Young and Hungry

Minibar Would Be the Toughest Reservation in America, if D.C. Were a Foodie Town

The "liquid olives" at the Minibar

Them's the fighting words of Ben Leventhal.

Leventhal is the co-founder who has become a darling of the New York foodie blogosphere by opening the flood gates of information to (and I quote from the Eater site) "rumors, conjecture and opinions, as well as accurately reported factual information. The site may contain errors or inaccuracies. We do not guarantee, and no reliance should be placed upon, the correctness or reliability of Eater's content..."

So maybe I should take Leventhal's latest piece for New York magazine's Grub Street blog with a large grain of Himalayan pink salt. Today, Leventhal published a piece about the five toughest reservations in America, a list that didn't ring many alarm bells for me until Leventhal included a number of honorable mentions. Among them is José Andrés' Minibar, of which Leventhal writes:

José Andrés’s tiny restaurant-within-a-restaurant has just six seats and two seatings a night. Seats open up 30 days in advance, at 10 a.m. If it were located in a more food-focused city, it would easily be the hardest reservation in the country.

First of all, Leventhal has apparently been too busy rolling out Eater.coms in other cities to notice that half of the country's celebrity chefs have opened up shop in D.C. The list includes Eric RipertLaurent Tourondel, Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck, Art Smith, Alain Ducasse, and now Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Holy shit, has anyone told these dudes that the District is not so food-focused?

Second, the D.C. area has its own celebrated toques, even without the influx of culinary heavy hitters looking to capitalize on the District's (fairly) stable economy and our ever-expanding dining scene. The list includes not only Andrés but also Michel Richard, Cathal Armstrong, Eric Ziebold, Frank Ruta, Ann Cashion, Vikram Sunderam, and, of course, the boy wonder, Johnny Monis.

But third and more to the point, I dare Leventhal to try to snag a seat at the Minibar without using his credentials, his insider sources, or whatever other means he has that may require a disclaimer somewhere on the site. I'd love to see Leventhal sit on the phone, day after day, at 10 a.m., hoping and praying and genuflecting before some craven imagine so that he can get one of those 12 seats a day. The process leaves people frustrated and angry.

Oh, and Leventhal, do you think this task has become any easier since Andrés earned four stars from the Los Angeles Times for his Minibar-like Bazaar?

  • Orr Shtuhl

    I'll attest to that, Tim. When I went to Minibar, it took more than a week of trying every morning, calling at 8:58 and then at 9 again. (That was back when the ressies opened at 9am.)

  • Capital Spice

    Though Leventhal's dismissive attitude toward DC is annoying, he seems to be right about the relative difficulty of scoring a reservation.

    Good luck getting a reservation on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday, but it's our understanding that Tuesday and Wednesday nights are definitely easier to lock in. The 12 seats are still almost always filled the day they open up, but they're not immediately snagged like they are for the weekend seatings.

  • Anonymous

    I tried for a week for my gf's brithday. Made the waitlist once.

    Screw Leventhal. Try getting off your island and come to the real seat of power. Who's paying for Wall Street's food these days you douche?

  • Jeff

    I went late last year and got one on my first try. Just lucky? I can't remember what day of the week it was, so maybe that played a role.

  • Prof. Baracus

    All good points but you forget that New Yorkers have a God given right to shit on everyone and everything outside of Manhattan.

  • DC Foodie with ze ever changing name

    I tried for a week as well last summer and got nowhere. My friend tried recently and got in the second day of calling AND had her choice of seatings. She is going next week. Ugh.

  • Food PR

    ABSOLUTELY AGREE- especially having been a New Yorker and moving here because I saw what the food climate was about to become. BRAVO TIM. Thank you for voicing this. Send this to Leventhal directly... raise a little cane.

  • Ben Leventhal


    Commenter Orr Shtuhl makes my point for me, which is that a week trying to get a table is a breeze as compared to the weeks and months many have spent trying to get into Momofuku Ko.

    But, I also don't mean to say that DC isn't a food focused city; it's just not as food crazed as a few other cities in the country (which, no question, can be counted on just one hand). In fact, I love eating in DC. Not that I'm an old man, but do I get a point or two for having put the tasting menu at Obelisk through its paces 10 years ago, long before most of those chefs got into town?

    One thing about the celebs, though. Check the fine print on their deals. I know at least two of those big names are engaged via licensing agreements, and those type setups are much more to the benefit of the chef than the diner—or the city.

    Drop me a line next time you're in NY.


  • Tim Carman


    Thanks for chiming in and being a good sport. And for clarifying your position.

    And come on down to D.C. I'll show you around to the non-celeb spots.


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  • tomaj birchin

    Local celeb chefs are one thing, but I couldn't care less about the national celeb chefs opening places here. That doesn't mean we're a food city any more than Cirque du Soleil coming to town means we're an entertainment city. It means that people here have some money to spend and they're at least somewhat affected by name brands.

    According to Food & Wine and Gourmet and all the other foodie mags, one of the hot food cities in the country is Las Vegas, and it got that way for the same reason, national celeb chefs coming in to open their chains.

    At least José Andrés is ours.

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  • James Lee

    It's currently the second hardest reservation to get in America.