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Jun 30, 2012 03:29 PM

What's the scoop on Alinea reservations?

Does anyone know if Alinea is switching over to Next-style prepaid tickets? I was given a gift card (signed by Chef himself . . . I was practically quivering) and am absolutely dying to use it, but the restaurant is booked through July. The web site said that an online reservation system would be available in late June, and now it says early July.

Does anyone have the real scoop? Will it be Next to impossible to get a table, ever?

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  1. Alinea is transitioning to a ticketing system. I am not aware of details gone public beyond what is on their website. You might want to e-mail them to inquire how existing gift cards will be accommodated with the new system; surely there will be a way. Nice wordplay on that last question! If it's like Next, persistence will be rewarded. I have dined at every Next menu, so it is possible. My guess is that the tables will get snatched up very quickly but be more available on the secondary market. Good luck!

    7 Replies
    1. re: GourmetWednesday

      I'm not sure about the new system. But I called on a Friday evening for a reservation two months in advance. Had my credit card out, and got the reservation on the first call. If you call now for September/October you should be fine.

      1. re: bluealien14

        GourmetWednesday, thank you. What is your Next secret? Secondary market (with which, BTW, I take no issue)?

        BlueAlien, they aren't taking reservations at all right now; that's the issue. They're holding off, waiting for the system to go live, I guess.

        1. re: Allieroseww

          I see. Well the only other suggestion I have is to try and get a "Next" ticket. I have seen people on the Next facebook page willing to trade Alinea reservations for them. Again I don't know too much about it but you might want to look into it if Alinea isnt taking reservations at all.

          1. re: bluealien14

            FYI Alinea has not accepted any reservations beyond this month, so there are no reservations to "trade" nor is trading Next for Alinea something that is commonly done (or even all that feasible). I am a regular at Next and the Facebook page and the only time I recall Alinea being brought up in a similar manner is somebody offered to pay for someone to have dinner at Alinea (with wine parings) in exchange for securing tickets for them at Next elBulli (they offered to pay for the Next tickets in addition to springing for Alinea, but who knows if they were serious). Anyways, while the current Next tickets are still tough to score, they are not nearly as "hot" as the elBulli tickets were.

            All the OP has to do is frequently check Alinea's website - that is where they will be posting details on how the new reservation system will work and when it will go into effect. It should be any day now.

            Since Alinea has a higher price point, more seats, and changes the menu less frequently than Next I do not think that reservations will be as hard to snag for Alinea as they are for Next. While Alinea will certainly sell out, I do not think the tickets will instantly be snapped up as is often the case with Next. So long as one is being vigilant, I would think there is a very good chance of procuring a reservation.

            1. re: Gonzo70

              The short answer to your question: I am a huge fan, practically obsessed. Longer answer: I have not needed the secondary market, and actually am opposed to buying or selling above face value, at least for myself, and I try not to judge others. I am on the Next FB page daily, and more frequently when close to a menu release. It is more difficult now that the text alerts on FB postings are not active, yet everyone is on equal footing. For same-days, they have said that some priority will be given to people who request often, not just once, and also to creativity in the e-mails. I don't know if it mattered, but prior to what turned out to be my request for Paris, I started posting somewhat regularly on the FB page, such as answering questions for Newbies (sort of like what I do here except under my real name!).

              1. re: GourmetWednesday

                Good to know! Thank you. I will report back if and when I am successful.

          2. re: Allieroseww

            In addition to following the Next page on Facebook, make sure you follow Grant and Nick on Twitter, just in case.

            For Twitter, you can turn on text message alerts at least (avoiding the silly Facebook "we can't send texts" bug).

      2. Have you tried calling the restaurant? The website still has a reservations phone number and email address, so presumably they'd have the answer.

        4 Replies
        1. re: BeanTownGolfer

          I was trying to find out whether there had been any openings on the waitlist, and any calls over the last few weeks just resulted in a phone that rang and rang, regardless of the day I called. I did, however, receive a prompt response to the e-mail that I subsequently sent (alas, still no cancellations, so I will have to content myself with drinks at Aviary instead...) so I would recommend e-mailing them and not bother calling.

          1. re: cherylmtl

            Kathryn, thank you. I have taken your advice.

