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Reservations in upscale restaurants...


kai-m
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How long in advance does one need to place a reservation in upscale restaurants like THE MODERN or ELEVEN MADISON PARK or WD-50?

And is it tough to get one at all (for a "normal" dinner time like 8 or 8.30pm)?

Are there multiple seatings in restaurants of this calibre?

I have the same questions for restaurants in Chicago like ALINEA and MOTO (should I open a separate thread in the "Heartland"-thread?)

Thanks

best

kai

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it depends.

8, 8:30....very very tough. (that prevents them from doing two seatings).

a month in advance (for Chicago too) is pretty standard....and that's for 6:30 or 10 reservations. in the offseason (summer) you can pull off a couple weeks in advance sometimes (I've done it for both WD-50 and Alinea...)...and for better times occasionally.

your best bet is often the day of. call about two in the afternoon (when cancellations have come in)....have several different restaurants picked out that you'd want to eat at. one of them will be available.

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Or use Open Table for the restaurants that are on it...I actually just checked and both The Modern and Eleven Madison Park have tables available tonight (8:45 and 7:30, respectively).

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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The majority of upscale restaurants are easily reservable the same week, and often the same day, though probably not for a prime-time slot.

As noted above, there are many restaurants that are very stingy with the 7:30–8:30 p.m time window, because they can't get two turns at those tables.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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O.K. - that means,for example, that even though I have to pay like 140$ for a menu at EMP it is probable that I have to get there between 6.30 and 7.30pm and will be done with my 10 courses by 9 or 9.30pm to make way for the next seating???? Can hardly believe that...

In any case I suppose that with a 8:30 or 8:45 reservation (in case you get one...) you have the table for the rest of the evening?!

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We managed to get 8:30 tables in Daniel and EMP, on Friday and Saturday nights respectively, with relative ease back in April. Granted, I was on the phone a month in advance at the moment they became available (or whatever the lead-in time was) but it wasn't too difficult.

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We managed to get 8:30 tables in Daniel and EMP, on Friday and Saturday nights respectively, with relative ease back in April. Granted, I was on the phone a month in advance at the moment they became available (or whatever the lead-in time was) but it wasn't too difficult.

I think it helped immensely that it was the summer.

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O.K. - that means,for example, that even though I have to pay like 140$ for a menu at EMP it is probable that I have to get there between 6.30 and 7.30pm and will be done with my 10 courses by 9 or 9.30pm to make way for the next seating???? Can hardly believe that...

In any case I suppose that with a 8:30 or 8:45 reservation (in case you get one...) you have the table for the rest of the evening?!

There is hardly a restaurant in town that doesn't try to get two turns at most of its tables. Indeed, there are some that strive for three, though generally not the upscale ones, since those meals tend to take longer.

So yes, that does mean that at the more popular places, they will be stingy about 8:00 p.m. reservations, since those tables generally can't be turned. If you have your heart set on eating at 8:00 p.m., you should reserve well in advance (though occasionally one can get lucky at the last minute). As Frank Bruni recently noted, there are some places that simply won't give out an 8:00 p.m. table to non-VIPs, but this is not the norm.

No upscale restaurant should hurry you out the door, but I agree that one benefit of an 8:30 reservation is that you can be certain the table is yours for the night.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Just took the advice and checked on open table: within a week (or even earlier!!) you can get 8:30-reservations at WD and EMP (for weekends it seems like 2 weeks; same for MOTO in chicago).

So I guess there ain't no big problem.

Will have to ckeck Alinea though.

One last question: how is it with the double seatings if you go for 8:30? I hope they leave you alone?!?

thanks

best

kai

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One last question: how is it with the double seatings if you go for 8:30? I hope they leave you alone?!?

At restaurants of the caliber you're asking about, you should never feel as if you're being rushed out the door, regardless of the reservation time. I do realize that some of them fail to live up to that, but I think it's the exception, rather than the rule. Edited by oakapple (log)
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I think Alinea's the only one you'd have a problem with getting a prime time reservation in less than a week. I made reservations last month at Alinea 2 weeks beforehand and was only able to get a 9:15pm. We got out around 1:30am but what a meal!!

