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Everything is booked out...help

No surprise here, just frustrating. My husband and I are visiting New York for all of 2 nights at a last minute opportunity next Saturday Aug 9th. Though I didn't entertain a lot of hope in getting in anywhere renowned once I started looking on this board I decided I did want to eat at the places I can't get into!!
We've been to NYC before and previously dined at Le Cirque, Gotham, Aquavit, Artisanal, Lupa and Nobu. This time I wanted Babbo (yes I know a weeks notice!) and finally got through to the reservationist who suggested we try the day before for cancellations. Question 1 - Should I even bother to hope there will be a cancellation? We have managed to make a reservation at Gramercy Tavern for 10.30pm (which isn't as bad as it sounds as we are coming from Hong Kong and it will 10.30am our time). Question 2 - will there be anyone left in the dining room by this stage or will everyone be heading out? Question 3 - should we try a walk in for the Tavern as opposed to the dining room and will 8.30/9pm be too late to snag table?
I also tried to call Lupa but their earliest is 10.30pm... and Union Square Cafe who can offer 9.45pm.
Question 4 - Can anyone suggest another restaurant with good food, atmosphere, (similar calibre to the ones above) location doesn't matter, that we can get into for Saturday night! Also was thinking of trying Bar Boulud but I haven't read many positive things about it....can anyone share? Many thanks.

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  1. Maybe you should take it as a sign and give all the superstar restaurants a break. Try some of the smaller places for a change.
    Why not give Pepolino a call or Extra Virgin and enjoy the neighborhood after dinner.
    Thalassa in Tribeca is one of the best meals I've had in a while.

    1 Reply
    1. re: il Trifulau

      Agreed. Also, try Aquagrill, they might have something. Or go to Blue Ribbon early, leave your cell #, and go hang out in a bar nearby till the call you. It may not be up there in terms of food, but it's still a great NYC place to try.

    2. You could always try a walk-in at Babbo or Lupa if your heart is set on a Batali place. The Enoteca Room at Del Posto is also a good value.
      While I haven't been to GT at 10:30, NYC is a late night dining crowd, so I wouldn't worry about the restaurant being deserted. If you go to the Tavern Room at 8:30 or 9, you should be fine. I've shown up around that time on a Saturday and been seated w/in a half hour each time.
      I wouldn't recommend USC. While it's solid, I don't think it's special enough.
      I've been impressed w/the Jean Georges restaurants lately. I'd suggest also looking at Jean Georges and Perry Street. I had a good Restaurant Week meal at Nougatine yesterday too, if you're looking for something more casual.

      1. For Babbo, yes, cancellations do happen. It's risky though. You can also try to dine as a walk-in and there are a few threads here dedicated to doing that (be prepared to wait or walk in very early).

        For Gramercy Tavern, if you are looking for a more ambitious, special meal, than by all means, hold out for the formal Dining Room. Did you let the reservationist know that you were interested in an earlier time? It might be worth asking, too, when you confirm your reservation. And yes, there will be people finishing up their meals at GT when you sit down. I once had a 9:30pm reservation and didn't leave until nearly 1am.

        For Lupa next weekend, have you considered lunch? I'm on OpenTable right now and I see a lot of slots for Lupa for weekend lunch. That might be an option...Lupa also takes walk-ins. You might also want to try Otto.

        For similar caliber restaurants, I'm looking at OpenTable right now and I see availability at 15 East, A Voce, Blue Hill, Craft, Cru, Eleven Madison Park, Esca, Gari, Insieme, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, The Modern....

        1. i'm a very big fan of Il Giglio...it's old-school NY Italian in Tribeca...not as trendy as the Batali joints but an elegant place w/ great food every time, and i've gotten last minute reservations there in the past...

          i'd also rec trying 15 East if you want stellar sushi...

          Balthazar might also work as they are open late (so good for jet-lag time-change food cravings)...great for oysters, salads, steak frites, etc...

          Another option is Casa Mono if you are willing to get a drink nearby and wait for them to call your cell...there was a recent thread about doing this and most people agreed it worked out pretty well...

          1. I would forget about Babbo and just make a reservation (easy to do) at Convivio, the restaurant formerly known as L'Impero. The menu has been expanded, the price of the 4-course prix-fixe lowered from $64 to $59, and the food is as superb as ever. I actually prefer it to Babbo. Bar Boulud is quite good, if you are looking for typical bistro dishes. I agree with Lucia on the Jean-Georges restaurants. The lunch menus at J-G and Perry St. are particularly good value.

            1. HKgirl, you really, really ought to look into Soto. It is one of NYC's best, underrated restaurants and you should be able to get a reservation on a week's notice.

              The Modern Dining Room, which Kathryn suggested, is also very, very good and very, very consistent. I honestly have never had a disappointing meal there -- and I've had many. (By way of contrast, I think the Modern Bar Room is very hit or miss.) You should be able to get reservations on a week notice.

              Ouest on the UWS (not in the same parts of town as all the other restaurants you've mentioned) is also consistently good. Not all that hard to get a reservation.

              I like 15 East, which Simon mentioned, but think Yasuda and Kuruma are better for sushi and sashimi. Kuruma has nicer decor; Yasuda is a very good value.

