The Toughest Reservations In NYC Right Now (And How To Get Them)
Our thoughts on the busiest restaurants in New York City and advice on how to get in.
At any given time, there are a handful of New York City restaurants where trying to get a table feels like chasing the end of a double rainbow. 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 ones to get into—and we want you to know if they’re actually worthwhile. We also want to help you get a reservation, so you don’t have to sit at home and write sad songs about how you’ve never been to Lilia. Below, you’ll find our verdicts on the busiest places in the city, along with some info that’ll help you get that table (or bar seat). Check back for regular updates.
Zou Zou's: If you're planning a group dinner and need an impressive spot with great, shareable food, book a table at Zou Zou's. Reservations at this Mediterranean restaurant in Manhattan West are pretty doable now, as long as you plan a few days in advance.
Lord's: Surprisingly, it's no longer difficult to get into this new English bistro from the Dame team. Maybe that's because they're accepting reservations for bar seats now. Take advantage, and go eat a meat pie and a pile of triple-cooked fries.
Wenwen: It's still hard to get day-of (or even week-of) reservations at Wenwen. But if you plan a week in advance, you should be able to find a good time slot. This is wonderful news for anyone who wants to eat delicious, homestyle Taiwanese food.
Kyu: Well, that was short-lived. Kyu is pretty easy to get into now. Prime-time reservations can still be tough, but even if you're planning a last-minute meal, you can book a table at this modern Asian import from Miami.
photo credit: Evan Sung
Verdict: The Lincoln Center is cool now, and you have Tatiana to thank for that. Located inside David Geffen Hall (the one with the Philharmonic), this restaurant feels like a quiet nightclub and serves food that blends Afro-Caribbean flavors with iconic New York dishes. Expect things like egusi dumplings, a truffle chopped cheese, and short rib pastrami suya.
How To Get In: Reservations are released four weeks in advance at 12pm. If you can't snag one of those, try the bar that's held for walk-ins.
Torrisi Bar & Restaurant
Verdict: Torrisi Bar & Restaurant is an Italian place in Nolita from the people behind Carbone, but it's a different sort of production. Unlike Carbone, the space is huge, and the menu shows a range of influence (chicken livers with Manischewitz, cavatelli with "Jamaican beef ragu," etc.). This is a great choice for a big night out, and it's probably going to be annoyingly hard to get into for quite some time.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 30 days in advance at 10am. We got a last-minute table at 5pm, and you may have to settle for the same. (You'll still have fun.) There's also a large bar area up front that's saved for walk-ins, and it's worth stopping by to see if you can grab a stool.
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photo credit: Monkey Bar
Verdict: Recently revamped by the team behind Au Cheval and 4 Charles Prime Rib, Monkey Bar is a great time. The big sunken dining room is filled with retro red leather booths, and the expansive menu is full of crowd pleasers like steak, fried chicken, and one of the best new burgers.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 14 days in advance at 9am. You'll find the occasional day-of reservation for 5pm, but if you don't want to eat before Jeopardy! airs, your best bet is the walk-in-only tavern area up front.
photo credit: Kate Previte
Verdict: Yet another frustratingly good restaurant from the team behind Dhamaka and Semma. Masalawala & Sons serves inventive, mostly Kolkata-inspired dishes, and the Park Slope dining room is fun and festive.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 30 days in advance at midnight, and there are four bar seats for walk-ins. The past few times we ate here, we arrived around opening (5pm) without a reservation, and our wait for a table was less than 15 minutes. If you can't get a reservation, that strategy is your best option.
photo credit: Kate Previte
Verdict: Manhatta is back, and the 60th-floor view is still impressive. This Union Square Hospitality Group restaurant closed in March of 2020, then reopened earlier this year as a cocktail bar with small plates, and now they're serving dinner again. The food leans New American, but not in a boring way. Expect things like meaty monkfish medallions in a thick clam broth with raw bitter greens.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 28 days in advance at noon. There's a bar area for walk-ins where you can eat oysters or steak tartare, but the full dinner menu is only served in the dining room (where they also accept walk-ins).
Verdict: It's been a good year for New York City wine bars. First, there was Place des Fêtes from the Oxalis team, and now there's Claud. Eating here feels like hanging in the cozy-yet-chic East Village apartment of your chef friends who don’t make a big deal about how talented they are.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online two weeks in advance at midnight. Unlike many places on this list, Claud usually has open reservations as long as you're willing to book a full two weeks in advance. So plan ahead. Walk-ins are accepted for the 16 bar and rail seats.
Verdict: The view alone is worth the hassle of getting a reservation, but the grilled Israeli food is what makes Laser Wolf worth getting excited about. Plan a group dinner at this Philly import on top of the Hoxton Hotel in Williamsburg.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 21 days in advance at 10am. It's no longer impossible to book a table, but available reservations tend to be at 10pm or later. So wake up early to make your reservation, or try to get a seat at the bar. They save 10 bar seats for walk-ins, although, according to the restaurant, getting one of these seats can be “challenging at times.”
Verdict: Keep trying to get a table. This English place in Greenwich Village (one of our favorite new restaurants of 2021) serves some of the best seafood in town, and we aren’t just talking fish and chips. Although they do serve that, and their version is exceedingly crispy.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 12 weeks in advance at noon, but Mondays are walk-in only. The line to get a table forms around 4:30pm, and they start taking names and assigning times by 5:30pm. If showing up on a Monday sounds too exhausting, you can also just buy an NFT that allows preferential booking (not kidding). For $1,000, the NFT (sort of like a JPEG, but more exclusive) gives you membership to Dame's Affable Hospitality Club, with access to exclusive tables that must be booked at least 24 hours in advance.
photo credit: David A. Lee
Verdict: You need to eat the Cantonese American food at Bonnie’s. The music at this casual Williamsburg spot can get pretty loud, but you won’t hear much of anything as you space out and consume your char siu McRib, whole stuffed trout, and salt and pepper squid.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 13 days in advance at 10am. It's slowly getting easier to land one of these reservations—although most of the available options you'll see online are for outdoor dining. Six bar seats are saved for walk-ins, and you can wait for a table in the backyard, where drinks and snacks are available.
Verdict: Every single dish at Thai Diner is a highlight. It’s a disorienting experience, and you’ll be confused by how good the food is. Whether it’s for lunch, brunch, or dinner, you should be eating khao soi and Thai disco fries here at least once a week. It’s surprisingly doable.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online six days in advance at midnight, but most tables are actually reserved for walk-ins. When we stopped by on a Saturday night, the wait for four wound up being 1.5 hours.
photo credit: Will Ellis
Verdict: Dhamaka is, currently, one of a kind. This restaurant in Essex Market is serving fantastic regional Indian specialties that are hard to find elsewhere in NYC, and it’s great for a group meal. Eat here—then go try its sister restaurant Semma (which is slightly easier to get into).
How To Get In: Reservations are released online a month in advance at midnight—so wake up early and book a full month out, while those reservations are still available. Walk-ins are accepted based on availability/cancellations, and, according to the restaurant, the best time to show up is at 5pm. Walk-in attempts become “very difficult in the later part of the evening.”
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Verdict: This isn’t just one of the top KBBQ places. It’s one of the best places to eat red meat in the city, and the $68 Butcher’s Feast with banchan, tofu stew, four cuts of beef, and soft serve is one of our all-time favorite prix-fixe meals.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 30 days in advance at 10am. Walk-ins aren’t accepted, but you can call for a reservation, and we’ve been told it’s easier to get a table that way.
Verdict: Carbone is overhyped. It’s so overhyped, in fact, that you’ll hear people claim that the food here isn’t even any good. That is untrue. The red sauce Italian food at Carbone is consistently delicious. This is just such a sceney restaurant, and there are so many other places where you can get excellent Italian food in this city. The only real reason to struggle for a table here is if you want to sit in a chair that Rihanna might have once occupied.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 30 days in advance at 10am. Walk-ins are not accepted, even if you’re Justin Bieber. Best of luck.
