Grandlife guide


back to list

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.


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


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 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


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

You May Also Like

New York Stores bookstore coming soon abc home adam green brianna lance tali lennox academy records maryam nassir zadeh no.6 store shopping the realreal sincerely tommy strand bookstore mast di palo's

Local Go-Tos With Adam Green, Brianna Lance, Nikki Kynard & Others

art & design
now open
We asked friends of GrandLife to share their favorite NYC stores and what they love about them. Here’s what they told us…
ABC kitchen loring place diner marlow & Sons olmsted blue hill at stone barns farm-to-table season locally grown new york restaurant outdoor dining

6 Farm-to-Table Restaurants to Visit Now

now open
New York is teeming with seasonal and locally grown fare and many of the city’s top spots are now open for outdoor dining.
Pace Gallery Julian Schnabel Deitch Projects Peter Nagy Arlene Shechet Shrine The Hole Katsu Dot David Zwirner

Get your Art Fix at these New York Galleries

art & design
From Julian Schnabel's large-scale works at Pace Gallery to Peter Nagy's reflections on ’80s New York at Deitch Projects—we share a hit list of exhibitions to visit now.
Alfresco Dining Sidewalk seating outdoor dining new york open street program dimes ten bells dudleys kikis greek the odeon dante gilligans little ways via carota buvette bar pisellino carbone roxy hotel

Weekend Block Party: Alfresco Dining, Live Jazz & More

food & drink
From Orchard to Grove, we roundup the liveliest streets downtown with recommendations on venues to visit, when to go (happy hour, anyone?), and more. 
Little Ways Soho restaurant bar the flower shop ronnie flynn dylan hales new york dining al fresco

Welcome to Little Ways

food & drink
A ’70s-style bistro from the Flower Shop team, now open for al fresco dining. Co-founders Ronnie Flynn and Dylan Hales give us the grand tour. 
Peter Ruppert Lucien Pastis Don Papa Rum Sweet Water Summer Cocktail New York cocktail bar summer

Peter Ruppert's Guide to Summer Drinking

food & drink
Where to drink, what to drink, and how to drink it.
Chloë Sevigny, Natasha Lyonne, Mick Rock, richard boch, akiva epstein, anouk colantoni, veselka, raoul's, the odeon, souen, grand central oyster bar, ana kras

Local Go-Tos with Chloë Sevigny, Natasha Lyonne, Mick Rock and others

food & drink
We asked some of our favorite locals to share their neighborhood spots and what they order when they go. Here’s what they told us…
Drive-in theater New york Upstate Greenpoint Bel Aire Diner Skyline Theater Tribeca Drive-In

A Night at the Drive-In

From classic spots to summer pop-ups, we round up our favorite al fresco theaters, for your viewing pleasure.
Best Rate Promise
Soho Grand Hotel

310 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013

(212) 965-3000
The Roxy Hotel Tribeca

2 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10013