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.
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.
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.
Esperanto, New York, New York
Sit down for a full-service meal at this Brazilian-inspired concept or cozy up at their juice bar Jugo. There you can order a cold-pressed concoction and baked goods to enjoy on the spot or after you leave. Additionally, the restaurant has a grab ‘n’ go window, where patrons on the move can pick up bolinhos (codfish-potato cakes) and empanadas. Make a reservation at Esperanto.
Corridor, San Francisco, California
A hostess greets diners, who then place an order at the counter and take a seat to await their meal. Servers deliver the food and take orders for further dishes. You could call the experience fast casual fine dining. The menu is dominated by high-end comfort food, such as savory monkey bread with cheddar cheese and chive oil, garganelli Bolognese, and a chicken parm sandwich. Make a reservation at Corridor.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.