The Hardest Restaurants to Get Into in America Gallery
February 7, 2018
Want a quick reservation at one of these spots? Good luck
The Hardest Restaurants to Get Into in America
Just about every town has some restaurants that aren’t easy to get into. You call on Tuesday, hoping for a table for two at 7 on Friday night, and are greeted with stifled laughter and the helpful information that there'll be something available at 5:30 three weeks hence. Well, that's normal for popular eateries — especially new ones — but some restaurants are so difficult to get into that it becomes part of their lore.
Benu, San Francisco
Reservations at chef Corey Lee’s San Francisco masterpiece are accepted up to two months in advance, and there are two equally confounding ways to make them: You can give them a call between 10 and 4 Tuesdays through Saturdays, or you can try your luck on OpenTable. These reservations go incredibly quickly, however, so even though it might look like you have decent odds of scoring a table between those two options, you’re far more likely to learn that they’re fully booked.
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, New York City
The copper- and aluminum-clad outpost of chef César Ramirez, formerly of Bouley, is as difficult a table to snatch as it as an unorthodox experience in fine dining. With three Michelin stars and very limited seating (and upwards of 20 courses), the Brooklyn restaurant books for the entire month on the first weekday of each month. Should you call on that day, however, expect to get a busy signal. Should you get through, however, then prepare to enjoy the voyeuristic experience of watching a brilliant meal being divined from one of the most exclusive vantage points in the country.
Komi, Washington, DC
This popular Mediterranean restaurant offers a dozen or so dishes from a set menu, many of which are seafood-based. It accepts reservations via phone only, and weekend evenings tend to book up as soon as spots become available, a month in advance. Your best bet is to visit the website, where last-minute openings are announced; send them an email requesting one of those and cross your fingers.
Momofuku Ko, New York City
Legend has it that if Momofuku emperor David Chang’s parents wish to dine at Momofuku Ko, they have to wait in line like everyone else. Reservations can only be made up to 30 days in advance and require would-be patrons to go through an oftentimes infuriating cat-and-mouse game on OpenTable trying to snag a spot. Ko only accepts walk-ins when there is a canceled reservation, but what have you got to lose?
N/ Naka, Los Angeles, Calif.
Chef Niki Nakamura’s Los Angeles gem is only open Wednesday through Saturday, and new reservation slots open up on Sundays at 10 a.m. PST; they’re accepted up to three months in advance. As with all super in-demand reservations that are only available by phone, if you want to snag a table you should get used to hearing the busy signal.
Per Se, New York City
At Thomas Keller’s very expensive tasting menu-only restaurant located inside New York’s Time Warner Center, reservations are available two months ahead of time. They can be made by calling the restaurant directly or via OpenTable, but like at Benu don’t be surprised if both tactics are unsuccessful.
Rao’s, New York City
Closed on Saturday and Sunday. Does not serve lunch. Does not even have menus. This is Rao’s, East Harlem’s Italian-dining den that has been around since 1896 and boasts regulars like Woody Allen and Derek Jeter. The 12-table restaurant, famed for its informal feel and the camaraderie of its staff, is virtually impossible to book because it’s more supper club than restaurant, and each table is “owned” by a very lucky soul. If you’re not invited by one of the tables’ owners, the Friar’s Club has been known to auction off the occasional ticket to Rao’s for charity. Five thousand dollars might get you a table through these sporadic auctions, food and beverages not included. The Las Vegas and Hollywood locations are decidedly easier to get into, however.
Chef Michael Carson’s Schwa features both a reservation system and service style that have been described as anarchic. The 18-seat, one-Michelin-starred Chicago restaurant accepts reservations only by phone or via voicemail, booking up months in advance. Carson has also been known to close the restaurant as his caprice dictates. So even if you have a reservation, you cannot count on it until you have actually taken your seat in the Chicago gem’s dining room. We love the drama of uncertainty, don’t you?
Talula’s Table, Kennett Square, Pa.
Aimee Olexy’s cozy, eclectic restaurant requires interested diners to call at 7 a.m. 365 days in advance of the desired reservation. The 22-seat dining room features two tables. The early-bird caller gets the worm in the form of one table with 10 seats, which he or she then becomes responsible for filling. The second table is betrothed to Olexy’s own invitees. According to those intrepid warriors of foodie-land who have fought the good fight to obtain a reservation, even the flaky croissants are worth the 365-day wait.
The French Laundry, Yountville, Calif.
The French Laundry/Yelp
When it comes to American fine dining, few names command the storied respect inspired by veteran Thomas Keller. His Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry is far harder to get into than his New York bastion of fine dining, Per Se. The three-Michelin-starred French Laundry is a historic establishment that still draws in food enthusiasts from all over the world. Want to reserve a table? You used to have to call two months in advance of your desired dining date at 10 a.m. sharp and keep your fingers crossed, but the restaurant has since moved to the easier-to-navigate Tock. The sad news? Your odds of getting a table are still just as slim.
Trois Mec, Los Angeles, Calif.
This tiny LA hotspot run by the super-hot trio of Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo is one of the hottest restaurants in town, and one of the most difficult to get into. The restaurant uses a ticketing system to dole out reservations; they go on sale every other Friday at 10 a.m. PST for a set amount of dates in the future. The process can be maddening, but it’s worth it.
Thankfully, the majority of the 101 best restaurants in America are relatively easy to snag a table at. You can find the full list here.