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MiniBar: How Many Calls Before You Were Able To Get A Reservation?

This is the most difficult reservation in the United States: six seats, two seatings and one month to the day that I am told books up witin five minutes of the 10:00AM start time. We've been once in the past and this was before Jose Andres' Made in Spain show first appeared. It was difficult enough then!

Everyday (when MiniBar will be open one month out) my wife and I start with two cell phones and two house phones calling @9:58. Consistently the phone is answered and a lengthy recording essentially directs us to call back @10:00AM which we dutifully do without any hesitation. At 10:00AM the busy signals start-when we can even get a signal; often there is no connection at all. At 10:10 we give up. Yes, we're already on the waiting list but we were on the waiting list before. Five or six times and never once were called.

We'll keep calling and sooner or later we'll get through. But in the meantime I'm just curious for others' stories of how many times they had to call before getting a reservation?

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  1. I once had three of us calling on different phones. I got through once and got the recording directing us to call back (but didn't get through again), another of us got on the wait list, and the third didn't get through at all. Periodically we have tried again and gotten nothing but busy signals.

    1. I called once and got in. Luck of the draw I guess, it was for a weeknight in August so perhaps not as busy though.

      1. I've heard recently from two people who have gotten in on their first try. Someone has to be getting through, right?
        As lucky as they were to get the res, I was lucky enough to fill an empty seat when someone dropped out!

        1. My husband got lucky last month and got in on the first call for a Friday night this June, for 4, but we had to cancel and I was not happy. We'll try again another time.

          10 Replies
          1. re: chowser

            When this experience is over I'll write an essay on here about it. Of all the reservations I've ever been "challenged" with in the past (i.e. El Bulli, Schwarzwaldstube (as bad as El Bulli in Germany), L'Astrance, The French Laundry, Eiginsinn Farm...) this may be the worst.

            On our only visit a year ago we had an incredible experience. At the end of the meal the man sitting next to me pushed his stool back, got down on his knees and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a small case, opened it and offered the ring to the girl he was with as he proposed marriage. She said yes. Everyone on that floor of Cafe Atlantico applauded them.

            Afterwards he and I talked and he told that he'd waited six months for this moment. I thought he meant that he'd known her for six months and that was how long before he felt comfortable proposing. No, he said, that was how long it had taken him to get a reservation, calling every day at 10:00AM.

            -----
            Cafe Atlantico
            405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

            1. re: Joe H

              Ha! You've also had good luck at Volt - advertising well before the fame of the place.

              Your story reminds me of a place in Columbia, MO - long gone, but a Spanish tapas place (I think the town still largely doesn't know what tapas are). Anyway, a classmate and I used to go there to study. They had a bar area that showed taped bull fighting, and then a main dinner area. I think I only ate in the dinner area twice. Once was after this story:

              We're in the bar area studying (drinking tea and lemonades to start - honest! drinks would come when we were done); when all of a sudden a loud round of crashing glass came from the main room. I forget which, but the son or daughter of the owners had just proposed or been proposed to. Oh what a party! Largely food and drink were on the house for a while - at least up to when I left.

              1. re: Joe H

                That's a sweet story. I wonder how his fiancee learned after the fact that she had to wait six months for a proposal because he couldn't get a reservation! My husband has been lucky (in more ways than one I keep telling him:-) ) because he's seemed to be able to get reservations to many restaurants fairly easily. I don't know if Chez Panisse is as hard to get into as it used to be but he could always get reservations back then when he called, too. We never plan to eat at places like that on key days, though, eg. Valentines Day.

                1. re: chowser

                  MiniBar is absurd: four telephones being used with each an average of six calls per minute from 9:58 to 10:10 for a total of approximately 250 attempts per day. We call five days week (they are open five) and have been doing this for almost three weeks. That's a bit more than 3,000 attempts now without success. As noted above the waiting list is irrelevant to me; we've been on it five or six times in the past without a call.

                  1. re: Joe H

                    Oh, no--we had reservations for June 25, Friday for four and had to cancel. Had I known, I could have passed them on to you. You've been persistent!

                    1. re: Joe H

                      Maybe they have caller id? ;P

                      Seriously, if the process is so irksome, go somewhere else. I myself would not make more than 2 or 3 calls for a reservation, anywhere.

                      If they are that busy, they should just raise their price. But the advertising value of stories such as yours are worth the bad feelings generated to folk who don't like to be a part of the system like you.

                      1. re: fudizgud

                        They DID raise the price. It's now twice as much as it was 3 or 4 years ago.

                        They should just set up a web app and do reservations that way!

                        1. re: DanielK

                          I think there is a market clearing price. Ko in NYC has a web ap and it is no different. The chance of getting a reservation is very low. The publicity of not being able to get one and the fact that you need to confirm your reseravtion with a credit card and only the credit card holder is allowed to claim the table is further advertising.

                          It may be that they would need to charge 200 or 300 a pop, maybe more, to make getting a reservation. Same thing with Volt Table 21 etc.

                          While I might be willing to plan a year in advance or spend a lot of time on the phone or web to reserve for a musical experience or for a show at a museum with a limited run, there is no way I'd do so for a restaurant. Others, obviously, don't agree.

