By Brian McDonald
St. Martin's Press, $24.95
McDonald gives us a bartender's eye view of the inner workings at the preeminent watering hole for New York City literary and media types, having had the privilege of working there when the place was at its peak — 1986 through 1997. We get his personal story (from down-and-out alcoholic to full-time writer); a revealing portrait of Elaine's owner/operator Elaine Kaufman; plenty of information about the business practices that kept her restaurant at the forefront of the New York scene despite the stiffest competition imaginable; and dozens upon dozens of great restaurant stories, many of them involving celebrities as you've never seen them act before. The book is a fine read on its own, but also shows how one of the country's legendary restaurant operators was able to make a bundle of money despite having so-so food. She did it with offbeat hospitality, ably described by McDonald.