Counter Point: 5 Restaurants Offering Reservations and Counter Service

Traditionally, there was a strong split between casual counter service eateries and fine dining restaurants with table service. These days, enterprising entrepreneurs are trying to recalibrate restaurants by blending the two experiences together in a variety of creative configurations. Here are five restaurants offering reservations and counter service — rewriting the rules.

Megu, New York, New York
Make a reservation to sit down in the dining room or simply saunter up to the sushi counter where it’s first come, first serve. Chef Frances Tariga-Weshnak’s dishes delight the eye and the palate equally, so be prepared to shoot an Instagram before you take a bite. Hone in on the spicy tuna and truffled avocado roll, radish-adorned Wagyu beef, and the Matcha crepe layer cake. Make a reservation at Megu.

Restaurants offering reservations and counter service

Kingside, New York, New York
You’ll need a reservation if you want to score one of the plush booths at this New American stunner from chef Marc Murphy. However, the counter with red stools at the back is open to walk-ins. No matter where you sit, make sure to order the burger topped with fiery giardiniera relish, soppressata, and a slab of white cheddar, as well as Pecorino toast slathered with a snowdrift of ricotta and a golden drizzle of truffled honey. Make a reservation at Kingside.

Restaurants offering reservations and counter service

Little Gem, San Francisco, California
Counter service by day, reservations by night. This out-of-the-box groundbreaker is the brainchild of owner Eric Lilavois and chef Dave Cruz, both alums of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. The idea is to accommodate a casual crowd during the day, while making it a potential date-night spot after darkness falls. Expect globally inspired salads, soups, bowls, hearty plates, and a variety of shared plates. Read the full story of this modern California eatery in our blog post here. Make a reservation at Little Gem.

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Flavors of the Forest Cocktails: 7 Sips Offering a Taste of the Trees

Bar stars are looking to the wilderness for some of their most innovative new cocktail flavors. They are using a variety of tree components – from wood and bark to flowers and branches. Here are 7 flavors of the forest cocktails branching out from tradition to offer tipplers a taste of the trees.

Betony, New York, New York
Juniper berries have long been used as an accenting component, spicing up brines, providing a botanical backbone to gins, and adding a forest-y flair to game dishes. However, it’s unusual for the coniferous tree to provide the focus flavor. The Grand Cru Cobbler defies convention by featuring it three ways: juniper needle-infused gin, juniper oil, and juniper berries. Make a reservation at Betony.

Flavors of the forest cocktails

Cucina Enoteca, Newport Beach, California
These days, inspired bar types are infusing everything into bourbon – from bacon and tobacco to espresso and basil. Bartender Tucky Dias roots his Arbor Manhattan in tree bark bourbon. He rounds out the woodsy concoction with Amaro Averna, Antica sweet vermouth, and a few dashes of Angostura bitters. Make a reservation at Cucina Enoteca.

Flavors of the Forest Cocktails

American Cut, New York, New York
Order the Plank Smoked Old Fashioned and you’ll get a show, too. After mixing together bitters, simple syrup, and Bulleit bourbon, the bartender quickly torches a maple plank. As the wood smolders, a glass is turned upside down over it. With the smoke still lingering, a large ice cube is added to the glass and the cocktail is poured in with a showy flourish. Make a reservation at American Cut.

Flavors of the Forest Cocktails

Sable Kitchen & Bar, Chicago, Illinois
Spruce up your G&T routine. The Spanish-style gin and tonic – served in a goblet, of course – features Beefeater 24 gin, Q tonic, and fresh cranberries. The cocktail is completed with a few small boughs of spruce tips to reinforce its herbaceous tones. Make a reservation at Sable Kitchen & Bar.

Flavors of the Forest Cocktails

Annex at GreenRiver, Chicago, Illinois
Look into the bottom of the Delicate Refusal and you’ll see a pickled sakura blossom. Over the pink cherry tree blossom, mixologist Julia Momose pours a complex mixture of sotol, tequila blanco, fino sherry, pamplemousse, apricot, verjus blanc, and Peychaud’s Bitters. The resulting cocktail finely balances saline, smoke, acid, fruit, and herb notes. Make a reservation at Annex at GreenRiver.

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It’s the Little Things: 10 Thoughtful Restaurant Amenities #hackdining

Michelin-level food, stellar service, or awe-inspiring settings can go a long way to creating a memorable meal. However, sometimes it’s the littlest touches that make the biggest impact. Here are 10 thoughtful restaurant amenities that help diners enjoy a next level experience.

