New York

Sound is the biggest feature at this listening room/bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Sound is the biggest feature at this listening room/bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. All photos courtesy of Eavesdrop

The One Who Keeps the BookNew York

How to Get Into Eavesdrop

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Despite only being open since March, Eavesdrop has become one of New York’s most sought-after tables. Maybe it’s the unique concept: Eavesdrop is a listening bar, with an incredible sound system and a highly curated list of DJs and records. Maybe it’s the food and drinks: It’s got a spritz-heavy cocktail menu and a unique lineup of bar snacks (think sticky rice and brussels sprouts).

Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Eavesdrop is popular. And tough to get into. 

Haven’t been able to get a table? That’s where we come in. 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 solution 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.

We sat down with co-founders Dan Wissinger and Max Dowaliby to get the inside scoop on how to get in, and what to order once you do.

Resy: How many seats are there at Eavesdrop?

Wissinger: About 40, depending on how many we squeeze into the bar. The main key is that there are two sections to the space. The listening room has 25 seats. There’s a hightop table, but it’s mostly booths. The bar has between 15 and 20 seats.

What has been the most popular seating area?

Dowaliby: I think that everyone wants to be in the listening room, and it’s centered around that concept. It may appear on Instagram that there are so many seats, but there are only five tables back there. It is very small and intimate by design.

Intimate by design, that’s interesting. How have you squared that with the fact that it’s been so popular and that so many people want to sit there and be in the space?

Wissinger: The popularity was definitely a surprise for us. It’s funny because it gets brought up every time we talk about Eavesdrop, and we have to go back to the “good-problem-to-have” cliche. But it definitely is a problem.

There are a lot of people, especially the ones who are more excited about the listening bar concept and that being pretty unique in New York, who primarily want to be in the listening room but have a hard time getting the reservation. If they walk in and go through the waitlist and get a bar seat, they might find that disappointing

On the flip side, there are a ton of people in the neighborhood who are excited about the food and beverage. As particular as we were about the listening bar concept, we’ve put just as much thought and effort into the food-and-beverage program. That’s really Max’s territory but we couldn’t have this ultra-high concept bar without the food-and-beverage program to match.

Dowaliby: One of the things that we didn’t anticipate was building a place that you didn’t need to be an audiophile to come to. The neighborhood should be able to come out and get a great drink or snack, the music heads can come and see a DJ perform that they love, an audiophile can come on a Monday night and hear a great sound system. I don’t think that we were as confident that we could do all three. But, as we created a program that did it, we were inundated with people that wanted to come. It’s great. I think that it does contribute to the popularity; we think we built a balanced program, which we’re really proud of.


What You Need to Know

The back bar at Eavesdrop.

Plan Ahead: Resys drop two weeks in advance every day at noon.

Walk On In: The 15- to 20-seat bar is mostly reserved for walk-ins. After midnight, Eavesdrop is walk-in only.

The Layout: There are only about 40 to 45 seats, and there are two main seating areas: a 25-seat listening room and a 15- to 20-seat bar.

The Corrido.

Pro Tip: You can show up in person to request a future Resy. And if you’re willing to wait and don’t mind showing up on the later side, add yourself to the in-person waitlist. Also, don’t forget to use Resy’s Notify feature (it works!)

Prime Time: 8 p.m. to midnight are the busiest times. 

Must-Orders: Amaro spritz, Corrido, and Kaleidoscope for cocktails; The Bowl and Brussels sprouts for food.


When do reservations drop on Resy?

Dowaliby: It’s two weeks in advance, every day at noon.

How quickly are they typically booked up?

Dowaliby: I used to watch it every day. I’ve done a little bit less of that, but I would say it’s generally within a few hours for most spots, maybe even less. Sometimes it’s minutes, sometimes it’s hours, sometimes it’s a day or two depending on the day that’s opened up.

Wissinger: If people want a specific day, they need to log on at noon two weeks prior that day. Otherwise, you should not have any expectation of getting it.

I saw on your Instagram that you’re walk-ins only after midnight.

Wissinger: That’s on weekends, but effectively weekdays, too. One thing that’s interesting is that we need to turn so many people away during prime time [starting at 8 p.m.], which is disappointing for us obviously, but then people move on with their night. The last reservation is at 11 p.m.

