The dining room at Tatiana, By Kwame Onwuachi
Tatiana, By Kwame Onwuachi, was one of many New York restaurants that appeared in the final season of BILLIONS. Photo by Adrian-Gaut, courtesy of Lincoln Center and Modellus Novus

The One Who Keeps the BookNew York

How to Get Into Tatiana


James Beard Award-winning chef and cookbook author Kwame Onwuachi has covered a lot of ground since his “Top Chef” appearance in 2015, from opening restaurants in Washington, D.C. to joining Food & Wine as an executive producer in Los Angeles. Now, the Bronx native is back in New York, and his new restaurant, Tatiana, By Kwame Onwuachi, is taking the Upper West Side by storm.

Located inside Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall, Tatiana (named after Onwuachi’s sister) opened in November. Here, Onwuachi takes the concept of “elevated comfort food” and transforms it with New York specificity, referencing the neighborhood classics he grew up on like chopped cheeses, Chinese takeout, and Cosmic Brownies. The menu is an inventive melting pot, much like the city itself, guided by his own “Afro-Caribbean-by-way-of-the-Bronx” heritage.

The menu is, in a word, fun, and the atmosphere is made to match, with color-changing cloud lights hanging from the ceiling and a playlist that keeps guests around for a third or fourth cocktail. Recent high praise from New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells, who gave Tatiana a three-star review and named it his No. 1 pick for the best restaurant in New York, only adds to the challenge of landing a table here nowadays.

Don’t be discouraged, though: We spoke to Tatiana’s restaurant manager Kelly Linton and hospitality director Chrissy Sookoo for their insights on snagging a coveted cover, and all the reasons you’re going to want to go.

Resy: How many seats are there at Tatiana?

Sookoo: Seventy: 50 seats in the main dining room, 14 in the private dining room, and six at the bar. We also have 32 seats outside on the patio.

And when do reservations drop on Resy?

Linton: They drop 28 days in advance, every day at 12 noon.

How quickly do seats usually get booked up?

Linton: For Valentine’s Day, they were booked out in 12 minutes. But normally, within the first, maybe, 30 minutes, all the primetime spots are gone. The 5 to 7 p.m. slots go the fastest. And then by the end of the week, everything is done for that day. So, let’s say reservations drop for the 5th, and if that’s a Monday, then by Friday everything is gone.

Do you hold any seats for walk-ins?

Linton: We hold the bar and the outdoor patio seats for walk-ins. The full menu is served outdoors, too.

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

Sookoo: Right when we open at 5 p.m.

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

Linton: So, there are two separate waits. We’ll run a waitlist at the door if we have availability, and that is anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. And then the bartenders have their own waitlist, and they’ll stop the list at about a two-hour wait.

Can guests have a cocktail while they wait for their table?

Sookoo: Absolutely.

Linton: If the bar doesn’t have enough space, they can go to the outside bar and wait in different halls, where they’re allowed to move around.

When would you say your busiest nights are?

Sookoo: Oh, every night. Honestly. The busiest are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, but really, every night is packed. It honestly depends on the week; there are some weeks where Tuesday is busier than Thursday or Friday. It’s insane.

What You Need to Know

Chef Kwame Onwuachi describes the food at Tatiana as having “a lot of Afro Caribbean influence with [a] New York undertone.” Photo courtesy of Tatiana, By Kwame Onwuachi

Plan Ahead: Reservations drop at 12 noon, 28 days in advance.

The Layout: There are 70 indoor seats total: 50 in the main dining room; 14 in the private dining room; six seats at the bar. Outside on the patio, which is for walk-ins only, they’ve got 32 seats.

Walk On In: Bar seats and the outdoor dining area are held for walk-ins but there’s a chance you could still get in as a walk-in, either for the main dining room or the bar by putting your name on the waitlist. If you do walk-in, showing up right at 5 p.m. is recommended. There are also half-hour windows in between seatings (7:30 to 8 p.m.) where you might be able to walk in.

The main dining room accommodates up to 50 guests. Photo by Adrian Gaut, courtesy of Lincoln Center and Modellus Novus

Must-Orders: For first bites, order the andouille sausage, crispy okra, curried goat patties, cornbread and cod, and honeynut piri piri salad to start; for your entree, consider the braised oxtail, shortrib pastrami suya, Mom Dukes shrimp, or brown stew red snapper; don’t sleep on the Bodega Special for dessert; and if you’re drinking, do try the POG Nutcracker cocktail.

