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Aug 19, 2010 08:38 PM


I want to take a lovely foodie couple to Schwa as a thank you for a large favor. We are all really excited about it and can be really flexible with our schedule since we live on the north side. i was finally able to leave a message the other day asking for a call back (prior to that their vm was full) but am doubtful that will happen (as they said it's hard for them to get back to people). Here's my question, what's the trick to get a reservation here? I hate to call in the middle of dinner rush but is that my best bet? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. Maybe others will chime in with better first hand experience then I. But from what I hear there is no trick other then patience. And if there is any truth to the story I linked below calling during service won't get any results as the phone is unplugged during that time.

    I'm interested in visiting Schwa myself and would love to hear how it turned out for you.

    1 Reply
    1. re: oysterspearls

      I tried twice. The first time I left a message that was never returned. The second time I left a message it was returned promptly and politely the next morning and I was thrilled to get the reservation I wanted. It all seemed very random.

    2. Thanks for confirming the randomness. I'll just keep trying - I think it'll be worth it! I'll get back to you with the results of my efforts. Maybe I'll try earlier in the day....? We'll see.

      1. I should've waited to reply. Called Schwa at 12:30 and got a real person! Am on the waiting list for a couple of dates in Sept. They'll start taking res's for Oct. the last couple of days in August. Lesson - call early in the day and toward the end of the month. Am very very excited, even w/o a res, I feel like I've cracked a code. Like Dorothy, I believe that I will get to Schwa soon!

        1. I don't really get this reservation "gimmick" for Schwa. I'm visiting Chicago (a NYer) and I've had my share of hard reservations to get (Babbo, Momofuku Ko, etc). I had a hard time getting a call back. I'm not really ranting, but you would think you could add $5 per person to the menu (which people would surely pay) and hire someone who at least part time would be a reservationist. If you serve even only 30 people a night (I don't have a guage on how big the restaurant is), that's $150 a day for that person. Or if you serve 60 people, add $2-3 to the menu.

          I guess it adds to the allure to this restaurant. If that's the case, I get it.

          4 Replies
          1. re: deepfry7

            If I had the answer to this often discussed grievance I could likely sell it on ebay. I don't, and won't speculate. Though I do have my own opinion and theory for those interested.

            I don't believe for a second that the reservation policy is in any way a gimmick or genius business plan. I can't imagine Michael Carlson's mind working that way. I won't say he doesnt care about the inconvenience but believe that area of the business may not be his strong point.
            Could it be he sees little purpose in hiring someone only to return calls informing people there are no available tables? I would not be surprised at all.

            I truly understand the frustration from those whose calls reach a dead end. But keep trying as I believe its a slight obstacle within the big picture. For a truly off the wall analogy but one I think seems to fit? Schwa is like having a wonderful good natured favorite Uncle. You know, the life of the party guy always bearing gifts at family reunions. The one family member that no one has a bad thing to say about. Well that is accept for one head scratching puzzlement everybody whispers. Why does he wear those awful gaudy neck ties?:) In the large scope of things its nothing.

            Just my two cents.

            1. re: oysterspearls

              I think your perspective is accurate oy-pls. Michael Carlson is something of a mad genius. He very much marches to his own drum but there is definitely no marketing gimmick.

              1. re: chicgail

                Thanks for the responses.

                I just read Alan Richman's profile on Carlson and I now "understand". With David Chang in NY, I feel more like it's a marketing (genius really) ploy. But not with Schwa.


                I look forward to the opportunity to eat here.

                1. re: deepfry7

                  Can not agree more. David Chang is a master at marketing.

                  Hope you enjoy Schwa as much as I did!

          2. While it might take some persistence, I don't think it's as difficult to get a reservation as people believe. I think the best route would be to not leave a message and hold out for a 'real person.' I suggest calling in the middle of the week during the middle of the day (after 11 Central time). You may have to call a few times, but that should do the trick. Hope this helps. I had one of the best meals of my life at Schwa and suggest you take advantage of the BYO policy if you get a reservation.

            6 Replies
            1. re: ZJY82

              FYI Chicago hounds, I think they're requiring credit card #'s when reserving. I had no problem with it. I forgot what was the $ charge for not showing up, but I can't believe anyone who is persistent enough to try and get this reservation wouldn't actually show up.

              Thanks all.

              1. re: deepfry7

                I don't believe they require a card number unless that is something very new.


                1. re: uhockey

                  They did each time I made a reservation. Though yesterday they said my number is on record. Hoping that's a good sign. LOL

                  1. re: oysterspearls

                    ...that they are buying stuff from on Mr/Ms. Oysterspearls. :-)

                    I just cannot fathom their "records" department looking better than a sticky note!

                    I mean, is there an office? If so, where?


                    1. re: uhockey

                      Considering only a select few can operate the credit card machine (Seth and Chef, I believe), the 'office' is probably just the phone and the 'records' is merely a book of reservations. Incidentally, I called once and actually got through but was unable to make a reservation because someone had misplaced it! Talk about an epic letdown.

                      1. re: uhockey

                        I never assumed it was nothing more then turning the page of their reservation book.