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Chez Panisse table limits

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I am trying to arrange a 75th Birthday Dinner for my mom at Chez Panissse (downstairs), but I was told they have a limit of 6 people. There are (of course) seven of us, including two kids. My brother thinks if we just show up, they will take us. Since the reservation ($25 per person if you cancel) is on my credit card, I'm not up for the gamble. Does anyone have any experience with this situation?

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  1. That really should not be a problem. Restaurants are very accommodating...even famous ones. But in fairness to all parties, you should absolutely call them and alert them of the situation so they can prepare for you.

    1. We've gone with more than 6 upstairs at the cafe.

      4 Replies
      1. re: chemchef

        The OP specified downstairs.

        1. re: ccbweb

          I realize that, but I thought that maybe the OP might want to know that the same limit does NOT apply upstairs (unless it is a new thing). They might be willing to change from downstairs to upstairs knowing that. It never hurts to have additional information.

          1. re: chemchef

            Sorry...I wrote that and then realized that's exactly what you were saying and tried to edit it, but it wouldn't take the edit. Apologies.

            1. re: ccbweb

              no prob. :)

      2. If they have a limit, they have a limit. You know about it and it's likely going to cost them your business. You might ask if they'll make an exception for the special occasion, but I expect they get a lot of requests like that and have made their decision about their policy.

        I don't buy the "just show up" bit...none of us would be happy if restaurants arbitrarily changed the rules or numbers of people we could seat at a table after we had a reservation....so I don't think it's fair to just decide to lie to the restaurant and then try to force their hand. Given their policies and your acknowledging them by giving them a credit card...It's neither worth the gamble of the $150 and ending up not having a place for the special dinner...nor is it a reasonable thing to do anyway.

        Perhaps a place like Quince or Boulevard?

        2 Replies
        1. re: ccbweb

          I agree with what you say, but their reservation policy has no mention of a 6 person limit, nor have I ever heard anything about it. Is this certain? Has the restaurant been contacted?

          1. re: Aaron

            There's nothing on the website about any limit and I have no personal experience with it...but if the OP has a reservation, there must have been some communication with the restaurant already. So, either the OP made the reservation for some number 6 or less and the group has grown in which case they should check back in with CP....or, he or she made the reservation for 6 because that was the limit and was pondering whether to just show up with more than 6. Hopefully, the OP has some sort of certainty on it.

        2. Downstairs is very small, and since the menu is fixed and reservations are advanced they buy a set amount of food for the evening. I would not risk "just showing up," as it is likely that they will be unable to accommodate you. Consider the cafe upstairs or a different restaurant.

          1. Thank you all for your responses. I did ask for an "exception", and was told "no". We have a reservation for the upstairs for 7 (as well as the downstairs for 6). My mom has been upstairs a number of times, and we were trying to give her something she always wanted by having the family dinner downstairs. We may just have to edit out one family member... We will wait til the menu is posted, then make our decision. Thank you again for your input.

            2 Replies
            1. re: twopyros

              I've been downstairs twice with parties larger than 6. Each time it was an ordeal, but here's how we worked it. They will not take a reservation for 10, but will take a 5 and a 5 with no guarantee of seating you all together. In the end, we were seated all together both times. The room is so small that two tables of five probably have a better chance of communicating with eachother than one table of 10 anyways...

              1. re: SLRossi

                That's a good suggestion. I was recently a guest there, part of a party of 8. We had the front alcove overlooking the street to ourselves. The table had three seated on each of the long sides and one on each end. Maybe that area usually has two 4-tops and they were pushed together.

            2. If you wanted to be mean, you could book a 5 and a 2, with the kids seated at the 2. If the kids are young enough, I'm betting a 7 person table might magically appear (unless the staff likes the challenge of supervising a table of 2 pre-schoolers).

              On a more serious note, I'd take the suggestion of leaving the kids home more seriously if you're really aiming at the downstairs. Chez Panisse upstairs is great for kids, and downstairs is pretty good about making adjustments for food allergies and strong preferences, but the pre-set 5 course is a tough sell for kids (depending on age). It's a long meal and, in my experience, choice is an important element in getting kids to buy into "best behavior" fine dining experiences. Please understand that this advice is coming from someone who is a strong supporter of taking kids to the best restaurants (my son had his 5th birthday dinner at The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton and recently, at age 13, enjoyed a 4 hour lunch at the Michelin 3 star Fat Duck).

              1 Reply
              1. re: lexdevil

                I wish you could have adopted me.

              2. If they say 6, they mean 6. If you showed up with 7, they would probably accomodate you, but not be that happy about it. Why take the risk?

                If you're a gambler, you could go all in, but might end up being called on it.