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We managed to get 8:30 tables in Daniel and EMP, on Friday and Saturday nights respectively, with relative ease back in April. Granted, I was on the phone a month in advance at the moment they became available (or whatever the lead-in time was) but it wasn't too difficult.

I think it helped immensely that it was the summer.

I know there's global warming, but how is April (or even May, given the 30 day advance) the summer?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Regarding the questions in the original post:

1. When you ask how long in advance you need to make a reservation, there are a couple of sub-issues that come up. The first is how far in advance you're allowed to make a reservation. Every restaurant has its own policy on this. Some are 30 days, some are 60 days, others have other policies. The second is how far in advance you need to call to guarantee a reservation, as opposed to just have a chance at one. The only thing approaching a true guarantee is to call at the time the restaurant starts accepting calls, on the day it starts accepting calls. Again, you have to find out in advance from the restaurant when this becomes possible, e.g., 10am on 5 October for a reservation on 4 November. (It is sometimes the case that you can do OpenTable.com at 12:01am on the same date as the restaurant starts taking calls at 10am, so that's worth a try). So that's the guarantee, or close to it, and if you absolutely must be at Per Se, or you want the absolute broadest choice of times available to non-VIPs, that's when you have to call. Of course, most of the time you can get a reservation at most restaurants anyway: a week in advance, or even day of. But there's less of a guarantee. If you're coming from a zillion miles away, it's better to call right off the bat. Also, needless to say, mid-week tables are easier to get than weekend tables, and there are various date ranges that are tougher than others.

2. Every restaurant in New York City turns tables. The only restaurants that didn't were Ducasse and Per Se, and both eventually started turning tables. There's no point in not turning tables. There are many people who want to eat early and don't want to take a long time -- either because that's how their personalities incline or because they have to be somewhere. Plenty of people go to a place like the Modern for pre-theater dinner -- they expect to be out by 7:30. So it's insane for such a restaurant to leave that table empty for the rest of the evening, especially since New York restaurants open much earlier and stay open much later than typical Michelin three-star-type places in, say, France do. Not every restaurant expects to turn every table -- Per Se, for example, only re-seats about half its tables, or at least that's what they say. It's also important to remember that, except for in very small restaurants or at very large tables, it's not really the case that table 31 is booked for 6 and 9. Restaurant people speak in terms of "your table" but in reality if there are fifteen two-tops then you get the next one to become available. Restaurants are also balancing no-shows and accounting for the fact that some tables order tasting menus and that there's no way to know that in advance (though Alinea may ask). In the end, 99% of the time in my experience the equation works out either pretty well or, at worst, in favor of the customer sitting at the table. In other words, I have often been asked to wait 15 minutes, and often comped a drink at the bar, but I have only once been aggressively rushed away from a table at a high-end restaurant (Daniel). And it is correct that most restaurants in New York that have high demand for tables will protect (as in only accommodate the occasional VIP) a 60-90 minute time frame (say, 7-8:30) on the schedule in order to create, essentially, a first and second sitting with a bit of a buffer in between. This is unfortunate for the person who can't get past the need to eat during some exact narrow time frame, but it's good for people who like to eat early or late.

3. There are already topics specifically on Alinea, Moto, and various other restaurants. The best move is to ask a question about a given restaurant on that restaurant's existing topic. Whereas, if it's a general discussion of Chicago restaurants, it may warrant its own topic.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks for all the replys and advice!

Fat Guy: I didn't mean to "badmouth" (or whatever the right expression might be) multiple seatings, if this is how it seemed. I was just unsure about how it works, especially in NYC, since for europeans this is totally unknown...but your explanation makes perfect sense (of course).

My experience with "simpler" places like diners/breakfast cafes etc in the US is just that the waiter gets to your table after you're finished with your meal and asks if you need anything else - and if you say "not, not right now" you find the check on your table 2 minutes later, no matter if the place is packed or half empty - which, for us as europeans at least, always seemed to say "make way for the next tipper", even though in some cases we certainly would have ordered something else, only not at the moment we were asked...but this (misunderstanding??) might be something for another thread...

