Now that TripAdvisor has announced the top 25 restaurants in the world—as well as the tops in the U.S., Europe, and dozens of regions around the globe—it will only be that much harder to get a table at them. Sometimes your only option is to dine very early or very late—and, when you’re traveling (and jet-lagged), that’s often not a bad thing. When a restaurant has spectacular views—say, the views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House from Quay, the #9 restaurant in Australia—it’s smart to go early, so you can enjoy the panorama in daylight, at sunset, and then lit up at night. In cultural capitals, dining late can be a plus: In London, for instance, a late dinner means you can fill up on high tea at 4:00 pm and go to the theater in between. What to do, though, when a restaurant is fully booked, there’s no availability either early or late, and you’re flying home in a couple of days? Here are some tactics to try:
Follow restaurants’ social-media feeds.
The #1 restaurant in the U.S., Alinea, regularly announces last-minute availability on its Facebook page, for instance. If you’re in New York City, follow @LastMinuteEatin on Twitter because it announces same-day availability at the city’s most impossible-to-get-into restaurants.
Check out the local edition of Eater.
The New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago editions, for example, post “last-minute reservation guides” several days a week, listing hot restaurants that have tables for two still available for that night.
Sign up for alerts.
Rezhound can notify you if a table opens up at a restaurant and time you’ve specified in any of dozens of regions in North America.
Ask your hotel’s concierge.
Top concierges have pull with popular restaurants. Don’t wait till you arrive at the hotel; contact the concierge as soon as you’ve booked your room.
Phone the restaurant at the right moment.
Call on the morning of the day when you want to dine; some restaurants give away the tables of people who have failed to confirmed by then. Alternatively, phone the restaurant when others are cancelling: Find out on what day and at what hour the staff phones diners to confirm their reservations, then call at that time to scoop up a table that has just opened up.
Show up at 5:30 p.m. (nicely dressed) and wait at the bar.
You’d be surprised how many no-shows there are.
Use a credit card that holds tables at top restaurants.
The American Express Platinum Card, for instance, has a concierge service that can get you into top restaurants at the last minute.