If you happen to be walking down East 10th Street, you might miss Claud. It’s downstairs, for one thing, and small, for another, but the buzz surrounding its opening has been anything but. The European-inspired wine-bar from Momofuku Ko alums chef Joshua Pinksy and beverage director Chase Sinzer is almost always booked up as soon as reservations open, and once you taste that decadent chocolate cake, you’ll understand why.
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 owner and operator Chase Sinzer to get the inside scoop on how to get in, and what to order once you do.
Resy: So, how many seats do you have at Claud?
Sinzer: We have 45 seats total. The bar is fully reserved and then we have a little dining counter in the front window that’s for six people, but we always leave that with no reservations whatsoever.
When do reservations open?
Reservations open at midnight, 14 days out.
And how quickly do they usually get booked up?
Thank God, that day they’re usually booked. They go pretty quickly. There [was] not a bone in my body that expected things to go that positively, so we’re very happy with it.
What You Need to Know
Plan Ahead: Reservations drop 14 days out at midnight.
The Layout: Claud is cozy, with just eight tables, a bar, and a counter at the front with six seats.
Walk on In: The six counter seats and one two-top are reserved for walk-ins.
Must Orders: Devil’s food cake for two, a seasonal mille-feuille, the shrimp, and a half chicken with foie drippings that takes days to prepare.
Pro Tip: Ask if the backyard is available to grab a drink or dessert, but do note it’s standing room only. And if you try to walk in, get there when they open at 5:30 p.m. for the best chance of snagging a seat.
For the six seats at the front reserved for walk-ins, do those usually get taken?
Yes. Right now we open at 5:30 p.m. There’s a world in which we open at 5 o’clock, but by 5:20 p.m. those seats are usually taken. I keep one table off of Resy as well; it’s a small two-top on the other side of the restaurant, and essentially it becomes overflow [in case] someone who made a reservation lost track, or for holding walk-ins as well.
How long is the wait for walk-ins?
This is the hard part about the restaurant being so small. I try to be as honest and transparent as possible: If you miss that first 6 p.m., if there’s no cancellation, it’s going to be the next seating. So, if you get here and those six seats have already been taken, which obviously happens a tremendous amount, you’ll be in during that next turn at 7:30 [if it’s available].
Any differences in the menu there or at the bar?
No, it’s all the same menu. Since people are nice enough to want to come to the restaurant, they should get the closest approximation of what we do.
Do you use the Resy Notify list?
For sure. I’ve found it super, super helpful. I think people inherently do not believe that it would work and then anyone that uses it is like, wow this is so easy and it works great.
How long does that list usually get?
It never gets super crazy, to be honest. [The list will be] around 500 to 550 people Tuesday through Thursday, and 1,250 on the weekends. There’s a couple people in front. We do this thing where we write all our reservations on paper, so you don’t see anybody on an iPad. We’ll take your number, old school, and cross you off. We’ll call the first couple of people. If someone comes in and it’s 5:45 and we know the person who came in at 5:30 is just having a quick glass of wine, we’ll say, hang out for 15 minutes, we’ll call you, go have a drink. If it’s longer, we’ll put you on the Notify list.
It’s cool that you use a physical notebook. What made you want to do that?
Truthfully, in Keith McNally’s restaurants you see them written out. I think it’s so cool that Balthazar can do that for that many people. If we have 45 seats, we can give people that same experience and it’s way easier, so we might as well. I’m sure the hostesses are like “Chase, can I please just use the iPad?”, but I like it a lot and I hope I don’t bother them too much.
Love it. How many covers are you usually doing a night?
We do between 120 and 125 covers on weeknights, and up to 145 on the weekends [including walk-ins].
In the backyard we don’t take reservations and we don’t have seats; it’s just standing room right now. In November we’re going to build an enclosure, and we’ll have a long communal table with 12 seats. It’ll be for events, but no one in the world is lucky enough to do an event every night, so if we did one or two a week the other three or four nights would be held completely for walk-ins.
People tend to get extremely frustrated at not being able to dine somewhere, which I totally understand, so we want to make them happier and do what’s best for the business as a super-small space with a very small staff. I hope having 12 more seats that we don’t put any reservations on will enable people to have a better experience with getting in when they don’t have a reservation.
Are you using that backyard space now at all?
