The No-B.S. Guide to Getting Into Philly’s Busiest Restaurants

Everything we know about how to snag a table.

Kalaya’s bar starts accepting walk-ins at 5 p.m. every day.

People in Philly can smell bullshit from a football field away, and if someone tells you they possess a foolproof way to get their butt into a seat at Zahav anytime, you already know they’re lying. Making reservations is an art form — not a science. But if you ask the right questions, you’ll learn there are a couple of tricks to snagging reservations at the busiest restaurants in Philadelphia. So I asked around. I schmoozed. I gave Resy enough traffic from one IP address for them to get suspicious. And I did it all for the sake of your dinner. Below are my findings. Use these tips to secure a table at that fantastic restaurant you’ve been wanting to try.

Kalaya, Fishtown
Kalaya moved into a huge restaurant space in Fishtown, which is exciting news for residents of Fishtown and frankly a little sad for anyone who lives south of Spring Garden. In any case, the place is new and very good so you should expect some level of hoop-jumping when it comes to securing a 7 p.m. reservation in advance. Your best bet is to check Resy for same-day tables, especially if you don’t mind eating after 8 p.m. or around 6 p.m. Otherwise, Kalaya starts accepting walk-ins at the bar at 5 p.m. (Head’s up: you can order the full menu at the bar, but the lounge tables next to it are drinks-only territory.) It’s worth noting that Kalaya’s curries, noodles, and large-format showstoppers are best shared with at least one pal, so I wouldn’t run here for a solo meal at the bar unless you’re comfortable spending over $60 and schlepping home a ton of leftovers. 4 West Palmer Street.

Dinner at Her Place in Rittenhouse. / Photograph by Ted Nghiem

Her Place Supper Club, Rittenhouse
There’s no real way to hack this seating system at Her Place, but if you’re having trouble booking when the restaurant releases reservations on every other Sunday at 6 p.m. on Tock, I have two ideas for you. The first is to get yourself on the Tock waitlist — that’s where I’ve had the best luck. The second is to show up early on a Monday night when the restaurant offers walk-in service, and the kitchen serves a $50 menu of dishes they’re testing for future dinners plus glasses of wines that are usually only available by the bottle. Getting into this restaurant — which feels like a charming dinner party at a friend’s house — is worth the effort. 1740 Sansom Street.

Zahav / Photograph by Ashley Catharine Smith

Zahav, Society Hill
If you’ve never once wondered, “How on earth do I get into Zahav tonight?” then we don’t have much in common. When you email the Zahav team about a table, their response will tell you that this famous Israeli restaurant releases reservations on the first of the month at 11 a.m. for the entire next month (meaning, all of February is released on January 1st). It’s easier to secure one if you already have your credit card and account information saved to Resy. But there are a few ways around that timeline if you’re willing to take a gamble on a walk-in. Show up around 5 p.m. on a weeknight and you’ll have a good shot of getting a seat at the bar or the counter in front of the fishbowl of line cooks. Sometimes Zahav releases bar spots a week in advance online, so you might be able to find something at 9 p.m. on a random Thursday. You can also join the Resy notify waitlist (cancellations tend to happen the week of dinner). 237 St. James Place.

Toro with caviar at Royal Sushi / Photograph by Jesse Ito

Royal Sushi & Izakaya, Queen Village
There are two ways to eat dinner at this excellent Japanese restaurant in Queen Village. Option one: waltz into the main area of the restaurant for an izakaya meal (where they don’t take reservations but there are often bar seats available). Option two: reconfigure your life like you’re a method actor starring in a film about making reservations and attempt to book a seat at their eight-seat sushi counter. Royal’s omakase counter — a sleek back room where you’ll eat 17 beautiful pieces of sushi for $175 — has a ton of regulars. And those omakase regulars make future reservations before they even leave the damn building. I’ve found Resy notify works best as a solo diner. Go turn on that “notify” button or start dating someone rich and connected. The choice is yours. 780 South 2nd Street.

Photograph courtesy of Fiorella

Fiorella, Bella Vista
Unless your kink is eating dinner at 4 p.m., it’s somewhat demoralizing to try to get a table at Fiorella in the Italian Market. The Vetri pasta spot releases their reservations 30 days in advance at 11 a.m. While they don’t hold any of the seats for walk-ins (the restaurant has limited seating since the space used to be an old butcher shop), a host once told me you can always call between noon and 3 p.m. and ask the staff how the waitlist is looking that evening. Alternatively, switch on the waitlist feature on Tock and hope for the best. I’ve seen the most reservations available on the covered and heated outdoor patio. So get a couple friends together and book one of their five-person spots outside — these seem to be easiest to snag ahead of time. 817 Christian Street.

Laser Wolf, Fishtown
Similar to Zahav, getting a table at Laser Wolf is a planner’s fantasy (or worst nightmare?). They release all of their reservations on the first of the month at 11 a.m. for the entire next month (meaning, all of February is released on January 1st). Get on Resy a few minutes before the fateful hour, move at carpal-tunnel-inducing speeds, and then rest your little thumbs while you dream of salatim. If long-term planning isn’t your style, waltz in for bar seats. The restaurant holds their bar area for walk-ins only on a first-come, first-served basis. Laser Wolf doesn’t add any names to their bar waitlist over the phone. So stop by the next time you’re feeling spontaneous in Fishtown, put your name down, and go drink at El Bar or Middle Child Clubhouse before you eat Yemenite potato salad, fluffy pita, and juicy chicken shishlik. For a Hail Mary option? Go bonkers with Resy notify – there are often cancellations the night of or the night before. 1301 North Howard Street.