For food fanatics and avid restaurant-goers, getting a highly sought-after reservation is like getting the golden ticket to the restaurant world. Sometimes the wait is a few weeks, a few months or, well, in at least one case, a year. What makes for such a long wait, and why should you wait longer than an hour for a table? At these restaurants, it’s not just a plate of food. It’s an experience, an art.
Based on reviews, data from OpenTable, Michelin ratings and restaurant websites that noted a particularly long wait — or those that said don’t call at all — we’ve rounded up the eateries with the most difficult reservations to get in America.
With three Michelin stars and provocative dishes, it’s no wonder Alinea’s reservations book up fast. Bookings are typically released at 11 a.m. Central on the 15th of the month, two months in advance. If you are dining solo, there is one time slot — 8 p.m. — for a single seat. Otherwise, you must purchase a table of two, four or six. You can dine with an odd number of guests, but the price of the table will not be reduced.
Another three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Atelier Crenn is an experience for veggie and seafood lovers. Each guest receives a poem, each line of which symbolizes parts of the meal. What better way to tell a story than at the table? Speaking of tables, there are only eight, and online reservations are accepted for parties of two to six. If you’re a solo diner, you’ll have to call the restaurant. Mark your calendar for the first of the month — that’s when reservations are released for two months out.
Parties of one to five can book Atera six weeks before their reservation date. The delicate, artful cuisine is a sensory experience at this two-Michelin-starred restaurant, but keep in mind there are no tables. Guests dine at the counter for a more immersive experience. No need to worry about being rude and bumping elbows with your neighbor. You will have plenty of space.
Barolo Grill offers a cozy dining experience and authentic northern Italian fare highlighting locally sourced ingredients. Experience the tastes of Piedmont and Tuscany from a menu that changes seasonally. Reservations are recommended and accepted via phone call or on OpenTable.
Parties of up to six can book this three-Michelin-star restaurant up to two months in advance either online or via phone call. Plan to spend three hours enjoying a meal here — it will include seafood, vegetables, a few meat courses and dessert. For those who have dined at Benu before, let the staff know so they can create a new menu for you.
Prepare yourself for a menu filled with seasonal servings at this three-Michelin-star eatery. Guests gather around the communal kitchen counter (there is some table seating as well) to watch chef César Ramirez prepare the Japanese-inspired meals that demonstrate French technique. Chef’s Table advises calling early in the week to check availability. You can book a reservation Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern.
Due to a backlog of reservations and thus a need to work through the waitlist, Damon Baehrel stopped accepting new reservations in 2014. As of June 2019, an annual schedule for days of operation went into effect, but future annual schedules aren’t available for viewing. If you are interested in making a reservation, they are accepted via email only. Baehrel is the sole owner and chef of his eponymous restaurant, which is situated on a 12-acre farm.
José Andrés will appear twice on this list, but first brings you é — a private dining room with avant-garde, Spanish-style dishes. Reservations are necessary, as there are only two seatings each night. Make those reservations online at 10 a.m. Pacific on the first day of every month. You can book them up to three months in advance.
Right now, no one can get a table here. Not a restaurant, but rather a dinner party that works on an invitation-only basis, Frank went on hiatus in 2019. The three chefs who threw the dinner parties for 20 guests — Jennie Kelley, Ben Starr and Adrien Nieto — met on the set of “Master Chef” and Frank was created in 2012 as a lottery-based dining establishment. Right now, the three chefs are taking some time off and have kept their fans updated via their website and Facebook page. They recommend joining their email list for updates should Frank 2.0 become a reality.
This exclusive, three-Michelin-star French restaurant in Napa Valley has a menu that changes daily and a reservation list that rarely has availability. For over 20 years, The French Laundry has been considered one of the best restaurants in the world — its many awards can attest to that — and dinner consists of a nine-course tasting menu (a vegetable tasting menu is also an option for vegetarians). You can make reservations for up to seven guests in the main dining room for as far as three months in advance.
Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/TNS
If you don’t like to plan, this might be the best establishment on the list for you. With a homey atmosphere and globally inspired dishes, it’s no wonder Girl and the Goat continues to attract guests 10 years after its initial opening. While it’s a bit easier to get a reservation now than it might have been back when it opened, Girl and the Goat is still one of the most difficult reservations to score in Chicago. The tables become available for reservation about three months in advance and fill quickly. Making a reservation will ensure you don’t have to wait, but Girl and the Goat does accept walk-ins, nomads and adventurers, according to its website.
With one Michelin star, 30 seats and a multi-course tasting menu that incorporates artisan farm ingredients, Goosefoot isn’t just about a good meal. The owners, Nina and Chris Nugent, created the interior of the restaurant to be as elegant and approachable as their cuisine. Reservations are required, as there are only three seatings daily, and the dining experience takes up to three and a half hours. Goosefoot accepts reservations made online or by calling the number on its website. Book early because, like Girl and the Goat, it’s listed on OpenTable as one of the hardest reservations to get in Chicago.
Harold Black has a light-fare menu before 10 p.m. and a late-night menu after. There are a few house rules here, one being that your table will be held for only 15 minutes if you are late, and another being that the maximum party size you can book is for six people. Guests are also warned that a reservation holds your seats for only two hours because the restaurant is fully booked most nights. Reservations are available only a month in advance.
The Inn at Little Washington/Yelp
A former garage turned into gastronomic perfection, The Inn at Little Washington started with a staff of three at its opening in 1978 before leaping into restaurant stardom and eventually earning three Michelin stars. Reservations come with a $100-per-person deposit due at the time of booking which is applied toward the bill. You can book a table that can seat up to eight guests.
This Russian restaurant is owner Bonnie Morales’ way of keeping the Belarusian dishes of her childhood alive. The name of the restaurant holds special meaning for Morales — kachka means duck in Belarusian/Yiddish. It’s a word that allowed her grandmother to dodge a Nazi-appointed town warden when she was making her escape in Bobr, Belarus in 1941. The Portland restaurant takes lunch and dinner reservations, and the bar and lounge area is open for walk-ins.
About 12 dishes are served as part of the Mediterranean-inspired menu at Komi. It’s a small establishment, so no more than four guests per party can be accommodated, and it’s open for dinner only Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations are accepted one month in advance of the calendar date. Those bookings open up at 2 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday each week.
This upscale, cozy Italian restaurant overlooks a courtyard garden and provides an intimate experience for diners. Some veteran employees have been part of the La Grotta team for over 30 years, so you can count on dedicated service. The menu is comprised of dishes inspired by fare from northern Italy, though the chefs are willing to create something special for you if nothing on the menu catches your eye. If you don’t see a time that suits you on the online booking, call for additional availability.
The name is a French phrase that translates to “the counter.” Why? Because no tables are available at Le Comptoir. Instead, guests dine at the counter in front of the chef’s kitchen at this one-Michelin-star establishment. The eight-course tasting menu is vegetable-heavy — probably because those vegetables come straight from the chef’s own home garden in Long Beach. Proteins are served but play second chair. There are only six seatings per week with 10 open spots per seating.
Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS
If you’re looking for a moment of repose amid the rush of city life, this elegant French restaurant is a fine choice. Occupying an old townhome in one of Chicago’s bustling neighborhoods, Les Nomades is a tribute to restaurants past with its suited servers who bring meals out on a service cart. Reservations are accepted three months in advance for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
Signed, sealed, will the meal deliver? Calls aren’t taken here. Online reservations can’t be made. Book your experience at The Lost Kitchen through snail mail. This remote Maine restaurant invites guests on a lottery system during its open season, which runs from May until October. Full details on how to partake in the lottery are posted to The Lost Kitchen’s website each year on the first day of Spring.
With two stars on the Michelin guide and four stars from the Washington Post, Minibar by José Andrés is the marriage of art and science. The experimental food is almost too creative to eat, and the ambiance is more laboratory than kitchen. There are four seatings of six guests each night and reservations open at 10 a.m. Eastern on the first Monday of each month, two months at a time.
The dishes might be traditional Japanese kaiseki — exceptional hospitality, a multi-course meal — but the flavors will range from traditional to unexpected due to seasonality and innovative chefs. For the dining room, reservations can be made 30 days in advance of the calendar date. The bar accepts walk-ins wishing to dine from an a la carte menu.