                  2. re: Joe H

                    We also got into the French Laundry on the day we needed, but we didn't call, Amex Platinum did, my husband had told them in advance that he wanted that reservation and they arranged it for the one night we had a stopover in CA before heading to Australia.

                    It sounds like you have terrible luck with this. Thank goodness it is a repeat, but good luck. I hope you get it soon.

                    1. re: ktmoomau

                      Thank you, ktmoomau, I have a Platinum card (I travel too much!) and just called them to see if they can help. It will be interesting. They told me to give them two days; in the meantime we'll be back on the phone (all four of them!) tomorrow morning to try again.

                2. I'm hoping to go here in October, but 30 days before the dates I have open are a Sunday and a Monday (Labor Day) -- when the restaurant is closed. Should I try to call that Saturday then...which is 32 days before? Or will I need to wait until that Tuesday?

                  1. I got through. At ten seconds after ten (confirmed by calling "time" earlier and synchronising watches) I got through. There was a recording that lasted two minutes and then at 10:02 the receptionist came on the line and asked me if I could hold. I answered yes, believing that I had got through and would be able to make a reservation.

                    THIRTEEN minutes went by and, at 10:15 the receptionist finally picked up and told me that they were booked-I would have to call back. I asked her how could I, after getting though at 10:00.10 and being asked to hold at 10:02 and then waitiing on hold until 10:15 not be able to get a seat?

                    What is the point of calling if the phone is answered at ten seconds after ten o'clock and then I still can't make a reservation? Why would someone who is going to spend $200+ per person for dinner be expected to wait 13 minutes to be told no? Why do they even answer the phone, why don't they just let it ring without asking you to wait.

                    They offered to put me at the head of their waitlist because of my complaining about my experience (I told them as this thread notes that my wife and I using four phones had been calling them continuously five days a week, 250 calls a day for several weeks with over 3,000 + calls and now this!). This I told her meant nothing to me. I've been on their wait list before. Four or five times and never got a call. Also, I needed three seats-not just one or two. She suggested that I would have a better chance with an even number-two or four. This didn't score a lot of brownie points with me either. Who was going to sit home so "two" of us could go? At $200+ per person (dinner + wine + tax+tip) who would I ask to join us to make it a total of "four?"

                    No, if I'm going to call a place 3,000+ times for a reservation I'm going to have the number of people-three-that I need to share dinner. I'm not going to accommodate the restaurant. A dinner like this is about me, not about accommodating them.

                    I have never been so frustrated in trying to make a reservation at a restaurant anywhere in the world in my life. I got through! Ten seconds after ten AM confirmed earlier by synchronizing our watches.. When I was put on hold I thought I would get our seats. Then the wait began. Thirteen minutes!!!

                    Why do they answer the phone if they are going to make you wait 13 minutes to tell you no? $200+ per person and they put you through this? Don't answer the phone unless you have the opportunity of a seat!!!!!!! Don't make a customer wait like this....don't make a customer beg.

                    This was an insult. I don't trust their answering system. I don't trust their clock. I don't trust when they start answering their phones. I don't trust anyone that makes a customer go through an experience like this.

                    I've been to MiniBar before and wanted to return. But not to go through an ordeal like this.

                    Someone needs to understand that popularity is fleeting.

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: Joe H

                      Wow Joe H, thanks for your detailed description of your depressing discussion. I really hope that someone @ Minibar actually takes the time to READ your response to Chef Andres.

                      1. re: Joe H

                        Unacceptable. If she answers, she needs to take your resee. And even if not, after hearing your story, she needs to accomodate you. Terrible behavior.

                        Call me a skeptic, but forget not trusting their "clock" and their "system". With his enormously high profile right now, I'd wager 50% of the reservations never go through the "system."

                        Wait a year. They'll be calling you.

                        1. re: Joe H

                          Wow, that is some bull right there. After reading this thread (but before you had this last experience) I was thinking of this as a fun challenge: At some point I'm gonna just try and see if I can do it. But after that, forget it. I'm not a "customer is always right" type but you need to have some sense of respect for your customers. The RIGHT thing to do after you told her the whole story would have been to take your number, ask management if they could give you a reservation for the following day (i.e. a day that wasn't booked yet), called you back, and given you that option instead, swearing you to secrecy along the way. (You could have then just waited until tomorrow and come in here and said "whoo-hoo I got through!") They would have made a friend for life. Instead everyone now knows that MiniBar doesn't care about their potential customers.

                          1. re: Joe H

                            Joe, consider the theoretical possibility that 2 or 3 people got in before you, and it took that long for the receptionist to get their names, credit cards, etc. before she was able to get to you.

