NYCGuide

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.
A bright dining room with a curved bar.

photo credit: Kate Previte

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

photo credit: Katrine Moite Photography

Indian

East Village

$$$$Perfect For:BirthdaysDate Night

Verdict: Bungalow has all the trappings of a clubstaurant: a celebrity chef, a bass-heavy soundtrack, and enough chandeliers and fake vines to make Tao feel insecure. But the inventive Indian food at this East Village restaurant sure does hit the spot. Come for a lively night out, and eat some slow-cooked lamb in a custard-thick sauce with caramelized onion.

How To Get In: Online reservations go up two weeks in advance at 11am. Bungalow accepts walk-ins for the dining room and eight-seat bar, but the only dishes you can order at the bar are desserts and small plates. If you want a walk-in table, your best bet is early in the week. On a recent Wednesday, there was only a 10-minute wait for two.

photo credit: Melissa Hom

Verdict: A lovely place that looks like a high-end resort in Tulum. The beige walls and custom ceramics are all very soothing, and the wood-fired Mediterranean food tastes nice and smoky. Try this Fort Greene spot for a casual date night, and order the dry-aged branzino.

How To Get In: Reservations get released online 30 days in advance at 9am. They save the bar and a few tables for walk-ins, and waits aren’t atrocious. At 7pm on a Wednesday, the host quoted us 30-45 minutes for two spots at the bar. For a solo diner, there was no wait at all. 

photo credit: Kate Previte

Verdict: The seafood-focused Italian American dishes are as good as you’d expect from the people behind sister restaurant Don Angie (located just a few doors down in the West Village). San Sabino’s crab and mortadella dip alone is worth the effort of getting inside.

How To Get In: Reservations are released a week in advance at 9am, but the restaurant welcomes walk-ins at the bar. We lined up outside at 4:30pm on a Thursday, and came back for a bar seat at 7pm. 

photo credit: Kate Previte

Verdict: A club, but with poultry. That’s what Coqodaq, from the team behind Cote, feels like—and we aren’t opposed. The dark, noisy room is lined with half-moon tables under illuminated glass arches, and it stays packed all night. For $38, you can get a set meal that comes with banchan, noodles, froyo, and a substantial portion of crunchy fried chicken, which happens to be gluten-free.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online two weeks in advance at 10am, and they’re going to be competitive for the foreseeable future. You can, however, put your name in for a seat at the 16-seat bar—where it gets hectic—or at one of the high-tops by the entrance. At 6:15 on a recent Thursday, we were quoted an hour-and-forty-five-minute wait for three, but it wound up being closer to three hours.

photo credit: Evan Sung

$$$$

Verdict: If we had to choose between Bangkok Supper Club and sister establishment Fish Cheeks, we’d take Fish Cheeks every time. The flavors at BSC just aren’t as punchy as we’d like. But the two restaurants are good for different things. This newer West Village spot is more of a scene, with a menu inspired by late-night Thai food, and a crowd that overlaps with that of Le Bain. Stick to the smaller plates, like the scallop ceviche with watermelon granita.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online 30 days in advance at midnight. A few seats are saved for walk-ins, including those at the bar.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

$$$$Perfect For:Date Night

Verdict: This Fort Greene bistro—one of our favorite new spots of 2023—serves a fantastic seafood-heavy menu in an intimate, nautical-themed dining room that features what appears to be a taxidermied lobster. When you want to sit beside a flickering lamp and gaze out a window while you eat some profiteroles, this is where you should be.

How To Get In: Dinner reservations are released online two weeks in advance at 11am. Lunch and brunch reservations for the week are released at 11am on Monday. Bar seats are saved for walk-ins, but get here early. At 6pm on a Wednesday, the wait for two was two hours.

Verdict: The Polo Bar is so preppy, their tap water tastes like seersucker. Ralph Lauren’s tartan-filled, subterranean Midtown country club has cornered the market on equestrian paintings and parquet ceilings, and it’s the closest you’ll get to a guaranteed celebrity sighting. Is the food good? Who cares? You’re here for the scene. (But yes, the food is good. Try the corned beef sandwich.)

How To Get In: In order to book a table, you have to call 212-207-8562. Reservations are released roughly one month in advance on the matching calendar date—on September 30th, for example, you can book for October 30th—and the phone line opens at 10am. If you can’t snag a reservation, try calling around 4pm on the day-of to see if there were any last-minute cancellations.

Verdict: It seems like The Four Horsemen has been picking up steam. Given the general interest in natural wine bars, that isn’t surprising. When it opened in 2015, this little Williamsburg spot was ahead of its time, and it continues to serve creative small plates worth seeking out.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online 30 days in advance at 7am. There was a time when you could get one of those reservations last-minute, but now your best bet is to try to snag one of the bar stools up front by arriving just before they open. We prefer those seats anyway.

photo credit: David A. Lee

Verdict: Of all the restaurants run by Unapologetic Foods, Dhamaka (and, briefly, Masalawala & Sons) used to be the hardest to get into. Now, that honor goes to Semma. It opened back in 2021, but this West Village spot is busier than ever—and the success is well-deserved. Semma's coastal South Indian dishes make excellent use of cardamom, cinnamon, and countless other spices. Be sure to pre-order the Dungeness crab. Only a few are available every night.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online two weeks in advance. There aren't any tables saved for walk-ins, but there are 12 seats at the bar, so you can always try your luck there.

Verdict: Simply put: the best restaurant in NYC. Located inside David Geffen Hall on the Upper West Side, Tatiana feels like a quiet nightclub—with soft blue lighting and beaded silver curtains—and serves food that blends Afro-Caribbean flavors with iconic New York dishes. Options include egusi dumplings, curried goat patties, and some excellent 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 six-seat bar or outdoor patio, both of which are held for walk-ins. When we arrived on a Tuesday at 4:45pm, the line was already 10-people deep, and our four-person party was seated at 5:40pm. Get a drink in the lobby of David Geffen Hall while you wait.

Verdict: Torrisi Bar & Restaurant is an Italian-ish 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: They do chicken livers with Manischewitz and cavatelli with Jamaican beef ragu. This is a great choice for a big night out, and it's 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. There's also a large bar area up front that's saved for walk-ins. We came on a weeknight around 6pm to see if we could snag a few of those seats, and they quoted us a four-hour wait. So maybe bring a crossword—or come for lunch.

photo credit: Noah Devereaux

RESERVE A TABLE

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Verdict: This isn’t just one of the top KBBQ places. It’s one of the top places to eat red meat in the city, and the $74 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.

photo credit: Kate Previte

$$$$Perfect For:People WatchingLunch

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. 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 online at midnight. Bar seats and a few outdoor tables (weather permitting) are saved for walk-ins. The last time we stopped by, we had to wait around two hours after putting our name in. It was worth it.

photo credit: Kate Previte

$$$$Perfect For:Special Occasions

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Verdict: This is still one of the best fine-dining options in town, and it’s not that stuffy. Dinner (starting at $395) 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 an online waitlist you can join. You can also find exclusive reservations available for Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders here.

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 21 days in advance at 9am. They don’t save seats for walk-ins, but you can put your name on a waitlist and hope for 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 sourdough pasta—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.

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