Guide

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.

THE SPOTS

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 new Philly import on top of the Hoxton Hotel in Williamsburg.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online 21 days in advance at 10am. They save 10 bar seats for walk-ins, although, according to the restaurant, getting one of these seats can be “challenging at times.” We somehow feel like that’s an understatement. So come when they open at 5pm.

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 12pm, 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

Bonnie’s review image
8.5

Bonnie’s

$$$$

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. Six bar seats are saved for walk-ins, in addition to another 28 seats on the sidewalk patio (weather permitting). 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 11am, but most tables are actually reserved for walk-ins. On a recent Saturday night, the wait for four wound up being 1.5 hours.

photo credit: Emily Schindler

Wenwen review image
8.2

Wenwen

$$$$

Verdict: It's not quite as rowdy as sister restaurant 886, but this new, casual Greenpoint place is still pretty fun. The homestyle Taiwanese food hits the spot, and you can order a big, flaming youtiao-topped cocktail to go with your pork belly and cuttlefish.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online on the first of every month for the entire following month. (This may change soon.) Around 12-18 seats are reserved for walk-ins, but you should know that we've seen people lined up outside of this restaurant around opening time in order to get their hands on the whole fried BDSM chicken. They only make five of these birds a night, so come early if you want one.

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. 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.”

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 $64 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: The piped tuna on crispy rice is soft and melty, and the giant slabs of beef ribs could humiliate any centerpiece at a BBQ—but we still don't think this Miami transplant is a place you need to stalk reservation sites for. (It feels kind of like a Meatpacking restaurant, but in Noho.) If you do book a table, come with a group. The menu is gigantic with Thai, Japanese, and Korean dishes that work well for sharing.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online 60 days in advance at 10am. There are no seats saved for walk-ins, but you can show up and put your name on a waitlist. Notably, this place is also open for lunch every day, and you shouldn't have much trouble scoring a table then.

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 an annoyingly 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.

Lilia review image
9.0

Lilia

$$$$(718) 576-3095
Hours:MONDAY5:30PM to 11:00PM

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: We wouldn't necessarily call Zou Zou's an essential New York City restaurant, but the comprehensively Mediterranean menu here is unique and full of great dishes to share. We have a feeling this relatively new spot will become a little easier to get into soon. If that happens, this’ll be one of our go-to places for impressive group meals.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online three weeks in advance at 9am. The bar seats are all first come, first served.

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: Skirt Steak only serves one entree: skirt steak with salad and bottomless fries. That entree is actually quite good (and reasonably priced at $28), but Skirt Steak doesn't take reservations, and they have the gall to ask you to wait on the sidewalk until your table is ready. We admire the audacity (and we’re pretty sure the spectacle of a line is what draws people here), but this place isn’t worth an hour-long wait on 6th Avenue.

How To Get In: As mentioned, there are no reservations. You have to wait in line on 6th Avenue until there’s room for you inside, and that line can get distressingly long if you arrive at a peak hour. Get here between 5 and 6pm for the best results.

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.

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.

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.

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

Don Angie review image
8.4

Don Angie

$$$$

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).

Lucali review image
9.3

Lucali

$$$$(718) 858-4086
Hours:MONDAY6:00PM to 10:00PM

Verdict: Lucali serves the best pizza in New York City. Yes, it’s really irritating trying to get into this candlelit, BYOB (and cash-only) Carroll Gardens institution—but all it takes to get a table is time and willpower. Order a calzone to go with your pizza.

How To Get In: Lucali doesn’t take reservations, and everyone wants to eat at Lucali. That’s why you have to line up outside of this restaurant before it even opens in order to put your name in for a table. We recommend arriving around 4pm. Bring a book.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad