Getting into NYC Restaurants Without Reservations

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.

Here’s why:

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.

 

Making Hot Dogs Without a Grill

Happy National Hot Dog Day!

When summer roles around and it gets hot outside, I start to get a craving for hot dogs. I prefer cooking hot dogs on the grill, which became a problem last fall when we moved into an apartment without a porch or access to a grill of any sort.

I don’t like to eat boiled hot dogs (sorry, Dad!) and my grill pan leaves a lot to be desired (namely the lack of smokey grill flavor), so I had to search for another way to make them. I found the solution when I watched the cook one day at Five Guys. He cut the hotdog down the middle lengthwise and butterflied it, then cooked it on the griddle. This is how Shake Shack does it now, too.

Griddled Hot Dogs at Home

  • Heat a few tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium high heat. (I used my favorite cast iron skillet, but you can use any heavy-bottomed skillet.)
  • Split your hot dogs lengthwise and butterfly them.
  • Once the butter has started to brown, place the hot dogs inside-down in the pan.
  • Get a piece of aluminum foil big enough to cover the pan, place it on top of the hot dogs, and then put something heavy on top to weigh down the dogs. I use a brick covered in foil, but you could use a smaller pan or a saucepan filled partially with water. (Don’t get the water on the hot dogs!)
  • After about 3-4 minutes when the dogs start to look crispy on the inside, flip them over and cook another 3-4 minutes.
  • While the dogs are cooking, open your potato buns so that the inside is facing up and toast them under the broiler in your oven for 1 minute.
  • When everything is done, assemble! Try some of the suggested toppings below.
butter splitting hot dogs hot dogs in a cast iron skillet

 

Suggested toppings:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Hot pepper relish
  • Raw onions and stadium mustard
  • Cheese sauce and french fried onions
  • Cheese sauce and Hormel Chili, no beans (Amanda’s topping of choice)

My topping of choice today was a tangy homemade cucumber kimchi:

IMG_9735

 

If you happen to run out of buns or none of the stores in your area have them (which is what happened to us last week), you can get crafty with a loaf of bread and a knife:

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