Verdict: Lilia isn't that good. That's a lie, and we apologize. We just want you to stop trying to get a table at Lilia, so we can go more often and enjoy a better quality of life. This Williamsburg Italian restaurant continues to serve top-tier pasta, and, yes, those sheep's milk cheese-filled agnolotti are still on the menu. So is the gelato. Order it.
How To Get In: There’s one very important thing to keep in mind when it comes to getting a table at Lilia: They take reservations over the phone. In fact, it’s easier to get a table over the phone. Reservations are released 30 days in advance at 10am, and whatever isn’t booked over the phone gets released onto Resy at midnight. Bar seats and a few outdoor tables (weather permitting) are saved for walk-ins, and the last time we stopped by, we had to wait around two hours after putting our names in. It was worth it.
Verdict: Just across from Zou Zou's (in the Hudson Yards-adjacent development known as Manhattan West), you'll find Ci Siamo. Part of Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, this big, glitzy Italian spot is serving wood-fired mains and the best pasta within walking distance of Penn Station. It's a wonderful place to eat carbs and cheese.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 28 days in advance at noon. They save 12 bar seats for walk-ins, and they're also open for lunch Tuesday through Friday. So if you really want to eat at Ci Siamo, tell your boss you have an Invisalign fitting, and come here instead. (Lunch reservations are much easier to get.)
Verdict: I Sodi is just about perfect. Come here to eat unpretentious and extremely well-executed Tuscan food in an intimate space the size of a studio apartment. Your meal should look something like: artichokes, lasagna, negroni.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online two weeks in advance at midnight. There are 16 bar seats available for walk-ins, and you should take advantage of this. Just swing by around 6pm one night and put your name in with the host. That’s the best and easiest way to eat here.
photo credit: Lizzie Munro
Gage and Tollner
Verdict: Gage and Tollner makes some very good steak, and we appreciate the creative twists on their menu like the baked clams with bacon-kimchi butter. But there are several places in this city (that aren’t as hard to get into) where we’d rather eat steak. St. Anselm, for example.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 28 days in advance at 10am. The entire bar is saved for walk-ins, and there are also 4-8 tables (depending on party size) reserved for walk-ins every night.
photo credit: Kate Previte
Verdict: This is still one of the best fine-dining options in town, and it’s not that stuffy. Dinner (starting at $325) takes place at a U-shaped counter, with around 12 Korean-influenced courses accompanied by illustrated flash cards. The attention to detail is impressive, and the food is always pristine, satisfying, and inventive.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online on the first of each month at 3pm. It’s important to note that the month’s entire slate of reservations becomes available on the first. So that’s your only window. There’s also a waitlist, if you’d care to show up one night and roll the dice.
4 Charles Prime Rib
Verdict: We’d like to be eating at 4 Charles Prime Rib right now. Unfortunately, this small, subterranean West Village spot somehow hasn’t become any easier to get into since it opened in 2016. Try to get a seat here. We believe in you, and we think you should start your meal with a burger before moving onto creamed spinach and prime rib.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 30 days in advance at 9am. They don’t save seats for walk-ins, but you can put your name on a waitlist in case of any cancellations.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Verdict: Even though it’s always packed, we still think Don Angie doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Their Italian menu—with its stuffed flatbread and sesame-sprinkled gnocchi—is very much doing its own thing, and the cocktail list is pretty cool too. Try this place at least once. You'll appreciate the creativity.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online seven days in advance at 9am. The bar is reserved for walk-ins, and bar seats are surprisingly attainable. Sure, you might have to wait an hour or so, but don’t be afraid to stop by and put your name in.
Verdict: By this point, you've probably noticed a theme: New Yorkers really like to line up for pasta. From a chef who trained in Emilia-Romagna, this Flatiron restaurant serves immaculate spaghetti, gramigna, and ravioli. The dishes have names like "grandma walking through forest in emilia," and there's a $95 pasta tasting in case you feel like that's what you really deserve.
How To Get In: Reservations are released online 21 days in advance at midnight. The bar has 11 seats, all of which are saved for walk-ins. If you get too frustrated trying to eat here at night, book a table for lunch (Tuesday through Friday).