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Yes, I am attempting Babbo with no reservation-help please?

n
need2eat May 23, 2007 11:17 AM

My husband and I are taking a last minute trip to New York for Memorial Day weekend. Huge foodies and we were in Italy this past fall so we thought we relive some memories by going to Babbo. Of course we couldnt get a reservation this late. We are not strangers to eating at the bar so that does not scare us, eating at 530pm does a little. We are a mid-thirties couple that is pretty laid back but social and up for a dining experience adventure. My questions are:

1. I know they take walk ins, is it only for the bar and the tables there, or can you wait in the bar area until something opens in the dining room?

2. I have read that our best chances will be if we get there close to opening, but if we get there later is there a chance we wont get to eat? Or would we just be looking at a 2 hour wait?

3. Is the bar area stressful or fun? We enjoy high energy places and dont mind busy but cramped and pushed around gets old fast.

Oh yeah, did I mention it was our anniversary. Thanks!

  1. steve h. May 23, 2007 11:35 AM

    happy anniversary. there's a modest trick you might want to try at babbo. if it suits your needs, get there early and claim the two seats at the bar on the north side (nearest the window). sit, relax, enjoy some wine. the bartenders are very helpful and you should tip them as to your intent. order when you feel like eating and let the show begin.

    by all means ask if a table is available but i think the north-end bar seats are so good and the barkeeps so charming that the point is moot. eating elsewhere at the bar or at the tables in the bar area can be stressful at crunch time.

    hope this helps.

    1. b
      brendastarlet May 23, 2007 11:38 AM

      My advice, if you really really want to eat at Babbo on the Friday of a holiday weekend without a reservation for your anniversary: get there the minute the doors open. Dress nicely. Throw yourself on the mercy of the host or hostess. Tell them everything you said above. Be extremely pleasant (tipping isn't going to matter and might even hurt your chances.) Be ready to wait in the bar for no-shows. Yes, the bar is crowded. If they do seat you, do not complain about any table they give you.

      And finally, don't expect to relive your memories of Italy per se. Babbo is a scene these days as much as a restaurant. Hopefully, you'll get a good meal in the process.

      9 Replies
      1. re: brendastarlet
        w
        winebitch May 23, 2007 11:56 AM

        if you get there on the early side, there is a good chance you could at least sit at one of the bar area tables. and actually, the babbo bar is one of the most pleasant bars to dine at in the city. and the bartenders are very gracious hosts. so it wouldn't be such a bad thing!

        that said....i've had my best dining luck on mem day weekend and fourth of july....because everyone has fled elsewhere. so your chances are better this weekend than most other weekends.

        1. re: winebitch
          livetotravel May 23, 2007 01:02 PM

          I couldn't agree more re dining on Memorial Day weekend - last year we walked into Spotted Pig at 1:00PM and were promptly seated and also at al di la in Park Slope at 7:30PM for dinner. As winebitch says, a lot of NYers leave town for the weekend.

          And, really try to get to Babbo about 10 minutes before the doors open.

          1. re: livetotravel
            r
            racer x May 23, 2007 03:11 PM

            Ditto on the comments about many NYers getting out of the city for the holidays - I've heard similar stories from several friends over the years about how they got reservations at the last minute during the holidays. (Although I have often wondered whether some of the key staff in the restaurant aren't also escaping for the holiday - leaving behind the "B list" team...)

            And of course, you must have considered trying a much lower-profile restaurant. So many choices for amazing food in a romantic setting at a reasonable hour.

          2. re: winebitch
            d
            David W May 23, 2007 03:14 PM

            But only take the tables in the window-if you take the tables across from the bar, you'll have crowds hovering over you while you eat.

            1. re: David W
              Gluttonous Prime May 23, 2007 03:29 PM

              Absolutely. We had to wait a few minutes for our reservation, and the only place I could stare at were the poor folks eating right next to me. I didn't mean to stare, but I was hungry!

              1. re: Gluttonous Prime
                c
                Cpalms May 23, 2007 04:14 PM

                A poster above mentioned that tipping may hurt your chances. Frankly, I have to disagree. If you walk in there like Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack, it's gonna hurt. But if you do it discretely, it will help. Here is the deal, walk in and find the Maitre de (short bald older guy, but not joe bastianich, don't tip him), his name escapes me at the moment. A real table is not really on option but if you get one before 10:30 you got very lucky...this is for the one of the front tables or the bar (don't sit an the tables to left when you walk in, they could be the worst tables in manhattan). So anyway, Chat him up with a story of your trip to NYC and your anniversery. tell him you would like to eat at the bar but if a table comes available that would make your night. Thank him and when you shake his hand, palm him a $20. This is not over the top, it is discete, very acceptable. Remember, This is only necessary if the bar is full which it probably will be unless you are there early or get lucky. Ask the bartender wine list and let the bartender know you have given the Maitre De your name and you want to eat in the bar area. Order an expensive bottle of wine, this is where a tip would hurt (tip later) the bartender will get the idea. Follow this procedure and it will smooth the path, I've done it countless times. if you walk in at 7pm you wait will at most 45 minutes and quite possible much shorter...I actually think it might be slow this friday, most of NYC will be sitting on the L.I.E. on their way to the Hamptons....

                1. re: Cpalms
                  l
                  Late to the party May 24, 2007 05:49 AM

                  Does anyone else agree with "the palm" move? I agree with everything else that Cpalms said, except the move? Comments?

                  1. re: Late to the party
                    livetotravel May 24, 2007 07:37 AM

                    I too am against the palm move. Frankly I'm startled that someone claims it still works - seems so 1970's to me. I know lots of front of house staff who just think that approach simply doesn't work.

                    1. re: livetotravel
                      l
                      Late to the party May 24, 2007 08:22 AM

                      I just can't see how 20 bucks is going to matter if they are booked, you know

        2. m
          MesaChow May 24, 2007 10:31 AM

          Last fall we ended up taking a last minute trip to NY (sadly, due to a funeral) and in the name of making the best of it, we tried to get a reservation at Babbo. I called a few days before we arrived and the hostess/reservationist advised that they were booked but that we should call first thing the day we we were in the city to see if there were any cancellations. So, on the train on the way into the city I called, she answered, and there was a cancellation at 8:30 that night and she put our name down. So, we spent a wonderful day in the city then had an amazing dinner at Babbo in the evening.

          If that doesn't work, I think the other ideas of showing up when doors open is a good one. Let us know if you make it and have a wonderful anniversary!

          2 Replies
          1. re: MesaChow
            l
            Late to the party May 24, 2007 11:02 AM

            You give me hope

            1. re: Late to the party
              p
              pastoralia May 24, 2007 11:08 AM

              but really, try to avoid the tables directly across from the bar. The table in the corner by the windows is best. If not, eating AT the bar is better than across from it as the crowds hovering behind and over you will not go away all night.

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