Anyway, as I said, on open table there seems to be no problem at all to get a table for the 8/8.30 seatings...

Best

kai

Edited by kai-m (log)
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Hi Kai

I have a few thoughts....first you're going to have a great time in NYC. For most "upscale" (excellent but not elite restaurants), it probably won't be too difficult, especially if you book a couple or three weeks in advance. You will certainly not feel rushed out. Second...for the very elite places (basically, Michelin *** places like Per Se, Jean Georges, etc.) it is more difficult. I'd suggest a month in advance or the earliest allowed by the restaurant. Once there, as with the other restaurants, you certainly will not be rushed out.

Regarding the meal in an American diner example you mention--most probably this is cultural. In Europe, it is the custom not to give the check until it is requested. In the USA, the custom (especially in "regular" places like the diner you mention) is for the waiter to just give you the check--people are not accustomed to waiting until asking for it. You aren't expected to "linger" in a diner but you're also not expected to be rushed out. The check is there for when you wish to get up and pay....much of this example I think may be cultural differences. As I say, most regular Americans expect the check to show up and sometimes get upset if the waiter DOESN'T bring it promptly. The notion is, sit there until you're ready to leave, but this way you won't have a problem having the check if the waiter is otherwise busy.

A funny story. On a wine bulletin board I frequent, someone from rural America went to Paris. He and his wife ate at Alain Ducasse. After their meal, they waited and waited and waited for the check to arrive (they had not asked for it). They started steaming....finally the wife got up and stormed out and the husband waited. Finally, he got up and berated the manager, saying "Why did no one bring me the check? When the manager apologized and said they didn't know the diner wanted it then, the man said, "What did you expect me to do, whistle like this?" and he proceed to whistle at a very loud, shrill tone in the dining room.

Cultural differences can sometimes lead to big misunderstandings.

Edited by DutchMuse (log)
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I was just unsure about how it works, especially in NYC, since for europeans this is totally unknown...

Kai, what are you saying is totally unknown in Europe? Multiple sittings? In my experience, plenty of restaurants in Europe have multiple sittings.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In upscale restaurants? Not that I know...hmm...okay, in London they do it, you are right.

But in the other major "gourmet countries", such as France, Italy and Germany, I have never encountered multiple sittings.

It may happen of course, if someone comes early, leaves early and there is a walk-in - but there is no "schedule" they work with.

Same goes for diners, cafes and bistros - you can have a cake&coffee or a meal and sit there for hours, and no waiter would ever dare to signal you to leave; walk-ins would be turned away.

But I stand corrected and maybe you can name an example.

Of course there is always an exception to the rule and hardcore-tourist-spots might be different in this regard.

But I see that the dining-culture is way different in the US in this regard anyway (not just i what DutchMuse described). In germany, for example, there is rarely such a thing as pre-/post-theater-(fine-)dining. You either go to the theater *or* to a fine dining restaurant - which, of course, may be a result of the fact that fine dining always takes several hours.

best

kai

Edited by kai-m (log)
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My experience has been that there are plenty of restaurants in France with two sittings. Not places with three Michelin stars, but nonetheless restaurants with ambitious food and serious clientele. Indeed, just a few days ago there was a story in the Times (London) bemoaning this trend among the in-demand upscale bistros that have become so popular in Paris:

That’s why tables are so prized, even in bistros that lie in sleepy residential neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city and hence the importance of booking at least a few hours ahead, if not a few days for the more popular places. To the dismay of Parisians, some of these now impose two sittings, one at 7.30pm (which mostly attracts foreigners) and the other at 9.30pm.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_...icle2394086.ece

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Funny article, thanks.

But even though I believe the writer that "To the dismay of Parisians, some of these (Bistros) now impose two sittings, one at 7.30pm (which mostly attracts foreigners) and the other at 9.30pm.", the formulation alone implies that it is far from common.

Furthermore the author contradicts herself when, one paragraph later, she writes that "After all, you are here for the long haul (probably two to three hours with an aperitif, three courses and coffee and/or a digestif after the pudding). (...) it’s considered scandalously rude (with rare exceptions) for the waiter to rush you out of the restaurant at the end of the meal."

That's how I know it.

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