The Toughest Restaurant Reservations In America (And How to Get Them) guide image

ALLGuide

The Toughest Restaurant Reservations In America (And How to Get Them)

How to get into the buzziest restaurants across the country.

Only a few things are certain in life: death, taxes, and the struggle to get into an uber-hot restaurant. Besides just being tough to reserve, the restaurants on this list are more than just hype: they're also exceedingly worth the wait.

Once you’re in, you'll experience things like menu tarot cards, a fun scene powered by MSG martinis, or a sushi speakeasy that does themed music nights. Sure, some restaurants (looking at you, buddy) might technically be more difficult to get into, but these are the country’s current hotspots with reservations that are genuinely worth going out of your way for. May the reservation odds be in your favor.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: David A. Lee

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If you’re planning a trip to New York City, Bonnie’s should be on your must-visit list, if only to take a hazy BeReal of you and the whole stuffed trout on a Lazy Susan. In order to cut into the rich char siu McRib and snap selfies in the strobe-light bathroom yourself, you’ll need to grab a reservation for an indoor or outdoor table, which are released 13 days in advance at 10am sharp. You can also try to get one of their six walk-in-only bar seats or wait for an outdoor table when the weather’s nice—try going right when they open at 5pm and have an MSG martini if you need to hang out for a bit.

Atomix is one of the best tasting menu options in NYC, with inventive Korean dishes like halibut with foie gras and doenjang brown butter and wagyu that’s very thinly sliced and battered. Everything about the experience feels special and intimate, down to the tarot cards that are passed out with each course that list every aspect of the dish. Set an alarm for the first of the month at 3pm to snag a reservation. If you missed your window on the first try, there’s also a waitlist.

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Heading to Napa Valley? You’re probably hoping to go to The French Laundry in Yountville. The cottage-like fine dining spot is as synonymous with Wine Country as the actual wine, even if the food itself is kind of boring. If you've made it your life's sole mission to step foot in every single Michelin star restaurant, want to take photos in front of the famous garden for clout, or need a place to celebrate a triumphant divorce, you’ll need to plan months in advance for a reservation. Be ready to shoot your shot on the first of each month at 10am PST sharp.

Our highest-rated restaurant in LA offers a couple of different ways to dine, each with its own level of difficulty in scoring a table. The least-challenging way to get a reservation at Anajak Thai is for the a la carte dinner service, featuring curries, dry-aged fish, and outstanding wok-fired dishes that you can book 30 days out at 9am on Resy. Getting a reservation for the 14-course alleyway omakase is a different beast, as they only offer a few seatings a month—check their Instagram or website for updates. If you secure an omakase reservation, you'll be talking about things like papaya salad topped with amberjack and bright orange ikura with sake yeast for a while.

N/Naka is a stellar Japanese restaurant in Culver City that’s been difficult to get into since it was on Chef's Table—they even have a FAQ section on their website dedicated to how to get a table. The 13-course kaiseki or vegetarian tasting menus highlight incredible Japanese and Californian ingredients, and is the kind of meal that’ll have you looking up rent prices in Tokyo. N/Naka releases a week’s worth of reservations a month out, each Sunday at 10am PST on Tock. For best results, you should have their Tock page up, credit card in hand by 9:55am, and a four-leaf clover by your side. Dishes like cured summer tuna bacon or steamed kabocha dumplings in a warm dashi yuzu broth will be your reward.

Kasama in Chicago is a walk-in cafe during the day, with pastries and dishes like lumpia shanghai and longanisa breakfast sandwiches, and a Filipino restaurant with a tasting menu at night. The main attraction here is that 13-course dinner featuring fine dining interpretations of Filipino dishes like bistek with wagyu and a salmon sinigang with tamarind beurre blanc. Reservations drop every day at midnight for tables 45 days out, but we’ve had some luck grabbing spots as far as a week in advance with Resy notify. 

Sure, we could wax poetic about Alinea’s experimental dishes and extravagant tasting menus, but there’s a good chance you’re coming to Chicago specifically to eat here and already know. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that to enjoy their edible green apple balloon, you'll have to work for it. Bookings become available on the 15th of each month at 11am CST for two months in advance, and by 11:01, they’re typically gone. If you don’t get lucky with a reservation, we recommend getting a friend to join you on the waitlist to increase your chances.

Canlis is the most famous fine dining spot in Seattle that delivers the best Pacific Northwest ingredients and a spectacular view of Lake Union. Tables are released six months in advance. If you’re looking three months ahead, you might be able to book a reservation for an 8:30pm or later dinner. If you’re hoping for something more immediate, check Tock 48 hours before you plan to dine, since that’s when reservation deposits become non-refundable. Worst case scenario, you can dress up, sit at the bar, and drink cocktails and eat french fries, all while listening to the pianist play Baroque covers of Taylor Swift songs. 

