Tips For Getting Into Chicago's Most Popular Restaurants

03/31/2011 03:50 pm ET | Updated May 31, 2011
  • Lauren Drell

If you've tried unsuccessfully to finagle your way in, by bribery or pleading your case, to the hosts at some of the city's most popular restaurants, now you may not have to. Or, at the least, you'll be able to cut your wait times down from two hours (or more) to 45 minutes or less. We've uncovered insider tips that will put you one step closer to these smokin' hot tables, that, to say are in "high demand," would be an understatement.

Kuma's Corner: With a wait list that builds to well over two-hours, especially on weekend evenings, you may wonder what the secret is to getting into a place that serves an "Iron Maiden" burger. With a laundry list of house rules, including, "Our kitchen is only 16×6. Please be patient," you know you'll be waiting for a table longer than it takes Keith Richards to write a chapter for a new book. And with lines forming before Kuma's even flings open its doors, your best bet of actually nabbing a table (not a bar seat), is to get there as soon as it opens, which means at 11:30 am Monday-Saturday, and noon on Sunday. In this case, the early worm gets the bad-ass burger.
Tip: Get in line before Kuma's opens its doors.
2900 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-604-8769

Girl & The Goat: Season Four "Top Chef" winner Stephanie Izard may be cooking up some imaginative dishes, like the delectable roasted cauliflower with pickled peppers, pine nuts and mint, but that won't matter much if you can't get in to taste it. Although it's not well publicized, Girl & The Goat takes walk-ins (reservations for a party of two are booking into July!). Even on a Saturday night, you may only have to wait a mere hour for a table. Not bad for a place that has 2,017 Yelp reviews. But if you can snag a coveted seat in front of the bartenders, who are slinging pretty cocktails to the beautiful crowd, you'll forget that 45 minutes has gone by before the hosts shows you to your table.
Tip: Walk-in at any time. Both the bar and lounge offer the full menu. Shortest wait times are before 6 pm and after 9 pm.
809 W. Randolph St.; 312-492-6262

The Bristol: Sometimes rules are meant to be broken. While the Bristol strictly enforces its no-reservations policy (with rare exceptions on certain holidays), for those who may not want to bear the weekend waits that stretch to two and a half hours, there's another way. A little-known secret is that you can actually reserve a table at the Bristol through foodietheapp. But beware: If you're a no-show, you'll likely get blacklisted.
Tip: You can book a reservation through foodietheapp. Just don't tell too many people about it.
2152 N. Damen Ave.; 773-862-5555

Next: While the jury is still out on how to score a table from Alinea's Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas' tickets-only ultra hot spot Next, if you haven't signed up by now (there are more than 22,000 names), don't fret just yet. Rumor has it that once Next is up and running (it's scheduled to open its doors on April 6), a few lucky walk-ins may actually snatch one of these sizzling tables. These walk-in friendly coveted spots could be announced on Next's Twitter feeds.
Tip: TBD