            1. re: Allieroseww

              Here is the latest from Alinea's site:

              As of today, July 7, we have continued to postpone release of August and September reservations. The online booking system is in final testing and will be ready to launch any day now, details will be posted here. We apologize for the ongoing inconvenience.

              What about my ongoing angst?

        2. I have a feeling this new system will no longer allow solo dining at Alinea.

          15 Replies
          1. re: Combination

            Not to question anyone's preferences but I can't imagine dining there without sharing the experience with someone. Discussing the courses is, for me at least, more than half the fun.

            1. re: ferret

              Many people dine solo at fine restaurants and have wonderful experiences. While I dined at Alinea with my sister in May, I know someone who had a great time dining solo at Alinea. I've dine solo at many of the finest restaurants in the US and Paris, and (for the most part) have had wonderful meals. I find I can better concentrate on my meal when I dine solo.

              1. re: ellenost

                I travel a lot for business and have done so for about two decades. I understand the solo dining thing very well and have had more solo meals than I can recall. Some dining experiences are more about a sense of discovery and are as much entertainment as dining. Just like I don't like to attend the theater (legitimate, not movies; I've seen plenty of movies on my own) or concerts on my own, I find that Alinea benefits from a shared experience. But I certainly understand that others have their own preferences.

                1. re: ferret

                  I guess that explains our differences; I live in NYC, and attend theatre (Broadway/off-Broadway) mostly solo. Due to the high prices of NYC theatre and high-end dining in all locations, I'd rather enjoy these luxuries solo than miss them because I didn't have someone to join me.

                  1. re: ellenost

                    I'd go alone or with Dr. Hannibal Lecter; I don't care! I just want a reservation!

                    1. re: Allieroseww

                      BTW, I spent more than an hour hitting redial when I made my reservation, and maybe it was my high expectation of the meal, but I left the restaurant somewhat underwhelmed. The meal isn't even in my top 10 meals. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to get the reservation.

                      1. re: ellenost

                        Web site updated today to say "any day now . . . " Ellenost, what didn't meet your expectations?

                        1. re: Allieroseww

                          The pace of service was too quick. Not just for my table, but for all of the tables in the room. We had our check paid within 2 1/2 hours--a bit too quick for what should have been a more leisurely meal. Definitely should have been a 3 hour meal. Also, after about the 5th course, I got tired/annoyed with the waiter telling me how to eat each course--"do this/don't do this". Really annoying was the captain who instructed us not to place the used flatware on the napkin since the napkin would be used later in the dinner; surprise: the napkin was eventually removed and never seen again. There was a plating on wet seaweed that was simply unappealing to look at although the tastes of the shellfish were good once dug out of the slimey seaweed. Absolutely hated the tastes of ginger--I've never been a big ginger fan, but after this course that were mere tastes of different very pungently-flavored ginger, I now rank ginger among my least favorite flavors (almost as bad as olives). I did love the truffle raviolo. I did enjoy the smoking pear dessert. Didn't care for the famous shattered white chocolate since I've never found white chocolate to have much flavor. The tasting of lamb that came with about 60 drops of flavor should have had a "cheat sheet" since I wasted the small bites in some less than stellar tastings--definitely would have liked to have known what I was tasting. The Miro spoons were very good. The best thing about the dinner was the excellent bottle of Robert Weil Auslese that I had selected. I had such high expectations for my much anticipated dinner at Alinea, and maybe if I lived in Chicago, I'd go back to try it again. Since I live in NYC, and visit Chicago only on a very infrequent basis, I'll be trying other restaurants when I return.

                          1. re: ellenost

                            Our last visit was earlier this year and my experience was completely different. We were in complete control of the pacing (there was a table of 2 next to us that was into their first course as we were being seated but we were ahead of them by the 3rd or 4th course (solely by our choice - my wife is the antsy type) and were done within 3 hours - others were clearly there longer (several tables were far from the last course when we left). I thought the service was stellar and the food - for the most part was excellent (unlike ellenost I thought the spoons were uninspired and one of the weakest dishes of the evening).

