Ask the Critic: No reservations

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One of the great things about living, eating and working in this city has always been that there are virtually no restaurants in the entire city that can't take me as a walk-in any time I feel like putting on the feedbag.

Sure, there are exceptions. Friday and Saturday nights during prime time can sometimes be rough at a few of the city's more tony addresses. I might encounter difficulties getting a good table at some hot new joint that's been getting press handjobs right and left. But for the most part, and provided I'm willing to be flexible, there's basically no floor in town that can't handle a walk-in party of two except during the worst depths of the weekend rush.

Some might say that this is proof we're currently overwhelmed with seats in Denver, or that we simply no longer have the butts necessary to fill those that we already have. Some might say that this is a sign of things going bad in the Mile High -- harbinger of yet another cull to come as the availability retracts to meet the demand.

But I say balls to that. I've been working in Denver now through good times and bad. I've seen the restaurant industry in boom and in bust, and the seating issue has always been the same. If I want something nice to eat on a Wednesday night, there is no restaurant in town I can't just walk into and get a seat almost immediately. And this is something that I've always thought of as an advantage to living in Denver -- mostly because I am a very lazy man and hate making plans even ten minutes in advance, let alone days.

Still, there have been moments. Nights when I've been faced with a surprise two-hour wait at the door (Rioja), a full-book Thursday (Luca d'Italia) or just flat turned away because (apparently) my trade was unwanted (Brasserie Ten Ten in Boulder). So my question this week is two-fold.

First, are you the kind of person who makes reservations, shows up at the appointed moment and enjoys their evening free of the worry over whether or not a table will be available in just the right place at just the right time, or are you more like me -- simply walking into the busiest joints in town and assuming that your every fleeting whim will be catered to?

And second, if you are a reservation-maker what are the places in town where you've found that you absolutely must call ahead or, if you're not, what is your worst I-had-to-wait-this-long-for-a-table story?

Olive Garden doesn't count. My idea of hell is spending eternity outside some Midwestern OG, staring at one of those sticky little buzzer things, just waiting for my turn to belly up to the trough of unlimited salad and breadsticks...

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.