You likely don’t need an introduction to the famed pasta palace that is Flour + Water in the Mission District. This San Francisco new classic opened its doors in 2009 and became popular for unique Californian takes on Italian-inspired fare and a heavenly multi-course pasta tasting menu. Rumor has it they were so busy in the beginning that they had to put Steve Jobs on a three-hour waiting list.
(Note: For those who have been living under a rock, you can read this interview with co-executive chefs Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow to learn more).
The person you need know is Amanda Flores, Director of Operations for the Flour + Water Hospitality Group. She originally started as a general manager at the restaurant in 2016 and hasn’t looked back since. We sat down and spoke with her to get insider info on the best seats in the house and learn how not to wait for three hours for a table. Right this way, please.
Resy: How many seats are there at Flour+Water?
Amanda Flores: About 50. The bar has seven, the communal seats eight. And the remaining 35 or so is the dining room. It’s a small restaurant — we only have 11 tables.
When do reservations drop on Resy?
28 days in advance. Four weeks exactly, at midnight.
How quickly do seats get booked out?
The first and second turn usually book up within 24 hours. 48 hours on slower times of the years. For the third turn — anything after 9 — you can usually secure within the week that you’re looking for. It’s great to sneak in for later reservations without needing a long lead time. If you’re looking for a late-night meal — third turn is it.
Are any of the seats in the restaurant held for walk-ins?
Yeah, we always save the seven bar seats. And we only book the communal table right at 5:30 p.m., so anytime after 7 p.m., we use the communal table for guests on our waitlist.
What time would you recommend stopping by to snag one of the walk-in seats?
If you’re looking to eat right when you arrive, 5:30 is your best bet. If you’re flexible and you stop by before 7, you can put your name on the waitlist and you can grab a drink at our sister bar Trick Dog and come dine in later. There’s also True Laurel and Lost Resort in the neighborhood.
During peak time, what is the typical wait time for a walk-in?
It can be 2 1/2 to 3 hours — that’s usually on Friday and Saturdays. During the week, you can get lucky and have a 30-minute wait time.
When are your busiest nights?
Thursday through Saturday.
How many covers do you do on your busiest night?
180, or 160. 175 is a good high goal for us.
How long is your Notify list on average?
Epic. I’d say anywhere between 20 to 60 names every night on the Notify list. I think that’s the coolest way to get last minute reservations at hard-to-eat places. Another way to get last minute reservations with us is to check 48 hours out — that’s when we send our confirmation texts. So people who need to cancel end up cancelling then. That’s what you can get a reservation that normally wouldn’t be available.
If someone were to set a Notify for Flour+Water on Resy, is there a certain day or time they’d be most likely to get a reservation?
The late night weekday reservations can be scored last minute more than primetime 7 p.m. reservations.
I’d say [we have] anywhere between 20 to 60 names every night on the Notify list. I think that’s the coolest way to get last minute reservations at hard-to-eat places.— Amanda Flores, Director of Operations for the Flour + Water Hospitality Group
Of all the places to sit in the restaurant, what do you think is the best seat in the house?
For me, the best seats are closest to the kitchen at the bar. It’s interactive, you get to experience the staff. It’s like dinner and a show — you get the see the pizzas come out of the oven. The problem with those seats is that you want to eat everything coming out of the kitchen. So come hungry if you snag those seats.
It’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Can you set the scene for us?
Bustling line outside of the door. Hospitable servers grabbing drinks for anyone waiting. Menus in hand with people trying to plan their meal. Lights a little too low, music a little too loud, really fun energy.
Speaking of music, what kind is played inside the restaurant?
Anything from ’80s classics to modern indie to Madonna to Janet Jackson. It’s eclectic, it’s super fun and creative, and you’re always going to find an artist you haven’t heard before. We always have our playlist printed and sitting at the host stand for guests that want to follow along or download a playlist for future dinner parties at home.
For someone going to F+W for the first time, what should they order?
The tasting menu for sure. It’s a great move to experience more celebratory dishes and ingredients you might not find on the a la carte menu, and let the chef give you the experience you’d want on your first visit. It really sets you up for the experience we find is the most impressive.
What would you say differentiates Flour+Water from some of the other wonderful restaurants in SF?
It’s extremely fun and welcoming and with that you still get to enjoy such a well-versed dining experience. You walk in and it feels so friendly and welcoming — you’ll be shocked by how much our staff knows about the food and wine. Most of our guests leave over the moon — whether it’s from a dish, or feeling like they’re best friends with the server. It’s a really cool juxtaposition of warm hospitality while enjoying extremely unique dishes.
Omar Mamoon is a San Francisco-based writer & cookie dough professional. Find him at @ommmar.