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Food & Drink

The Best Dallas Restaurants to Make a Last-Minute Reservation

A look at restaurant reservation data reveals the most underappreciated spots in Dallas.
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two bowls of pho
It’s empirical fact: Ngon Vietnamese Kitchen is one of Dallas’ most underrated restaurants. Kathy Tran

Which Dallas restaurants are the hardest to get into? And what are the best restaurants where tables are available at a day’s notice?

To find out, I dived into the data. On a recent Friday morning—November 18—I opened reservation platforms Resy, Tock, and OpenTable and looked for tables at 100 Dallas-area restaurants. I searched for a table for two both that night and the next night (Saturday), making note of how many time slots were available between 5 and 9 p.m. (inclusive of those times).

Time slots are not a perfect proxy for the total number of open tables, because one slot can represent one remaining table or many, and most restaurants save room for walk-in guests. But as reservation mania takes off across the United States, they feel like a good proxy.

My research identified the hardest-to-get reservations in Dallas, which include a few surprises. I also created a list of the most underrated reservations. Before we get to the results, I must gratefully acknowledge the originator of this idea: Leslie Brenner, former critic for the Dallas Morning News, published a similar online column years ago tabulating the hottest and coldest reservations in town. It was such a good idea that I have always wanted to follow up on it.

The hard-to-snag seats

That Friday morning, I was unable to find any Friday or Saturday tables at Lucia, Monarch, Las Palmas, Paradiso, Shoyo, Sister, Tatsu, Tei Tei Robata, or Terilli’s. Beverley’s, Carbone, Meridian, Muchacho, and Uchi only had tables available on the patio, which was a no-go that weekend, because the evening forecasts were for temperatures of 37-42 degrees and chilly winds.

Cry Wolf and Drake’s had two and four slots left, respectively, while Tei-An and Nonna had exactly one time each available for the whole weekend. Another impressively busy spot: brand-new Pizzana had just one slot open. 19 of the remaining 21 spots at Knife were at its bar, while 15 of Gemma’s last 20 tables were outside. José had one table remaining Friday, but was closed for a private event that Saturday, so the evidence is incomplete.

I must confess my surprise about Terilli’s. I haven’t been in years, and now I wonder what I’m missing. It looks like weekends book up three weeks in advance. Many of the other spots fall into one of three predictable categories: Instagrammably trendy places with lavish decor (Carbone, Monarch, Paradiso, Sister), high-end Japanese fare (Shoyo, Tatsu, Tei-An, Uchi), and anything decent near the Park Cities (Beverley’s, José, Knife, Muchacho).

The best Dallas restaurants for a last-minute booking

Nine of my favorite local restaurants were easy to book last-minute, even excluding patio seating. These are the best restaurants with the best availability for a last-minute table, listed in alphabetical order:

Ngon’s reservation platform allows you to see the exact number of tables available at each time slot, a rare perk.

Now that I think about it, this list of nine would be a great start if you wanted to create a list called Dallas’ Most Underrated Restaurants. The other additions would be spots that don’t take bookings.

The family rivalries

It was interesting to compare the three locations of Neighborhood Services. Lovers Lane is the fastest to fill up, while Addison is the easiest to get into. The Oak Lawn spot is interestingly in the middle: only eight time slots were left for a same-day booking, but a next-day table was much easier to find. Maybe that’s where everyone makes their last-minute plans.

Hudson House is harder to book on Lovers Lane than in Lakewood. (My research took place before the Lovers Lane location put up its beloved holiday decor.) The two locations of Primo’s appear equally easy to visit. Meanwhile, if you’re in the Village but forgot to make dinner plans, you should probably skip over busy Meridian in favor of underappreciated neighbors Anise or La Mina.

The best food group for a last-minute meal

It’s pizza. Pizzana was new, hyped, and busy, but both Pie Tap locations, many Cane Rosso locations, Zoli’s, and Partenope all accept reservations, and all had numerous tables available at short notice.

I suspect that most people order pizza as an impulse item. If you can plan your pizza purchase even eight hours ahead, you should be able to score a table at one of the city’s best pizzerias without any trouble.

Stray observations

The shine has come off at least two high-profile out-of-town restaurants. Nusr-Et and Sadelle’s are easy to book any time you want, despite their glitzy reputations. Sadelle’s, a purported brunch specialist in Highland Park, is even easy to reserve at brunchtime in a neighborhood where that meal borders on obsession.

Even though El Carlos Elegante opened with very little press coverage (we mentioned it in News Bites two weeks ago), it has already become one of Dallas’ hardest-to-get tables. Coming from the same ownership group as equally popular Sister and The Charles, El Carlos looks like yet more proof that they have a whole lot of friends.

If you can’t go here, try there

If you can’t get into Tei-An, Shoyo, Tatsu, Uchi, or Tei Tei Robata, try: Ebesu, Edoko Omakase, or Sushi Robata

If you can’t get into Lucia, Nonna, Sister, or Paradiso, try: Anise or Partenope Ristorante

If you can’t get into Muchacho or Las Palmas, try: Casa Rosa, La Mina, or El Vecino

If you cant get into José or El Carlos Elegante, try: Ayahuasca Cantina or La Mina

If you can’t get into Beverley’s or Gemma, try: Anise, Encina, Heritage Table, Knox Bistro, or TJ’s Seafood

If you can’t get into Roots Southern Table, try: Restaurant Beatrice or Cafe Momentum

If you can’t get into Neighborhood Services, try: Cafe Momentum, Georgie, Knox Bistro, Local, or TJ’s Seafood

If you can’t get into one trendy Bishop Arts spot but you still want to go to a trendy Bishop Arts spot, try: Krio

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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