                            1. re: DanielK

                              The phone was answered ten seconds after ten o'clock and then was put on hold for thirteen minutes. I was told to please hold at 10:02; if someone had come back on three, four, five minutes later and said that we are now booked up I would understand. But I waited until 10:15 to be told no, essentially, call back another time. Daniel, I cannot tell you how long thirteen minutes is to wait on hold; especially in a situation like this. The first few minutes my wife stopped dialing on both of her phones, I stopped on my other one. We had got through! We were in! A few minutes later we began to wonder; at some point we actually thought, no they couldn't possibly NOT seat us after we had waited this long. Thirteen minutes: how many other people could have been on hold? There must be a seat. The question we had was would there only be one or two and not the three that we needed. At some point we also wondered if they had forgotten about us-which I REALLY think they had. (Or, as Pappy noted, perhaps a number of the seats were already booked up before they even began to accept reservations.) Someone should have come back on the phone after four or five minutes and acknowledged they were working their way through a series of calls. (How many lines can they have?) But no one did. Again, the phone was answered ten seconds after ten o'clock. Does this mean it has to be answered exactly at ten? One second after? Two seconds after? Still, it was the thirteen minutes I was put on hold

                              I'm sorry, they shouldn't have kept me on hold so long. Just answer one phone at a time and let the others ring, that way nobody is on hold. When they are booked up, answer and say that all the reservations have been taken and they are working on their waiting list. No, they made me wait for 13 minutes and told me that I could go onto a waiting list THEN.

                              Thirteen minutes on hold! I could put us on a waiting list with one call in the afternoon, not after calling several thousand times over almost three weeks in the morning.

                              1. re: Joe H

                                I do wonder if they grant special favors to special persons and book ahead of the 1month window.

                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                1. re: uhockey

                                  Jose Andres has another consideration: he was nominated for a national James Beard award this year. To be able to vote a judge must actually eat at his restaurant. With MiniBar his signature how can they experience it? Unless he is making special arrangements he'll never have enough judges eat there to vote for him to win it.

                                  1. re: Joe H

                                    Yeah, I'm pretty sure all the "celeb chef" restaurants all over the country do this: give the juicy reservations to the "beautiful people" first. With DC, it's the "powerful" people, so I'm sure Congressmen or powerful lobbyists, noted restaurant personalities...they get their reservations fairly easily! And the price tag would be a drop in the bucket for them.

                                    Is Top Chef DC still filming? Maybe it's due to that somehow? :o)

                                    1. re: yfunk3

                                      Actually Beard judges are not allowed to identify themselves to the restaurants. They are suppose to go through the same procedures to get a reservation, i.e. calling as much as it takes to get in.

                                      1. re: Joe H

                                        Well, not restaurant critics, no. But just other famous chefs and personalities? They probably try to pull their weight around a bit, especially since they're only in town for a short period of time. Have seen this done numerous times, especially if they're filming some sort of program. You can't tell me that if Anderson Cooper wants to treat some of his friends or family while in town, he'll have to make thousands of calls like you did and wait on hold... :o)

                                        1. re: Joe H

                                          They might not get special privileges but they could have staff to call so unless it was relayed to them, they'd have no idea.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            Please. Celebrity X is coming to town to testify about his/her pet cause and wants to dine at Mini Bar. You surely don't believe that Celebrity X's staff starts dialing at 10:00 a.m. one month prior to the desired night.

                                            Of course the heavy hitters in politics/media know they receive special treatment whether they or their staff makes the phone call. Except they don't exactly perceive the treatment as special. Getting what they want when they want it is their version of appropriate treatment given their stature.

                                            1. re: Indy 67

                                              Ko doesn't do this - and I believe them. Chang seems like that sort. I've no doubt Andres does it.

                                              1. re: Indy 67

                                                >>>"""Of course the heavy hitters in politics/media know they receive special treatment whether they or their staff makes the phone call. Except they don't exactly perceive the treatment as special. Getting what they want when they want it is their version of appropriate treatment given their stature.""<<<

                                                .....and then they can stiff the cab driver over a disputed fare <ahem>.

                                  2. re: Joe H

                                    Well, it looks like some people don't have problems with getting a seat. http://www.theatlantic.com/food/archi...

                                    1. re: Jason1

                                      So Justice Scalia and Rahm Emanuel's brother just strolled on over to Minibar. And Andres was rewarded with this article.
                                      I'M SHOCKED!

                                      The beginning of the article:
                                      "It was dinner to settle a bet about whether health care reform would pass. Justice Scalia owed me. Initially we were scheduled for Komi—a wonderful Washington restaurant whose signature goat dish I recently reviewed. But the Justice did not like the blogosphere's attention to the dinner, and Komi canceled because of an event for an employee's wedding. So, at the suggestion of Richard Wolffe, I took the "strict constructionist" to the restaurant that deconstructs food—José Andrés's Minibar.
                                      I have been a great fan of José's. But I had not been to the Minibar in more than a year."

                                      -----
                                      Komi
                                      1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

                                      1. re: a1234

                                        Justice Scalia and Rahm Emanuel's brother? What strange bedfellows.

                                        I wonder who got bumped so they could have dinner.

                                  3. I tried daily for 8 days (with 3 phones in our group) in a row this year and 5 days in a row last and never got through once.

                                    From that statement alone, it is harder than The French Laundry, Per Se, Alinea, Ko, Babbo, or Volt Table 21.

                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: uhockey

                                      uhockey, I really enjoyed reading your reviews for the restaurants you went to. Thank you for sharing. An absolute pleasure to read!

                                      Try to imagine that you had actually got through in the first minute and immediately after the recording (the recording! not a busy signal but a recording) the reservationist came on and asked you to hold. One of the themes of the reviews you wrote was the way you were treated: you were special. Everyone wants to feel special, especially for $200 or more each. After twelve minutes on hold and then getting through I felt humiliated.

