The Toughest Reservations In Austin Right Now (And How To Get Them) guide image


The Toughest Reservations In Austin Right Now (And How To Get Them)

Our thoughts on the busiest restaurants in Austin and advice on how to get in.

At any given time, there are a handful of Austin restaurants where trying to get a table is more difficult than counting all the bats emerging from the Congress Avenue bridge at sunset. Right now, these are those restaurants. The spots on this list aren’t necessarily the best restaurants in the city, but they are the hardest places to book a reservation. We think you should know if these spots actually worth the effort, and if so, the best way to go about getting in. Below, you’ll find our verdicts, along with info that’ll help you snag that table (or bar seat). Check back for regular updates.


Red Ash Italia

Verdict: A meal at Red Ash is often heavy-handed—expect lots of butter, garlic, bone marrow, and cheese in just about everything—but you come here to celebrate big occasions. It’s basically a rustic Italian restaurant imagined through the lens of a swanky downtown steakhouse. The pastas are homemade, and almost everything is cooked on a live wood fire. It’s also one of the only places you’re going to find a 50 day dry-aged steak in town, which is sadly about half the time you’ll need to start planning in advance for a meal here.

How to get in: Show up right when Red Ash opens and there’s a decent chance you can grab a seat or two at the bar. But if you want a guaranteed table you’ll need to start planning early. Reservations open up six months in advance, and prime time tables book up about four months in advance (and about two months for the late night seats). If you’re mostly here for steak, you can get a good (but not quite as good) steak at one of Red Ash’s sister restaurants, Bulevar and J. Carver, with a little less planning. 

Verdict: A meal at Tsuke Edomae might ruin sushi for you forever. Expect about 20 courses, made up of a mix of small plates and classic edomae-style sushi, in which the fish goes through an aging process to further develop umami flavors. This is nigiri in its simplest form—dressed in nothing but soy sauce and wasabi—and sets the gold standard in Austin for sushi purists. 

How to get in: Of all the tough reservations to secure in Austin, this might be the toughest, so don’t be too disheartened if it takes a few rounds to get one. Tickets are released about once a month for the following month—this usually happens on a Sunday at 9am, but not really on a consistent schedule that we’ve found (follow along on Instagram for updates). Once released, they go fast. Set your alarm, then get ready to hit that refresh button until tickets go live. If you’re not able to secure a spot, get on the waitlist. Just be ready to drop everything and book a spot the second you get a notification.

Verdict: Austin is home to a handful of very good omakase-only spots, and we put Toshokan up there near the top. Here, you’ll eat your way through about 14 courses that range from super classic nigiri (like otoro nigiri simply dressed in soy and wasabi) to more inventive bites with globally inspired flavors (like Hokkaido scallops with Peruvian salsa verde). The food is inventive without feeling over the top; the atmosphere is fun and intimate, and you’ll probably leave the tiny dining room feeling like you just made five new friends. 

How to get in: Tickets to Toshokan are released on the first of the month, usually at midnight (but occasionally at a different hour that gets announces on Instagram the day before). And if you want to snag a seat, you should probably start refreshing your browser right at 11:59pm—these go fast. And if you don’t manage to grab one right when the hour strikes, try again in about 10 minutes when unpaid shopping carts expire and a few stray tickets sometimes get re-released into the wild. 

Verdict: This is one of the single most expensive meals in Austin. Is it worth it? That really depends on how much you’re willing to spend and what you’re looking for. It’s a place to dress up a little and feel like a rock star, as you watch your meal get prepared in a room that’s basically a tunnel of lights to a soundtrack of Bowie, Sun Ra, and Fugazi, with a chef that looks like he could have just hopped off any of their stages. And it’s some of the best sushi in Austin. It just comes with a price tag of about $250-$300 per person (before drinks), unless you book the weekly abridged (and slightly cheaper) dinner for $150. 

How to get in: Reservations are released at 9am on the first of the month, on a rolling three month basis. If you want to secure prime time seatings on popular nights, you’ll want to be near a computer when tickets get released. They go fast, but not split-second fast. And if you’re a little more flexible with your timing, there are usually spots about four to six weeks out.  You can also find exclusive reservations available for Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders here.

Verdict: Nobody speaks brunch in Austin like Paperboy. Expect to find excellent renditions of all the classics—BEC sandwiches, avocado toast, and hash—plus a light and refreshing cocktail list that pairs well with daylight hours. It’s not hard to see why everybody in East Austin is trying to get a table here on the weekends. 

