The One Who Keeps the Book New York
How to Get Into Shukette
Since opening in the summer of 2021, Shukette has quickly become one of New York’s most lauded restaurants (especially among chefs like Pig & Khao’s Leah Cohen and Hav & Mar’s Fariyal Abdullahi), and one of the toughest tables to snag, too. Located in Chelsea and known for its vibrant and flavorful Levantine cuisine, Shukette is the “mischievous sister” restaurant to Shuka, also from James Beard-nominated chef Ayesha Nurdjaja.
Shukette brings the party as soon as you walk through the doors, especially if you’re lucky enough to come on a night where Nurdjaja is working the line. With its open kitchen, diners seated at the counter get a front row seat to the action, with a soundtrack of 90’s club and hip hop bumping in the background.
The communal vibe at Shukette also gets reflected in the menu, with a diverse selection of breads and spreads that are garlic forward (in the best way) and meant to be enjoyed “rip n’ dip” style. Plenty of small plates (“the shuk”) and grilled mains — all of which are meant to be shared — only add to the celebratory mood.
Still pining after a reservation? Jessica DeGeorge, Shukette’s general manager, aka “the one who keeps the books,” clued us in with a few words of wisdom on how to secure your seat.
Resy: How many seats are there at Shukette?
DeGeorge: Inside we have 68, so it’s very cozy. Outside we have 46 within our enclosed structures, and then in the summertime we’ll offer more sidewalk seating. That’s another 22 seats. So, it changes based on the season.
When do reservations drop on Resy?
They drop 30 days in advance at 9 a.m.
How quickly does the restaurant book up?
Our prime times book within the first hour as soon as reservations are released. People set their alarms for 9 a.m. As the day goes on things book up even more, and we’re lucky to say that.
What is your busiest night? Or least busy night?
Every night is consistent throughout the whole week, but Fridays and Saturdays are our busiest. Thursday and Sunday have also gotten really busy. We just changed our Sunday hours, so we’re now open from 4 to 10 p.m., so we’re seeing it get a lot busier that night, too. But Monday through Wednesday we have more availability toward the end of the night.
What’s considered prime time at Shukette?
When we open our doors, the restaurant fills. It’s a complete vibe within the first 30 minutes of service. Honestly, from the start until we close it really doesn’t stop. Even at 10:30 p.m. we have a line at the door.
Is there any incentive to come in as soon as you open? Or as late as 10:30 p.m.?
We always keep tables open for walk-ins, and we’re not looking for the reservation only approach. We want people to be able to walk by, stop by, and hopefully get a table if we have something open. And even at 10:30, people are still sitting down at tables and getting a full meal. So, if 10:30 is the only option, I recommend giving it a shot, especially on weekends.
What You Need to Know
Plan Ahead: Reservations drop 30 days in advance at 9 a.m.
Walk On In: Anywhere from 20 to 25 seats are reserved for walk-ins. Show up before 5 p.m. to get in line if you want to snag a seat. Seats also tend to open up in the later hours, around 10 p.m..
Must-Orders: The frena, a pillowy Moroccan flatbread flavored with roasted garlic and fresh oregano; Joojeh chicken, saffron and yogurt marinated half chicken served with toum (whipped garlic) and bang bang shata (Shukette’s famous hot sauce). Don’t sleep on any of the wines, or the Amaro-based cocktails.
Layout: Shukette has 68 seats inside, including those in the dining room and at the counter, which surrounds an open kitchen. Outdoor seating is enclosed and heated during the colder months, offering an additional 46 seats. The restaurant also sets up 22 seats on the sidewalk in the summer.
Pro Tips: If you’re waiting for a reservation through Resy’s Notify list, make sure your email and/or Resy mobile app push notifications are on. Pay extra attention around noon, when Resy sends out confirmation texts to those with existing reservations; if someone cancels, you might just be able to snag that Resy through Notify.
How many seats are reserved for walk-ins, and how early do you need to get there to score one?
It changes based on the day. Probably between 20 to 25 seats approximately, but it could be up to 60. We have enclosed structures outside that are completely heated and have their own vibe. Sometimes on a milder night we’ll set up outdoor seating, too. Especially if you’re walking in, that is a great option.
What is the typical wait time for a walk-in?
People can definitely try to walk in because of last-minute cancellations, but it rarely happens. Even the unconfirmed reservations usually show up. But, since we do keep walk-in tables open, the wait can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour-and-a-half.
How long is your Notify list on Resy?
About 1,500 people are on our Notify list for tonight, and that’s very typical. For Fridays and Saturdays, it reaches about 2,000 people. The Notify list is definitely my jam. It has been a really great resource for us, and I truly believe that it’s a useful tool. As long as you can pay attention and have the notifications on, you can snag something. I myself have used it, too, when I go to restaurants. It’s also helpful if people have a later reservation and want to come in earlier; you can put yourself on the Notify list and it can easily be swapped.
How likely are you to get a seat once you’re on the Notify list?
It’s hard to say because of the high numbers. But it really comes down to making sure your Resy notifications are on and you’re paying attention to your email. It’s an automated system, so we can’t let individual guests know if a spot opens up, but when a table cancels, I do my best to move things around so we can accommodate more people.
