Where to Sit in New York's Top Restaurants
You waited weeks. You got a reservation at Le Bernardin, or Eleven Madison Park, or Minetta Tavern.
You're going to sit just anywhere?
We asked the owners and chefs of some of New York's top restaurants to name their favorite tables. David Bouley recommends the counter at Brushstroke, so "if you don't have anything to say to the person you're with, you can always watch the action.'' At Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert likes to be in the middle, "because you can see the whole dining room." Keith McNally is still looking for Balthazar's best table. And that's just a few of the B's.
Here's Loot's insider's guide to the good seats.
Aldea: My favorite table is a tie between table 14, which is in the "Chef's Area," and the chef's counter. Table 14 is a corner table that can accommodate four to six people and has a great view of the open kitchen and is directly under the large tube chandelier. Any of the seats at our chef's counter are also great options, because the guests can face the kitchen action while dining. --George Mendes, chef and owner
Balthazar: I'm still looking for it. --Keith McNally, owner
Le Bernardin: It's so subjective. In New York, the closer you are to the door, the more VIP you are, because you want to see and you want to be seen. But my favorite table is in the middle, because you can see the whole dining room. It's either table 3 or 4. Outsiders, unlike New Yorkers, also prefer to be in the back. --Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner
Bouley: There is one beautiful table, number 23, in the middle of the dining room, where two of the guests sit on the love seat and the other two have club chairs. The people on the sofa have a view of the fireplace and large murals, and the people on the chairs have more of an intimate view of what we call the library part of the restaurant, where there are shelves with old books, and mounted on the ceiling are pages from gastronomy books. --David Bouley, owner and executive chef
The Breslin: I like tables 40 and 41, the booths with the curtains (and phone chargers). They're spacious and intimate at the same time. --April Bloomfield, executive chef and co-owner
Brushtroke: The best seats in the house are at the counter, in particular numbers 12 and 13. You have a full view of the kitchen, and it's an un-American experience -- it's more of a Japanese one, because it's the way most Japanese restaurants are set up. And if you don't have anything to say to the person you're with, you can always watch the action. --David Bouley, owner and executive chef
Daniel: The best table in the house is the one where there is privacy to enjoy your dining companion. --Daniel Boulud, owner and executive chef
Del Posto: If I’m answering for [Executive Chef] Mark Ladner and myself, this is where we sit when we come in for dinner (which doesn’t happen enough): tables 30 and 31. They're both banquettes in the Friuli room, off to the front of the bar. They're very private, and it's where a lot of our regular celebrity clients like to sit so they don’t get stared at all night. --Jeff Katz, general manager
Eleven Madison Park: When I first arrived at Eleven Madison Park in 2006, the restaurant had 150 seats. Today we have just 80. Most would think we were crazy to get rid of valuable real estate… but in our evolution as a restaurant, as a team, as a company, we found this number of seats to be a much more intimate experience for our guests. Favorite seat? All of them. Some perches offer an open, airy, direct view of Madison Square Park, whilst others provide a more hidden, romantic atmosphere, and those in the center of the dining room allow for a more immersive experience. --Daniel Humm, chef
Jean-Georges: For two people, my favorite is table 4. The table is one third of a moon banquet positioned in the middle of the room. You can see the entire dining room, Central Park and the Columbus Circle. I also like tables 2 and 5, which offer a more intimate and private experience. For four people, I prefer table 14. Two people can sit together on the banquette, two in chairs. It's cozy and you can also see the entire dining room. --Jean-Georges Vongerichten, executive chef and owner
The John Dory Oyster Bar: One of my favorite tables at all of the restaurants I co-own is the chefs' table at the John Dory Oyster Bar. It's located directly inside the kitchen so guests get to experience all of the action and have the opportunity to interact with the team. --April Bloomfield, executive chef and co-owner
Lupa: I think that the best table is the communal table, in the front dining room, overlooking the street by the windows. Especially in the spring and summer, we have all the doors open and it's like sitting outside. It gives you that real Roman osteria feel. --Ray Rando, general manager
Marea: Every table at Marea is a good table when we're turning away reservation requests for at least 100 people a night! Everyone wants a table between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., but the most requested tables are always in the corners. --Michael White, chef and co-owner of Altamarea Group
The Mark: My favorite table in the dining room is table 35, which can accommodate two and four people. I love sitting at this table because you can see everyone entering and exiting the restaurant, and I like knowing who is at my restaurant. I also like tables 6, 8 and 10, which are located in the lounge. Being in the lounge offers a more causal and relaxed setting, since there are no tablecloths and lower tables. --Jean-Georges Vongerichten, executive chef and owner
Minetta Tavern: The table I like best is one where I don't argue with my wife, usually table 12. --Keith McNally, owner
Monkey Bar: There is no bad table at the Monkey Bar. I've eaten at most of them, and all are highly pleasant, depending on what you are looking for. The booths along the back wall and at the front of the restaurant will ensure that you're seen. The same goes for the ones at the front of the restaurant. The booths along the left wall are for quieter meals. This is where I often sit. --Graydon Carter, owner
Il Mulino: At our original restaurant, on West 3rd Street, the best table would be the rear left corner, where President Obama and President Clinton had their private lunch, and also the table in the center of the restaurant, to be seen by all. At our new, 60th Street location, it would be the first two tables on each side of the restaurant, unless it's a large party -- then it would be the rear right corner. --Jerry Katzoff, owner
The Spotted Pig: I prefer to sit in the intimate booths in the back of the restaurant on the first floor, and also on the second floor in an area we refer to as the Lounge. It features six tables for two (numbers 50 to 55), and it's very cozy. --April Bloomfield, executive chef and co-owner
Torrisi: The beauty of the restaurant is that there are only seven tables and they're all great. --Rich Torrisi, chef
Waverly Inn: Most of the tables in the front room are good, and almost all the tables in the garden are great. One is darker and cozier. The other is brighter and more cheerful. We prefer the more bucolic garden room at lunch on the weekends, and the moodier front room in the evenings. --Graydon Carter, owner
If you're in London, and want to sit where you can see celebrities, Richard Vines, Bloomberg's chief food critic, points the way. Brilliant.