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Nov 1, 2010 09:25 AM

Hell Night already full

According to the ECG website, they started taking Hell Night reservations this morning at 10am. I called at 10, got a busy signal, and called every ten minutes thereafter. I just got through to learn that they are completely booked. Wow, that was fast.

I remember a couple years ago being able to call a few days after the reservations started and having no trouble getting a reservation for a large group on the night of my choice.

This is the third straight Hell Night I've been shut out from. What happened? Have they been on Phantom Gourmet or something?

And is there some kind of inside track for ECG regulars, or is it really just simple luck in getting through when the reservation period begins?

ECG is obviously one of the most popular restaurants around and they don't need any advice, but wouldn't you think that if a restaurant can completely book their seats for four weekday nights a month in advance, and do so in less than two hours, they should be holding Hell Nights more frequently?

The demand is clearly there.

I vote for monthly Hell Nights.

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  1. It took me an hour to get through, but eventually did. At 11am all of the 7:30pm timeslots were full. It's insane how hard it is to get into that event now. Personally I'd rather eat off the regular menu, but I have some diehard family members who love the HEAT.

    1. Its very successful for them, but its also something they take pretty seriously to put together. Its a lot of effort to source peppers they don't normally have on hand (which they bring from elsewhere), there is some recipe development, etc. I could see them perhaps extending it (they do sometimes end up with a lot of left over peppers). But, if you wish too hard for it to be held that often, they may not be able to put the same effort into it they do now. Despite the popularity they have resisted it becoming the Vegas lounge act of their menu.

      4 Replies
      1. re: itaunas

        Agreed, I think that's why it remains so popular. supply and demand....

        1. re: itaunas

          That said, it does seem like the overall heat levels have dropped a bit. Or maybe I'm just getting more of a tolerance as i get older.

          1. re: jgg13

            I went a few months ago. I ate mostly 4-5 bombs items - others had more heat in the same dishes - so it was a bit inconsistent. I brought a yogurt in my bag just in case - did not need it at all. I did, however, use my kleenex as my eyes were watering over a few things! HA! :)

            1. re: Small Plates

              I've been saying it for a while but in general the smaller plates have more heat per bomb than the entrees although it sounds like you all were using the small plates. Also, you're right that it ain't an exact science, it's not a perfectly absolute scale.

              Also, sometimes a bomb means "the whole dish is this hot" and sometimes it means "there's something on the dish that is this hot" - the entrees tend towards the latter.

        2. The problem is they let everyone on facebook and twitter know that it's coming. It used to be just the email list, which in theory could have been enormous, but it was a much smaller list than everyone on facebook. So now, way more people call right away. Sux.

          1. If they had monthly hell nights, the same problem would occur because the same fans would be swamping the phone lines, just more frequently.

            Your main problem was doing the "called every ten minutes". The last round of hell nights I was doing the dial/hangup on busy/redial loop nonstop and it still took me 45 minutes to get through (i wish i had a phone that'd just automate that process, but i don't). This time my friend did the calling and she did the same nonstop calling plan for about 30 minutes. If you are just calling every so often your chances of getting through go down massively - this is going to be true of anything like this.

            The popularity has soared - it wasn't that many years ago when you could call in over a month after they started taking resos and get a table for 8 at any seating you wanted. I think it's just a mutlifaceted issue - for one, spicy food has become more popular, for another the word has spread more due to the internet and such. It's also been featured on things like Man vs Food which I'm sure helps. But I think mainly it's just that more people know about it - several years ago I'd always get a blank stare and have to explain what it was, these days people always know exactly what i'm talking about.

            I don't know if there's a hidden track on getting in, but sometimes they don't fully publicize things. As an example, the last batch they only posted on twitter that they were opening up reservations, so people who were on the mailing list, or looking at the web site didn't see that info.

            18 Replies
            1. re: jgg13

              It was on Man vs Food on the Travel Channel. Pretty sure there has been a huge spike since then.

              1. re: jgg13

                Hell Night is like flying saucers. People say it is out there and we would like to believe, but if it's too difficult to ever witness one, eventually we're going to stop thinking about it and move on to something else. To extend a poor analogy, it would be easier to believe if there was physical evidence, perhaps an artefact in the form of the alleged Pasta from Hell on the regular menu.

                1. re: chickendhansak


                  FWIW, I've only ever not gone due to simply not wanting to go for my own reasons. This includes the previous session and the upcoming one. This extends back for several years now. People who say they can't get a table are simply not trying hard enough.

                  1. re: jgg13

                    I think calling very regularly within the first two hours of the reservation period (a month in advance) is trying hard enough. This isn't el bulli or the French Laundry. If that doesn't cut it, I think it's safe to say that the event is too popular.