Pro Tips: First of all, do come dressed to impress. (Everyone else does.) Secondly, you can also try calling (212-875-5222) or emailing ( the restaurant for help with a reservation.

Tatiana was designed by Modellus Novus.
From the main dining room you can look into the open kitchen, past the bar. Photo by Adrian Gaut, courtesy of Lincoln Center and Modellus Novus
Tatiana was designed by Modellus Novus.
From the main dining room you can look into the open kitchen, past the bar. Photo by Adrian Gaut, courtesy of Lincoln Center and Modellus Novus

So what is prime dinner time?

Sookoo: 5 to 7 p.m.

When is your least busy time?

Linton: There’s a small half-hour slot in between seatings when people are leaving to go to their shows [at Lincoln Center]. As the 5 o’clock people are leaving, there’s a half-hour window between 7:30 and 8 where you might have a chance to get a walk-in table with an out time. So the girls will tell them, “Hey, you can sit down, but I need the table back by 8:30.”

How long is your Notify list on Resy?

Sookoo: OK, so the Notify list is anywhere from starting around 800 to more than 2,000 on some days.

Linton: On any random Tuesday, there could be 700, 800 people on the waitlist.

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

Linton: The late-night slots, sometimes, will cancel for 9 o’clock. Or, with a show, sometimes the 5 o’clock will cancel because they can’t make it.

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

Linton: I would just suggest calling because we have a reservationist, and they’re live and they’re sitting at the desk. So oftentimes they’re able to look and see if they can squeeze a reservation in.

Sookoo: We take reservations over email, as well, at

Linton: If we can do it, we’ll do it.

What, in your opinion, is the best seat in the house?

Sookoo: Table 54! 54 and 24. Also, table 61, I’m partial to, if you’re a party of like five or six. But if you’re just a two-top, 54 and 24. They have a nice little view.

Linton: Table 54, I love to death, because the person sitting there can see the entire restaurant.

Can guests reserve a particular table?

Sookoo: No, but you can say that you want to sit at a particular table, and we’ll try our best, but it’s not guaranteed. We both love adding those little guest notes, so we know what they like, because a lot of our guests are returning guests. We’ll accommodate guests as best as we can, but if we can’t, we’ll try to make up for it the next time.

The honeynut squash piri piri salad was inspired by Nando’s piri piri chicken, which Onwuachi ate often in D.C. Photo courtesy of Tatiana, By Kwame Onwuachi
The braised oxtails are marinated in jerk and curry and brown sugar and then roasted, then braised in a chicken stock with garlic, ginger, scallions, thyme, and allspice. Photo courtesy of Tatiana, By Kwame Onwuachi

Since you mention returning guests, how many regulars would you say Tatiana has?

Sookoo: Oh, it’s a growing list.

How does one become a regular at a place like Tatiana?

Linton: Everyone makes friends with the staff. There are people who only come to sit at the bar because of our bartenders. There are literally people who come to see Chrissy, or maybe one of the [servers] will develop a relationship with them and get them a table. People just love the servers, they come in and … you’re home. Come in, be friends, and we’ll see if we can get you a table.

Let’s say it’s a Friday night at 7 p.m. Can you set the scene for me? What’s the vibe?

Linton: So, on a Friday night at 7 p.m., everyone who sat for the first seating is getting up now. All the tables are turning for the 7:15 and 7:30 reservations. Then the bar usually starts to clear up, and more walk-ins come in, and that’s when we turn up the music a little bit. It transitions from that calm, pre-theater into a fun night setting.

Sookoo: I also want to mention the ambiance in the restaurant – the lights are nice and dim, and then we have the cloud lights in the middle of the dining room. It’s usually purple, but sometimes we’ll change the colors a bit. It’s such a lively, fun vibe.

Linton: It’s very sexy and chic. People get dressed to go there. Like, our clientele looks fabulous. It’s a gorgeous place.

Almost everything I’ve read about Tatiana makes mention of the playlist – people are really into it. What kind of music are you putting on?

Linton: Probably Afrobeats, different kinds of dancehall … there’s old-school R&B, there’s Biggie, there’s hip-hop.

Sookoo: There’s a little bit of everything for everyone.

Linton: No matter what you wanna hear, you’ll hear it. All of the sudden, it comes on and everyone’s like, “Oh my god, I remember that song,” and they’re dancing.

