A sizable part of this city’s population has a high tolerance for wait lists, and the rest of us avoid lines at any cost–which means we’ve missed out on some of the restaurants other people rave about because we’re simply unwilling to give up three hours to stand around. If you fall in the latter category and you’ll be in town over Labor Day, consider this weekend your brief reprieve from the hassle: The city empties for the holiday, which means you can get into many spots the moment you walk in the door. So where should you try to nab a table? Fork in the Road writers named the places they’d head, all spots normally besieged by ridiculous waits.
Bonus: We’ve updated this list with two more spots.
Carbone, 181 Thompson Street
While the city’s moneyed masses escape to their lavish retreats, now’s your chance to split a $50 veal chop and get a serious #Carboner at the Torrisi boys’ exclusive red sauce palace. We’ll forgo the chance to spend too much on raw seafood at ZZ’s Clam Bar next door in favor of spending too much on cooked seafood, like delicate yet vibrant bass oregenata and lobster fra diavolo. Sip a $17 cocktail and live like old-school royalty for a night. –Zachary Feldman
RedFarm Steak, 529 Hudson Street
RedFarm may have shut down for a 28-day remodel and rebrand, but in the interim, you can taste the restaurant’s take on steak and other meaty delights at the month long pop-up housed in the former laundromat space downstairs. A no-reservation policy means there are usually long waits to sample the fare, which includes decadent dishes of lobster tartare, foie gras tarts, and Benton’s bacon egg rolls. Take advantage of the lack of crowds over Labor Day to get a foot in this door before its gone for good–that same space turns into Decoy, a bar and Asian snack joint, on October 1. –Lauren Mowery
Sunburnt Cow, 137 Avenue C
Down in Alphabet City, the Sunburnt Cow has a reputation for being one of the booziest brunches around–but that makes the place so popular that every time I’ve tried to go, I’ve been discouraged by epic wait times and so sought to to get my brunch on elsewhere. That makes it an ideal daytime stop for this weekend, when many a New Yorker will leave the city for one last weekend of summer fun. Get lit at the two-hour bottomless brunch for $20 or $25, depending on your entree. As a bonus, the Cow is celebrating it’s 10-year anniversary this weekend and has expanded its brunch service to include Labor Day Monday. –James A. Foley
Osteria Morini, 218 Lafayette Street
With all of the fuss surrounding Michael’s White’s new restaurants, The Butterfly and Costata, it’s easy to forget Osteria Morini is still one of the hottest tickets in town. If you’ve been dismayed by the hour-long waits during prime time hours, this weekend is a chance to discover one of the best reasons to embrace this midwesterner’s burgeoning empire in Manhattan. Delicious pastas, porchetta, and a 32-ounce steak for two are just some of the standout dishes you’ll find–and romantics might also appreciate the lower volume afforded by mellower holiday weekend crowds. –Billy Lyons
Umami Burger, 432 Sixth Avenue
Early waits at this LA import stretched for three hours, and while the insanity has tempered a bit, you’re still going to need to put your name on a list if you want to sample the truffle burger, bacon- and beer cheddar-covered manly fries, or the secret menu. Head there this weekend if you want to see what all the fuss is about without the crowd-related brain damage–and you might comparison shop the nearby (and often line-thronged) Madison Square Shake Shack while you’re at it. You know. For research. –Laura Shunk
Two more suggestions, right this way.
Talde, 369 Seventh Avenue
Avoid the usual hour to two-hour wait and walk right in for some Korean fried chicken, pretzel dumplings, and herb slathered Branzino. And get a John Bush cocktail while you’re at it. –Eve Turow
Uncle Boons, 7 Spring Street
Uncle Boons, nestled into a quiet subterranean space on Spring Street, offers a good mix of ambitious, esoteric dishes and easy, fun, eatable fare. It’s Thai, but not the normal, run-of-the-mill noodle shop you can get anywhere–go for the whole roasted fish, the spicy banana-blossom salad, or the roast chicken, and soak in the funky, homey space that feels like a page from your crazy great-aunt’s playbook. Service answers every question with total candor and grace, making challenging dishes like whole baby octopi and offal a whole lot more accessible for everyone. –Hannah Palmer Egan
Other good options include Mission Chinese, Ippudo, and Di Fara, all spots that normally boast epic wait times.