How to get in: Getting a table at lunch on a weekday at Paperboy is easy. Getting a table during peak brunch hours on a Saturday or Sunday requires some combination of luck, crossed fingers, and intense planning. Reservations open up on the first of the month on a rolling two month basis. But if you’re willing to eat at 2pm, you can usually snag a table just a few weeks out. Spontaneous brunch? Paperboy accepts a limited number of walk-ins, but be prepared to wait an hour or two. 

Verdict: There aren’t a lot of restaurants in Austin that can still book out a month in advance after two decades in business, but Uchi has never really shown any signs of slowing down since it first opened in a cozy renovated house on South Lamar. Uchi is one of the pioneers of Japanese fusion done at a fine dining level—if you haven’t been, it’s worth making a visit to this Austin powerhouse. And if you’ve been before, you already understand why. 

How to get in: Reservations at Uchi open up one month in advance, and they tend to go fast. If you want to secure a prime time seat, you’ll want to be there right when reservations get released, but even the off-hour tables get snapped up about three weeks out. You can also show up right when Uchi opens and usually snag a seat at the bar (or sometimes even a table). The plus side to an early dinner is you’ll also have access to the excellent Happy Hour. Uchi also has a sister concept, Uchiko in Rosedale, with a very similar menu, where tables go about half as fast.

Verdict: Jeffrey’s has been around in some form or another since 1975, and it’s never really missed a beat in that time. This is one of the best fine dining experiences in Austin, and it’s home to some of the best steaks in town. 

How to get in: A table at Jeffrey’s isn’t too difficult to get if you’re OK with dining early or late, but if you want to secure a prime time spot on a Friday or a Saturday night, you’ll want to plan a solid two months in advance when reservations get released. You can also usually grab a seat at the bar if you show up early, where you’ll also unlock access to the bar menu, which includes a very good pan-seared steak. 

Verdict: Austin is home to a lot of great omakase-only spots, and we think there are plenty of better ones out there. At Sushi Bar, the nigiri here tends to be over-accessorized, combining high quality fish with a few too many toppings. The end result is a series of pretty tasty bites that feel a little too reliant on novelty. 

How to get in: Reservations are released on the first of the month on a rolling two month basis. Prime time spots book up about four to six weeks in advance here, but if you’re OK with an early or late dinner, you can usually find seats just a few days out.  You can also find exclusive reservations available for Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders here.

Verdict: There are lots of better places to eat on South Congress than at Aba, an expensive modern Mediterranean restaurant. In fact, we’d probably choose most of them over a meal here. But if you really, really want to sit on their admittedly very nice patio and sip on a $25 paloma, we get it. Kind of. 

How to get in: Reservations during dinner hours are typically available about 6-8 weeks out, but if you just want to stop in for afternoon drinks and snacks, you can usually grab something about a week out. If you want a patio seat, you can make a request when booking, but it's on a first come, first served basis. And when the weather’s nice, the patio is where everybody will want to be. That means you can sometimes grab a seat in the dining room as a walk-in, but then you’re missing one of the few redeeming things about Aba. 

Verdict: Housed in a historic Victorian mansion in Bouldin Creek, Mattie’s has been a longtime dining destination serving Southern-inspired fare, whether you’re seated in the stylish dining room or on the elegant porch under the majestic live oaks amidst the peacocks who roam the grounds. Dinner here is a more classy, romantic affair, but Mattie’s is dependably solid during brunch, with dishes like fried chicken eggs benedict and a phenomenal milk punch French toast.

How to get in: A dinner reservation at Mattie’s isn’t too difficult to get your hands on, but you’re not here for dinner—you’re here for brunch. Reservations open up a month in advance, and you’ll need to be right on time if you want to secure a weekend table.

Verdict: Perla’s is home to one of the best patios in Austin, and when the weather is nice, this is absolutely where you want to be. Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who think so, which just means you’ll need to plan a little in advance. Get some oysters and a glass of wine while looking out over a busy stretch of South Congress Avenue. 

How to get in: Dinner reservations are typically available on weeknights just a few days out, but the golden ticket here is a prime time weekend brunch table. And if you want that, you’ll want to grab a reservation about a month in advance.

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photo credit: Richard Casteel

The Toughest Reservations In Austin Right Now (And How To Get Them) guide image