Another kaiseki experience, N/Naka has its own organic garden to serve its guests seasonal ingredients in their freshest, most natural state. The chefs take great care in the presentation of the dishes they serve. Reservations are required and taken up to three months in advance. New availabilities open up on Sundays at 10 a.m. Pacific. You can book a regular or vegetarian 13-course tasting experience.
Located on the 30th floor of the Hilton Atlanta, Nikolai's Roof offers exceptional food as well as a beautiful skyline view of the city. The menu reflects traditional American tastes with a Russian influence and the selection of dishes is created daily. You can choose from a three-, four- or six-course menu. Reservations can be made online.
Order small plates or stay longer to dine on a five-course meal at Nocturne, a contemporary American jazz club. When booking, note the music calendar because there will be a per-guest artist fee to support the artists who provide live music. Make your reservations online early, and if you can’t find a time or date that suits you, Nocturne recommends calling for further accommodations.
Old Ebbitt Grill is Washington D.C.’s oldest dining saloon, founded in 1856. Oyster fans will find a large selection of the molluscs at this restaurant, which is located across the street from the White House. Luckily for diners, Old Ebbitt Grill is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night eating, so there is a bit more leeway when looking for a time slot that suits you.
Sometimes, fine dining can be a bit pretentious. You won’t find that at The Pink Door though. Dining here is equal parts dining adventure and entertainment — which includes a trapeze, cabaret, music and tarot readings. Reservations can be made online, and if there’s no availability, don’t call — it means the Italian-American establishment is fully booked.
You can’t actually eat at Rao’s unless you’re a regular. Tables here are for those who have “table rights.” So how do you get a reservation? You have to know someone who eats there. If you really want to try the traditional southern Neapolitan fare, Rao’s has locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. At these spots, you don’t have to wait years for that happenstance run-in with a famed regular of the original New York hangout.
The only place where walk-ins are acceptable based on availability here is at the bar and for Fireside Snacks, which are small plates. To dine, reserve your table about three months in advance at the three-Michelin-star private estate in Napa Valley. Choose from a tasting menu in the dining room, a counter menu in the kitchen or a four-course bar menu.
Parties of one to 10 can nosh on the 12-course tasting menu at Schwa. This one-Michelin-star restaurant is an experience for all your senses, and reservations are required. It’s a small space, so book early.
SingleThread is a restaurant, inn and farm about 70 miles north of San Francisco. The farm, which is located 7 miles from the inn and restaurant, provides the eggs, flowers, herbs, honey, olive oil and produce for the kitchen. Different from many multi-course dining experiences, SingleThread offers menu customization for dietary restrictions and preferences. Reservations must be made in advance online. Booking slots are released at 9 a.m. Pacific on the first day of each month for the following month.
Michelin-starred Sushi Ginza Onodera is constantly changing what it offers thanks to its omakase, or “chef’s choice” menu. Reservations can be made online unless you’re trying to make a same-day reservation, in which case you’ll have to call. Dinner is one tasting menu with premium nigiri sushi.
If you can wait a year, you might be able to get a spot at Talula’s Table. Reservations are accepted exactly one year to the day, and the first caller at 7 a.m. Eastern gets the table the following year. You are required to bring anywhere from eight to 12 guests for the eight-course tasting meal. If you have a smaller party, the local’s nook can be booked for parties of four to eight. As Talula’s is a market, the farm-table dinner happens only once a night, after the market closes. The menu changes daily and with the season.
This Japanese kaiseki restaurant offers a nine-course meal that guests can enjoy at a table or at the chef’s counter. When making your online reservation, note that regular table dining is called “high-top seating.” Lunch is available for earlier dining, but the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Willow compares its dining experience to being at a friend’s house for dinner, minus the clean-up. The restaurant has two seatings per night, a six-course tasting menu and guests sit around the counter. Booking a few months in advance will be the best way to secure your ideal reservation as the small restaurant has so few seating options. And speaking of restaurants worth waiting for, these are the most anticipated restaurants of 2020.
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