                                      Jose Andres needs to reconsider his policy for MiniBar reservations. This was not the way that I thought this thread would end.

                                      1. re: Joe H

                                        I think the thing that makes a meal "worth" the price is the feeling of extra value - that not only was the food, beverage, and setting worth the $XXX.XX that you spent, but also that there was something above and beyond - you were cared for, your mind was blown, everything was perfect, etc. I've had a lot of good meals where I felt the dollars were well spent - CityZen, for instance, but lacked that "Extra something."

                                        What you're describing above is slightly different, but the only thing I can compare to minibar in terms of difficulty getting reservations was Momofuku Ko - I got the reservation, the food was good, but they treated me like it was my privilage to eat there....that I was lucky to spend my $175 on their "vision." That is not special.

                                        For what it is worth, I think Andres is a great chef and I've been to 4 of his restaurants, from coast to coast, thus far.....the food is always good to great, the setting always unique, and the service (aside from Jaleo) at least competent. I think what minibar is, unfortunately, is a case where the hype has outshined the experience....and quite frankly, what he is doing there is no longer novel as it once was - Vidalia24 dabbles in molectular cuisine, Volt does it quite well, and even Komi has splashes of it. IMO, though I haven't been to minibar, if someone offered me a meal at minibar or a repeat at Vidalia24 I'd go back to Vidalia (or Komi.)

                                        http://webmail.osumc.edu

                                        -----
                                        CityZen Restaurant
                                        1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

                                        Komi
                                        1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

                                    2. So, to me, reading your recap, she was telling you that even if she put you at the top of the waitlist, and a party of four cancelled, she'd give it to the next party of four, and not to you? Meaning that in the past, you've been skipped over when there were were three chairs available, because there were two parties of two or a party of four further down the list?

                                      I'm not sure how I feel about that. I guess it makes good business sense, from a particular perspective, anyway, but it seems so...tacky.

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: Raids

                                        I think if a party of four cancelled the three would get it and then a party of one. At least that is how the rules were explained to me, but I could be wrong. The problem with a party of three is that if caller 1 calls and reserves 2 seats, caller 2 calls reserves 2 seats then caller 3 cannot get 3 seats. But who knows maybe not...

                                        1. re: Raids

                                          I was told that parties of two and four would be available before a party of three. Implication is that a party of four would necessitate their making two calls: one to the party of three waiting and a second to a single who would also be on the list. Of course this would assume that they would have a single on the list. If they didn't they might run the risk of an empty seat. Safest for them, then, would be to replace a three with a three, not a four with a three and a single.

                                          I started this thread and this experience looking forward to MiniBar even humorously noting above the story of the wedding proposal where the groom waited until he could get seats. I accepted that I would have to make several thousand plus phone calls to get in. It was a "rule" of the game. But I've now really soured on this restaurant: the thirteen minute wait to be told call back and also either a reservation for two or four prioritized over three.

                                          I understand this last is business but I've been fortunate to travel heavily throughout the U. S. and Europe for thirty years and have been to quite a few better restaurants over this time. I've never seen this kind of indifference or perhaps even arrogance that Jose Andres' restaurant exhibits. From my perspective his creativity and excellence has been compromised by several procedural decisions. Most unfortunate is that these decisions do not show the consideration that he himself expects in the restaurants he visits in his native Spain.

                                          Again, I must emphasize that this is a dining experience that is $200 or more per person.

                                          1. re: Joe H

                                            I'm honestly surprised they would allow a party of 3 at all. I've always been told that only parties of 2, 4, and 6 are allowed.

                                            1. re: lilkimbo

                                              Interesting. Therefore, if this is true it is impossible for a single to reserve a seat for MiniBar. I've never heard of a restaurant attempting this.

                                              gregb, if you're still reading this far, above you wrote: " I was lucky enough to fill an empty seat when someone dropped out" Were you on a waiting list with a reservation for one?

                                              1. re: Joe H

                                                I was not on the waitlist. I was informed by the person who originally made the reservation that he and his wife wouldn't be able to make it. From there, I assume he told the restaurant that he had someone to fill his seats thus not allowing them to take anyone from the waitlist. Sorry!!

                                                1. re: Joe H

                                                  Joe--If you think the three issue is really the problem with you getting off the waitlist I would be happy to join you on a moments notice. I have read many of your posts and I think it would be a pleasure to dine with your group if you think that would help.

                                                  BTW I will finally be getting to enjoy my reservation at Table 21 at Volt this Friday that I made the call on back in October (before it was even known to the public that Bryan had come in second for Top Chef). I understand that since they added additional seats and it is not as bad now.

                                                  1. re: ChrisVA

                                                    Thanks, Chris, for the really nice words. They are appreciated. Unfortunately, I never heard back from them. They said that they would put me at the "top" of their wait list, then added that I would have a better chance if there were two or four. I left it at three and, more than a month later, never heard a word. Have a great time at Table 21-it is a wonderful experience.

                                                    Thanks again!

                                                2. re: lilkimbo

                                                  Seriously? Well, that sucks. I haven't even started trying yet, but my group that wants to go is a party of three. Now I feel like my social life is being judged. ;-)

                                                  Seriously, I had dinner at the sushi counter at Sushi Taro (a wonderful, one of a kind experience, Joe, if you're looking for a replacement, and cheaper at, I think, $105-150ish) with a party of three and they only have 6 available stools and 2 seatings, also.

