The No-BS Guide to Entering Philadelphia’s Busiest Restaurants

Everything we know about how to hang a table.

Zahav / Photography by Ashley Catharine Smith

People in Philadelphia can smell the bullshit from a football field, and if someone tells you they have a surefire way to get their ass into a Zahav seat, you already know they’re lying. Making reservations is an art form – not a science. But if you ask the right questions, you’ll learn that there are a few tricks to getting reservations at Philadelphia’s busiest restaurants. So I asked around. I chatted. I gave Resy enough traffic from an IP address to make them suspicious. And I made everything for your dinner. Below are my findings. Use these tips to book a table at that fantastic restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. Good luck, Philly. See you there.

Zahav, society hill
If you’ve ever wondered, “How the hell can I get into Zahav?” so we don’t have much in common. When you email the Zahav team about a table, their response will tell you that this famous Israeli restaurant releases reservations on the first of the month at 11 a.m. for the entire following month (meaning any May is released on April 1). It’s much easier to secure one if you’ve already registered your credit card and account information on Resy. But there are several ways around this timeline if you’re willing to bet on a bar seat. Sometimes Zahav posts bar spots a week in advance online, so you might be able to find something at 9pm on a random Thursday. You can also join the Resy notification waiting list (cancellations tend to happen on dinner week). Otherwise, a team of dedicated people regularly line up at 4:30 p.m. in front of the restaurant. Will you be one of them? It’s between you and your pomegranate shoulder of lamb.

Royal Sushi & Izakaya, Queen’s Village
There are two ways to dine here. You can either sit at a booth in the main restaurant area for an izakaya-style Japanese meal. Or you can reconfigure your life as if you were a method actor starring in a movie about reservations and attempt to reserve a seat at their eight-seat sushi counter. Despite the luxurious nature of Royal’s omakase – 16 pieces for $165 – the counter has a ton of regulars. And, according to a friend who eats here often, many of these omakase regulars make reservations in person with the host before they even leave the building after dinner. If you’re a plebeian like me and not yet a Royal regular, know that omakase reservations open 30 days in advance in the morning for the rest of us. So wake up early or turn on a bunch of Resy notifications and accept your 10 p.m. dinner fate.

fiorelle, Bella Vista
Unless your pervert is having dinner at 4pm, trying to get a table at Fiorella in the Italian market is demoralizing. The Vetri pasta spot releases reservations 30 days in advance at 11 a.m. Although they don’t hold any seats for walk-ins (the restaurant has limited seating because the space was once an old butcher’s shop), a host once told me you can still call between noon and 3 p.m. and ask the staff how the waiting list looks that night. Alternatively, activate the waitlist feature on Tock and hope for the best. I saw the most reservations available on the covered and heated outdoor terrace. So round up a few friends and reserve one of their five-person outdoor locations – these seem to be the easiest to snag ahead of time.

bok building

Irwin / Photograph by Steve Boyle

from Irwin, South Philly
Irwin’s space isn’t new, but they got a Res-Ispa-themed makeover in 2021. Now the dining room fills up on the weekends like they’re handing out free cash and kittens. This Sicilian seafood and pasta restaurant on the eighth floor of the Bok Building releases reservations three weeks in advance. And if there’s nothing available for the date you care about, go to Resy notify and say a little prayer to the rigatoni gods (or the gnocchi sardi gods or no gods at all – you do ). In warm weather, you can always opt for a walk-in spot on their 30-person outdoor terrace, where the glamorous views live on anyway. Call and ask about dates, and the host might tell you that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are best for securing a table, especially for a two-person party. You could also try phoning the restaurant an hour before you want to go in and asking if the dining room is as busy as the Broad Street line after a Sixers game.

laser wolf, Fishtown
Similar to Zahav, getting a table at Laser Wolf is a planner’s fantasy (or worst nightmare?). They release all of their reservations on the first of the month at 11am for the whole of the following month (which means the whole of September is released on August 1). Hop on Resy minutes before the fateful hour, move at carpal tunnel-inducing speeds, then rest your little thumbs while you dream of salatim. If long-term planning isn’t your style, opt for bar seating. The restaurant reserves its bar area for walk-ins only on a first-come, first-served basis. Laser Wolf does not add any names to its bar’s waiting list over the phone. So stop by the next time you’re feeling spontaneous in Fishtown, sign your name and drink at El Bar or Middle Child Clubhouse before dining on Yemeni potato salad, fluffy pita and juicy chicken shishlik. For a Hail Mary option? Go bonkers with Resy notify – there are often cancellations overnight or the day before.

His Place Supper Club, Rittenhouse
I’m not going to lie to you, there is no way to hack this seating system. All you can do is pay attention to the next reservations post date listed in their Instagram bio. This BYOB place is like having dinner at a friend’s house, and they serve a changing menu every week. A trip here might involve a plate of bay scallops and leeks that look like a flower arrangement, and the next might show lobster ravioli with American sauce. His Place Supper Club opens its reservation books every other Sunday at 6 p.m. on Tock, so plan accordingly.

Courtesy of Mish Mish

Mish Mish, Eastern Passyunk
Mish Mish and Philly Mag have a cute history, but that doesn’t make it easy for the Foobooz team to book a table here on a Saturday so we can eat near-perfect plates of baby octopus with muhammara. But here’s a secret that’s just kind of a secret: This new Mediterranean restaurant reserves its bar area for walk-ins. There are only a handful of bars available next to the open kitchen – imagine a restaurant the size of a dollhouse, only sexier and they serve orange wine – but come around 6pm and slip in in a seat shouldn’t be a problem. You can always try to book on a Monday (when a bunch of other places are closed in the neighborhood), in case you work in the restaurant industry or proudly identify yourself as a Monday night meal lover.

Sloe, Downtown Village
Prunella is a brand new pizzeria from Michael Schulson. This string of names means last minute bookings are hard to come by. Prunella publishes most of her spots on Resy, but there are always some for the walk-ins. I’ve found calling at noon is the best way to get a table. Alternatively, stop by and put your name on the waiting list, then have a drink at the bar while you kill time – or just ask for dinner at the bar, as they serve the full menu throughout the restaurant. After all, pizza tastes better at a bar than at the table.

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