We’ve developed this reputation that it’s impossible to get into from people that come to the door at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night, and then people find something else to do. And they don’t realize that if they come back at 12:30 a.m. when Eavesdrop is still in full swing, you could walk in and get a table in the back room without a wait.

Dowaliby: We’re happy that we can build a waitlist at the door for everyone who wants to walk in. The problem is that the waitlist gets to being a couple hours’ wait, and then people rightfully do their own thing. What we found was that there’s kind of a point where we’re scared to call people — it’s like 11:30 p.m. and you could be asleep — so we just found that it was easier to accommodate walk-ins as they came after a certain time.

Is the bar for walk-ins, or do you do reservations there?

Dowaliby: The bar is primarily for walk-ins, but as summer has gone into full swing, there are four or so seats at the bar that we open for reservations only from 5 to 5:30 p.m. because we found that hour was getting a little slower. Our intentions for the bar are walk-ins only. Candidly, it fills very quickly, and we start running a first-come, first-served waitlist after that.

How long do the waitlists usually get?

Dowaliby: I would say at 7 p.m. on most days it’s not less than an hour. Usually, it’s an hour plus after 6:30 p.m.

What about the Resy Notify List?

Dowaliby: We do use the Resy Notify feature, and we actually see a bunch of movement in reservations throughout the week, so it can be quite useful [for getting a table]. Notify numbers can really fluctuate, but generally it’s anywhere from 50 to 100 chairs on average from what I can see more recently. When we first opened, we saw as many as 1,000+ chairs on Notify on the weekend so it’s definitely settled down a bit.

When would you say is the busiest time?

Wissinger: One of the surprises is that we are starting to slow down later. I think we are built like a cocktail bar and we have a music component, but we start the DJs at 8 p.m., which is cocktail bar hour. The DJs are on from 8 p.m. to midnight. That’s the expectation of the crowd we’ve built. The prime time is 8 p.m. to midnight on weekends, and 7 p.m. to 10. p.m. on weeknights, but it fluctuates for sure.

Dowaliby: We were open only until midnight for our first couple months of business, so I think there was some learned behavior that Eavesdrop does last call at 11:30 p.m. Now we do last call at 1:30 a.m. or 1:45 a.m.

Let’s talk about the neighborhood. Do you guys live in Greenpoint?

Wissinger: I’m in Bed-Stuy.

Dowaliby: I’m in Clinton Hill.

Why Greenpoint?

Wissinger: It’s been 10 years since I moved to Brooklyn. I lived in North Williamsburg for a while, and we’ve known Greenpoint well for a long time. When we were scouting locations this one seemed perfect. It’s just the right neighborhood for us. The crowd is what I would consider to be a cool, creative crowd, but it’s matured. It’s a bit more in line our with demographic, which skews towards 30, but we see people of all ages in there.

It’s a really cool music scene; there are some really nice pillars for the DJ community in Greenpoint now. I’d call out Good Room, they’ve obviously been there the longest. I think Eavesdrop is a great pregame for Good Room. There’s also the Lot Radio, there’s a little DIY space called Magick City that I think is one of the coolest places to go dancing in New York City. There’s a really healthy music scene, a healthy neighborhood, and a good demographic.

What has been the most popular thing so far on the menu?

Dowaliby: I think on the beverage side, we’ve had this longstanding No. 1 selling drink that we call the Corrido, which is our take on a spicy margarita. The category of agave is having a moment for sure right now, in Brooklyn, and maybe the country. That’s been our No. 1 selling drink.

We just put two new mezcal cocktails, the Sunburst and the Hearsay, on the menu last week that we’re running as kind of a seasonal cocktail. Those are quickly, quickly climbing in the ranks. Then, I would say the other one that’s neck and neck with the Corrido is called the Kaleidoscope, which is in collaboration with a Greenpoint distillery called Hana Makgeolli. She’s amazing.

On the food side, the thing that we hear the most about and the thing that people are excited about most is what we call The Bowl. It’s basically a braised brisket that’s served with rice and vegetables and a mayo sauce. It’s more of a full meal and the thing that people seem to remember from the food program.