                                                    1. re: Joe H

                                                      Raids, you and JoeH need to hook up, get that many more phone lines involved, and book a party of 6 -- three for each of you!

                                            2. EXCUSE ME--there is no restaurant of any caliber worthy of the insidiousness that MiniBar
                                              presents itself. I don't care how spectacular the cuisine is. There is no reason for the obnoxious means of making a reservation. There are easily other options available that could be incorporated to make a reservation system available. But, I believe the SNOB APPEAL of this restaurant, always attempting to create an exclusivity that may or may not be warranted, is offensive to me and many other Chowhounds.

                                              FOLKS--it's only food. Albeit, probably great cuisine, but not worth the hype and aggravation that one needs to attempt to secure a reservation.

                                              This reminds me of the 2000 Millenium cell phone. It took me days and about a $1,000
                                              to purchase one of these "exclusive phones." A present for my hubby's birthday before the new year. In retrospect, what a waste of time and money.

                                              All things in perspective. Mini Bar may be a terrific destination restaurant, but they better get their act together as far a s public relations are involved. Some of the greatest restaurants in this country have gone belly-up. And, they didn't have the ATTITUDE. Nothing is forever. FoiGras

                                              10 Replies
                                              1. re: FoiGras

                                                I disagree, strongly. It is like anything else that gains hype - the exclusivity of it MAKES it more appealing. They only need to seat 4 a night to be "booked solid" and Atlantico is doing well - I'd be willing to bet, honestly, that Andres loses money on MiniBar (just as I've heard Volt loses money at Table 21) - the hype gets people into his other restaurants.

                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                1. re: uhockey

                                                  Of course, that's the point. In every way, it is designed to appeal to the well-to-do, food snobs and jaded food critics, who seek something "new" and above all "exclusive", regardless of relative merit. It also is a physiological fact that the first bite of a new food is the most intriguing and often the most appealing - hence the single bite course that creates the illusion of tasty novelty. (Why do you think they give out small free samples at Costco or TJs?)
                                                  The self-selected customers tend to be more vocal, and they spread the word, i.e. create a buzz, for the "celebrity chef" and by implication, his other restaurants
                                                  A smart marketing trick.

                                                  1. re: a1234

                                                    "regardless of merit" if this is a slam of Minibar in particular than I think posting about a restaurant you haven't eaten at is disingenuous. If you are posting about small plate restaurants in general, you should post your ideas on the General Topics board.

                                                2. re: FoiGras

                                                  We have a 500 dollar gift certificate from my best friend to Minibar, and have not tried to make a phone call. This whole thing makes me sick. I will plan to make two phone calls, and if we don't get in, we will dine in one of their "other" restaurants in the chain and ask my best buddy to stop buying gift certificates for anyone else for Minibar. Looks like they are cutting checks without the ability to cash them, and should have been very upfront telling people that their chances of using the GC is next to nil before selling them.

                                                  1. re: cfoodie

                                                    This restaurant has chosen to send a clear message to potential customers, but some are not hearing it or translating it properly from their actions. The message does not have nice words in it.

                                                  2. re: FoiGras

                                                    While I think the reservation process could be improved, I do not think it is worth the outrage that has been shown on this board. Over the past year, I have been lucky enough to eat very well at many highly regarded restaurants all over the country and can say that minibar is doing exactly the same thing any other premiere restaurant is doing. They could easily charge twice what they do, as could Table 21, and still fill their 12 seats every night within 10 seconds of opening the phone lines. Schwa in Chicago doesn't answer the phone and cherry picks requests from their voicemail to fill the restaurant when they decide they want to cook, and there isn't half the outrage on the Chicago board as this is causing. Table 21 is taking reservations 2 years into the future...are you kidding me? Minibar is exclusive right now because of mainstream media attention that he has deserved for a long time. All of it is a testament to what is happening with cuisine and the perception of "having dinner" in this country, which is only going to make experiences like this more accessible in the future.

                                                    I think Joe H has been very unlucky, but from what I have experienced and heard from MANY others, if you are flexible and want to dine at minibar, you can do it.

                                                    1. re: FoiGras

                                                      So who needs to spend several hundred dollars to gorge themselves on 27 gimmicky courses? Masochists and snobs.
                                                      Andres has learned from Costco when they give out those samples, yes, the first bite is always the best, but the taste buds get jaded before the first dozen courses. As for cotton candy eel, popcorn dipped in nitrogen and all that foam - you can have it, I'd put it in the garbage can where it belongs..
                                                      Andres should be using all that money to do something about improving all that bad food at his Jaleo chain. He is a genius at publicity if not cuisine.

                                                      -----
                                                      United States
                                                      400 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20202

                                                      1. re: FoiGras

                                                        The first sentence of the OP says it all: "It is the most difficult reservation in the United States". Comments like that, repeated enough times, is worth a million dollars in publicity. Create the buzz so every foodie snob in town twists themselves into contortions for a reservation and the resulting bragging rights.
                                                        Repeat after me: It's only food, not art. They are only cooks, not artists. You are only eating, not accomplishing anything..

