San Francisco

Photo courtesy Rich Table

The One Who Keeps the BookSan Francisco

How to Get Into Rich Table

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Though Rich Table celebrated its 10-year anniversary earlier this year, the restaurant remains as fresh and energetic as the day it opened — and a decade later, it’s still one of the hardest tables to score in San Francisco.

There’s no secret formula to its success beyond hard work, singular cooking, and pure talent of the team led by wife-and-husband duo Sarah and Evan Rich. The two have also proven to have a nice knack for bringing on talented cooks and chefs to help run the kitchen, like Brandon Rice, who went on to open Ernest) and Gizela Ho, the restaurant’s current chef de cuisine.

On the front-of-house side of things, general manager/prtner Jonny Gilbert, who has worked front-of-house at places like Per Se and Bouley in New York, has been with the restaurant since day one. We sat down with Gilbert to talk about all things Rich Table, and most importantly, to help us figure out how to snag one of its highly coveted seats.

Resy: How many seats are there at Rich Table?

Jonny Gilbert: On any given night, indoors there’ll be 40 seats available, and outdoors anywhere from 15 to 18.

When do reservations drop on Resy?

We do it 30 days in advance at midnight.

How quickly do seats get booked out?

Relatively fast. The prime seats are gone within the first hour. If there are people up at midnight, they’re snagging the 8 o’clock. As the days progress while the books are open, within five days are so, we’re totally booked up.

Are any of the seats in the restaurant held for walk-ins?

Yes, so the entire bar. We have 10 seats at the bar — we do that on a first-come, first-serve basis. We open doors at 5 p.m., and there’s typically a line at the door to enjoy those seats. I love dining at the bar — it’s one of my favorite places to eat when I go out. So for a lot of our guests, it’s more enjoyable. Once those seats are filled, anyone who checks in, we’ll give them a name and a time quote and we’ll shoot them a text when a table is ready. It’s a really efficient system.

We do from time to time have cancellations in the dining room, and if that’s the case, we’ll give diners the option over text — one of the beauties behind Resy is you can really communicate well with the guests.

The Signature Sardine Chips. Photo courtesy Rich Table.
The Signature Sardine Chips. Photo courtesy Rich Table.

What time would you recommend stopping by to snag one of the walk-in seats?

It depends on the evening. A lot of guests like to dine at 5 p.m. because they might have a show to catch — there’s the symphony, opera, jazz center. A lot of guests come in early to catch those 7 p.m. shows.

Come at 4:45 and wait outside for the early seat. For something later — prime time — anywhere between 6 and 6:30 p.m.. After that, 9 or 9:15 p.m. Depending on when you’d like to sit down, come an hour or hour-and-a-half before.

During peak time, what is the typical wait time for a walk-in?

On a Saturday, an hour to a hour-and-a-half, maybe even two in the peak.

When are your busiest nights?

The beauty of RT is that we’re busy every single night. We’re fairly maxed out Tuesday through Saturday, and every night is pretty busy. Wait times are pretty dependent on how many people do the chef’s tasting menu. Friday and Saturday we get the most inquiries and volume. Tuesday and Wednesday are the best times to pop-in.

How many covers do you do on your busiest night?

It’ll range — anywhere from 140-150 guests per night.

How long is your Notify list on average?

It’s pretty long. Tomorrow our Notify list has 72 guests on it. Well over 100 for Friday and Saturday. I’ve had many guests have success for it. It’s great.

If someone were to set a Notify for Rich Table on Resy, is there a certain day or time they’d be most likely to get a reservation?

I’d say early in the week —Tuesday or Wednesday for sure. But it’s also a matter of how quick you are with your trigger finger.

Are there any other tips or tricks you have for getting a table?

The earlier the better. Just to be ready 30 days in advance. If it’s last minute, you’re more than welcome to shoot an email: info@richtablesf.com and if there’s any opportunity for us to make room for a guest, we’ll do it. We want to make sure we can extend ourselves, and we want nothing more for a guest to join us. If we can move something around without sacrificing service, we’ll do it.

What sets RT apart? We’re approachable, and we’re trying to be hospitable and warm and welcoming as possible. — Jonny Gilbert, Rich Table

Of all the places to sit in the restaurant, what do you think is the best seat in the house?

For me personally, I like the bar seating. I love the 1:1 with the bartenders and seeing the kitchen from the bar. There’s really not a bad table in the house though. I think that’s one thing that’s unique.

It’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Can you set the scene for us?

It’s most likely a night with shows and events — we’ll have a lot of guests looking for pre-theater exits. A lot of people paying the bills, settling. Or enjoying dessert. It’s the end of the first wave. Second wave is starting to check-in. Ideally we’d have tables right away. As the 7 o’clock hour arrives, it’s a transition. The kitchen is finishing out the last orders, and starting to get new orders in. The canape and first ones are coming in and entrees and dessert are going out — it’s a beautiful transition.

You start to see tables getting seated, and you’re resetting tables and everything is happening all it once. It’s a beautiful flow and exchange of tables.

 What kind of music is played inside the restaurant?

It varies. It depends on who is controlling that night. Sometimes I’ll hop on — I’ll throw on The Stones or Jefferson Airplane or Bowie. Sometimes Evan will get on there. It depends on the time of the night — we have vibes that we like throughout the evening. Classic rock like Zeppelin are frequented. Evan loves The Grateful Dead. Kevin has been known to play Motown. Late night you’ll see something a bit more aggressive like The Clash or Depeche Mode— it’s always tricky, we’re trying to find fresh stuff, but the classics bring us back.

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For someone going to Rich Table for the first time, what should they order?

We have a lot of options. We always recommend the chef picks — it’s essentially a tasting menu where we just cook for you. You get all the Bites courses — eight to 10 per person. We do something unique, where we do a one-by-one menu — each guest will get something different for each course. We do that because it’s challenging for the kitchen and staff — it keeps us excited. It keeps the wine pairings special. You get to walk through the entire menu. Typically the main might be a whole roasted item — so that might be the same. If you came in with three people, you’d see 27 different items.

We recommend family style if you order a la carte — share as you go.

What would you say differentiates Rich Table from some of the other wonderful restaurants in SF?

We’re in one of the best restaurant meccas in the world. A lot of people are doing their own thing — that’s what’s great about the S.F. dining culture. You can have a different experience anywhere you go. There’s high end, amazing Italian, amazing Japanese. And you’re in California which offers the great produce in the country.

What sets RT apart? We’re approachable and we’re trying to be hospitable and warm and welcoming as possible. We’re happy if it’s your first time or your 100th time. From there, the music, it’s comfortable and convivial, and when the food hits the table — it’s amazing. It’s a hugs over handshake restaurant.

Omar Mamoon is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and cookie dough professional. Follow him on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.