In the hot seat! How to score prime restaurant reservations

The line was wrapped around the John Hancock building in Chicago during our trip there last year, and yet somehow there we were, sipping cocktails at roughly 1,100 feet. Our friend and tour guide, Mike Hughes, a native of the Windy City, didn’t reveal how he’d managed to whisk us past the crowd and up to the storied lounge.

“I gotta guy,” he said with a shrug.

Here in Atlanta, you need a guy (or gal) like Four Seasons concierge Jonathan DiMarco.

“We have a close partnership with a lot of restaurants,” DiMarco said. “We have to have a very close relationship with the maître d’ as well as the manager.”

He enjoys the challenge of hustling for hard-to-snag reservations and relishes war stories like the time he found a table at Rathbun’s on a busy Friday night with scant notice.

“Bacchanalia, we talk to them constantly,” he added. “It’s what we love to do.”

Sandra Ryder, a former Ritz-Carlton public relations executive now heading her own communications firm, echoed DiMarco’s advice.

“Build a relationship with the concierge at your favorite hotel,” she said “They enjoy knowing loyal guests who bring their children to holiday events, attend business meetings and host dinner parties. Then, when you need that hot reservation, the concierge may just work their magic for you.”

Of course, this probably works best if you’re staying in the hotel or visit regularly. But, don’t despair. The ticket to a last-minute reservation might literally be in the palm of your hand.

“Sometimes, the more people follow our chefs on social media and interact with the chefs , you never know, but there may be a chance that a follower could score a last-minute seat,” advised Valerie Mosley, who represents star chef Ford Fry’s galaxy of hot spots, including Marcel, Superica, King and Duke, St. Cecilia and the Optimist.

And, while we’ve all become accustomed (you might say addicted) to handy apps like Open Table, exploring a more direct route might expedite things in a pinch, noted the Reynolds Group’s Caroline Arcell.

“A great way to make last-minute reservations is to book online from the Web page,” she said, adding that spots such as Wahoo Grill in Decatur “have easy-to-access and simple online bookings.”

And sometimes the key to having a guy is being the guy.

“For last-minute reservations, call directly to the hostess and tell them how much you love them,” said Serpas True Food General Manager Beecher Gatewood. “Get on the hosts’ good side. He or she will likely be able to squeeze in two to four people. It’s always best to go in to talk to them personally, and possibly talk to a nice manager. It takes a lot of being nice!”

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BREAKFAST:

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LUNCH:

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HAPPY HOUR:

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DINNER:

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How to score prime restaurant reservations

LATE NIGHT:

Grub for nocturnal foodies

Map: 24-hour restaurants in Atlanta

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