If you are visiting NYC and want to maximize your chances of getting into a hot restaurant without reservations, what should you do?
Go there for lunch during the week.
The place probably won’t be crowded.
Places I’ve had to wait over an hour to get into for dinner during the week have been completely dead at Friday during lunch. I was one of 10 people at one of my favorites places at 12:30, the middle of the lunch rush.
You can chat with the staff without them hating you.
If you try to chat with the bartender during dinner, chances are that you will be despised. But if you go sit at the bar during lunch, the bartender will be much more likely to chat with you about cocktails. Last week at Ssam Bar I was one of two people sitting at the bar and I talked to the bartender Josh about amaro, swapped cocktail recipes, shared liquor recommendations, and he even poured me some samples.
The prices are lower.
With less demand and smaller portions, you are likely to meet lower prices for the same quality food. If there is a popular dish on the dinner menu, there is likely a similar lunch version of the dish.
Like any rule, there are exceptions to this. You are probably thinking of some right now. Of course some places are busy at lunch. It isn’t always easy to take a full hour for lunch. Some dishes are only available at dinner. Yeah, I get it.
The point here is to approach going out in a different way: Go when other people aren’t going. Lunch during the week is the easiest for me given my flexible schedule. If lunch doesn’t work for you, try going out later (9pm or after) or going out in bad weather.