              1. Thanks so much everyone, all of your input is much appreciated. Now I am thinking along the lines of: Check with Babbo for cancellations - if none, move on. Cancel the 10.30pm booking at Gramercy Tavern and go for a walkin in the Tavern room at 8.45pm (ish) and then if no luck head to a 9pm reservation at Artisanal. I know it's not as "great" as the others but I loved it on last visit. Any thoughts?

                4 Replies
                1. re: hkgirl

                  I personally do not think Artisinal is even remotely close to GT or Babbo in quality. And anyway, do you want to risk disappointment at so many different places?

                  Try Soto! or the Modern Dining Room or Eleven Madison Park if you're going for elegant atm!

                  1. re: hkgirl

                    Instead of the Tavern, I'd try Eleven Madison Park.

                    1. re: CornflakeGirl

                      Agreed. If you're coming from out of town, I'd do EMP, which is a much more ambitious restaurant. There's really not a fair comparison between EMP and the Tavern Room at GT. The Tavern Room at GT is doing much more rustic, comfort food, whereas EMP is more refined, and special-occasion-worthy.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        That's why I love going to GT during the winter! It doesn't appeal to me in warm weather for some reason. Probably because it's so cozy.

                  2. Hi hkgirl,

                    I go to Hong Kong several times a year, so if you want to get something that you can't get in Hong Kong, I will suggest:

                    Yes, try to walk in to Babbo and sit at the bar. Do a search on the board for the best dishes there. You really can't get this type of Italian food in Hong Kong - Sabatini or the ex-Toscano are semi-contemporary Italian with a fine-dining seating, so Babbo which serves rustic Italian is going to be a new experience.

                    I don't think you have to get sushi here as you can get really fresh and nice sushi in Hong Kong (as long as you are willing to pay). You have Robuchon in Hong Kong, so again no need to visit it here. I think Bar Boulud is good as there isn't really rustic French in Hong Kong. (as far as I know, there isn't that many places that make pate in house, unless it is part of the menu in an upscale restaurant, like Gaddi's). But I will do Bar Boulud for lunch rather than for dinner.

                    Looking at the list of restaurants that kathryn provided on opentable, I will go with Craft or EMP. Craft is great with simple preparation to accentuate the freshness and flavor of the ingredients. They have some amazing raw bar and appetizers and great steaks and beef. Also a lot of options that are not easy to find /very expensive in Hong Kong (like sweetbreads, berkshire pork, turbot etc.) Since it is so expensive to eat oysters and good steaks (ironically American beef) in Hong Kong, even the meal is going to be expensive in the end, if you were to get the same thing in Hong Kong, I guarantee you that it will be at least twice the price.

                    Gramercy Tavern is a little like Gotham in style, but better. So if you did like Gotham in the past, you should try to keep your reservation there.

                    As others mentioned, Jean Georges (main dining room, not Nougatine) serves a bargain lunch which I will highly recommend. However, if you are only in for Sat and Sun, they are closed. Perhaps you can have a nice lunch at Balthazar (French Bistrosimilar to Artisanal in style) or even Aquagrill and indulge in an oyster feast? (if you like oysters?)

                    Let us know more what food you like and we may be able to come up with better suggestions.

                    1. Once again, many thanks. Will have a quick chat with the husband and try a few numbers tonight HK time. Will let you all know! Also on another note - thinking Balthazar for Sunday brunch - yay or nay? Do I need to book? Anything better, have heard good things about Nougatine too for brunch.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: hkgirl

                        Perry St. is open for lunch/brunch every day, and would probably be a better choice than Nougatine.

                        1. re: hkgirl

                          Hi hkgirl,

                          For vistors I tend to think that Balthazar is a better choice because it is more "NY" and you really don't have similar types of restaurants in Hong Kong. However, its brunch is extremely popular and could be hard to get a reservation. If you can't go there, Perry St suggested by rrems is nice choice (it is a bit "Amber-ish", if you have been there)

                          I also agree with rrems that Perry St will be a better choice than Nougatine.

                          1. re: hkgirl

                            You should definitely reserve at Balthazar if you don't want to wait. It's a fun (though frenetic) experience, but I didn't love the brunch food. I'd prefer to go to rrems suggestion of Perry St. I haven't been to Nougatine for brunch.

                            1. re: Lucia

                              I just got back from HK and the closest thing to Zuma or Aqua would be Nobu but you have that there. There are so many fabulous restaurants and the truth is that NYC evacuates on the weekend. I have had zero issues walking in places at 8:30 or 9PM and being seated within 25 min or even right away. Jean George just opened a new place in Tribeca as well.

                              1. re: taboo

                                I was just going to say that while one week isn't a lot of notice, fancy places are much less crowded on weekends in the summer, making it much easier to get into no-reservations places like the tavern room at Gramercy Tavern. Since there are two of you, you can probably get a seat at the bar, at least, most places. I loved my lunch at Perry Street--it feels more special to me than Balthazar. I like Wallse a lot--a very pretty modern Austrian restaurant in the West Village.

                                Also, try www.opentable.com for reservations. Not every restaurant is on there, but many are.

                          2. Thank you. Decision made. We are going to speak to Babbo re: cancellations, if not no problem. Walk in at GT 8.30 and if it's too long a wait head to Artisanal, love it there for the cheese and fun. Brunch the next day is booked at Balthazar and the rest of our dining options we will just go with the flow!