The restaurant scene in San Francisco has never been stronger, but getting a booking often takes forethought and dogged persistence. We asked a trio of hungry locals where they always make reservations in advance, and their favorite alternatives when it doesn’t pan out.

Reserve in advance …
Eight Tables

“Our good friend George Chen recently opened up this unbelievably fancy and perfect restaurant in China Live, which is essentially a Chinese Eataly. The same building houses our residency space for filmmakers. It’s very tough to get a reservation at Eight Tables — because there are only eight tables. Before you even start drinking, it’s 225 clams a person. They do new Chinese, which is a continuing trend here.” —Noah Cowan, executive director of the San Francisco International Film Festival

No luck? Go here instead …
China Live Market Restaurant

“This is the restaurant downstairs, also run by Chen. There is tons of walk-in and bar space, plus a little shop where they sell their sauces. There are several stations — one for Peking duck, one for soup dumplings — and you can order from anywhere. I’d get the Peking duck, which is a little different because they do a kumquat glaze that adds this lovely tartness. They also have a dish called Sichuan ‘working hands’ dumplings. They look like potstickers but with a tissue-paper-thin wrapping and what I would call a savory pork meatball in the middle. They are just little divine pillows of pleasure. My boyfriend always orders Sichuan blistered green beans, which come sprinkled with toasted Yunnan olives, pickled radish, and salted plum. They also have a terrific wine list, including a strong California pinot list that’s perfectly selected for Chinese cuisine. I may have tried all of them. The really spectacular one — it’s well-known in the wine world — is Flowers Pinot. It’s a perfect pairing for Chinese food because it has just a little spiciness to it, and just a little sweetness, but it’s not overbearing so it doesn’t compete like a more robust red would.” —Noah CowanNew York Travel (04.11.18)