The restaurant business is just like a middle school cafeteria; some tables are cooler than others. To get a spot at one of these exclusive restaurants, you might need to know the right person. You might have to make reservations months to years in advance. Or you might simply have to hope you get lucky and call at just the right time.

Getting a spot at one of these restaurants requires more patience, persistence, and planning than studying for finals, and the meal may seem to cost more than your entire tuition. But the food you will get to try and the experience you will have might just be worth it.

1. Next


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Next relies on an innovative online ticket-based reservation system where people prepay for both their seats and whatever fixed menu they are serving at the time. With this system, the restaurant does not have to worry about cancellations or hire people to field reservations.

When they launched the system in 2011, it crashed as thousands tried to access the site. Getting a ticket today requires months of planning or hope you get one of their randomly released tickets. If you don’t want to put in that much effort, you could just try one of Chicago’s famous diners

2. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare


Photo by Daniel Krieger

This eighteen seat, three Michelin star restaurant sits within a supermarket, but that does not make it any less exclusive. To get a reservation, you have to call six weeks in advance on Monday at 10:30, redial until you actually get an answer, and then be prepared to wait.

Even if you get through, you will be lucky if they’re not booked. Luckily, there are plenty of other noteworthy restaurants to try in Brooklyn.

3. minibar by Jose Andres


Photo by Scott Shuman

If you are willing to spend at least $250 to eat at this 12-seat restaurant, then you must make reservations via email months in advance. Reservation slots for an entire season season open at midnight on March 1, June 1, September 1 and December 1.

Holidays are usually booked within minutes, while the entire season is often booked within days. But it all might be worth it considering that Andres himself thinks minibar is one of his finest restaurants.

4. E by Jose Andres


Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Weekly

Getting one of the eight seats at Jose Andres’ west coast restaurant requires a little less planning. Reservations for any particular day can be made via email up to a month in advance, and dates are usually completely booked about three weeks in advance.

To increase your chances of experiencing their 20-course menu, try emailing them a list of dates and they will work with you to see when they can fit you in. Alternatively, if you don’t feel like planning ahead, just pop on over to Buddy’s.

5. Schwa


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The reservation system at Schwa can be described as erratic at best. You essentially just have to call at random times and hope someone picks up. This system reflects the fact that the staff only cares about the food and seems to have little regard for their guests.

Be forewarned, this laid-back attitude means the restaurant staff has a reputation for canceling at the last minute or getting wildly out of hand. While some find their antics amusing and unique, others describe them as inappropriate and offensive.

6. The French Laundry


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Although Thomas Keller’s three-Michelin starred restaurant has 62 seats, getting reservations is still quite a process. Spots open up two months in advance and can be made via phone beginning at 10 am or via Open Table at 12 am (only two tables are available for online booking). Seats fill up within minutes, but you can always check back for cancelations.

If you would like to enjoy their $270 nine-course menu while lounging in their outdoor courtyard, then you have to make reservations at least a year in advance. It might just be easier to get a taste of France in Quebec City.

7. Talula’s Table


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Much like Brooklyn Fare, Talula’s Table primarily acts as a market, but turns into a 22-seat restaurant at 7 pm. There are two ways to enjoy their $100, 10-course menu. To eat at the farm table, you must have a party of 10-12 and make reservations at 7 am a year (!!!) in advance. The table is usually entirely booked within 15 minutes.

If you can’t muster together enough people for the farm table, you could also simply hope to be invited to the kitchen table. To be invited, you must be a market regular, know someone in the industry, or have repeatedly expressed interest in the farm table. So, that’s about a 9.5 out of 10 on the exclusive scale.

8. Damon Baehrel


Photo by Damon Baehrel

Located within Baehrel’s own basement, this twelve-seat restaurant offers a five hour 15-20 course meal for the oh-so-low price of $255-$275 per person. Even if you have the kind of cash laying around, don’t get too excited; the waiting list for this restaurant “stretches well into the back half of this decade.” If that’s not exclusive, we don’t know what is.

9. Babbo


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Unlike the other restaurants on this list, Babbo actually offers a reasonably priced a la carte Italian menu, but to get a reservation, you still must call at least a month in advance at exactly 10 am. Even if you can’t visit the restaurant, take some time to learn about owner Mario Batali, one of the most influential people in the whole food industry.

10. Rao’s


Photo by Mark Mainz

Like Babbo, this Italian restaurant does not serve a prefixe menu, but getting a spot here is much more difficult. Although it opened in 1986, it gained immense popularity when the New York times gave it a three-star review in 1977. Reservation requests became so overwhelming that owner Frank Pellegrino set up a time-sharing system to parse out the restaurant’s 10 tables.

Customers were given regularly scheduled “ownership” of each of the tables and were expected to fill the table on those nights or give the spot to a friend. Table owners cannot sell their table for profit, so getting a spot today requires knowing an owner or shelling out ridiculous sums of cash at a charity auction. Talk about exclusive.