How To Get the Best Seat at A Modern American Restaurant?
Book your seats online
Most every American restaurant will let you book your reservation online. Doing so gives you the best opportunity to make clear your preferences. To spell them out. It also gives you more options you would most certainly not have otherwise. You can prebook your table easily. You can choose ahead of time where you will sit, be it at the bar, on the patio, or beside a warm and cozy fire.
Pick up the phone
If you just must have a specific table, then book it well ahead of time. Reach out early. Book online, call, and visit in person if really hellbent on it. Just be sure to do it early. Some of the most popular tables in New York have months-long reservations. Book early, very early, at least two months early at some of the top restaurants. Call the day of your booking too to confirm any seating arrangement.
If you enjoy a particular table at a particular restaurant and you eat there often enough, it might be in your best interest to befriend the staff. Having good personal relationships with them will stand you in good stead if you ever need a good table in a hurry, or if you would like to better your table, or if you enjoy the highest level of service. Regulars and family. It is, of course, who you know.
Dress your very best
To guarantee a good seating placement, take the time to dress for it. No modern American restaurant will ever place you well if you do not look the part. If you want a prominent seat, dress well. Extravagantly. To be seen. You might not need a tie and jacket, as such, but no Maître d’ will ever prioritize someone dressed like a schlub. Check the dress code online or call ahead to ask.
If you book a table for a specific time, do not be late for it. You will lose any good table you might have had, and you will likely end up as filler at those tables you do not want. While there is no need to get there early, if you are late five minutes or more, call to let the restaurant know. Most will find no issue with it, even if most of your party comes late. Eventually, however, they will move on.
Carry some cash
While you do not need to pay for a good seat, it can sometimes work when all else fails. If you want the best seat, consider tipping the Maître d’. Be direct about it. A crisp $20 when shaking his or her hand should be direct enough. Not all regulars slip cash, though. Many tip well too. However, a good seat at a good place could well materialize with $20 or $50 for a table of two or four.
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There is no need to go overboard. No need for insanity. Booking a good seat is as easy as having a little grace. Being classy. Really. In essence, if you want a good seat, do not be a jerk. Dress appropriately, arrive on time, and stay humble. If you are late, shoddy, and arrogant, you might just find yourself seated by the busiest, smelliest cleaning closet instead. Perhaps even by the loo.