The Toughest Reservations In NYC Right Now (And How To Get Them) guide image


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.


Four Horsemen

Verdict: It seems like The Four Horsemen has been picking up steam. Given the snowballing hype around 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 barstools up front. We prefer those seats anyway.

Verdict: I Sodi has a new, expanded home on Bleecker. Is it as charming as the original? Not really. But this is still the city’s top destination for unpretentious Tuscan food and many-layered lasagna.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online two weeks in advance at midnight. The bar is reserved for walk-ins, and there’s usually a handful of prospective diners waiting outside around opening. You can also get a walk-in table. On a recent Sunday, we put our name in at 6:30pm, and were seated in just under two hours.

Verdict: There’s nothing else like Department of Culture, a tiny, BYOB Bed-Stuy restaurant that serves an ever-changing, four-course menu inspired by North-Central Nigeria. Most of the seats are around a communal table, and when each dish comes out, the chef gives a little speech with funny anecdotes tossed in. Bring a bottle of wine, make some new friends, and consider yourself fortunate if the Kwara-style cheese is on the menu.

How To Get In: Reservations open two months in advance, and that’s about as specific as we can get, as they “do not open on a set schedule.” If you want a heads-up on when the next batch drops, you can always try to DM the restaurant.

Verdict: The Serge Gainsbourg poster is a little on the nose, but how else are you supposed to decorate a hot new West Village bistro? We’re fans of Libertine, and—if you like precise, creative takes on traditional French cooking—you will be too. It’s not very stuffy, and the duck arrives with a perfect sear in a pool of creamy au poivre sauce.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online 30 days in advance at 7am. Some tables are reserved for walk-ins, although there aren’t that many of them, so you’re better off trying to snag one of the 12 bar seats. You can hover with a martini until one opens up.

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, some of which are hard to find elsewhere in NYC, make excellent use of cardamom, cinnamon, and countless other spices. Get the venison served in a gravy that tastes like clove and smoke, and be sure to pre-order the Dungeoness crab. Only a few are available every night.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online 30 days in advance at 12:01am. 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: Raf's is such a pleasant restaurant, in part because there are clouds painted on the ceiling. Those clouds are nice and relaxing, although the best part of this French/Italian spot in Nolita is their roast chicken. Plan a date night here, and eat that juicy, herb-covered chicken in the candlelit dining room where you'll find iron chandeliers, stiff white tablecloths, and an open kitchen with a wood-burning oven.

How To Get In: Reservations are released 14 days in advance at 9am. The bar has eight seats, all of which are reserved for walk-ins, and there are "a handful of tables" saved for walk-ins every night.

Verdict: The Office of Mr. Moto isn't the city's first sushi speakeasy, and it isn't even the first sushi speakeasy in the East Village. But this restaurant still feels special. You have to solve a riddle in order to get in, and the space is decorated with various antiques, like one of the first Japanese pay phones. A meal here costs $195 and includes 21 courses. Expect hyper-seasonal ingredients and hard-to-find pieces like shirako and red gurnard.

How To Get In: This place is already booked through September, but there's a waitlist you can put your name on. New reservations are released at 10am on the first of every month for the entire following month, so set a reminder for September 1st if you want to eat here in October. Reservations are prepaid, and they sell out quickly. The Office of Mr. Moto is not currently accepting walk-ins.

Verdict: The Lincoln Center is cool now, and you have Tatiana to thank for that. Located inside David Geffen Hall, this restaurant 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. Expect things like egusi dumplings, curried goat patties, and 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 that's held for walk-ins. Tatiana also has around 12 outdoor tables, all of which are saved for walk-ins. We recently stopped by on a Monday at 5pm and had to wait an hour and a half for one of those tables.

Verdict: Torrisi Bar & Restaurant is an Italian 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 (chicken livers with Manischewitz, octopus Nha Trang, etc.). 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 recently stopped by 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, um, maybe bring a crossword to do after you put your name in.

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 Philly import on top of the Hoxton Hotel in Williamsburg.

How To Get In: Reservations are released online 21 days in advance at 10am. It's no longer impossible to book a table, but available reservations tend to be at 10pm or later. So wake up early to make your reservation, or try to get a seat at the bar. They save 10 bar seats for walk-ins, although, according to the restaurant, getting one of these seats can be “challenging at times.”

Verdict: Keep trying to get a table at Dame. This English place in Greenwich Village 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: Dame used to be walk-in-only on Mondays, but, unfortunately, that's no longer the case. The good news is: It's slowly becoming easier to eat here. Reservations are released online three weeks in advance at noon, and you can usually find a handful of tables for 9pm or later.

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 $68 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: 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, even if you’re Justin Bieber. 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 names in. It was worth it.

Verdict: This is still one of the best fine-dining options in town, and it’s not that stuffy. Dinner (starting at $375) 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.

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 poppyseed-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.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

photo credit: David A. Lee

The Toughest Reservations In NYC Right Now (And How To Get Them) guide image