We’re using it for overflow. The transparency is that either people are 15 minutes late, or we’re figuring out our turn times. Last night we had a dining critic here, and you can’t move them along as quickly. We had a friend who wanted to have a very long birthday [dinner], and we said “You can have the first two-and-a-half hours in the restaurant, and then we’ll set you up in the back.” We’ll do stuff like that. My friend built everything in the restaurant, and there are these custom high-top tables [in the backyard] that are aluminum with these cool lamps, but they don’t have seats. We use them for drinks, desert, etc.
And so people can go there before or after eating, depending on how much room you have?
Let’s talk about the menu. What have been the most popular dishes?
I guess the answer to that somehow some way has to do with TikTok, which is incredible. As someone who spent 10 years wearing a suit and tie, I didn’t think TikTok would be part of my first restaurant opening. It was really cool; we had the chocolate cake and the mille-feuille be the thing that people come in for the most and request. The mille-feuille will change in the near future; because of tomato season ending soon, it’ll switch to mushrooms. That was on a TikTok that blew up, and then this long, big, chocolate cake. I’ve never seen Matilda, but that’s what people tell me it looks like. Those are the two things for sure.
Gotta love TikTok! These are influencers posting about it?
Yes, it’s an interesting mix of people here. It’s old [Momofuku] Ko regulars of Joshua [Pinsky]’s and old wine regulars of mine, and then a lot of younger people because of TikTok. It makes me feel very old. It’s wild. People started coming in and I had no idea the reach of it. It’s cool.
Do you think a lot of people that are coming in are seeing you guys on the app?
I do, I think it has tremendous reach.
Wild. Well, what else should people order, in your opinion, especially if they may not be able to come in again for a while?
I think the shrimp is the dish that is gonna be a mainstay. It’s just really nice shrimp, nice olive oil, cooked very simply and is pretty indicative of what we want to do. Really all the entrees are that way.
When we set out to do [the restaurant] it was an idea of proteins that were bought nicely and cooked simply and well. Swordfish au poivre, I think is a good example: a classic idea taken with a new protein and cooked all on the grill. Those two dishes for me are very much what Claud is about: It’s simple food that is thoroughly exhausted in the best way possible. Oh, and the roast chicken, for sure; it’s absolutely obsessed over.
Tell us more about the wine list.
I mean one of the reasons we took the restaurant is that it used to be Ikinari Steak. They had a very mind bogglingly large downstairs dry-age refrigerator. We cut it in half, and now I’m thankful to have a large section of that for wine. We don’t want to print the whole wine menu every day, so we print about 200 selections. I just know from my fiancé when we go out and I spend the whole time looking through the wine list that she wants to kill me, so we try to make it a little smaller and more navigable for people. The idea is taking stuff from my past which is very classical, and taking stuff that I wasn’t able to put on the list in these fancy restaurants and mixing them together. So, I hope to have a good diversity of options within that, price point wise and aesthetically.
Did you and Joshua always hope to start a restaurant together?
It’s been a while. All of us, including most of the staff that work here, met between 2013 and 2017, and then probably starting in 2017 was the genesis of the idea [for Claud]. We had a different space in 2020 when I was at Brooklyn Fare and Josh was at Momofuku. We had come to terms at the old Schiller’s location, which is now a Shake Shack as of last week. I live pretty close to it, so I walk by it and get really mad.
We’d seen this space previously and it obviously came way down [in rent during the pandemic]. We looked at it before and we signed it in January. We looked at so many spaces and we were both working in different jobs and figuring out what we actually wanted, and by the time it came together, it had been a while.
What was it about this space and this neighborhood that made you decide this was it?
We wanted under 1,500 square feet; this is 1,420. We wanted a totally open kitchen, we wanted to be what we would say is kind of centrally located, so older clients from the Upper East and Upper West in addition to people in the neighborhood here could both make it. I also think when we met in the East Village, Josh especially worked here for a long time at the nexus of Momofuku, it has some hometown appeal. And there’s something funky and interesting about being downstairs and being this subterranean wine bar idea.
Give us the hot, insider tip to getting that reservation.
I would say the best way to do so is getting on there in the morning 14 days out. For walk-ins, hopefully this gets easier in November, but get there at 5:30 p.m. for walk-ins. We will always do our best to get you seated as soon as humanly possible. I just want people to feel that they can dine here, because that’s the goal, of course. From my perspective, a happy thing is people seem to be much more flexible and awesome about that, so people just wanna dine out right now.
Absolutely. Anything else you want to add?
My only thing is that our goal is to be as open to humans as possible. It’s always tough when you have a small restaurant because people think you are exclusionary, and we couldn’t feel less that way. We’re definitely excited for November to get a few more seats in here for people.
Claud is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.