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Difficultly of French Laundry Reservations?

I'm from the NYC area and planning a trip to SF/Napa area towards mid/end October. Just wanted to know - how hard is it to get French Laundry dinner reservations?

In NYC, we have really hard ones like Mario Batali's Babbo and David Chang's Momofuku Ko (which is a little bit easier now).

Do I have to call at 10AM PT exactly 2 months in advance? Is a table for 4 easier than 2? I assume lunch is easier to get than dinner, but I would prefer dinner. Any tips?

Just so I get a sense, what are some of the other more difficult reservations to get in the SF bay area?

Thanks Chowhounders!

The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

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    1. re: bbulkow

      Do I have to call at 10AM PT exactly 2 months in advance?

      YES, but the line will be busy at 10:00:00.5. By the time you can get through, redialing continuously, they are booked.

      Is a table for 4 easier than 2?

      Yes and usually available for a few seconds after the critical moment (which may be midnight rather than 10 AM, but I am not sure) on Open Table. That's your best bet.(I have never seen a 2 available on Open Table.)

      We have never succeeded in getting a reservation because we want a 2 and I won't put up with the FL telephone nonsense.

      Why don't you go to Manresa or Coi or Cyrus or Commis or Saison -- all require several week advance booking and all are very interesting. Also requiring several weeks and very San Francisco (and very excellent) is Delfina. And maybe Benu will be very hot in October -- it opens in August (and we have managed a table shortly after opening!). Also requiring long advance booking (and not worth the trouble in my view, but others obviously love them) are Flour and Water and Frances.

      Keep us posted.

      Manresa Restaurant
      320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

      373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

      Delfina Restaurant
      3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      Cyrus Restaurant
      29 North St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

      2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110

      1. re: Thomas Nash

        Thanks guys for the quick responses.

        Yea, I was checking out Manresa (a decent trip out) and Coi. I heard Corey Lee is opening something relatively soon too.

        Manresa Restaurant
        320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

        1. re: mjl242

          "I heard Corey Lee is opening something relatively soon too." That would be Benu @ 22 Hawthorne Lane. Last night, OpenTable was showing tables available the week after the opening which is Aug. 10th.

          22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        2. re: Thomas Nash

          I've reserved tables for two twice on Open Table, so they are available.

          1. re: JasmineG

            Did you get them at midnight or at 10am? Curious when OpenTable "opens" the tables

            1. re: openhelix

              I got my table for 2 at about 1-2 minutes before 1pm EST. I kept resubmitting my request to Open Table (use 7pm as the default time since OT searches 2 hours ahead and back) and all of the sudden at about 12:58/59pm EST a single table for 2 at 9pm materialized! I grabbed it and then also proceeded to try to connect with them via phone. After redialing furiously for 13 minutes (it's now 10:13am PST) and waiting on hold endlessly, I reached a reservationist. There were no tables of 2 to be had at any time for the evening I had booked.

      2. I'd actually recommend the lunch service. you're talking about a 4 hour experience, easily. I would have been down for the count halfway through if I'd done dinner instead of lunch. Well worth the effort to get the reservation...and OpenTable often has Friday lunch reservations available.

        1. I have reservations for 4... and only two of us! All our lame friends said it was too expensive (granted we are flying up from San Diego to eat there). September 1st, 5:45pm. If you are interested, please email me at ssalegra.at.yahoo. I will need to make definite plans by this week on Wedensday August 25th.

          And, yes, first we tried the calling calling calling thing, then I figured out a little trick and succeeded in the table for 4 - but the tables for 2 were already gone. It was a hassle and we will see if the experience lives up to the effort.

          1. We used opentable and right at midnight, 2 months to the date of our lunch...we had everything filled out and got it on the first try.
            Prefer the lunch since it was a 3-4 hours with wine/champagne..keep your wits about you while driving back to the city..being that its wine country and all..garden across the street is lovely to stroll.
            Good luck and keep us posted!

