There are just 24 side-by-side seats at the long communal table at Socarrat Paella Bar on 19th Street in Chelsea, as Frank Bruni noted last week in The Times, and they don't take reservations. So when our party of eight -- including four kids -- showed up on Sunday night, the math was against us, even though we were arriving before 6. We would have needed a third of the entire restaurant. The place was already jammed, but the owner had a soft spot for kids and saw our dilemma as we were about to wander off in search of a different place. It was a warm October night, an unseasonable 70 degrees. We were walked through the kitchen to a big table on a back, open-air patio. The kids ran around while we ate. The paella was as great as billed, according to one in our party, who grew up eating the home-made stuff. I doubt we would get this lucky again, but I definitely plan to go back (probably with just a party of 2 this time).

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AuthorPatrick LaForge