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No Reservations


Anthony Bourdain's made a career based on No Reservations

People are always asking me to tell them about restaurant trends here in San Francisco. But for the most part, San Francisco is a decidedly untrendy city. Stylish, yes. But trendy, which implies a kind of flash-in-the-pan lemming-like following—not so much. Thankfully. But I’ve noticed a recent micro-trend in the world of restaurants, and I’d love to hear your opinions about it: The no-reservations phenomenon.

Two of my favorite new restaurants, Laiola and S.P.Q.R., opened with a kind of neighborhoody, easy like Sunday morning, come-as-you-are-and-hope-there’s-a-table sensibility. No reservations accepted. In theory, I’m all for it. It’s nice to pop in for a bite on a whim, without worrying that every table will already be spoken for. Unfortunately, though, the reality is that when a new restaurant is very new, very delicious and very popular (as both of these spots surely are) there aren’t any empty tables. Ever. Or at least, not at a time when a normal person would like to have dinner. I already told you about my legendary wait at S.P.Q.R. in a previous post, so I won’t dwell on it again, except to say that “neighborhood joint” and “2 hour wait” aren’t exactly phrases that go together in my book.

So what’s a restaurant to do? Save a generous number of tables for walk-ins, and book the rest? Let democracy reign supreme, and continue with the first come, first served mentality? I’m seriously curious to know if this “trend” is bugging anyone else, or if maybe I just need to chill out. No reservations? OK, I guess I've got a few.