When, in your opinion, is the best time to be at the restaurant?

Linton: I’d say Saturday night, from 8 o’clock on. You don’t want to leave – people really do not want to leave. Normally, you’re trying to finish dinner because the next place is the place. But here, you’ll want to stay because the music is great, the staff is friendly, and you just want to have more cocktails. We actually have to turn the lights on and tell people, “Lincoln Center is closed,” at the end of the night.

The pastrami suya short rib is one of many must-order dishes at Tatiana.
The pastrami suya short rib comes with caraway coco bread and melted red cabbage. Photo courtesy of Tatiana, By Kwame Onwuachi
The pastrami suya short rib is one of many must-order dishes at Tatiana.
The pastrami suya short rib comes with caraway coco bread and melted red cabbage. Photo courtesy of Tatiana, By Kwame Onwuachi

Do each of you have a favorite dish?

Sookoo: The whole menu. OK, well, I just tried the short rib. It changed my life. I’m a new woman. It’s delicious. The way that the flavors come together, it’s incredible. We encourage guests to make little sandwiches out of the coco bread, with the short rib and the melted cabbage. And the curry goat patties are a must.

Linton: I’m obsessed with the scallops. Our scallops are insane, just so good. [Editor’s Note: The scallops aren’t offered at the moment, but a good substitute is the andouille sausage.]

Sookoo: Oh my gosh, and everyone’s favorite: the crispy okra. People who don’t even like okra love the okra. It’s sweet, but it has a spice at the back end. Like, my mom can’t even get me to eat okra, and I’m eating this okra.

As for cocktails, do you have personal favorites?

Sookoo: The Nutcracker for sure – the POG Nutcracker, which stands for passion fruit, orange, and guava juices. It’s so delicious.

If someone is visiting for the first time, what would recommend that they order?

Linton: Curry goat patties, of course, to start. The corn bread and cod, the piri piri salad. And for an entrée, the oxtail. See, here’s where it gets tricky, because it depends on what you want. A combination that a lot of people get, if they’re meat eaters, is the oxtail and the [short rib] pastrami [suya]. But if you want to break that up, you might do the oxtail with the shrimp.

Sookoo: And the snapper. [To drink,] definitely the Nutcracker, and then, hmm, I’m a shots girl after that.

Are there a lot of shots going on?

Linton: I mean … we are a tequila-loving restaurant. We love shots for birthdays and special occasions. It’s fun. It’s definitely a vibe.

Sookoo: Any reason to celebrate, we’re there, we’re ready.

Curried goat patties are a must while at Tatiana.
Curried goat patties are a must while at Tatiana. Photo by Evan Sung, courtesy of Tatiana, By Kwame Onwuachi
… and so is the POG Nutcracker cocktail. Photo by Evan Sung, courtesy of Tatiana, By Kwame Onwuachi

Is there anything else people should know before they go?

Sookoo: I would say, if you’re looking for a quieter environment, maybe we’re not the best for that because our music is a bit livelier. In the first turn it’s very mellow, the music is a little bit lower because we have those theater guests that we’d like to accommodate. But for the second turn of the night, it’s definitely not a place where you would want to just have a conversation and stuff like that. It’s the vibe; it just gets a little lively in there.

The menu is obviously very interesting, very unique, in the way it re-conceptualizes so many New York staples, bodega snacks, things like that. I would think that must be really exciting for New Yorkers, but possibly also tourists dining with you as well.

Linton: They love it. The best is from the New Yorkers; they love the chopped cheese. Everyone’s like, “This is the best,” and now they want to go to the bodega and ask for truffles. [Editor’s Note: The chopped cheese is not currently on the menu.]

Sookoo: Even one of our cocktails, the Half and Half, is a play on an Arnold Palmer. That’s another one that a lot of New Yorkers gravitate toward when they’re at the bar.

Linton: For dessert, there’s one dish called the Bodega Special. It’s a play on the Cosmic Brownie from Little Debbie, and the ice cream tastes like a powdered doughnut. When people get it, they’re like, “Wait, that looks like a Cosmic Brownie.” It’s a whole thing. They’re like, “Oh my god, the Bodega Special, I get it.” The excitement is dope, I love it.

Tatiana, By Kwame Onwuachi is open from 5 to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and from 5 to 11 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays.

Ariana DiValentino is a writer, filmmaker, and actor based in Brooklyn. Follow her on InstagramTwitter, and TikTok. Follow Resy, too.