Madison, San Diego, California
Situated in the trendy University Height’s neighborhood, the sleek Mediterranean eatery boasts a gorgeous cedar-lined patio. On evenings when the temperatures dip, guests dining al fresco can request one of the monogrammed fleece blankets. As they snuggle up, we recommend ordering another round of well-executed cocktails – such as the View From Above with rye and ancho chili liqueur – to help ward off the chill. Make a reservation at Madison.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, San Francisco, California
A lot of restaurants have valet parking. But this waterfront eatery is one of the few to offer free valet parking — for diners’ boats. The dock and dine perk allows waterborne guests to enjoy a seamless experience from the decks of their yachts to the restaurant’s patio. Make a reservation at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

Besito, Burlington, Massachusetts
There are amenities galore at this Mexican restaurant. Little diners are given complimentary banana and avocado when they arrive, giving them something to nosh on while their parents peruse the menus. During the summer months, outdoor tables are stocked with sunglass cleaning wipes and treat/water bowls for dogs. And guests are sent home with still warm, freshly made churros at the end of their meal. The only perk we can’t guarantee is a besito (little kiss). Make a reservation at Besito.

Thoughtful Restaurant Amenities

Stars, Chatham, Massachusetts
Forgot your glasses at home, so now you can’t read the menu? Never fear, there’s an array of Moscot glasses on hand in a variety of prescriptions and styles. Once the menu is in focus, we recommend the butter poached lobster and the oyster stew topped with pork belly and caviar. Make a reservation at Stars.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

Swift & Sons, Chicago, Illinois
Want tickets to the sold out Kanye West concert happening that night? Forget to bring flowers to your anniversary dinner? Looking to get into an exclusive speakeasy for post-dinner drinks? The in-house concierge can help with all these problems and more. Frankly, we wish they were available to tag along with us on all our nights out on the town. Make a reservation at Swift & Sons.

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Get Out! Top San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants for ‘Summer’ in the Bay Area

It’s September, which in San Francisco means the beginning of Indian Summer and the end of Fogust. As the temperatures climb into the 70’s and 80’s, we channel our inner Elaine Benes and tell everyone to get out – outside, that is. It always feels special to dine al fresco, and while many restaurants offer sidewalk seating, these spots feature honest-to-goodness patios, verandas, and terraces that amp truly amp up the ambience. Of course, most of these top San Francisco Outdoor Dining restaurants also have heat lamps — because Bay Area weather. Read on to find out where to make the most of this special SF season.

Le Colonial
This classy French-Vietnamese eatery has a charming and unique patio space. The tiled promenade leading to the restaurant’s entrance is an atrium-like veranda, featuring outdoor seating at tables nestled among palm fronds and banana trees — romantic and evocative of the storied elegance of Vietnam in the 1920’s. The French and Vietnamese chefs offer a menu of classic Vietnamese dishes, such as crispy Saigon crepes and fresh spring rolls, as well as fusion dishes like Pot Au “Pho” with braised oxtail and short ribs in a oxtail bouillon, crispy vermicelli noodles, turnips, pearl onions, and shaved radish served with mushroom bone marrow fondue. Make a reservation at Le Colonial.

San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants

Richmond neighborhood Italian joint Fiorella serves up pizzas and pastas, but equally good are the comfort food classics like luscious wood-roasted chicken and Guittard chocolate budino with hazelnuts and Maldon sea salt made from a recipe handed down from the mother of one of the partners (a retired chocolatier). The newly opened back patio is bright and cheery with yellow chairs and a soothing rock garden perimeter with desert plants and cacti giving the space a decidedly SoCal vibe. Make a reservation at Fiorella.

San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants

The patio right along the Embarcadero,that fronts Americano is a magnet for après workday libations as well as for business lunches and dinners. The outdoor space is set back from the street but affords a view of the San Francisco Ferry Building, peeking at the Bay Bridge and the bay itself, and yet it’s frontage is swathed with greenery and is the front yard space every apartment dweller wishes he or she had. The California and Mediterranean menu offers pizzas, pasta, and snacks aplenty, including deviled eggs, crispy chickpeas, and feta piquillo dip to nibble on while you enjoy the nature at its urban best. Make a reservation at Americano.

San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants

El Techo
San Francisco isn’t known for roof bars — but there is one notable exception. In the heart of the Mission lies El Techo de Lolinda, a choice spot for cocktails and Latin American street food. It’s also beloved for its lively brunch that showcases Mexican dishes like the chorizo scramble with roasted vegetables, avocado, potatoes, and chipotle or carnitas served with black beans, escabeche, chipotle salsa, and housemade tortillas. Pro tip: Wash it all down with pitchers of margaritas or palomas. Make a reservation at El Techo.

San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants

Palm House
No time for a vacation? You can take a Caribbean staycation without leaving the city, courtesy of Palm House. Chill at this fun spot facing Union Street and savor an eclectic menu under a covered terrace just beyond the sidewalk. Watch the world go by while sipping on a chipotle mango margarita and nibbling on macadamia nut crusted mac and cheese, jerk chicken tacos, and bay scallop ceviche. Make a reservation at Palm House.

San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants

Trou Normand
This downtown destination, known for creative cocktails and for one of the best in-house charcuterie programs in the city, has a covered and heated patio just behind the restaurant in the courtyard of 140 New Montgomery. Akin to a secret garden in San Francisco’s Financial District, it’s enclosed in a striking steel and glass awning and outfitted with heaters and retractable canvas walls. The patio is weatherproof and available year round making it perfect for private events and parties — but it’s open to lunch and dinner diners as well. Make a reservation at Trou Normand.

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