Make a Date for a Kitchen Counter Table

Gilt Bar’s highly coveted kitchen counter table seats four to six diners. (Photo: Gilt Bar)

In the 1990s and early 2000s, it was all about getting a chef’s table in the kitchens of Charlie Trotter’s and Tru to watch all the action going down. Now, the most coveted seats in the house are at the counter tables situated right off the kitchen.

It’s sorta like dining at the bar, yet instead of the bartender guests get to watch the cooks and chefs prepping and putting the finishing touches on dishes. These are more relaxed settings than the chef’s tables, allowing diners to get an inside view without getting in the way. They also won’t cost you an arm and a leg!

But as with almost anything, there are some pros and cons of dining this way . . .

Pros: Guests get to see almost everything coming out of the kitchen. They should be inquisitive and ask the chefs what they’re making. If they’re lucky, they might just get a sample! Also, it’s a good chance they’ll get to meet and interact with the executive chef.

Cons: There’s no eye-to-eye contact like in regular style dining. And those dining with more than two guests should forget about hearing the others’ conversations. They should also expect to smell like whatever is coming out of the kitchen that night.

Some are reserved, but most kitchen counter tables can be had on a first come, first served basis. For those who’d like the experience, here’s a good mix of restaurants doing it around town:

Ada Street. The latest addition to the mini-empire of Michael Kornick and David Morton (DMK Burger Bar, Fishbar) seats two guests two to three times each evening. Reservations are also required, as there’s a tasting menu only that's paired with cocktails, beer and/or wine. It’s $45-$75 a person and starts April 1.

Balena. Another restaurant powerhouse collab (The Bristol, Boka Restaurant Group) offers only two seats that are going to certainly be hard to come by. They’ll also be on a first come, first served basis, but diners may reserve them in advance.

Bar Toma. Guests have to sit with their backs to the bustling room at the Mozzarella Bar, but it’ll be worth it watching cheese artisans work their craft. It’s all about luck getting one of the four seats.

The Purple Pig seats six at its counter table. (Photo: The Purple Pig)

Gilt Bar. It’s so crazy crowded at the opposite end of the restaurant that the four to six seats at the kitchen counter should come as a welcome respite. Guests sitting there will always get the scoop on what they’re running low on.

Girl & The Goat. Those who nab these seats are the luckiest people in the room. If owner/chef Stephanie Izard’s in the house, she’ll certainly come over and say hello. Two seats only that may be reserved or secured by extremely fortunate people.

The Purple Pig. Those sitting in these sweet six seats might get lucky enough to rub elbows with the glitterati of gastronomy. Celebrity chefs, top food writers and editors, and other industry types typically congregate in this area.

Guests can watch chefs put the finishing touches on wood-fired pizzas at Table Fifty-Two. (Photo: Table Fifty-Two)

Sono Wood-Fired. Situated right next to the wood-fired oven, the kitchen table seats six. Flavorful pastas and pizzas come out of the oven and straight to the plate. Available if there’s no one sitting there.

Storefront Company. Guests who reserve the kitchen counter get a personalized four-course, chef’s menu inspired by the day’s fresh ingredients. They’ll also get the opportunity to preview upcoming menu items. It’s available by reservation only for up to four guests. $49 per person for five courses; $29 additional for wine pairings.

Table Fifty-Two. The Southern food sensation offers four seats at the counter, which are typically available. Reservations, however, are required when the restaurant uses the counter for social-media events to showcase dishes made from same-day market ingredients.

ZED 451. The all-you-can-eat weekend brunch (served Saturday and Sunday) is an opportunity to schmooze with the chefs at the kitchen counter. Diners also get to see them work on the more chef-driven dishes, which is definitely an added bonus. The counter seats 10 and is available on a first come, first served basis. $29 per person for brunch.


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