                                                        -----
                                                        United States
                                                        400 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20202

                                                        1. re: a1234

                                                          So food cannot be art? According to who?? I'm rather certain there is a reason they call it the "Culinary Arts."

                                                          If your point is valid then I guess the same could be said about music - I mean, it is only a composition you are listening to - you are only listening, not accomplishing anything.

                                                          I can't say I've had the chance to experience minibar - but I'll gladly drop hundreds of dollars for the chance if it should arise - I've done so for Voltaggio, RJ Cooper, Grant Achatz, and many others - it has nothing to do with "bragging rights" but rather experiencing something beautiful or unique - just like a trip to the Louvre or a great concert.

                                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                          1. re: uhockey

                                                            Art has many meanings. To quotes one dictionary, here are two:
                                                            1.The principles or methods governing any craft or branch of learning: the art of baking; the art of selling.
                                                            2. The class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, or drawings: a museum of art; an art collection

                                                            Some "foodies" call cooking "artistry" equivalent to the Louvre so they can masquerade as aesthetes, as if only they truly understand the "art" of cooking.

                                                            I object to the dumbing down of the word artist. Nowadays everyone who makes a pop record, no matter how bad, is an "artist", as are celebrity TV cooks. To some, American Idol features "artists" and rap musicians are "artists", comparable to Michaelangelo or Beethoven or Shakespeare. The latest fad foam or "deconstructed" dish becomes equivalent to great art that has endured for centuries. I don't think so.
                                                            For one thing, real art should endure and embody some overarching meaning beyond satisfying an immediate itch or hunger. In fact, by those standards my grandmother is a greater "artist" than any cook in a restaurant,as it represents something more than mere food. But she and her family would not be so pompous as to claim that she is an artist or that enjoyment of her cooking constitutes the extraordinary perception of a "foodie".
                                                            Nor would she claim it is the same as going to the Louvre, with the implication that she is as great an artist as those exhibiting there.

                                                      2. Here's a question given all the criticism of their system. With hundreds/thousands, at least, of calls they get for the six seats, and if they don't want to raise the price, how else can they handle reservations? This seems the most democratic way, first calls to get in get the reservations. As frustrating as it must be for Joe H to be on hold for that long, if they put, say the first 10 callers on hold in order, answer each call to get information, it could take that long to get through the calls--between getting numbers, answering questions, etc. Other restaurants have far more seats and 6x2 is just too few for the demand so I don't know if they can get around it.

                                                        16 Replies
                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          A thought also just occurred to me: What if one or two people were on the line before Joe H, and those one or two people just happen to be making a reservation for a BIG group, so unfortunately that means all the seats are reserved for that night despite the restaurant following protocol?

                                                          Not that this justifies their crazy-hard-to-get reservation, but still...that could be what happens? I know I've definitely heard of large groups of people planning months in advance to go somewhere fancy for some kind of special occasion. What's a fancier experience than MiniBar, right?

                                                          1. re: yfunk3

                                                            1. We had over 3,000 calls to them before the phone was answered ten seconds after ten o'clock and I was put on hold.
                                                            2. I waited 13 minutes before I heard a voice-some one could have picked up the phone and told me they were booked.
                                                            3. Implication is that I might call another 3,000 times and experience another 13 minute wait to be essentially told to call back.

                                                            Much of this comes down to simple consideration of the person on the other end of the line.

                                                            There is a very simple solution: don't answer the phone unless you can take a reservation. One call at a time. Don't put anybody on hold. Don't make anyone wait. After all the seats are gone answer that you are booked and accepting names for the waiting list. If they had never answered the phone, never put me on hold the second part of this thread wouldn't exist. I'd still be trying almost every morning at 9:58 with four phone lines trying to get in. I don't mind competing with half of the Western World for a seat at MiniBar, I'm just not willing to go through an experience like this to do it.

                                                            1. re: Joe H

                                                              Nobody goes there anymore anyway, its too crowded

                                                              1. re: Joe H

                                                                Joe. there's a simpler solution, don't shop there. At your hourly rate of pay, you could have had car service to Paris.

                                                                1. re: Joe H

                                                                  I was thinking that by answering each call and putting them on hold, it would be as close to first come, first serve as possible. If they took a reservation, then the next call could be 5 minutes later and it's more luck of the draw, which it is anyway but closer to first call, first serve.

                                                                  Our reservations had been for this Friday and the more I think about it, the more upset I am that we couldn't make it. OTOH, I guess we freed up four seats for four happy people.

                                                                  1. re: Joe H

                                                                    Well, I wasn't trying to say that the restaurant was right in handling your situation the way they did. I was just trying to say that they probably just answer and immediately put on hold the calls that come right at 10:00 AM, then they go down the list of who was put on hold first. And those first two calls could've been two parties of 6, so that would mean you being the unlucky third caller.

                                                                    It definitely still doesn't excuse you having been put on hold for 13 minutes, of course. But as for everything else, the restaurant might have been following its proper reservation procedure.

                                                                    And if they just let the phone ring, I can only imagine the complaints about how there was no busy signal, so they should answer all calls and at least place people on hold. It's really a no-win for everyone around. I can only see this popularity biting MiniBar in the butt eventually, once the golden sheen wears off.

