while. Flashing camera phones and applause filled the packed house, on Friday, when word spread that former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea Clinton, an NBC news correspondent, were being seated for dinner at Almond in Bridgehampton.
“It’s truly mind-blowing to have V.I.P.s of this caliber dine here,” Eric Lemonides, the restaurant’s owner, said. He helped six servers at the Clintons’ table of 12, who included former Representative Anthony D. Weiner.
Mr. Lemonides and Almond’s chef, Jason Weiner, who launched the French bistro in 2001 and is Mr. Weiner’s brother, said they were determined to make it an unforgettable experience not only for the Clintons but for every patron. Mr. Lemonides had instructed the staff, he said, to “take care, the best possible care of their sections.” He also visited each table that night to talk to diners about their experience.
Mr. Lemonides said he had eaten at an A-list restaurant where a celebrity was seated at the next table. “I felt insulted that every server hovered around the celebrity’s table, while I was thinking, Hello? Can I get a cocktail? I wanted people to feel appreciated, even if their last name isn’t Clinton.”
According to the chef, customers’ food orders were put on hold until after the Clinton party had been served, but no one seemed to mind. “These aren’t the Kardashians,” Mr. Weiner said. “These are the Clintons, and you can’t get much more important than that.” He sent a few appetizers to the high-powered table, and then they ordered a la carte.
“Someone told me the president had a gruyere burger,” said John McCue, whose vantage point at the bar afforded him a view of the back of Mr. Clinton’s head. “So I had one, too.”
Jason Kringstein, an actor, who was seated 30 minutes after his 9:45 reservation, said the staff had been accommodating. “They gave us a free drink, appetizer, and dessert to compensate for the wait. Chelsea Clinton apologized after she bumped into me. I told her that I didn’t mind.”
“It was very low-key,” said Andrew Cimento, who was seated with his partner, Joseph Puglisi, at a nearby table just before the Clinton party arrived. “Bill took some pictures, shook a few hands, and then everything mellowed out,” he said. “Hillary looked great with her hair pulled back.”
The restaurant had received confirmation on Wednesday that the Clintons, who rented a house on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton Village for the month, would be coming to dinner. For security reasons, they remained tight-lipped and recorded the reservation under a false name. President Clinton appeared the next day at the East Hampton Artists and Writers Softball Game, and was greeted with applause.
Almond’s owner and chef were reluctant to say much more about the Clintons’ visit. “We have a good relationship with the Clintons,” Mr. Lemonides said. “We want them to feel comfortable the next time they want to eat here.”
It wasn’t the first time President Clinton had been at Almond. He was reported to have come in alone a few years ago, pulled up a barstool, and waited for a to-go order.
“It was on a slow Thursday night, I think,” Mr. Weiner said. “He casually chatted with other people at the bar. “It was cool.”