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Photograph: Martha Williams Next

The 20 toughest restaurant reservations to get in America

Mark the dates: From infamous Rao’s to Bestia and beyond, these are the toughest restaurant reservations to get in the U.S.

By Kristina Jenkins

For the devoted fine-diner, prime eating and world-class drinking are well worth the wait. Even a very, very long wait. Even half a year. We all know some restaurants are tough to get into—from the best Italian restaurants in America to the best sushi restaurants in America and the best vegetarian restaurants in America, there are reservation challenges to be had all across the country. But a select group of restaurants are special; they require patience, yes, but also zealous perseverance to get into. The toughest restaurant reservations to get in America demand a dedication to using calendar reminders, speed dial and sheer tenacity. Follow Time Out USA on Facebook; sign up for the Time Out USA newsletter

Toughest restaurant reservations to get

DIRT CANDY interior
Paul Wagtouicz

11. Dirt Candy, New York City, NY

Restaurants Vegetarian Lower East Side

Wait time: 2 months (walk-ins accepted)

Haute veggie cuisine queen Amanda Cohen consistently packs in diners at her cheery 60-seat Lower East Side vegetarian dining mecca. The books open up 60 days out, and prime reservations fill up quickly, but thanks to last-minute cancellations and bar seating, walk-ins are accepted and Korean-fried broccoli can be for dinner.

State Bird Provisions
Photograph: Dylan + Jeni

12. State Bird Provisions, San Francisco, CA

Restaurants Contemporary American Western Addition

Wait time: 2 months or more (walk-ins accepted)

Tables at the wonderfully whimsical State Bird Provisions are so tough to nab that food nerds have been know to try to hack the online reservation system. Clearly one of the hardest reservations to score in America, seats at the Michelin-starred spot are best secured by either lucking out with a walk-in—approximately a third of the seats open for walk-in guests nightly and diners begin to queue up around 4pm—or checking online every night at midnight Pacific when the reservation books open for 60 days in the future.

Photograph: Courtesy Benu/Eric Wolfinger

13. Benu, San Francisco, CA

Restaurants Contemporary American Yerba Buena

Wait time: Up to 2 months

Helmed by Corey Lee, former chef de cuisine of the French Laundry, Benu’s take on Korean- and Chinese-influenced contemporary dining has racked up the accolades with three Michelin stars and a AAA Five Diamond. Reservations can be made up to two months in advance, and weekends book up speedily, but anyone who can be flexible on date and time can find a way to dine.
sushi nakazawa chef
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

14. Sushi Nakazawa, New York City, NY

Restaurants Japanese West Village

Wait time: 1 month or more

Anyone dreaming of sushi knows that a wish to book a table at Sushi Nakazawa may be hard to fulfill. The intimate sushi den run by the apprentice of Jiro Ono—yes, that Jiro—serves a 20-course omakase that guests book a month in advance.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

15. The Polo Bar, New York City, NY

Restaurants American creative Midtown East

Wait time: 1 month or more

A stylish “people who know people” crowd populates American design icon Ralph Lauren’s first New York City restaurant Polo Bar. Traditional means of making reservations can return disappointing results. Call to reserve one month out, though, and a 5pm table for two can be had.

16. Next, Chicago, IL

Restaurants Eclectic West Loop

Wait time: Up to 1 month

While culinary wizard Grant Achatz travels the world with his Alinea team, rolling out 40 unique services during renovations of the brick-and-mortar restaurant, his other Chicago spot, Next, continues to deliver masterful meals of molecular gastronomy. Reservations to globally themed dinners at Next are secured with a golden ticket purchased (in full) via the group’s own ticketing site.


17. Eleven Madison Park, New York City, NY

Restaurants American creative Flatiron

Wait time: 28 days

Repeatedly awarded the highest honors in the industry (including five stars from Time Out New York), Chef Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park consistently ranks thanks to a motto of reinvention and a devotion to deliciousness. Reservations open at 9am 28 days from the day of the desired time slot, and—not surprisingly—book up quickly.

Le Bernardin
Photograph: Courtesy Le Bernardin/Daniel Krieger

18. Le Bernardin, New York City, NY

Restaurants French Midtown West

Wait time: One month or more

Chef Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin reigns as one of the NYC’s top luxe French seafood houses with its formal white tablecloths, genteel service, masterful menus (via full tasting, prix-fixe and lounge) and a lengthy list of accolades from the likes of Michelin and James Beard. On the first day of every month (except Sundays), reservations can be made for the entire following month.

Photograph: Becky Reams

19. Bestia, Los Angeles, CA

Restaurants Italian Downtown Arts District

Wait time: One month or more

An always-lively atmosphere combined with Ori Menashe’s menu full of heartwarming dishes has translated to Bestia’s rapid rise as the table to score in Los Angeles—as evidenced by the packed reservation books. To get in, hopefuls should try to secure a late reservation a few weeks out via OpenTable or show up to hang at the bar and wait it out.

20. Komi, Washington, D.C.

Restaurants Contemporary American Dupont Circle

Wait time: One month or more

Washingtonians must wait (and wait) for their chance to taste the soulful, leisurely 12-course menu at modern Greek restaurant Komi in Dupont Circle, a product of husband-and-wife team Johnny Monis and Anne Marler. Tables tend to fill up a month ahead of time, which is when the restaurant begins accepting reservations.


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