One of Nashville’s best-loved and most-reserved restaurants is tucked into a bright and airy space in Germantown. That would be Henrietta Red, the seafood-focused restaurant from Music City native Julia Sullivan, who has brought her experience at restaurants like New York’s Per Se home to roost.
Don’t sleep on snagging reservations for dinner there, especially not in these pandemic times, when dining out hinges on well-planned excursions. But all is not lost — we know just how to score a table.
Welcome back to The One Who Keeps The Book, a regular series that aims to answer all the most important questions about how to get into a restaurant. The first answer is Resy, of course. But every restaurant manages its tables differently and there are always tips, tricks, and shortcuts to be discovered. So here we go straight to the source to get them for you.
Ali Veech is the expert here. She’s been working behind the scenes on booking special events, parties, and well, dinner, at the restaurant for the past three years, bringing her wedding planning background and hospitality industry experience full circle. Here she shares all her intel on what to eat, when to eat it, and how to have the very best experience at Henrietta Red.
Resy: How many seats are there at Henrietta Red?
Ali Veech: We expanded. We have 12 bar seats for first come, first served. You can get the full menu at the bar. We don’t do walk-up service; diners need to be seated by the host. Most seats are reservation-only, with a few bar seats and a few [seats] sprinkled throughout the restaurant. When we don’t have private dining events we use our private dining space, the enclosed covered patio, for seating as well.
When do reservations drop on Resy?
60 days in advance.
And how quickly do these tend to get booked out?
The first month or so is not terribly fast unless it’s a holiday or big-ticket weekend like graduation, which is an absolutely crazy week. Tables do book up two to three weeks in advance, and they will book completely. We like to say that sooner is always better than later.
Are any of the seats in the restaurant held for walk-ins?
Though most seats are reservations, we do save walk-in seats at the bar and in the lounge, and in the dining room.
How long is your Notify list on average?
It’s always super long. At least 80 people.
Is there any other way to snag a table?
Give us a call 30 minutes before you want to come in, because things can open up sometimes. Obviously there’s always that call looking for a party of two at 7 p.m. and we can’t guarantee anything, but if you want to call 30 to 45 minutes ahead, we can give an accurate wait list time and go from there.
What’s the move for a walk-in to wait until they get seated?
Typically we suggest you explore the neighborhood while you wait, since we’ve moved away from people being four-deep at the bar, which is now reservation only. The communal tables in the bar area are now by reservation for up to parties of eight, so now we don’t want anyone standing around at the bar. You have to have a seat to eat or drink in that section. So for people who want to wait, we suggest they get a drink nearby at Mother’s Ruin or Geist.
In your opinion, what’s the best seat in the house?
I love our tables closest to the kitchen. Those are typically reserved for parties of four to six, but you’re right next to the kitchen, watching service happen. It feels very vibrant and alive. If it’s a group of two people, I love sitting at the bar. If you’re in the dining room specifically, any table with a view of the kitchen is the best seat in the house. If we’re splitting hairs and there’s a two-top in the dining room, there is one banquette table at the very top of the dining room that’s the only two-top where both seats run parallel to the kitchen, and it’s a great view.
It’s Saturday night at 7 p.m. Can you set the scene?
Right when you walk in the restaurant, the first thing you see is that both the large party tables at the bar are full, and the bar is full, or starting to clear out from happy hour. The vibe is good energy that’s ramping up. Our lead host, Lex, is going to be the person to take you to your table and get you set up. As you’re walking into the dining room, it seems quiet as we’re gearing up for that second turn, but the energy is going to jump pretty fast. We try to have three turns a night, so the 7 o’clock hour is quiet for the first 15 minutes and then it’s rip-roaring and ready to go. Garde-manger is shucking at least three oyster tickets at a time, going as fast as they can because diners are excited to get actually good oysters in town. A party of two got four dozen oysters last week!
In addition to Fridays and Saturdays, Tuesdays are also insane because we figured out we’re one of the few places open in our tier of restaurants in town. Others — like Folk, City House, Peninsula — are all closed on Tuesdays.
What is the ideal time to visit?
I always say earlier in the evening is better, because you definitely want to come to happy hour. Every day that we’re open we have chef’s choice $2 oysters available from 5 to 6:30 p.m., plus $5 glasses of cava and rosé, and a rotating happy hour special that changes by the day. Saturday is daiquiri day, otherwise known as “Saturdaqs.”
What should guests absolutely order from the menu?
Obviously our entire thing is being as seasonally appropriate as possible. Right now, anything with tomatoes or melons is a must-order, so get them while they’re there. The tomato toast is unreal, it’s like a classic tomato sandwich but made into a toast. The crab dip is always a must. My mom is from Florida and every time she comes, she has to have the crab dip. Something we do really well are the housemade pastas, we don’t usually have a lot of them on the menu, but there’s a gulf shrimp linguine that’s out of this world.
What’s your personal favorite dish?
Probably the seared scallops. We just do scallops really well but right now it has a beautiful mustard cream sauce with smashed fingerlings. It’s really delicate but hearty at the same time. It’s so, so good.
Anything else you’d like to share?
As a team, we are so thankful to still be here. I think we did a really great job during COVID, pivoting pretty fast and figuring out what to do when we opened our takeout operation, Henrietta’s Fish Camp, and all the rest of it. We literally served Reubens and shrimp po’ boys in parchment paper for months. First and foremost we are a team, and I love the atmosphere we have within this restaurant. I think that comes through to our guests on a regular basis.
Ellen Fort is a Nashville-based writer and editor covering the restaurant world, food, drinks, and culture. She has previously worked as the food editor at Sunset Magazine, and editor of Eater San Francisco. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.