Fine dining with no reservations?
April 28, 2008 5:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of fine dining restaurants that do not take reservations.

They can be anywhere in the world. If they take reservations for lunch, that's fine, but they should have a policy of not taking reservations for dinner service. If you know what system they use instead, a little bit about that would be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by jon_kill to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Frontera Grill in Chicago. I'm not sure if it's fine dining, since it's meant to be a more casual version of the fancy Topolobampo next door. Their system is that you wait. Preferably in the bar drinking margaritas.
posted by ohio at 6:07 PM on April 28, 2008

Momofuku Ko!
They technically take reservations, but in a weird way.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:29 PM on April 28, 2008

Here's a list of restaurants in San Francisco that do not take reservations. Now in the scale of San Francisco restaurants, I wouldn't classify any of them in the upper echelons of "fine dining" but most aren't cheap eats either. Tadich Grill, in particular, is a real, old school dining institution. All of them use the standard name-and-party-size waiting list.
posted by junesix at 6:45 PM on April 28, 2008

rao's in new york, famously does not take reservations. though i dont know if i would consider stuff my mom makes fine dining.
posted by fumbducker at 6:52 PM on April 28, 2008

Al di La in Brooklyn, NY. You just show up and drink wine while you wait an hour.
posted by miniape at 7:03 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I instinctively thought Momofuku as well (since I was just at the Ssam Bar the other day), but though it is truly excellent, I wouldn't call it "fine dining" in terms of things like service and presentation. Ditto Rao's AFAIK, though I've never been there personally. I'm pretty sure that, if you're considering "fine dining" to be roughly equivalent to "somewhere you get dressed up for", then NYC doesn't have it. I'd think LA, if anywhere, would be most likely to have stuff like this, since part of the cachet becomes being seen in line.
posted by mkultra at 7:05 PM on April 28, 2008

Ditto al di là, where I suspect that someone's grandmother would come out of the kitchen and smack you upside the head with a pot of stewed tripe if you said those words aloud.
posted by mkultra at 7:07 PM on April 28, 2008

Al Forno, in Providence, RI. Reservations are take only for parties of six or more....and for Valentine's Day, and Graduation and Parents' Weekend, though they don't say which college(s). Their reservation form is pretty prickly.
posted by wryly at 7:10 PM on April 28, 2008

The Pine Club in Dayton, Ohio takes no reservations and doesn't accept credit cards. Waiting is done at the bar even if you are the President. Granted this is more steakhouse than fine dining but the level of service at this place is certainly comparable to white table cloth fine dining.
posted by mmascolino at 7:36 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I guess it depends on how you are defining "fine dining," then. Considering how undressy New York is these days, there's hardly any "get dressed up" restaurants left. al di là's cuisine certainly qualifies, and I hear wonderful things about Momofuku Ko, although I'll probably never get to eat there because they don't take reservations in the normal way.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:50 PM on April 28, 2008

Al Forno's system is to take names and have you wait in their bar area, in the summer this extends to the patio. I've waited an hour and a half for a table, and I know of people who have waited longer. It's worth it!
posted by Eringatang at 8:01 PM on April 28, 2008

Dali in MA has always had a pretty firm no-reservations policy; now they appear to take them until 6 or 6:30 depending on the night of the week, but not later.
posted by staggernation at 8:14 PM on April 28, 2008

This is fairly commonplace for very small BYOs in Philly. (Many of which also do not take credit cards.) It does depend on what you consider fine dining -- the classic definition of which would require a liquor license -- but many of our BYOs are shorthand for very highly regarded tiny restaurants with scrupulous attention to food sourcing and a lotta careful love by the chef.
posted by desuetude at 8:23 PM on April 28, 2008

I think Cheesecake Factory does not take reservations. It's always first come, first served.
posted by roomwithaview at 8:28 PM on April 28, 2008

Chinta Ria in Cockle Bay in Sydney takes reservations for lunch only. For dinner you turn up and if its full, they take your name and number and ask you to stay close by (there are plenty of bars/cafes to sit at for a while). When the table is close to being ready they call you.
posted by Admira at 9:09 PM on April 28, 2008

Chez Panisse café (upstairs) in Berkeley formerly didn't take reservations. Looks like you can book now (one month in advance).
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:43 PM on April 28, 2008

Here in Australia, the restaurants featured/developed on the TV show My Restaurant Rules never took reservations, and you just had to queue outside and wait for a table. I guess this was because of the popularity of the show.

Although two of the restaurants from the two series survived (not both the winners tho!), I am not sure whether they now take reservations (although the wife and I have said we'd like to go to Pink Salt sometime soon, so I might find out!).
posted by ranglin at 9:59 PM on April 28, 2008

Vij's in Vancouver, BC is pretty universally acclaimed and they don't take reservations. I've never been, but their website claims they serve chai and snacks and drinks in the lounge while you wait for your table.
posted by SoftRain at 12:31 AM on April 29, 2008

In Sydney Australia for some reason this practice is commonish. Longrain and Kylie Kwong's at least don't take reservations.
posted by sien at 3:06 AM on April 29, 2008

The Anchor & Hope in London. It's more gastropub (but with a lot of gastro) than fine fine dining but definitely no reservations.
posted by patricio at 5:43 AM on April 29, 2008

Bookhouse: al di là's cuisine certainly qualifies

Why do you think so? Their menu is heavily skewed toward homestyle preparations. Delicious, yes. Refined, no. I'd call it more a bistro.

"Fine dining" in NYC is, IMO, encompassed by places like Per Se, Le Cirque, Lespinasse, One If By Land..., Nobu, etc.
posted by mkultra at 8:51 AM on April 29, 2008

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