Ask the Editor: What’s the Best Way to Get a Table at a Busy Restaurant?

Open Table showing a fully booked restaurant? There's a workaround.


It’s so damn hard to score a restaurant reservation in Philly these days. Help?

—Monique in Penn Valley

Philly Mag food editor Alex Tewfik

With all these restaurants opening up, you’d think snagging a table at a decent spot (at a decent hour) would be easier.

Friends coming to town and you want to show Philly off via the modern Israeli stylings of Zahav? If you didn’t book the table three months ago, good luck. Forgot your anniversary and need a deuce at Suraya this Saturday? Fat chance if you’re hitting up Open Table any later than Monday. But you know what’s better than Open Table every time? Calling.

I know, I know. Talking on the phone? That’s a fate worse than death. But restaurants hide a few tables from those online reservation apps specifically with the intention of keeping them available for walk-ins or call-in reservations. Work on your delivery to convince the reservationist that you’re worthy of the table. Also ask about a wait list — you’d be shocked to know how often people cancel at the last minute. No-shows are an inevitable evil, and restaurants love having back-ups.

You could grease some palms. Yes, that’s still a thing, and you’ll find that it works better the deeper into South Philly you go. Just be careful about where you do it.

Or get comfortable with eating at 9 p.m. It’s a younger crowd (so, you know, a livelier dining room), you won’t be rushed out so the server can turn the table, and you won’t have new arrivals staring you down for your table.

It’s actually a fine time for dinner — you’ve just never tried it before.