What should people order, especially considering they may not get in again for a while? Any must-orders?

Dowaliby: I think our food-and-beverage program is very wide in a cool way. Order the cocktails that feel weird to you. We focus a lot on our amaros. Dan’s favorite drink is our amaro spritz, but we use amaros and fernets in our cocktails. We have an amaro in one of our new mezcal cocktails, we have an amaro spritz, an amaro negroni, and a fernet negroni. We like bitters. Order the stuff that isn’t as safe on the drink menu.

On the food side, the bowl is what I want to eat when I’m hungry. I think it’s well rounded, it’s filling, it’s homey, and kind of rustic in a way. All of the smaller, more shared, wine bar tapas-style things are great, and great complements to the drinks and the music program. You don’t have to come for dinner. We built the program for people to come, listen to music, have a drink and a snack. That’s what I love to see when I’m there.

Wissinger: I think the sleepers are the Brussels sprouts and the amaro spritz. The Corrido and the Kaleidoscope are so good, but they’re already the best sellers.

Who curates the music?

Wissinger: I book the DJs. One day we may be able to bring in a booking coordinator, but at this point it’s pretty much all me. I think one thing that we always thought we would do, but it’s proven to be so busy that it’s been hard, was to have a stronger programming concept for the nights when there aren’t DJs. Right now it’s DJs Thursday through Sunday, typically starting at 8 p,m. Then we’ve been experimenting with a bunch of different things when there aren’t DJs. My favorite one to talk about would actually be the one we just rolled out. We’re partnering with record stores. The first one is The Mixtape Shop. The record stores are going to be curating a selection of vinyl for us to play on particular nights. So, it’ll be Mixtape Shop Mondays from now on.

Do people request records, or are they usually happy to listen to what’s been curated?

Wissinger: Occasionally. I’ve found that when the DJ is there, we change the lighting a bit and the DJ is positioned so prominently in the room that I’ve been really pleased with the level of respect that the audience has for what the DJ is there to do. One of the things we were excited and a little nervous about was that this concept was extremely well-proven in Japan and around the world, but a lot of people told us, “I don’t know if a listening bar is going to work in New York.” I think that’s definitely been wrong.

That doesn’t mean people don’t also chat, and that’s fine, but they’re really there for the experience. It’s harder to do that when there’s no DJ because there’s no visual element pulling you in and the chatter can get really loud; we don’t have the music quite as loud and it doesn’t feel as much like you are in a listening bar. Records really changed that, because even if it’s just once every 20 minutes you have the ceremony of a server walking over to the DJ booth and flipping the record over and dropping the needle, placing the cover down. So, we’re trying to do more of that.

Do you do bookings for larger groups, or do you rent out the space?

Wissinger: We do full buyouts for people who want to rent out the space. Unfortunately, and I know it disappoints people, we’ve really shied away from large group reservations. That back room is so small and intimate, one group of 12 would just dominate it and take it over. The acoustics are so good in there that even if people are chatting you can still hear the music so well because the sound gets absorbed, unless you have people shouting across the table four people down. We don’t have any sort of no talking rule or any of the things you might hear about in Japan, but we just find that with small groups, the vibe of the room is just better. The biggest group we allow is six.

What’s your tip for getting a table at Eavesdrop?

Wissinger: If you can plan further out in the reservation window, or if you’re seated at the bar, you could ask our host to make you a reservation for you for further out. If you can plan three weeks in advance before the bookings are online, and you are fun and friendly and you care about the concept, the staff is happy to make you a reservation for later.

Dowaliby: I love that our host can book reservations and we will continue that practice unless 200 people show up tomorrow to book reservations in person.

Wissinger: Be part of the community. There’s no club door guy trying to see how cool you are to get in, but if you’re here and you’re interested in the concept, and you’re seated at the bar and having a good time with the staff, they’re going to be excited to make you a reservation three weeks from now.

Eavesdrop founders (left to right) Dan Wissinger, Charlie Ballinger, and Max Dowaliby.
Eavesdrop founders (left to right) Dan Wissinger, Charlie Ballinger, and Max Dowaliby.

Eavesdrop is open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday to Thursday, and from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

 

Ellie Plass is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.