The longest wait was at Citronelle (3000 M St. NW) – eleven weeks, or almost three months! Reserving was easy, however, with the hostess thoughtfully making a note of my e-mail address. She sent me an e-mail “reservation reminder” within a half-an-hour of my phone call. Their sister restaurant, Central Michel Richard (1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW), could seat us in only two weeks, but did not offer an e-confirmation.
At CityZen (five weeks) (1330 Maryland Ave. SW), Komi (three weeks) (1509 17th St. NW), and Restaurant Eve’s Tasting Room (five weeks) (110 S. Pitt St., Alexandria, Va.), I noticed an interesting trend – all asked me for a credit card number to secure my reservation. If I was unable to fulfill my reservation, and neglected to cancel at least 24-48 hours before, they would charge me from $50 to $100. “It holds people accountable,” says Mark Politzer, General Manager of CityZen. “There’s a high demand, particularly on the weekend and we want to accommodate as many people as we can.”
At Komi, reservations are only taken one month in advance, or exactly four weeks before the day you wish to dine there, a policy that seems rather inconvenient for the forgetful – or those who don’t have a lot of time to make phone calls.
But perhaps the city’s most draconian reservation policy is at Minibar (405 8th St. NW). With only six seats, the tiny restaurant within Café Atlantico only accepts reservations exactly one month in advance. The phone lines open at 10am (they recently pushed the time forward by one hour, due to customer requests) and the seats usually fill within five minutes. “It’s like trying to get through to Ticketmaster for a Bruce Springsteen concert,” Brian Zaslavsky, General Manager of Café Atlantico and Minibar, says of the ringing phone lines. Lucky enough to snag a spot? If you must cancel, make sure to do it at least one week in advance, or risk getting charged $60 per person. Those who forget to cancel and simply don’t show up get charged the full price of a meal: 120 clams – and that is anything but “mini.”
Snag that hot hard to get table tonight!
“It never hurts to call within the month,” says general manager Brian Zaslavsky, “we fill a lot of seats from the cancellation list.”
“We serve the dining room menu in the downstairs bar, where we don’t take reservations,” says executive chef Scott Drewno. Alternatively, visit the restaurant during their new lunch hours.
Perch at the bar, where a reduced menu of three courses is offered for $50. “If we have any last-minute cancellations, we’ll invite you to come into the restaurant,” says Mark Politzer, General Manager.
“Be flexible with the hours you want to come in,” says Derek M. Brown, general manager and sommelier at Komi. He recommends the shoulder hours of 5:30, 6:00, or 9:00 / 9:30. “It’s outside of the bustle, it’s a little more leisurely. I think it’s almost more enjoyable.”
“Always try a walk-in,” says Mel Davis, public relations coordinator, and former maitre d’hotel at the restaurant. There’s also an upstairs lounge, which serves an abbreviated menu – including a tender chateaubriand – “And there’s no dress code!”
Central Michel Richard
“Lunch is a great alternative,” says Davis. “Also try the waitlist, we do get cancellations.” The bar serves the full menu.
“Mondays are great days; it’s quiet and good for a romantic dinner. The staff can really pay close attention to you,” says Evan Zimmerman, a sommelier at Restaurant Eve. A “no reservation policy” at the bar means walk-ins can enjoy the full bistro menu.