How to Snag Reservations at the Best Restaurants in the World

Noma in Copenhagen and the author, clearly elated

I get asked multiple times a week how I score reservations to the world’s best restaurants. From Noma to Tickets to The French Laundry — all these are notorious for being next to impossible to snag. Do I use my credit card concierge? Nope. Do I bribe the reservationist? Also nope. So how did I get reservations to all my upcoming meals for my 30 Stars in 30 Days project?

I plan. I research. I acquire.

If you’re not a planner or your schedule doesn’t allow you to plan in advance, you probably don’t like this answer. But read on anyways because I’m about to share a lot of insider tips that can be hard to find online.

Disinformation rules the internet when it comes to coveted restaurant reservations. How many times have you heard that The French Laundry is booked 6 months in advance? Or a full year? Well, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not. It never will be. The French Laundry takes prepaid reservations on Tock two months in advance. Example: September 2017 reservations opened up on July 1st at 10 AM PT. Knowing this, I was online when the clock struck 10 AM and snagged the table I wanted. But so were hundreds, if not thousands, of others. If you aren’t online when the reservations are made available, your chances dwindle to almost zero. Within 5 minutes, sometimes less, it’s completely booked. Sure, you can be placed on the waiting list with hundreds (or thousands) of others, but realistically you will not get off that waiting list. And yes, you really do need to prepay in advance for The French Laundry (or any restaurant using Tock). Yes, for your entire party. More and more high-end American restaurants are moving to this model (and using Tock and not OpenTable). Again, the key is to know and to plan so not only do you book a table but also not bring that one friend of yours who can’t commit.

“Coffee” at The French Laundry on my second visit

Now that I’ve spilled the beans about The French Laundry, what are the secrets for some of the restaurants I’ll be dining at on my upcoming trip? Some have a few quirks and one restaurant even has the wrong information on their site (I see you, Tickets)! But don’t worry, I’ve got you.

El Cellar de Can Roca: This one takes the most amount of planning as reservations open up 11 MONTHS in advance. Reservations go online at midnight, local time in their home city of Girona (that’s 3 PM the day before for us Californians). The website can not handle a lot of traffic and might crash, but be persistent in refreshing your browser and you should be successful. This is one restaurant where the waiting list *does* pay off. Taking a reservation so far in advance means many reservations fall through. Two friends were off the wait list in two days. If you’re planning 11 months in advance (which, yes, I really did) your chances are extremely high of getting into El Cellar. You’ll need a credit card to secure the reservation but will not be charged.

Tickets: Contrary to what the website says, reservations do not open up two months in advance, but 60 days in advance and at midnight, Barcelona time. Yes, there is a difference between the two! Another fun fact — you’ll need to set your time zone on your computer to Barcelona time. It’s odd, but it works, trust me. Otherwise, you’ll continue to see a booking screen that says reservations are not open yet, but they are and will be going fast! You’ll need a credit card to secure the reservation and will be charged €1 for credit card verification.

Osteria Francescana: Reservations open at 10 AM Modena time on the first of the month, three months in advance. This reservation was the biggest pain in the ass to snag — as I was in New York City at the time — and it meant being up at 4 AM on June 1st to acquire a reservation in September. Hopefully it will be worth the early alarm and lack of sleep. You’ll need a credit card to secure the reservation but will not be charged.

Enigma: Maybe it’s a quirk across all elBarri restaurant group websites, but this is another restaurant that requires your timezone to be set to Barcelona time. But unlike Tickets, reservations open up on the first of the month, three months in advance at midnight. You’ll need a credit card to secure the reservation and will be charged €100 per person, which will be taken off your bill the night of your reservation.

Mugaritz, Arzak, Akellare, Asador Etxebarri: Reservation requests here are on a rolling basis. If you request 3–4 months in advance, you should have no problem getting a table. I requested 3.5 months in advance and had the reservation within 24 hours. You’ll need a credit card to secure the reservation but will not be charged.

Disfrutar: This was the only restaurant (ever) that I had to call to acquire a reservation. They do not place all available tables on their website, so it’s easiest to just give them a ring. Reservationists are available at 10 AM Barcelona time (so they say, I tried for 30 minutes at 1 AM PT time before the nightly pre-recorded message was turned off, so do not get discouraged if you don’t get through right away). You’ll need a credit card to secure the reservation but will not be charged.

Looking for tips about a specific restaurant? Ask me in the comments or find me on Twitter or Instagram. And don’t forget to follow along once my 30 Stars in 30 Days adventure begins. Only 11 more days!