The Toughest Reservations In DC (And How To Get Them)

Our thoughts on the busiest restaurants in DC, and advice on how to get in.
Interior of restaurant with ombre balloon banner across ceiling, mirrored ceiling, neon lights, and leather booths.

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo

Getting into DC restaurants is usually no big deal. Most nights, you can walk in and snag a table without much of a wait. But there are a handful of spots where trying to score a table feels like Dulles TSA on a holiday weekend. Right now, these are those restaurants. And while the spots on this list aren’t necessarily the best restaurants in the city, they are the hardest ones to get into—and we want you to know if they’re actually worth it. Below, you’ll find our verdicts, along with info that’ll help you snag that table (or bar seat). Check back for regular updates.


photo credit: Minibar


Penn Quarter

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightSpecial Occasions
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Verdict: It doesn’t matter that you have the biggest presentation of your life happening at the exact moment reservations open up. Stroll in a few minutes late with your Minibar By José Andrés spot booked, and you’ll already feel like a winner. At $325 per person, dinner here isn't cheap. But we’d gladly spend our own money (or anyone else’s) to be one of a dozen people sitting around the kitchen table here, especially for an anniversary or birthday dinner that gets talked about for years to come.

How To Get In: Reservations open a month ahead at 12pm on the first of each month. With only 12 seats available, it's a tight squeeze. Set an alarm and stay flexible on dates to secure your spot. Keep in mind, groups are limited to a maximum of four guests, so maybe no birthday parties.

photo credit: Reema Desai

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner


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Verdict: Scoring a table at Albi's is like winning the DC lottery. With dishes like build-it-yourself lettuce wraps with carrot and tuna filling and the city’s best pita, the Middle Eastern spot dishes out some of the most delicious food in Navy Yard. The restaurant’s glass enclosed dining room is great for a weeknight date night or dinner with the parents (or anyone you’re looking to impress with food and not your personal resume). 

How To Get In: Reservations open a month in advance, but plan to book at least two weeks early to avoid the early bird 5pm dinner slot. The restaurant does offer walk-in seating at the bar, but you’ll miss all the action in the dining room and open kitchen. You'll still get some good a** food, so if you don’t mind the view—or lack thereof—that’s always a back-up option.

Verdict: You can get day-of reservations at Caruso’s, but expect them to be after 9pm. The Capitol Hill spot serves all of the expected classics, including a pasta alfredo that’s smothered in a creamy truffle butter and a blood orange creme-brulee that might be one of our favorite desserts in the city. It's so good you'll find yourself dreaming about it for days afterward.

How To Get In: If you don't want to end up dining at 9pm, you need to secure seats at least three weeks early. Reservations open 60 days in advance, right after midnight if you’re looking for the first pick.

Verdict: Maydan is easily one of the city's best Mediterranean restaurants. Grab a bunch of friends—it'll make scoring a table easier and sharing their delicious family-style menu even more fun. Stuff yourself on freshly-made warm pita bread from the restaurant's open hearth, sizzling kabobs, and spicy harissa-marinated carrots. 

How To Get In: Reservations are released 21 days in advance at 10am. If you're not the planning-ahead type, they do release a limited number of tables a few hours before opening. You might end up sitting outside, away from the warmth of the restaurant's open-fire hearth, but it's worth a try.

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo

Verdict: Pineapple & Pearls is so hit-or-miss that it's not worth potentially spending $500 on a night when the staff seems as enthusiastic about explaining the funky cheese course as you are when the mechanic lists all the sudden repairs your car needs. The food at sister restaurant Rose's Luxury serves food that's just as good and you won't ever be disappointed with the mood. 

How To Get In: If you want to secure Friday night or weekend reservations at Pineapple and Pearls, book as soon as reservations open at noon the first of the preceding month. Reserving slots for later days is possible, but booking in advance ensures the best outcome, especially for special occasions.

Verdict: When you’re sitting on a fluffy couch in a nook set off to the side of the bedouin tented bar, you’ll know why you booked your table three weeks early. You’ll have plenty of space to lounge around as you stuff yourself with kefta hummus full of juicy meatballs and beautiful specialty cocktails like the smoky Medusa. 

How to Get In: Reservations open 21 days in advance at 10am, but the majority of seating at Medina is held for walk-ins. Reserve a table to bypass the wait, but there's still a chance to spontaneously swing by without fearing your night will be cut short.

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