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Aug 28, 2012 10:08 AM

Best No Reservations Restaurant in NYC

My husband and I are kidless this weekend - which means that since we don't have to pay the sitter when we get home we are interested in going to a place that we would not otherwise be able to try -- a no reservations restaurant. Heard good things about Freemans and Barrio Chino, both of which don't take reservations for parties of 2. Looking for other suggestions.

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  1. You'll have lots of options if you're OK eating at the bar. What's your price range? How upscale do you wish to go?

    If you really want "BEST of the best" then try the bar at Eleven Madison Park (a la carte at the bar, and would be a good call since they will be undergoing a menu change soon -- call to confirm), the bar at Le Bernardin, the lounge at Daniel, the lounge at Per Se, the bar at Del Posto.

    Maybe the bar at WD-50?

    Nearly all of Mario Batali's restaurants have bar dining and walk in tables. Does Babbo interest you? The front area is for walk-ins only.

    See also Scarpetta, Osteria Morini, Locanda Verde.

    For Asian, Momofuku Ssam Bar doesn't take reservations for small parties. You may also want to check out Mission Chinese (very limited number of reservations at the bar), Takashi, and Kyo Ya (call ASAP if you're interested, they also have a first come, first served chef's couner).

    April Bloomfield (Spotted Pig, Breslin, John Dory Oyster Bar), and Keith McNally (Minetta Tavern, Balthazar, Pulino's) restaurants would do you right, too, if you're willing to wait. Bloomfield's spots don't take reservations for small parties and McNally's are typically walk in friendly.

    Danny Meyer's restaurants also are walk in friendly. Bar Room at the Modern or Maialino's front room, the bar and lounge area.

    1. First, I'd recommend Momofuku Ssam Bar as my top choice. You can grab a cocktail next door at Booker & Dax while you wait, and they'll call you on your cell when your seats are ready.
      Second, I wouldn't describe them as "Asian" - they're (by their own description) New American, though they have a number of (various Asian cuisines among many other) influences. There's probably a good twenty dishes on the current menu that don't contain a single Asian ingredient, even.

      Mission would probably be next choice, though I find them better with a larger group. But they also take your cell #, which is nice, and there's no lack of bars in the 'hood to hang at while you wait.

      Otherwise, agree with everything kathryn said. Might add the bar at Marc Forgione as well FYC, but she's listed enough great options already.

      I wouldn't go out of my way for Freeman's. Barrio Chino is good for what it is, I'm more excited about the cocktails there than the food overall, though. They do make some fine margaritas.

      There are also a number of great no-rez cocktail bars that make decent nibbles as well: Death & Co, Mayahuel, and the (very) limited bar seating at PDT where you can order the special "chef's" hot dogs. None are where I'd do a full meal, though.

      1. It seems to me like there are only five or six restaurants in New York that take reservations anymore.

        And most of those are dining counter places with only 16 seats a night, so you can't get a reservation anyway.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Sneakeater

          Really? Only 5-6 take reservations? That's just silly. Have you heard of OpenTable?

          EDIT: A typo? Did you mean that DON'T take them?

          1. re: thegforceny

            I think what Sneakeater meant was restaurants that absolutely require reservations, and don't take ANY walk-ins at all, and have no bar dining areas. Like Momofuku Ko and Brooklyn Fare.

            1. re: kathryn

              I mean like I am finding it harder and harder to find restaurants that I want to go to that will take reservations like normal places and not make me drop by and wait hours instead. While these policies purport to be "democratic", I find them arrogant, lazy, and inhospitable. Moreover, the restaurants I want to go to that take reservations are impossible to book easily; it's like they dictate what's available instead of your telling them when you want to eat there. And some of them -- not many, YET -- impose ridiculous cancellation fees, so if you have a work emergency it will cost you hundreds of dollars.

              Frankly, I'm sick of all this. I'm sick of eating out becoming a major burden. I'm just fed up.

              Of course, I live in Brooklyn.

              1. re: Sneakeater

                I totally agree with Sneakeater. If you only decide a week in advance that you want to go out to eat, and you don't want to wait two hours, it is impossible to find a restaurant. There are hundreds of fabulous places to eat in NY and never any place to eat. Sort of a water water everywhere issue.

                1. re: JC2


                  Where did they ask you for a cancellation fee?

                  I've never decided more than a few days in advance where to eat and I always make reservations everywhere I go...

                  The only one where I couldn't make it was Eleven Madison Park, but I had no problem everywhere else, from cool and hip restaurants to michelin starred...

                  Do we live in the same city?

                  1. re: alepenazzi

                    Momofuku Ko, and maybe also the large format Momofuku dinners?

                    I agree that I don't share this problem at all. Granted I have a little kid, so I'm eating earlier than most, and avoiding the very hyped/walk in only/long wait places, but this has not been an issue for me.

                      1. re: alepenazzi

                        Not sure what city you live in, alepenazzi, but I live in this one:


                        I want to move to YOUR city.