                            1. re: ferret

                              My experience mirrored Ferret's. I have had the pleasure of dining at Alinea twice in the past several months and they rank as my two best meals ever. Was not rushed in the least; I enjoy leisurely meals and my meals last approximately 3 & 1/2 hours both times. Found the vast majority of the courses to be beautifully presented, interesting, well thought out and most importantly incredibly delicious. The only course I did not like enjoy (and it was on the menu both visits) was interestingly enough the Miro spoon course. I loved the shellfish served atop the driftwood with seaweed; thought it was such a fun, beautiful presentation. Service was also stellar on both occasions. My wife is a bit of a picky eater and the staff happily substituted a couple of menu items that she felt did not sound appetizing to her. I will definitely be in a few months once the menu changes around; can't wait to see what they come up with next!

                              1. re: Gonzo70

                                They couldn't be more accommodating. We hung out in the kitchen for a bit after we finished eating and my wife peppered the hostess with questions. Short of a full vegan meal (which they'd probably do if you gave them sufficient notice) there's no request they can't satisfy.

                                1. re: Gonzo70

                                  Well now I definitely feel cheated since my dinner lasted a full hour less than yours and most others. My sister and I purposely ate slowly, and I even once had to tell a server that I was still eating otherwise he would have snatched the plate in mid-course.

                                  1. re: ellenost

                                    Ellenost, just curious...what day in particular were you there? I was there with my sister in May as well and had pretty much the same menu (based off the dishes you listed) as you and your sister, but my meal there took just under 3 hours. There was a solo in the same room who came in after us and finished well before we did (maybe under 2hrs?)

                                    My approach to the lamb dish was to taste each ingredient beforehand so I wouldn't waste any of the lamb on a flavor I didn't particularly like. Compared to my previous visit in 2011, there were dishes that stood out and dishes that fell flat, but overall, I felt it was a great meal (though I haven't been in the 'fine-dining' scene very long, so I don't have as big a base of comparison as you).

                                    As for the pacing, have you ever mentioned to a server at any restaurant that you would like to slow the pace down? I had almost the complete opposite experience at benu (SF) earlier this year where the meal went longer than I wanted (over 3.5 hrs long). The pace was extremely slow to the point where my mom (not used to 2+hr meals) started dozing off. That might have been due to the fact that the kitchen had to make substitute dishes since she doesn't like raw seafood or meat, but it dragged on far longer than I appreciated.

                                    1. re: yangster

                                      We had our dinner on Saturday, May 27. I have many times when I feel the pace of a dinner is too quick or too slow mentioned to servers that I would like the pace of the meal adjusted. One of my favorite restaurants in NYC (Picholine) caters to a pre-Lincoln Center crowd; I tell my server that I am not going to the theatre/opera/ballet, and don't need to rush. Conversely, if I am going to the theatre, I will always mention to my server that I need to be done by a certain time. At Alinea, my sister and I didn't say anything about the pacing of the courses since (1) a restaurant of Alinea's caliber should know how to pace a dinner, and (2) the other tables near us were receiving their courses at the same pace as us.

                                      I was thinking about tasting the flavors for the lamb before dipping, but they were so tiny that I realized that I wouldn't have anything left to dip my lamb in if I tried them first (let alone if my sister wanted to try the same taste).

                                      Now that Alinea is switching to the ticket system of Next, I probably won't return to Alinea. I'm not a fan of non-refundable dinner reservations. Since tickets to a dinner at Alinea are much more expensive than even orchestra tickets to a Broadway show, I am uncomfortable losing so much money in the event of an unexpected change of plans. Even Per Se in NYC permits its guests to cancel a reservation with 72 hours notice with no financial penalty. Seems if I want true high-end dining, I'll stick with Per Se (much more customer oriented).

                                      1. re: ellenost

                                        I'm in agreement with you on that last statement. I tend to plan my vacations months in advance, and that makes it difficult to forsee any last-minute emergencies.

            2. Apparently the reason for the delay is they are reconcepting into a steakhouse:


              2 Replies
              1. re: Gonzo70

                If Alinea turns into a steakhouse, I'm cutting up my foodie card and subsisting on Burger King Whoppers and slushies for the rest of my life.

                1. re: Allieroseww

                  But can BK churn out steaks for vegetarians and highly liked steaks made of sea foods? I think not!

                  I actually dined at nearby Boka tonight and was running early. I popped into Alinea to see if I could indulge in a beer and some sliders to kill some time, but they were none too amused when I inquired about this possibility.

              2. Alinea has an official Facebook page now, and they advise fans to Like them for updates regarding tickets.


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