The World's Toughest Tables: 9 Restaurants That Are Almost Impossible to Get Into

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Are they worth the wait? There’s only one way to find out

World’s Toughest Tables

The World's Toughest Tables: 9 Restaurants That Are Almost Impossible to Get Into

In certain restaurants, the act of waiting for a table is like an appetizer in itself. Not all of these places have three Michelin stars, but they all certainly carry their own share of accolades and notoriety, be it for their crazy food concoctions or their crazy waiting lists — and often it's for both. The Internet provides a myriad of tips on how to get seated at one of these establishments, but here’s our advice: book a reservation before you book a plane ticket. Here are nine of the world’s toughest restaurants at which to reserve a table. 

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare (Brooklyn)

Tucked away in the back of a high-end supermarket, chef Cesar Ramirez hosts 18 lucky reservation-getters every evening around his kitchen counter space — which also happens to be the only restaurant in Brooklyn with three Michelin stars. Reservations must be made six weeks in advance, and you have to call in at 10:30 a.m. on Monday to book seats; let’s hope you’re one of the callers that actually gets through, because you don’t want to miss this 20 plus-course meal that relies heavily on shellfish. 

El Celler de Can Roca (Girona, Spain)

Named number one in S. Pellegrino's The World's 50 Best Restaurants in 2013 (it fell to number two last year) and No. 5 in our list of the 101 Best Restaurants in 2014, the three brothers (chef Joan, pastry chef Jordi, and wine expert Josep) behind El Celler de Can Roca are as influenced by "molecular gastronomy" as they are by their parents’ cooking. You can only make your reservation within 11 months of the day you try to reserve a table, but look at the calendar on their online booking system and you’ll be met with numbers with crosses over them over and over again. You’ll want to get on this waiting list; with dishes like "surf and turf" of sardines and pork jowl with sardine-bone broth and suckling pig sauce and desserts like a paper-thin sugar-blown "apple" filled with apple foam placed atop caramel ice cream, it is well worth the wait.

The French Laundry (Yountville, Calif.)

The French Laundry (Yountville, Calif.)
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Thomas Keller’s legendary restaurant sits in a building that is 115 years old, and that’s about how long it will take for you to get a table here. Just kidding! It’s only a measly two months. There’s a reason for its popularity: Anthony Bourdain calls it “the best restaurant in the world. Period.” With a nine-course chef’s tasting menu and a nine-course vegetable tasting — no ingredients are used more than once — we believe him. 

Next (Chicago)

If you want to get a ticket — yes, you have to get a ticket — to Grant Achatz's Next in Chicago, you’ll have to pay for the meal in advance, a full season ahead. The ever-changing menus have themes ideal for travel lovers, like “Paris 1900” and “Tour of Thailand,” the latter of which made the website shut down because so many people attempted to purchase tickets at the same time. 

Noma (Cophenhagen)

Google “the best restaurant in the world” and Noma, the Danish harborside restaurant stocked with excellent food that stays close to its Nordic terrain, will figure prominently in your search — even though it only has two Michelin stars. On the 6th of every month, eager diners wait by Noma’s online portal to book a table a minimum of three months ahead. Why? It’s a rare thing to see a menu item featuring green shoots as the main component of a meal and scallops as a marinade — and an even rarer thing to make it taste good. 

Schwa (Chicago)

With 26 seats and an average of 60 phone calls a day, Schwa in Chicago, which has an estimated wait time of one to three months, has garnered some notoriety for being horrible at returning phone calls. The restaurant’s website rarely shuts down, because it doesn’t take reservations in any way besides over the phone. The current menu features items like apple pie soup and tagliatelle with huckleberries, black truffle, and veal heart. 

Sukiyabashi Jiro (Tokyo)

Jiro may dream of sushi, but you’ll be dreaming of a reservation at his restaurant. In order to reserve a seat at the tiny Sukiyabashi Jiro, you’ll not only have to book a month in advance, but also have a Japanese local (a friend or your hotel concierge) vouch for you. To confirm your reservation, your Japanese contact needs to deliver ¥20,000 (about $200) to Jiro himself.

Talula’s Table (Kennett Square, PA)

It isn’t that you could possibly wait up to a year for a table at Talula’s Table; you definitely have to call 365 days in advance, as per the restaurant’s requirements. The 22-seat restaurant, which has only two tables, is a farm-to-table at the back of an indoor market. The lucky person who actually gets a reservation is responsible for filling 10 seats; the rest are owner Aimee Olexy’s invitees. 

Tickets (Barcelona, Spain)

According to the Tickets website, the closest reservation available is June 19, exactly two months from now. ElBulli’s Ferran Adrià and his brother Albert opened this avant-garde tapas eatery in the molecular gastronomic style that made elBulli legendary, with items like Manchego cheese foam in a "mini-airbag" (a lighter-than-air baguette), oysters with passion-fruit caipirinha sauce, and pancakes with waffle foam yogurt.