                                                                2. re: chowser

                                                                  I think they should either answer the phone, take (and listen to) voice mail, or take (and read) e-mail. A web site showing a calendar with open days (like hotels do for reservations) could guide people as to when to request a seat. If there's nothing open for six months, at least don't make hopeful diners be frustrated with busy signals. Some are willing to book six months (or two years??? errr . . . ??????) in advance. Let 'em. Some will probably cancel, some will keep those far out reservations.

                                                                  Lots of ways to handle it. But if the restaurant is just happy to have all the seats filled every night, that's their prerogative. I'm the kind of guy who, when I walk into a restaurant and I'm told there's an hour wait for a table, will go elsewhere. For me, there's no restaurant worth waiting too long to eat, whether it's a matter of an hour or a month. But for those who just HAVE to eat there, it really should be easier to make plans for whenever a table is available with one call or web site visit.

                                                                  1. re: MikeR

                                                                    The thing is the Minibar is only open for reservations 30 days in advance and the six seats are booked up within minutes of the restaurant taking phone reservations. So, this isn't really a regular restaurant situation.

                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                      There isn't really a good solution, because if you just opened reservations it would be booked for years, which is stupid too. The only thing that stinks is the way they handled the situation posted above. it shows a certain inflexibility and rudeness. But there's no magic bullet to solving this situation and, as was posted, the place is as successful as it wants to be (even if it's a money loser - which it may very well not be - it's great for publicity and as a side project for an already incredibly wealthy set of owners) and so there's no real drive to change it.

                                                                      1. re: kukubura

                                                                        This is exactly correct......and y'know, I realize it isn't in the same city, but Alinea does what minibar does (and better according to pretty much every person, critic, and rank list) and provides French Laundry quality service, real chairs (as opposed to bar stools,) and the chef is in the kitchen every night.

                                                                        When Cooper opens Pigtails and its Rogue 24-course menu I will be back to DC quite quickly - I'll try to secure reservations at minibar for the trip as well - but if I fail, I won't be too heartbroken. :-)

                                                                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                        1. re: uhockey

                                                                          Tough to compare minibar and Alinea since they have very different visions! As you said, one strives (and succeeds) in being a fine dining restaurant with top notch service while the other is downright casual with the solitary goal of pumping out great food.

                                                                          Alinea's chairs are incredibly comfortable however!

                                                                        2. re: kukubura

                                                                          Certainly there would be a lot of bookings well in advance, but so what? In February, you might have a good chance of booking dinner for your anniversary on July 23, whereas, if you called on June 23, you'd be fighting other furious dialers competing for that same date, not necessarily because it was their anniversary, but because it was 30 days in the future.

                                                                        3. re: chowser

                                                                          I understand. So let people who want to eat there make appointments based on availability. Why restrict reservations to a specific date - 30 days from calling? Why not let someone pick an open date from the calendar, say, three or four months later? I can book a flight or hotel room months in advance (and there are times when I can't, because there's no vacancy or a cheap fare isn't available on my preferred date), so why can't I book a seat in a restaurant the same way. Are they afraid that within a few hours of opening reservations to any available date, they'd be booked solid for the next five years, and that maybe someone would forget? The way airlines and hotels handle that is that they take your credit card number when you book, and charge you on the date of your reservation whether you show up or not.

                                                                          I don't claim to have all the answers to this problem, but there are certainly alternate ways to handle requests for bookings that would be less frustrating than the present telephone system. Even a phone system like radio shows use for call-in contests would be helpful. The phone system presents the calls in order of the time they came in, to the second, and after they have a winner (in this case, all the seats booked for the one date that they're booking that day) the calls get answered automatically with a "Thanks for calling but we're already booked. Try again next month" message. Those phone systems were developed specifically to give a little fairness in the presence of "combat dialers" like Joe with his four phones.

                                                                          But, as we all know, the restaurant obviously has no problem selling all it has to sell, so why should they listen to us?

                                                                          1. re: MikeR

                                                                            If it's booked for multiple years into the future then anyone who just hears about the place is DEFINITELY not going to eat there. The system the way it is at east gives you the illusion that you might get to experience something special.

                                                                            1. re: kukubura

                                                                              But apparently only an illusion, for most. The only time I feel lucky about dining is when the meal is free. ;)

                                                                    2. This thread is just ridiculous. I understand people are frustrated that they can't get through, and I agree if you can't deal with this and it makes you that mad, give up and don't go. I tried calling once last week and got shut out. I called later that afternoon and talked to someone on the phone about the process, they were incredibly friendly and thanked me for my interest. I got the impression they felt bad, but there was no better way to take reservations fairly and give everyone an equal chance. I am glad they don't charge $250+ per person just to dwindle the demand for this meal, I give them credit. I tried again this week for a Friday night and got through for a table of 6. Maybe that was lucky, but I would have continued to try until we got through because I want to check out what this place has to offer. If it drives you that crazy and you think it's a waste of time, give up, you don't have to bash the place for being popular.

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: JoshJM

                                                                        Maybe you should put yourself in JoeH's shoes and see how you would feel if you got through, were put on hold, and then told "sorry, no tables".

                                                                          1. re: chicken kabob

                                                                            I could care less; I've never tried to get a reservation at Minibar and probably never will, but JoeH's story made me cringe.

