New York City practically invented the tough table. In fact, at peak times of day or night, just about any popular restaurant in the city can be tricky to get into. But there are a few tables that prove exceptionally difficult, made harder by finicky online seating systems or a no-reservations policy. Here are 10 of the toughest tables in town and tips on how to score seats at each.
Why it's hot: One of LA's hottest omakase sushi spots quietly made the leap to NYC last month from owner Keizo Seki. The multicourse tasting menu with fish hand-picked daily by Seki, changes according to availability/seasonality and costs around $160.
How to hack it: Right now the spot is booking about a month out via Seatme widget on their website. Keep checking it for availability but plan ahead.
88 W. Third St.; 646-405-4826
Why it's hot: Chef Daisuke Nakazawa's $150 omakase, which is made in the Edomae style (a simple style that originated in Tokyo as street food) continues to be a tricky table, years after opening. The cozy West Village sushi den offers this 20-course, nigiri-only experience that boasts Tokyo-level sushi without pretense. Nakazawa and his chefs are conversational and lively, which helps the spot avoid stuffiness. Highlights include hay-smoked coho; scallop with yuzu, pepper and sake sauce; Japanese saltwater eel; uni with smoked truffle salt (one of the more American-inspired pieces); and tamago, aka the egg sushi, which Nakazawa famously agonized over in Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
How to hack it: Go on their reservations site at midnight a month before you want to dine and cross those fingers!
23 Commerce St.; 212-924-2212
Why it's hot: While the food-obsessed eagerly await the arrival of the new Hell's Kitchen location (dropping any minute, supposedly?), getting a table at the original is no easier than it was three years ago. Chef Cesar Ramirez's 20-course theatrical tasting menu of French-Japanese fare is still one of the most sought-after communal dining experiences in town.
How to hack it: Reservations open up six weeks out every Monday morning at 10:30 AM, so get ready to hit redial.
200 Schermerhorn St., Brooklyn; 718-243-0050
Why it's hot: The new, larger location of the perpetually booked tasting-menu-only experience reopened in the East Village's Extra Place, offering a 17-serving dinner for $175 from executive chef Sean Gray. The space, which now features a new bar and wine tables in addition to counter seating, is gorgeously outfitted with custom murals by artist David Choe.
How to hack it: Many things about Ko have been upgraded, but the online reservations system remains the same. In other words, prepare to hit that "refresh button" every morning at 10 AM for days if you plan on getting a table.
8 Extra Place; 212-500-0831
Why it's hot: Run by a husband-and-wife team, this high-end sushi spot helmed by chef Yoshihiko Kousaka, formerly of Jewel Bako, offers an intimate 18-seat experience. Choose from two omakase options ($145 or $175) and add appetizers/supplements like their aburi sushi (fish partially cooked with a blowtorch) for $40.
How to hack it: Call or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book but plan ahead due to limited seating. Credit cards are required for all bookings.
220 W. 13th St.; 212-727-1709
Why it's hot: David Chang dropped his hotly anticipated Korean-Italian mash-up, Nishi, in January, the first entirely new full-service restaurant concept (save for fast-casual Fuku) for the group in years, which, Chang reveals, makes him a bit nervous/excited: "We’re nauseous — and that’s good, because we haven’t felt like that in a long time. I’m terrified of this restaurant." Three-hour waits ensued upon the first month in business, which was initially just walk-ins only.
How to hack it: Lines have died down since opening month and the spot now accepts reservations online, 15 days in advance, although those are limited to account for walk-ins. Your best bet is to walk-in early on a weeknight.
232 Eighth Ave.; 646-518-1919
Why it's hot: Former Neta chefs Jimmy Lau and Nick Kim opened this intimate 19-seat sushi bar in NYU-land offering only omakase sushi or kaiseki menus that change daily. Celeb sightings like Jay-Z and Beyoncé are not uncommon.
How to hack it: Call as opposed to only relying on OpenTable, as there are often cancelations.
47 E. 12th St.; 212-228-6088
Why it's hot: Husband-and-wife team Josh (Per Se) and Heidy (Buddakan) Smookler opened a permanent outpost of their popular Mu Ramen pop-up in Long Island City last year. The new brick-and-mortar space features a communal table, an open kitchen and four kinds of ramen. Waits can often run between 1–2 hours.
How to hack it: The restaurant just stopped taking reservations, so show up early (preferably during the week) and be prepared to wait.
1209 Jackson Ave., Long Island City; 917-868-8903
Why it's hot: The $125, vegetable-forward tasting menu from James Beard–nominated chef Elise Kornack should be on any NYC diner's bucket list. This magical experience, brought to you solely by Kornack and FOH honcho/wife Anna Hieronimus (they are the only employees) can only be had from Thursday–Saturday evenings. There's only 12 seats so snagging a table here can be near impossible.
How to hack it: Plan 30 days in advance. Note that the restaurant will be closed from April 14–May 1, 2016.
187 Sackett St., Brooklyn; 347-227-7116
Why it's hot: Midtown's celebrity hangout/country club is Ralph Lauren's first NY restaurant, located in the former Le Cote Basque space. The space has an old New York feel and features a fireplace, hunter-green walls, aged leather banquettes and a brass-topped bar. The menu, like the brand, is classic American and includes selections like the Polo Bar Burger, crispy kale salad, crab cakes, steaks and a corned beef sandwich. The dessert list features Ralph’s Coffee Ice Cream, made with a custom coffee blend. Naturally, the waitstaff is clad in custom Ralph Lauren gray flannel trousers, leather wingtips and silk repp ties.
How to hack it: Despite its title, this is not your typical "bar." In fact, you have to make a reservation to sit at the bar and walk-ins in general are not accepted. Your best bet is to call a month out (no online rezzies here) or befriend Salman Rushdie.
1 E. 55th St.; 212-207-8562