Wine glasses and tableware set at the Blanca bar

Grandlife guide

HOW TO SCORE ONE OF NEW YORK’S TOUGHEST TABLES

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There are buzzy restaurants, and then there are ones that are downright impossible to get a table. It’s for good reason. New York’s most exclusive spots offer an experience of a lifetime, from rubbing elbows with society’s elite over red sauce to DJing your own 20-course dinner party in a converted garage. You can plan your meal months in advance as their websites suggest or you can try it our way. Here are our tips for scoring one of the city’s toughest tables.

Rao’s

This East Harlem Italian restaurant is so exclusive it doesn’t even take reservations. Its four tables and six booths are assigned to 85 people, or “owners,” who come to the restaurant weekly, monthly, quarterly, or around the holidays, depending on their arrangement—which means if you want to get a table, you either have to know someone who already has one or wait around at the bar hoping they have a no-show. Still, it helps to be famous, or know someone who is. Everyone from Hillary Clinton and Billy Joel to Jimmy Fallon and Jay Z has dined here, and we’d bet they don’t have a standing table. Some sources say that Mondays are the best night to score a table because there are the most cancellations, others exercise serious commitment and venture out in snowstorms. Seems extreme, but their super-sized meatballs smothered in marinara are worth it.

455 E 114th St, New York, NY 10029; T. (212) 722-6709

Bohemian

The space was once owned by Andy Warhol and was a home and studio to artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Now, it’s a cozy oasis for creative types—more of a cool apartment or lounge than a restaurant—with midcentury lounge chairs, bongos, and a skylight that begs to be stared at while snacking on uni croquettes. After nine years in business, this clandestine Japanese spot has managed to remain a secret in the New York dining scene. They don’t advertise their location, you need a referral from an “existing patron” if you want a table, and you’ll never see a buzzy spread about them on any food site. To make a reservation, call their private number—which you presumably get from a friend—and their reservationist vets you. If you don’t know anyone that’s already been, shoot Bohemian a message on their website and they’ll decide whether or not to accommodate you.

57 Great Jones St, New York, NY 10012

Masa

Masa is considered one of the city’s most expensive dinners: a meal for two will set you back $1,300—and that’s not including alcohol. But what makes this place so special is the omakase, a curated lineup of dishes prepared à la minute (made to order) by the chef. And this chef, sushi master Masayoshi Takayama, earned the restaurant three Michelin stars, so expect a meal, as The New York Times calls it, paced “with the studied wickedness of a great DJ or playwright.” Tables go fast and seats at the sushi counter are the most coveted spots in the house. The best way in is to call or email—they don’t take online reservations—two months in advance. Occasionally, they have cancellations, so try calling the reservation line between 11am and 5pm for something last-minute. If you’re are lucky enough to know someone who knows someone, getting in touch with a manager can also improve your chances.

10 Columbus Cir, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10019; T: (212) 823-9800

Blanca

Popular Bushwick pizzeria Roberta’s oozes Brooklyn cool, and Blanca, the chef’s counter located in a converted garage a stone’s throw away, is its edgy grown-up sister. In addition to the twenty-something-course tasting menu prepared by chef Carlo Mirarchi, our favorite thing about this place is the record player. Diners can get up at any time to put on an album. As the chefs are cooking in the open kitchen, they modify the playlist as the night goes on. The best way to get a reservation is to wait until midnight 30 days before the date that you want or you can check availability the morning of. They sometimes get cancellations, so it always pays off to check. You can also join their waiting list and they’ll email you with last-minute cancellations.

261 Moore St, Brooklyn, NY 11206; T: (929) 236-6954

Words Ashley Mason

Photography David Weissman/Courtesy of Blanca

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