Boia De is one of our favorite spots in Miami. This Italian restaurant is filled with everything you’d want for a perfect night out: lots of wine, tagliolini nero, and the world’s best chopped salad. Reservations drop 30 days in advance at noon EST, but if you’re unable to grab a table at the Resy drop, we’ve had pretty solid luck on notify if somebody cancels last minute. Maimi is full of clubstaurants and places that are a total scene, but Boia De is one of the few spots that feel like a real party with food that is genuinely great. 

Dining at San Ho Wan in San Francisco may require at least a month’s worth of preparation, but there’s a reason why it’s one of our Best New Restaurants for 2022—you’ll be thinking about their double-cut galbi and spicy chicken tteokbokki for months after your meal here. Reservations drop 29 days in advance at 10am PST on Tock, but you can also try to grab one of their walk-in tables right when they open up at 5pm.

State Bird Provisions is our highest-rated restaurant in San Francisco. So when we say their small plates, like cumin lamb dumplings and crispy corn mochi, are worth the effort to secure a reservation, we’re as serious as your younger nephew who’s can’t stop talking about dinosaurs. The menu takes influences from Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Jamaican cuisines, but it’s all pulled off in ways that make sense, and the famous fried quail dish is a must-order. You’ll need to be ready at your computer at midnight PST 30 days out if you want to book a table, but the bar is reserved for walk-ins. Just get there early—the line starts forming about a half hour before they open at 5:30pm.

Zahav makes some of the best food in Philly, featuring things like fluffy laffa bread, memorable salatim, and halloumi wrapped in crispy coconut strands. And that’s before you get to the tender lamb shoulder or spicy cauliflower pepper stew. Basically, you’ll be presented with more excellent food than you could possibly eat in a single sitting for just $75 a person. To book, you’ll need to log onto Resy on the first of the month at 11am EST, and select a date for the following month. You should also periodically check the site for the one-off early dinner or late-night table that can open up.

Mujō does a stellar omakase at a 15-chair counter in Westside Atlanta, where you’ll be seated next to well-dressed couples or incognito celebrities. Over the course of two hours, you’ll get bites like sakizuke, chūtoro nigiri, and seasonal sweets, which are sure to impress any date—even one who’s low-key about being on Raya. Like many other spots on this list, Mujō drops their reservations on the first of the month for the month after, so be ready to log on at 10am or hop on Resy notify and hope for the best. 

This spot in downtown Phoenix cooks Sonoran cuisine over a wood-fired grill. While the energy here is laid-back and casual, with free-flowing margaritas and Oaxaca Old Fashioneds, grabbing a table is not. You’ll want to check on the first of each month when reservations for the following month are released. If you can’t get a table, you can try day-of for a counter or patio seat—just know that you can’t drink alcohol on the patio right now. Queue up before they open at 5pm for the best chance to enjoy their melt-in-your-mouth ribeye or tostadas piled high with carne asada and queso. 

Kann, a Haitian spot opened by a Top Chef alum, was the biggest 2022 restaurant opening in Portland, Oregon. The small space is filled with lots of greenery and the smell of smoked meats, which essentially makes it a sceney dinner party in a gilded forest house. Unlike a lot of other spots on this list, Kann drops their reservations on the second day of the month for the following month at 12pm PST. Patience is a virtue when booking, as it can take up to 30 minutes for reservations to load on Resy when they drop. Once you’ve made it, order multiple family-style plates like plantain brioche buns, brined chicken with smoked persimmons, and smoked beef ribs with a Haitian coffee rub.

After closing during the pandemic, José Andrés’ Minibar reopened in 2021. It’s not hard to understand why the reservations are so tough to score here: the mostly experimental, kind-of-Japanese tasting menu spans about 20 courses, with highlights like eel marinated with rosemary, thyme, and Spanish smoked paprika, and a super-rich caviar-loaded wagyu tartare. But the less you know going into dinner, the better—like every super experimental tasting menu and A24 horror movie, the surprise is part of the experience. Reservations drop on their website the first of the month for the following month at noon, and there’s also a waitlist

Getting to eat at Toshokan is meant to feel exclusive: the entrance is a bookcase door in a hostel hallway that leads to the cozy secret sushi bar. Once you’re inside, you’ll get hit with a whirlwind of nigiri and small plates like buttery Hokkaido scallops and decadent torched bone marrow nigiri. You’ll want to be ready when reservations drop at midnight on the first of the month for the following month—tables disappear faster than your Gen Z coworkers when you ask them to make a phone call. 

This European wine bar in NYC is actually one of the easiest places to get a reservation on this list, but it’s by no means a laid-back task. Reservations drop two weeks in advance at midnight, and so as long as you’re willing to plan ahead, it’s not too hard to grab a spot. There are also walk-ins for the 16 bar and rail seats if you want to try to get in last minute. Once you’re inside, eating there is like hanging out at your chef friend’s house: there’s always a chilled bottle of Spanish wine at the ready, and you never leave until you’ve had a simple but life-altering chocolate cake.

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