Dining

Score a Res

Why Super Bowl Sunday is the best night of the year to dine out
Dining room at the Modern. Photo: Ellen Silverman
Gramercy Tavern

I have a confession: I hate football. Even the ads during the Super Bowl aren't enough to get me to watch. I'm tempted to apologize for harboring this un-American sentiment, but I won't. Super Bowl Sunday is still one of my favorite days of the year. Why? It's a restaurant lover's gold mine.

The wait at restaurants that normally requires a drink around the corner shortens, and hard-to-score reservations free up. As of now, there are prime-time open tables at Michael White's pasta palace, Marea, in New York and popular meat-centric spot Chi SPACCA in Los Angeles.

It's not rocket science. More than 100 million people watch the Super Bowl, and while some of them do so at bars or restaurants with giant flat screens, many of them stay in for potato skins and chili, leaving the streets empty and seats at some of the best restaurants open.

"We usually dine out during the Super Bowl," New York Times food columnist and cookbook author Melissa Clark explains. "[We] walked right into Chuko at 6:30 last year. That's totally rare! It's a great night for going out. The only problem is finding a sitter, so we take [our daughter] with us." Clark isn't the only food writer who makes a point of dining out during the game. I originally learned the strategy from a former Cooking Light editor.

Chief restaurant officer at Union Square Hospitality Group Sabato Sagaria says that while Blue Smoke fills up with game watchers, "Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, Maialino, North End Grill offer a safe haven for diners who aren't interested in the big game . . . these diners have more choices that night in terms of restaurants and reservation times than they do other times of the year."

The trick doesn't work for all restaurants though. True destination restaurants like Eleven Madison Park aren't likely to be impacted. It's best to focus on just-opened or -reviewed restaurants or long-standing beloved spots that always come with a wait.

And if the restaurant that's at the top of your dining list is booked at the moment, ask to be added to the wait list or call back later this week. Michael Fiorelli, the chef of Manhattan Beach, California's Love & Salt, explains: "People will often make reservations a few weeks in advance forgetting that it's Super Bowl Sunday and end up canceling."

This article was originally published on 2/1/2016 and updated by Andrew Bui on 1/30/2018.

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