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Apr 9, 2013 06:26 PM

How to score a reservation at Grace, Schwa or Goosefoot?

Traveling from New Orleans to Chicago June 6 to 9. I have waited up till midnight the past 2 nights, logged onto opentable at midnight, and all that was available both nights was a 900 Goosefoot. Grace totally booked at 1201 am! I booked the 9 pm but ideally we would prefer an earlier reservation since I assume its a long meal. The machine at Schwa is always full.

So, are their any tricks for a foodie out of towner to get into these restaurants?

If we can't get into these three, what's the next alternative? I've got Tru booked already. Any other new up and coming restaurants? We did Alinea several years ago and don't need to go back. Great meal but would prefer to try something new. Thanks for any help!!!

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  1. Call the restaurants. It doesn't hurt. I've gotten spots that way.

    1. Definitely call Grace; I think they hold some reservations back for phone only. Grace is an awesome experience, so definitely work at scoring the reservation; just had my second meal there last weekend and IMHO Grace is already Chicago's second best restaurant (after Alinea).

      9:00pm at Goosefoot is not bad at all; it is actually the hardest reservation in the city right now. The meal is about 2:30 to 3:00 hours, so not crazy long. Goosefoot is another excellent choice.

      Schwa I am not as high on right now - especially for an out-of-towner. They have a penchant to cancel on very short notice (I was cancelled on 90 minutes before my dinner once) and some reports have been stating Chef Carlson has been absent more than usual of late even when they are open. Schwa is hit-or-miss; I have had one of my top 10 meals ever there, a disappointing meal there, and was cancelled on the other occasion. The only way to make a reservation is to reach a live person on the phone with them - not by leaving a message. Seems like anywhere from 11:00am to 5:00pm on days they are open is the best time to call to have a chance of reaching someone.

      El Ideas is what I would recommend as an alternative to Schwa. Similar concept in that the chefs interact a lot with the diners (they serve and present the dishes) and you can even hang out in the kitchen between courses. The food is generally as good and as interesting as Schwa. Still a festive, dinner party like atmosphere, but more consistent and just a bit more refined. Call of e-mail them to see if they have openings:

      Two other good choices if you are looking for something new, different, fun and that is operating at a high level:

      Sixteen in Trump Tower; has nice views of the city and features seasonal tasting menus (they change 100% with the seasons and they tell a story of the season through the progression of courses). Chef Lents took over about a year ago and has really elevated the cuisine. Reservations can be made via Open Table and are not hard to secure unless on very short notice.

      Elizabeth is farm-to-table style communal dining venue; the chef/owner (Iliana Regan) is an amazing woman - she plays a large role in procuring much of the cuisine served via foraging, hunting, fishing and growing. Also seasonal tasting menus. You purchase tickets for Elizabeth (a la Alinea and Next) but tickets are not scarce so long as you plan a bit in advance. June would be no problem. Casual, cozy ambiance but the food is superb and unique.

      Tru is also great, but the venues I mentioned I like just a bit more in terms of places I have dined at in the past few months. One final recommendation would be Moto; somewhat similar to Alinea in that there is a scientific, whimsical component to many courses but a different experience. They have improved a lot this past year. Reservations can also easily be made on Open Table.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Gonzo70

        This is really a terrific post from Gonzo, with comprehensive, accurate information. Here are some additional thoughts.

        Grace has gotten incredibly hot in just the past few weeks. The other day the new Chicago Magazine came out, naming it the best new restaurant of the year. Two months ago it was easy to find an opening on Opentable. Not any more. I'd just stick with that 9:00 reservation, and enjoy it. And, as lbs notes, you can always phone them to ask if they can move it any earlier.

        With regard to Elizabeth, one thing to consider is that once you purchase tickets, you're stuck with them, so if your plans change, you may be out of luck if you can't re-sell them.

        We have several high-end restaurants that have been around a while, and are still turning out terrific food and service: Everest, Spiaggia, and Les Nomades. If you've never been to any of them, they're still worth considering. New restaurants get all the attention, but some places that have been around a while are still deserving, they just don't get as much hype any more.

        Another alternative is to go for something slightly more casual than these high-end expensive formal places with their lengthy tasting menus. Three of our best restaurants are Naha, North Pond, and Acadia, with terrific food and recognized with awards and stars and all that stuff, yet jackets aren't required (although they wouldn't be out of place) and you won't pay nearly as much as you would for the high-end places (figure $100-140/pp inclusive, rather than $200-300+).

        You can also take another, bigger step down to places that are more along the lines of everyday places rather than special-occasion places, but still turn out terrific food, places where the dress is casual and per-person totals are still two digits. Examples include Mexique (contemporary Mexican), Sable (contemporary American small plates), Perrenial Virant (ditto), GT Fish & Oyster (seafood small plates), Province (contemporary global small plates), Nightwood (contemporary American), Boka (ditto), Mercat a la Planxa (tapas), and Piccolo Sogno and Piccolo Sogno Due (Italian).

        Personally, I find it more interesting to try places with different cuisines and in different price ranges, rather than three expensive high-end formal contemporary American places in a row. But of course, that's up to you to decide, based on your own personal preference.

      2. Goosefoot at 9 is no issue at all. It's not that long of a meal. It's also a crazy good value, especially considering the BYOB factor.

        Schwa is just calling a million times and hoping for the best.
        I loved my meal at Schwa (it has been a year though)

        I cant speak to Grace

        1. I second Gonzo's recommendation of El Ideas as an alternative. Here is what both of us said about it on another recent thread:

          Much easier reservation to get than GF or Schwa in my experience. They answer their emails and return phone calls. If they are booked, they will put you on their waiting list, and they actually take people off that list (since they take reservations about 60 days out but you can cancel up to 7 days in advance, when they process the credit card charge.)

          1. Thanks everyone. So I called grace this afternoon and told the hostess my story about staying up till midnight the past 2 nights and then no reservations being available. She gave me a 730 on Friday night!!! FYI...they don't load any Friday or Saturday night tables into opentable. Guess I missed the fine print. Open table is only for weekday reservations at Grace so definitely call them. I am still pretty far out from our june trip but so glad I called.
            Doing GT fish and oyster on Thursday night.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MardiGras

              >> FYI...they don't load any Friday or Saturday night tables into opentable. Guess I missed the fine print.

              Many restaurants who only accept reservations over the phone at certain times, show a message "restricted by restaurant" next to those times on Opentable. Sounds like someone missed something when setting up Grace's account there.

              Glad to hear you got the reservations you wanted!