No Reservations: The 11 Toughest Tables in America

You want to go eat at these hotspots!? Good luck!

Photo Modified: Flickr/ Navin75/ CC BY-SA4.0

If you want to dine at The French Laundry, you need to call exactly two months in advance of your desired date.

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 they’re legendary for that very reason. These are the 11 toughest tables in America.

No Reservations: The 11 Toughest Tables in America (Slideshow)

What makes for a tough table, exactly? The commonly accepted definition is a place that’s very difficult to get into at a reasonable dinner hour, say between 6 and 9 p.m. The Brooklyn hotspots that don’t accept reservations and force you to wait an hour on a Tuesday night may be tough tables (heck, even Shake Shack can be a tough table at prime time), but the toughest tables of all are the ones that do take reservations, but make those reservations incredibly difficult to come by.

While some restaurants invite you to call up to a year in advance to try your hand at securing a table, in order to add some order to the chaos, many of the most in-demand restaurants have set up ticketing systems, which force you to purchase a ticket to your meal as though you were going  to the theatre. Sometimes reservations are more feasible at high-end restaurants that have a ticketing system; one of Los Angeles’ hotspots, Trois Mec, actually makes it surprisingly easy to find a table using their website, provided you have a flexible schedule and log on every other Friday at 10 a.m. (Yes, that’s the easy end of the spectrum).

In order to assemble our ranking, we tracked down restaurants both large and small (mostly small, as that makes tables all the more valuable) that are notoriously difficult to get into for various reasons, and put them to the test. Some have ticketing systems that book up almost immediately, some are so clubby and exclusive that they’re virtually impenetrable for the average Joe, and some are just so in-demand that even calling months in advance doesn’t yield any results. Read on to learn which 11 restaurants are the country’s toughest tables.

#11 Polo Bar, New York City

When we called the recently opened Polo Bar, Ralph Lauren’s clubby restaurant behind his flagship Fifth Avenue store, asking for a reservation for a party of two, we were told to call back the following morning to try our hand at securing a reservation for a full month out. Polo Bar is a restaurant for people who know people, and if you don’t know people, well, good luck. If you’re desperate for a table, you might find yourself eating there at 5 p.m. a month from when you first attempted to score a res, but where’s the fun in that?

#10 Next, Chicago, Ill.

Alinea’s Grant Achatz is the king of the concept restaurant, and with his other Chicago offspring, Next, the master of "molecular gastronomy" delivers on his accolades. To secure a reservation at Next, one has to purchase a ticket a month in advance via the owner’s ticketing website, Tock, a task very much in tandem with the restaurant’s travel-themed menus (recent examples include “Paris 1900s” and “Tour of Thailand”). If you can’t find a ticket, do not despair: a limited number of reservations are made available daily on the restaurant’s Facebook and Twitter pages. 

Additional reporting by Dan Myers.

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