The One Who Keeps the Book New York
How to Get Into Holiday Bar
Located on a prime corner in New York’s West Village is Holiday Bar, the latest spot from restaurateur Kyle Hotchkiss Carone (Saint Theo’s and American Bar) and Grand Tour Hospitality (The Lambs Club).
Since Holiday Bar opened in late November, it’s already become one of the city’s toughest reservations to secure, thanks to its chic interior, bustling dining room, and the occasional celebrity sighting that, depending on the night, could be anyone from Justin Bieber to Sienna Miller.
It’s a uniquely New York restaurant where you can sip on a lychee martini while you wait for your jerk-spiced burger all while listening to a Larry Levan-inspired playlist. With good food from industry vets and of-the-moment vibes, Holiday Bar is that spot New Yorkers clamor to go to — and to return to, if they can swing it.
Haven’t been able to get a reservation? Well, you’re in luck. In this latest edition of The One Who Keeps the Book we talk to Heather Kleisner who does a little bit of everything at the restaurant. “I guess you can say I’m part maitre d’, manager, vibe creator, along with your go-to toilet plunger when needed,” she says, adding, “I’m Kyle’s proxy when he isn’t around.” Having grown up with a father who worked in the hotel business, you could say that hospitality comes naturally to her.
Here, she shares her knowledge on getting into one of the city’s most buzzed-about spots.
Resy: When do reservations drop on Resy?
Kleisner: Reservations become available three weeks in advance.
How quickly do reservations tend to get booked out?
Immediately. With that said, I absolutely encourage people to be open and excited about reservations on the earlier or later side, like a 5 p.m. or a 10:30 p.m. reservation, because they’re both great times to come in here. On the earlier side, it’s quiet, and later, it’s a party.
How many seats does Holiday Bar have?
There are 75 seats in the dining room and eight spots at the bar where the full menu is served. There is a large outdoor terrace that stretches half off Sixth Avenue.
How many seats do you keep open for walk-ins?
We try to keep two to three tables available for walk-ins. They’re open upon availability, and typically get grabbed early in the night. At the bar, it’s first come, first served.
What is the typical wait time for a walk-in?
It varies. It can be an immediate seating at times, or it can be half an hour.
How many covers do you have on any given night?
Between 160 to 215. We have a two- to two-and-a-half hour dining experience for our guests, which can be longer than some restaurants in the city, so it’s quite luxurious.
And how long is that Notify list, on average?
About 1,500 people. I highly recommend to people who aren’t using Resy yet, to start using it. It’s the best way to get a table.
If someone were to set a Notify for Holiday Bar on Resy, is there a certain day of the week they’d be most likely to get a reservation?
Sunday or Tuesday.
What You Need to Know
Plan Ahead: Reservations drop three weeks out.
The Layout: There are 75 seats at tables and booths throughout, and eight seats at the bar where the full menu is served. There is a large outdoor terrace that stretches half off Sixth Avenue, too.
Must-Orders: Lamb meatballs, yellowtail jalapeño roll, lobster pasta, and a lychee martini.
Walk On In: The bar is first come, first served. Go early with little to no trouble, but expect to wait up to a half-hour at peak times for any seat in the house. There are two to three tables reserved for walk-ins; to grab them, go early.
Pro Tip: As a walk-in without a reservation, don’t forget that hospitality goes both ways. “Patience, flexibility and kindness are good qualities to have, especially when you don’t have a reservation. We notice,” says Kleisner.
What’s the best seat in the house?
I would say our lounge area, which is a part of our dining room but feels separate. It’s incredibly cozy. Also sitting in the middle of the room is great because it’s like dinner and a show. You get to observe the incredible staff do their thing.
A lot of thought went into the restaurant’s design. What was the inspiration behind it?
There were many things. It began with Kyle being fascinated by the bar that was in Brian DePalma’s “Scarface:” 80’s design plays heavily into our overall vibe. We have these white leather booths that are very much from that era, as is the black-tiled bathroom. The incredible Alex Katz prints were found at auction to hang in the dining room. It all reminds me of my favorite quote that Kyle’s ever given about dining out in New York: “It’s not going out to dinner. It’s going out at dinner.” Eat dinner later and it can be your final destination for the night.
It’s Friday night at 8 p.m. Can you set the scene?
You come in at 8 p.m. and you’re walking into the best party in the city. You hear the music, and no matter what your week is or was like, you forget about it, and you get into your groove. You’ll see people across the way and want to say hi and everyone’s just moving their bodies.
What has guest reaction been to the no-photo policy?
We want people to be present. We’re all tied to our phones and capturing imagery that we never look back at. If you’re not tied to a screen, you get to enjoy the experience. Every night you come will be different depending on who’s in the room. We haven’t had too much pushback.
How would you describe the food at Holiday Bar?
It’s the idea of going to a restaurant and eating a dish that takes you back to a great holiday memory. In a way it’s a “best of list:” foods that Kyle, the chefs [Dina Fan and Marc Howard] or I, have had while traveling that we’ve loved. The influences come from everywhere, from Mexico and the Caribbean to Japan.
For someone going for the first time, what should they order?
The lamb meatballs and the burger. I recommend getting a little fun with the razor clam ceviche to start, too. Our Malaysian-style king crab is a showstopper. We recently added a lobster pasta that’s become an instant hit; every table ordered it the first night it was on the menu.
Should we be ordering cocktails or wine?
Our martinis fly around the room at a rapid rate; espresso and lychee are the most popular. Our cocktails are classic; you won’t find anything basil infused or with charcoal in it. We also have a highly considered wine list. If you want to go in the wine direction, your server will have so much fun guiding you, particularly towards things you’ve likely never tried, whether that’s a glass of cloudy orange or a classic, big, bold red that might be new to you.
What gives Holiday Bar its “it factor?”
I think it’s many factors. Kyle has proven that any restaurant he creates is going to be a room that you want to be in. You’re going to look around in that room and that room will look around at you. Get ready, it’s fun in here, you won’t want to leave.
The staff takes a lot of time to get to know our clients. Over the years, at Grand Tour’s other restaurants, we’ve cultivated a family. We’re starting to see the same thing happen at Holiday Bar.
A great night at a restaurant always feels like a perfectly choreographed dance. At Holiday Bar, the room has a great flow. How do you keep it moving? Especially if people want to linger.
The great thing about this space is we have a wonderful bar area. It’s a great place for guests to wait if their table isn’t quite ready yet. We also love encouraging our guests to check out some of the local bars downtown, which is an easy thing to suggest if they seem to be sticking around long after the check is signed.
The music is spot on. Who selects the playlist?
Kyle and I do. It’s eclectic, everything from dancehall to Larry Levan’s “Paradise Garage” and later into the night you’ll hear hip hop, like Lil Uzi Vert. There is one constant though: It’s the same every night. It’s very important that the music match the vibe of the restaurant. The music starts slower and quieter, like service does, and then moves into being louder and more intense as the place fills up. Kyle has been known to remotely manage the music. He’s asked me to set an alarm to track what songs are playing at the top of every hour and to check the reaction of the room. We care that much.
What’s the best time to book a table for maximum Holiday Bar vibe?
Don’t be scared to book that 5 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. table. Book a Sunday night! Don’t get lost in that mindset of “Oh, we need to have an 8 p.m. reservation on a Friday because that’s prime time.” Be spontaneous! It pays.
Holiday Bar is open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 5 to 10:30 p.m., and bar service is available until late.
Kyle Beechey is a New York-based freelance writer and dinner party enthusiast. Follow her on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.