You've probably heard about how hard it is to get into Sukiyabashi Jiro, the Tokyo restaurant immortalized in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Only Japanese speakers are allowed to call—and only at the beginning of the month—to try to secure a spot, and getting through has about the same odds as winning a radio station contest. While it’s slightly easier to score a reservation at these other sought-after tables around the world, it’s no picnic in the park, either—but totally worth the effort.
A tony little restaurant in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood, Marianne is a five-table spot with seasonal tasting menus from MasterChef finalist Marianne Lumb. It’s so difficult to procure a res that you're better off calling a few days before you want to go, on the off-chance that there might be a cancellation.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
Bon Appetit voted State Bird Provisions, a California restaurant with a point-and-order dim sum service style, the best new restaurant when it opened (way back in 2012). Four years later, people still line up at 4pm daily for a chance at one of the few walk-in spaces, and reservations are so hard to score, hackers attacked the old reservation system trying to get them.
Dominique Ansel U.P., New York City
Even though hopeful eaters haven't yet lined up overnight to get into Dominique Ansel U.P. (which stands for “unlimited possibilities”) in quite the way they have for Ansel’s cronuts (the notorious croissant-donut hybrids), that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get into the chef’s evening dessert-tasting series. The website opens up reservations at noon every Monday for the next seven weeks, or you can try emailing to set up a private event.
Want to check out Noma, chef Rene Redzepi's much-hyped Nordic restaurant—considered one of the (if not the) world’s best? Sad to say it’s unlikely at this point, unless you know someone who’s already snagged a table; reservations are pretty slammed until the end of the year, when Noma will close and transform into a new urban-farm-slash-restaurant.
Rao’s, New York City
A 119-year-old Italian restaurant in Spanish Harlem remains harder to squeeze into than the hottest new spots in New York City. Rao’s opened in 1896 and has long had a reputation as a place you just can’t even consider entering unless you're the most VIP of VIPs, with deep connections. The 10 tables are such hot commodities that they’ve reportedly been auctioned off for charity for as much as $6,000 for one night.
Maude, Los Angeles
Australian chef Curtis Stone of Top Chef Masters and Around the World in 80 Plates fame opened his Beverly Hills showpiece Maude in 2014, but a no-walk-ins policy has ensured that it’s stayed perpetually packed. You’ll have to start calling for a reservation at least two months in advance if you want a shot at trying Stone’s nine-course tasting menu, but extreme patience could pay off.
Carbone, Las Vegas
New York’s popular red sauce Italian-American spot Carbone—created by the famed chef-owner team of Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick—has set up shop at Aria in Las Vegas. More space means it’s probably easier to get in here than back in Manhattan; still, you’ll want to try for a reservation as soon as you know you’re hitting the Strip.
The Polo Bar, New York City
Ralph Lauren makes his first foray into the New York restaurant world with The Polo Bar. With no walk-ins allowed, the bar and restaurant are incredibly hard to get into, even if you’re draped head to toe in Polo (nice try, though!). But if you’re going to be visiting his adjacent department store in a few weeks/months and you wouldn’t mind, say, a 5pm reservation for some post-shopping drinks and nibbles, that might be your likeliest option.
Le Comptoir, Paris
Food and Wine recommends calling five months ahead for the prospect of eating Yves Camdeborde’s Béarnaise prix-fixe menu at the tiny Le Comptoir, at the Hôtel Relais Saint Germain. You can also get your fix of just wine and charcuterie by hitting L’Avant Comptoir, Camdeborde’s seatless spot next door.
Jon & Vinny’s, Los Angeles
With popular restaurants like Animal, Son of a Gun and Trois Mec, chef-restaurateurs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are major stars of the Los Angeles restaurant scene. Now they’ve got Jon & Vinny’s, a pizza and pasta spot that has prompted people to actually pay to get a reservation via the Resy app, which charges for hard-to-get tables. But in this case, waiting in line is probably your better bet.
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