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Scoring Hot Restaurant Reservations in DC

Restaurant reservations make the dining out process easier. But sometimes it can be difficult to get a reservation at a hot, new dining establishment.

The advent of online restaurant reservation systems like OpenTable and CityEats has made reservations fast and easy. But some restaurants do not list all of their reservations online to accommodate walk-ins, regulars and VIPs. That’s why some big names in the restaurant world like Tom Sietsema, the Washington Post food critic, and David Hale, the general manager and wine director for Central Michel Richard, still make restaurant reservations by phone occasionally. 

If you were trying to make a restaurant reservation for four people at a particular time, the online system may only have two two-tops available and show no availability at the requested time. But if you call, a live person may be able to put those two two-tops together in the reservation system. 

Le Diplomat is a new 260-seat hotspot for French cuisine in Logan Circle. People are currently making reservations a month in advance. Central also books restaurant reservations three weeks to a month in advance for Friday or Saturday night dining. But on weekdays, you may only need to book a week or two ahead.

If you don’t have a reservation, Sietsema recommends showing up in person and asking nicely. According to Sietema, “If you really want to get into a restaurant, I think the best way to get in is to be flexible and also to show up in person. Everyone wants to eat at 7:30 or 8:00. So if you’re willing to eat in a hot spot at say 5:30 or do lunch instead of dinner, that’s a pretty good strategy... Sometimes I have the most fun eating at a bar of a restaurant, and oftentimes they serve the exact same menu as what is being served in the dining room.”  

Lots of restaurants take reservations, but others do not. Estadio, a small-plates Spanish restaurant in Logan Circle only takes reservation until 6 PM. Since Estadio is close to Studio Theater, those restaurant reservations help the pre-theater crowd eat before the show, but allow the restaurant to serve walk-in traffic during primetime. Little Serow never takes reservations for their 30-seat Thai restaurant near Dupont Circle. Diners line up outside the door for the first seating at 5:30 PM each night, regardless of the weather.

Make sure you cancel you reservation if you don’t plan to use it. If a diner frequently does not show up for reservations, services like CityEats may blacklist the diner. Narisa Wild, Vice President of Product Development & Operations at CityEats, says, “This is like democracy for online reservations trying to create a fair platform for everyone to have a chance to get a table at a restaurant, and ensuring the restaurants are maximizing their opportunity to fill their tables with every turn, every shift.”

Enjoy a dinner out with a restaurant reservation!

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