Embrace the Hot Restaurant Dupe

Many years ago a crowd-averse friend taught me a valuable lesson: Why wait hours to get into a hot restaurant when you could walk right into a less popular restaurant of roughly equal value? This is how I came to love Pizza Moto.

Pizza Moto, now a mobile pizza caterer, turns out incredible Neapolitan pies and was my replacement for Roberta’s. And ever since, I’ve believed that almost every high-end, impossible-to-get-into, give-up-your-first-born-for-a-reservation restaurant has a dupe. (For those unfamiliar with dupe-ology, it’s the study of equally high-quality substitutes for popular products.)

In his recent story in The New Yorker, Adam Iscoe writes that “bots, mercenaries and table scalpers have turned the restaurant reservation system inside out.” He details the extreme lengths diners and scalpers are willing to go to get into Sailor, Roscioli, the Polo Bar, Tatiana, Carbone, Torrisi and others. It’s perfectly fine to keep the dream of dining at Don Angie alive, but I’m here to say that restaurant reservations are not like Beyoncé concerts. They aren’t coming to your city for one night only. And rather than buy into the false scarcity, buy into the dupe lifestyle.

The Milanese cowboy veal chop at Carne Mare.Credit…Briana Balducci

A Polo Bar Dupe

The only way a normie can get a reservation at the Polo Bar on East 55th Street is by calling the restaurant at 10 a.m., which usually means being put on hold for a not insignificant amount of time. If you secure one, you’ll walk into a warmly lit dining room filled with leather booths and more horse portraits than the Kentucky Derby Museum. The menu skews American chophouse classics. (A chophouse in New York City? Groundbreaking.) And don’t forget to dress smartly!

Or you could go to South Street Seaport and dine at Carne Mare, Andrew Carmellini’s attractive surf-and-turf restaurant. It also has, conveniently, large leather booths, wonderful service and Italian-leaning takes on chophouse classics. You can get a reservation just about any time, and it comes with a lovely view of the East River and the Wavetree, the last iron-hulled, fully rigged three-masted iron sailing ship in the world. Order the veal chop, the Wagyu filet, the house “wedgini” salad with pancetta dressing, and the layered chocolate cake for dessert.

Carne Mare 89 South Street, Pier 17 (F.D.R. Drive)

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