My advice is to check your email because you might get lucky if you pay attention. People cancel every night; it’s the natural process of every restaurant. Keep an eye out around 12 o’clock, because that’s when Resy sends out the confirmation text for that evening’s reservations. So, if people are going to cancel, it often happens around that time.
What is the best seat in the house, in your opinion?
At the counter. 110%. Sit anywhere at the counter. You really feel like you’re a part of the process. Our back-of-house team works so hard, and in most restaurants they’re behind the scenes. At the counter, you get to witness the detail and care that goes into these dishes. Being able to see it will give you a new appreciation. Guests can ask our line cooks questions and they’ll get an answer or a brief description of a dish. It’s such a fun experience, especially when chef Ayesha is there. The counter is the hottest spot in town.
Can customers reserve a specific table?
We will try to accommodate any requests. Obviously, we take reservations for the dining room or counter, so we always put people in the section they ask to be seated in. Beyond that, we can’t guarantee a specific seat, but we do our best.
How would you describe the experience in the dining room versus at the counter?
Overall, you can feel the energy no matter where you are because the restaurant is essentially just one big room. A table in the dining room is more intimate. We do have dividers between each table or booth, so you’ll really only be interacting with your party. But since our dining room is on the smaller side, it’s still energetic, lively, and vibey.
At the counter the vibe is very communal. People in different parties start talking to each other, and we do make reservations for one and seat the people dining solo next to each other. Lately we’ve been saying “Shukette Matchmaker” because so many of our solo diners start talking and hit it off.
Two diners last week ended up ordering together. Other people have finished their meal and then gotten drinks together. I feel like we’re creating magic here and changing people’s destinies. It’s a little dramatic, but it feels like the movie “Sliding Doors.” The staff gets really into this too, it makes us so happy.
What sort of music do you play?
We mostly stick with early 2000’s hits, as well as old-school rap and hip hop. We’ll also play 90’s dance club music and remixes. There’s no such thing as low music in our restaurant. It’s all upbeat and a little nostalgic.
Is there a connection between the name, which stems from the modern Hebrew word shuk and the concept of having an open kitchen? Can you describe the thought process behind that design?
We really want to blend the two worlds. In New York, back of house tends to be behind a wall or even in a basement. We want guests to see the work that goes on in the kitchen, but we also want our kitchen staff to witness what their work turns into.
Chef Ayesha wanted it to be different from Shuka, where the kitchen is downstairs. Her personality is very big; she should never be kept away from the action, you know? It’s just not her vibe. The open kitchen was the main concept at Shukette because she wanted to be part of the whole experience and have that for the guests as well.
Lately we’ve been saying ‘Shukette Matchmaker’ because so many of our solo diners start talking and hit it off … It’s a little dramatic, but it feels like the movie ‘Sliding Doors.’ It makes us so happy.— Jessica DeGeorge, General Manager, Shukette
What are the must-try dishes?
The frena. Frena, frena, frena. I could turn into a frena. It’s the No. 1 dish, and it’s absolutely incredible. I would come in just for that. Also, our Joojeh chicken. Even if you don’t order chicken when you go out, I really recommend you try it. It’s marinated in garlic and yogurt, and it’s so juicy and flavorful. Chef is constantly changing the menu. She’s always coming up with something new, creating flavor profiles that are so different and unexpected. Everything is seasonal, so the menu changes quite often. You can’t go wrong.
And the must-order drinks?
So we serve beer and wine. We do not have hard liquor, but we do Amaro-based cocktails. We have a very extensive wine list. Our wine director is really creative and thoughtful in the process of trying to bring in Middle Eastern wines that pair with the food, making it really dynamic. And if you get the frena, I would pair it with one of our bubbles, like the cava.
Do you have lots of regulars at Shukette?
We do! We love our regulars. At the end of the day, they’re the ones who keep us going. Some people come in once a week. I’m constantly seeing the same names on our reservation reports, and we love that.
How does one become a regular at Shukette?
Just come in multiple times! Make connections with our staff. It’s so gratifying to work in a space where people are so excited and happy to be there. It’s our job to talk to people, and we love making connections with our diners and getting to know them. So, don’t be shy. Strike up a conversation, and then maybe we’ll expedite your regular status.
What do you think keeps people coming back to Shukette? What’s made Shukette so popular, in your opinion?
People come back for the vibe, and they come back for chef Ayesha. You come in on a night when she’s working, you’re going to be like, “I need to come back.” Beyond that, it’s our team and our ethos, our food and drink. Staff members are so excited about these dishes, and they are so genuine; they can really describe them and recommend their own favorites. Customers know bullshit and they know when someone is being disingenuous. We honor our staff’s personalities and their individuality because they’re a big part of why people come back. Shukette is no frills. It’s authentic, it’s approachable, and it’s just so fun and energetic. Also, the frena! Come back for the frena!
Shukette is open Monday through Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. and on Sunday from 4 to 11 p.m.
Katie Draisen is a Boston-based writer, bread baker, and private chef. Follow her on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.