                    And if it was monthly, I don't think it would be as hard to get reservations because not all of the same people would go every month. They all go every 4-6 months because it is so infrequent.

                    1. re: DoubleMan

                      We had three people calling non-stop at 10 am. Only one of us got through and we got one of the last possible slots. Damn you MvF! Damn you!!!

                      1. re: ac106

                        The all time worst one along these lines for me was the armsby abbey in worcester, when they did the founders breakfast stout brunch this april. i started repeatedly redialing the moment they opened things up and managed to get in around 12 minutes in, at which point I got one of the very last tables available.

                        I guess though that if ECG didn't have 3 seatings a night for 4 nights, it'd be about 10-15 mins too. In both cases, it'd be a matter of seconds if the process was automated and not going through an actual human.

                        1. re: ac106

                          It's not MvF. Hell Night wasn't even the main Boston segment.

                          I'm telling y'all, it is the Facebook and Twitter updates. This was not as much of a challenge before (though you still had to call within a couple days, if you were picky about the time). Over! :o)

                          1. re: Alcachofa

                            Yeah - and not just facebook & twitter. It's not just hell night ... *everything* is becoming a pain to attend these days, at least those in the realms that I take interest in (e.g. booze events, food events, food & booze events, etc). First you have people sharing & retweeting on FB & twitter, this builds up more of a buzz than you used to have. That buzz then starts showing up on more major sites like CH, Yelp, citysearch, prominent blogs, etc. This leads these events to get picked up by even *more* widely read sites like

                            All of a sudden you have a base of people looking to attend that is orders of magnitude larger than you'd have had a year or two ago. It's nuts.

                            I've been saying for a while now that I need to get into something that'll be the next-next-next big thing, just to give me some time to enjoy it before it gets swamped. I've pretty much given up on going to major craft beer events, they've become even more ridiculous than stuff like hell night imo.

                            1. re: jgg13

                              The backlash to the local food movement will come in the form of chain restaurant groupies, so make your reservation at T.G.I. Friday's now.

                              1. re: hckybg

                                haha! "Hello, Olive Garden? I'd like a table for 4 on july 15, 2018 please" :)

                                Olive Garden
                                8 Allstate Rd, Dorchester, MA 02125

                                1. re: jgg13

                                  And, I'd like to make sure the Bologna Alfredo is available that night.

                                  1. re: trufflehound

                                    I have yet to find a "nose-to-tail" joint with a never-ending pasta bowl.

                        2. re: DoubleMan

                          You had to pound the phone to get through, Luckily I had a light workload this morning as I must have re-dialed at least 200 times in an hour. It was dedication to make up for slacking on the last one.

                          1. re: DoubleMan

                            I'm not making a value judgement on whether or not it's worth it to someone to pound the phone lines. Clearly there are enough people for whom it is worth it, and those that don't do so end up not getting reservations. It is what it is.

                            I'm still not sure I buy your statement about doing it more frequently though - I had this conversation a lot after the last round, where it was just as mobbed as this one was (I had a feeling as I'd noticed things getting tighter and tighter the previous couple of rounds, which is why I was super on the ball). There are enough hard core folks who make sure to go Every Single Time that it'd still be pretty packed up, especially considering how much greater demand is over supply. Personally I think the 4-6 month waiting period is about right, so I wouldn't be one of those, but I think there are enough folks who are.

                            1. re: jgg13

                              I agree with that. I'm not saying it would be easy if they did much more frequently, it would just be easier. There are certainly enough who go all the time to fill it, but I'm not sure it would fill quite as quickly, and require the utmost vigilance to get a spot.

                              Maybe they could hold back on a few reservations and auction them off for charity - put that chili obsessiveness to some good use.

                              1. re: DoubleMan

                                They hold back the bar seats, which are first-come, first-served during Hell Night(s). You could try that. I like eating at the bar there in general.

                                1. re: DoubleMan

                                  I really think this is an event that is close to Chris's heart and he really wants to keep it special and not bastardize it. Chris seems to be a very humble guy from the encounters I've had with him.

                                  1. re: NahantNative

                                    I agree. When you think of the other 'celebrity" chefs, Chris is as far from that as possible. I'm from NC and I think of Chris as a friend...from all of his cookbooks, from Jake and Earl's, etc. He really changed the Boston and national eating scene and when you see him, as I have often, he's as if icognito. I do wish his cornbread was really southern...cornbread is about the only food southerners don't put much sugar in, but Chris is the real thing. He has huge integrity and my SO speak of Chris as a personal acquaintance. He is, in his own way.

                      2. I realize that this may be a really silly question, but can you only get into the ECG on Hell Night if you're in the reservation book? What if you just want to spectate?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: SOBoston

                          The bar is open seating--I suppose you could sit and watch and eat more modestly spiced items...