Ready to pay for your dinner before you've even taken a bite? Chefs and restaurateurs who run some of the most in-demand hotspots are betting the answer is yes. They're making guests pre-book and pre-purchase their dinner, sometimes months in advance. The upside: Fewer cancellations, and a more exact sense of how much staff and ingredients to plan for. The upside for diners? Buying tickets for a special dinner is, let's face it, kind of fun. The downside? Those tickets aren't always easy to score, and you've got be serious about your commitment to show up. Here, six restaurants well worth the extra effort.
U.P. Dominique Ansel Kitchen, New York City
Pastry chef (and Cronuts inventor) Dominique Ansel's new after-hours tasting table is called U.P,, short for unlimited possibilities. A seat at the eight-top U.P. table, hidden within Dominique Ansel Kitchen in New York’s West Village, means access to a luxe all-dessert, seven-course tasting menu with a rotating theme that changes every six months. Sound like an impossible dream? You can make it real, but first you have to get in: Try your luck on the restaurant's website on the first of every month at 12pm ET, and if you get a slot, pay your tariff ($85 per person and up; $45 per person for optional cocktail pairings) and you're golden. Photo by Daniel Krieger.
The Shaw Bijou, D.C.
When The Shaw Bijou, the upcoming restaurant from Top Chef season 13 competitor Kwame Onwuachi, opens this winter, it will be a tickets-only scenario. Expect globally influenced American food in the eight-table dining room, and a members-only lounge, with pricing starting at $150 per person. Photo courtesy of The Shaw Bijou Facebook.
Like an amusement park or a stadium, Next in Chicago sells season tickets. What they'll get you: one table at each of three themed dinners (for instance, Tour of South America, or a meal inspired by Napa's French Laundry) slotted throughout the year. And while ticketing for 2016 opened up last December, you can still get a spot, priced at $85 to $125 per person, for a taste of the innovative dishes created by chefs Grant Achatz and Dave Beran. Next, along with the Aviary, Trois Mec and Columbia Room (below), uses the proprietary ticketing system Tock to book its tables. Photo courtesy of Next Facebook.
The Aviary, Chicago
Clever dishes and next-level cocktails rule at Grant Achatz’s The Aviary in Chicago. The tickets-only lounge and restaurant offers several packages, including a seven-course food and cocktail experience ($165 per person) and a three-course cocktail tasting menu for $50 per person.
Trois Mec, Los Angeles
At Trois Mec in Los Angeles, the ever-changing five-course tasting menu is courtesy of L.A.'s celebrity French chef and Top Chef Masters alum Ludo Lefebvre, with partners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (of Animal and Son of a Gun). Housed in a former pizza joint, Trois Mec has a low-key vibe, but the prix-fixe menu is sophisticated and beautifully executed. The minimum order of two tickets will set you back $109 per person.
Columbia Room, Washington, D.C.
Guarantee your spot at D.C.'s Columbia Room by signing up for either three or five courses of cocktails and snacks starting at $75 per person, or go for a guided flight of spirits for $100 per person. If you're feeling brave, fly by the seat of your pants and take your chances finding a chair in the side room, called the Spirited Library, where there's open seating for lucky walk-ins.
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