            1. I refuse to play the phone reservation game. TFL puts aside some reservations for the high-priced hotels and lodges in the area. If you are going to stay in one, let the concierge or innkeeper know you want to eat at TFL. You might be surprised what you can get.

              1. Just wondering why this reservation is still so impossibly difficult compared to other Bay Area restaurants. TFL has fallen off significantly on most "best of" lists, Keller's specifically-devoted attention has largely been at Per Se, one can experience actual former chefs de cuisine of TFL at their own restaurants (i.e., same guy cooking your food) and the quality differential between TFL and other top area restaurants has become negligible, if not having a slight deficit. So how does TFL still maintain the "call in at 10 a.m. sharp, ride the busy signals, and hope you get through before 10:15 a.m. or you are SOL" buzz?

                Count me as one feeling I missed my chance to have this effort validated by not having taken the opportunity...back in the late 90s.

                9 Replies
                1. re: mikeh

                  Well, that may be, but three Michelin stars go a long way...

                  1. re: mikeh

                    while nearly all of the former chefs de cuisine of the french laundry have opened up their own places, most are doing stuff very different from the french laundry; like benu, lincoln, alinea, etc. they have french influences, but that's it.

                    also, the only restaurant in the area that is doign anything like the french laundry is cyrus; you make it soudns liek there's a plethora of them.

                    1. re: vulber

                      From the perspective of someone who's burned out on tasting menus and the Michelin mentality, Benu, Coi, Saison, Atelier Crenn, Quince, Manresa, Baume, Cyrus, and Meadowood all sound like they're doing a similar sort of thing.

                      The only one I'm tempted to try is Saison, since he's the only chef I've ever heard admit that meals like that often make you feel like shit, and he says he doesn't want to do that to his guests.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        If you have a link to, or could remember where you read the 'feel like shit' comment, I'd love to read the whole thing. Thanks!

                          1. re: jpancake

                            And saison is very much not that way. Highly memorable.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I know what you mean, but I really didn't feel that way -- possibly because it was lunch and I didn't get any of the extra courses, drank very little and ate very few of the sweets at the end. I drove home and went for a long walk feeling positively perky. It isn't really the way I like to eat, nor do I get the chance to often anyhow, but you might entertain the thought that it is possible to do it and feel just fine afterward.

                            1. re: Glencora

                              I agree, Glencora. Personally, I'm guessing it's the alcohol more than the food that makes people "feel like shit." I didn't find the food at French Laundry to be overwhelmingly rich. In fact, with a couple of exceptions I don't remember the dishes being rich at all.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                I think I drank more at Saison than I have during other endurance tasting menus and afterwards I felt good enough to go to Terroir and drink more.

                      2. I just wanted to bump this with my experience. Not much has changed but I figure people still search on this topic. I had one day I could go to the FL, a Sunday this upcoming January (so January 2013). I understand January is a much slower time for Napa and it being a Sunday would probably be slower too.

                        With that said, I nonstop dialed from both my office phone and cell phone starting exactly at 10am 2 months ahead of time for a party of 2. After 25 minutes someone picked up ( it felt A LOT longer than 25 minutes) and instructed me to hold.

                        sidenote: you get this weird adrenaline rush like you just won a prize except all you're getting is a chance to drop $700 on dinner for two. Anyways...

                        After another 5-10 minutes of holding a receptionist came on. I acted like a blubbering idiot and kept saying "I'm so excited!" like a complete nerd, she was sweet though and seemed to like that I was excited. At this point all they had for dinner for 2 was 9pm. I grabbed the reservation, told them about a special occasion and received the email confirmation less than a minute later. So all in all it was kind of easy, but not really when I consider I dialed about 300 times in those 25 minutes. So just have some perseverance and try really hard. I'm not sure how much me trying for a Sunday in January had to do with getting through but it seemed to work for me!

                        1. Corby Kummer weighs in against dictatorial chefs and endurance menus, splitting the blame for the trend between Charlie Trotter's, El Bulli, and the French Laundry: "Adrià and Keller’s lasting contribution to the world of restaurants was to shift the balance of power from diner to chef. They demanded unconditional surrender."