Very important information you probably didn't know: Even the most crowded restaurant in the world keeps at least a table or two free, in the slyest possible way, as a safety net in case Ed Begley, Jr. comes in unannounced and wants a cheeseburger. There are other reasons, too, but just know this: That table can also be yours.
We talked to a handful of hosts/hostesses -- the gatekeepers who control who gets to sit, and who gets nothing at all -- from restaurants with some of the toughest tables in the country, and asked them to reveal every loophole that a normal person can exploit to beat the seating system. And for some reason, they told us. Here're the nine ways:
1. Pretend like you've got a connection to the place
Waltz up to the crowded hostess stand, and calmly explain your connection to the place. Your cousin used to date the bartender. You went to high school with the maitre d'. Your mom taught the pastry chef how to swim. Make it true, or failing that, believable -- but always make sure you 1) know the person's name, and 2) actually pronounce it right. It's easy if he's called Mike.
Level of effectiveness: 6. They aren't buying it, but they aren't getting paid to. Your table just might be ready in about 20 minutes.
2. Act like it's the restaurant's fault for losing the reservation you never made
Head into the restaurant and say you've arrived for your reservation early, and are just going to grab a drink at the bar. This will surely throw the host/hostess into waves of panic and self-doubt. Play dumb and politely act like they nixed your res by accident. Most places call to confirm in advance -- without them prompting you, say that you never got one, then muse about how you thought it was a little odd since they "always" call.
Level of effectiveness: 7. The host/hostess will bring it to upper management and nasty glares may ensue, but whatever -- you'll be eating in under 45 minutes.
3. Blaze past the hostess stand and seat yourself
If they're not at their perch, just effing go for it. There's bound to be an open table somewhere.
Level of effectiveness: 4. You obviously run the risk of being caught, but after you've been given a menu and water, they're almost definitely not going to forcibly remove you. Just expect to be rushed through your meal and get super-weak drinks.
4. Join friends at the tail end of their early meal, and restart the tab
This highly frowned-upon move -- when executed properly -- can score you the table of your dreams (also: get some cooler dreams). Con the host/hostess into thinking you're just going to "say hi" to a friend, then order an entire meal.
Level of effectiveness: 9.5. You're gonna get your food, but you're also bound to get blacklisted mentally, so, next time you show up, just be sure to wear one of those hilarious glasses sets with the huge nose and mustache attached.
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