                                                                        1. re: JoshJM

                                                                          Thank you for a second perspective. Yes, I'm sure the system can be frustrating, but it also seems to be what works best (and I agree- raising the prices to weed people out seems like a bad idea to me). And it's good to know that it really is "luck of the draw" and that all the seats aren't set aside for insiders as was suggested. Thanks for the post.

                                                                          1. re: JoshJM

                                                                            So you got through for a Friday night and "a table for six." At MiniBar. Really? You may want to lower your expectations-you probably "got in" to Cafe Atlantico. Not MiniBar. MiniBar only has six seats and they are at a counter, not a table.

                                                                            By the way we made over 3,000 calls before being put on hold for twelve or thirtreen minutes and then being told no. And I got through a few seconds after 10:00AM.

                                                                            Again, there is a very simple solution: don't answer the phone unless there is a seat available. If you do it should ONLY be to tell someone that all seats are full and a waiting list is being taken.

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Cafe Atlantico
                                                                            405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

                                                                            1. re: Joe H

                                                                              I'm a little suspicious about this "table" for six business also...but I'll be charitable and assume he started calling promptly at 10am and got through for a Friday that just opened up. At a full table for 6, they wouldn't put you on hold, and you'd just book the table.

                                                                              However, Josh, tell me that you'd call a restaurant back if you were on hold for fifteen long minutes. I think I'd object just on principle. If it's going to be that complicated, take my information and call me back, you know?

                                                                              1. re: Raids

                                                                                When I got my seats they did put me on hold after they asked how many seats I wanted, for a while then came back to take my cc information and get my email to send me the confirmation sheet (which you had to sign and send back).

                                                                          2. I don't want to start a new thread for this question since I suspect everyone who would answer is in here anyway: How do you know when to call? I'm thinking specifically for Komi. Let's say I want to go on September 10. Do I call on August 10? (That wouldn't work for the 31st I suppose, or on leap year...) Do I count 30 days back? So would that be August 11? Or does the day the reservation is on count? That would be Aug 12... It's sort of a "do we count to three, THEN go, or do we go ON three?" sort of thing...

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Komi
                                                                            1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: kukubura

                                                                              Komi's website says one calendar month. So for 9/10, call on 8/10.

                                                                              FWIW, I got through to Komi for my Saturday request after about 5 minutes of busy signals, and easily got a table for the 30-days out dinner.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Komi
                                                                              1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

                                                                              1. re: DanielK

                                                                                Thanks. I'll try that since it's the earliest possible date and I can always call back the next day if I'm wrong. Makes you wonder if you want to go on the 31st of a month that follows a month with 30 days... You may need to make that reservation from another dimension...

                                                                            2. I've tried twice now to get reservations. Last year I attempted for an anniversary. I got busy signals, a recording, more busy signals and then around 10:10 a woman picked up and told me they were full and asked if I wanted to go on a waiting list.

                                                                              This year I tried for my birthday--I called exactly at 10:00, got busy signals several times, got a recording (that I hung up on), called back, a woman picked up around 10:02 told me to hold. I did for about 1 minute. She then picked up and asked to take my reservation. I asked how many spots she had available and she said I was the first caller.

                                                                              My guess at the process: They don't pick up the phone lines at exactly 10am. (If I was the first one to call why did I not get told to hold until 10:02?) They tell the first X callers to hold. I'm assuming because they can't guess at party size so they probably tell the first 6 callers to hold--assuming that each caller only wants 2 in their party. Maybe they even tell the first 12 people to hold just to make sure there are no singles, or that people might drop out because their preferred time is taken. Then after all those people are lined up on hold they go through and take reservations. The reservation took about 2-3 minutes to complete. Even assuming that there are 3-4 other people that make reservations, and that a few more people leave their names on the waiting list...that might explain the 13 minute wait if you were one of the last people told to hold. I think the 13 minute wait meant you were one of the first few but the people in front of you took up all the seats.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: AllisonAnn

                                                                                That's what I was thinking, too. With JoeH's long wait, I wonder if earlier callers had longer questions or some problem/complaints so it took longer to get to the calls.

                                                                              2. Not much of a 'ploy' when you only have to fill six seats. Anyway, using the pejorative term 'ploy' is appropriate if you've been there and didn't like it. But making a negative comment if you haven't eaten the food.... that's just tasteless. Pun intended.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                                  I'm stumped. I expanded the entire thread, searched for the word "ploy," and this is the only post it showed up in?

                                                                                  Also, the idea that someone shouldn't able to critique a reservation process that is preventing them from getting a table until they've eaten the food makes me chuckle. I mean, you know, you get that it's not like he's not *trying* to be able to eat there, right? LOL.

                                                                                  1. re: Raids

                                                                                    This is the problem when chowhound deletes posts after someone has replied to them. (I think) Steve was responding to another poster who had claimed that MiniBar's scheduling system is a "ploy" to trick us foodies into creating buzz for a place. Or something along those lines. Anyway, I don't believe Steve was commenting on Joe's experience, but rather the disappearing post.

                                                                                2. i read this thread about a week ago, and thought, "who would put up with this crap?"

                                                                                  and now, with the thread so much longer, and the indignities mulltiplied, ....

                                                                                  all i want to say is, "Y'ALL are CRAZY!"