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1. Dine fashionably late. The busiest time for restaurants is generally between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. As Nicole Harlan-Oprisu, co-owner of the Latin-inflected SoBro hit Delicia suggests, “Plan dinner as the second part of your evening so you can avoid the rush.” 5215 N. College Ave., 317-925-0677
2. Meet thy neighbor. Instead of individual booths and tables, several newer restaurants such as Black Market encourage customers to rub elbows at lively communal tables. It’s an excellent way for restaurateurs to avoid wasted seats—and for you to avoid a lengthy wait. Don’t be shy about asking fellow diners to move to accommodate your dining companions—most won’t mind, if you’re polite, and you’re likely to make some friends. 922 Massachusetts Ave., 317-822-6757
3. Get in line online. If the phone lines are busy, go to opentable.com to make a reservation, suggests Craig Huse, co-owner of St. Elmo Steak House. The website has an app for both iPhones and Androids, so you can book tables on the go. 127 S. Illinois St., 317-635-0636
4. Become a (well-fed) barfly. While that secluded table by the window might be a hot ticket, most restaurants offer their full menus at their bars, too. Patios and sidewalk tables are also great alternatives and can mean immediate seating.
5. Time your trip wisely. Avoiding Friday and Saturday nights not only ups your odds of a table, but can also mean less harried service and more attention to dishes. And Sundays can be great nights to dine out—Bluebeard, for instance, stays open until 10 p.m. with a special, scaled-down menu of dishes you might not get the rest of the week. 653 Virginia Ave., 317-686-1580
6. Get it together. Encourage your dining companions to be punctual—or lose out on that six-top with your name on it. “Communicate with your entire party so you all arrive at the same time,” says Harlan-Oprisu. “Most restaurants won’t seat you, especially if your party is larger than four, if you are not all present.”
7. Take a cue from Cheers. Make your dining destination a place where everybody knows your name. Huse says to visit restaurants you like frequently and become a known regular, because that will always give you priority on the reservation list.
This article appeared in Menu Guide 2014.
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