Jean's dining room
Photo by Maegan Gindi, courtesy of Jean’s

The One Who Keeps the BookNew York

How to Get Into Jean’s

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Intrigue, exclusivity, and fun are not in short supply at Jean’s. The restaurant, which opened in 2023 from Max Chodorow, the son of storied New York restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow, was always going to have a buzz.

Upstairs, the restaurant is a party all its own, with chile-oil house martinis and a burger that’s slowly becoming a cult classic. Downstairs, there’s a club with an air of exclusivity so strong, people book tables for dinner solely in the hopes of making their way downstairs when they’re finished eating.

Any place with such scarcity makes for a tough reservation to snag, and that’s where we come in. Kahiem Rivera, the general manager, is no stranger to a buzzy hot spot like this. A native New Yorker, he’s worked across the city at some of the most fun spots in the five boroughs, and he knows how to handle a party. In this edition of The One Who Keeps The Books, we sit down with him to talk roast chicken, getting into the infamous downstairs club, and of course, how to get a table upstairs.

Resy: How far in advance do reservations drop?

Rivera: We start booking two weeks out, at midnight.

How quickly are they filling up, usually?

On weekends and for the prime-time seatings, pretty immediately.

What are the prime-time seatings?

It’s really between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. when we’re always fully committed.

Do you think that runs a little later than normal because of the club downstairs?

People always ask for 8 p.m. and then we kind of have to push them into where we need them to be. But definitely, anyone booking after 9 p.m. is asking to go downstairs.

What You Need to Know
Jean’s

  • Stay Up Late
    Reservations drop two weeks in advance at midnight.
  • Walk On In
    Try your luck at 5, 7, or 10 p.m. for your best chance of walking in.
  • What to Order
    The tuna carpaccio, chicken, burger, and Dirty Jean’s martini.
  • Pro Tip
    Don’t be afraid to try your luck with Resy Notify or just walk in. And if you want to go to the club downstairs, try to show up in a smaller group and dress to impress.
Jean's cookie
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Are you saving any room for walk-ins?

Well, I try my best. Generally for walk-ins, we can only accommodate on the shoulders, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. and after 10 p.m. We do late-night dining upstairs, so after 10 we start to have a little space and can seat some small parties.

How many seats are there in the upstairs restaurant?

We have 104 seats by default, but we definitely push it. We have a lot of chairs in storage, and we’ll sometimes pull them out for larger groups.

Do you use the Resy Notify list?

Oh yeah. We have a reservations department that’s on every day from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., going through the requests and filling the holes when people cancel.

Oh, wow. How big is the reservations department?

Six people. We need it. There are a lot of requests, and a lot of internal requests. Only one person works at each given moment, but there’s always someone on.

Jean's space
Photo by Maegan Gindi, courtesy of Jean’s
Jean's space
Photo by Maegan Gindi, courtesy of Jean’s

How long does that Notify list usually get?

We usually have close to 300 requests per day.

All of that being said, what do you think is the best piece of advice for someone who’s trying to get a table?

Come early, and be OK to hang out at our bar for an hour while you wait. There are always no-shows. If you have the patience to just hang out and have a Dirty Jean’s Martini at the bar, we will most likely be able to get you seated. It’s a waiting game.

And what about downstairs? How do people get down there?

It’s obviously our club, but they really do operate as a separate entity. We do our best to pass on the requests to go downstairs, but it’s a small room that also fills up very quickly. We’ll always let large groups that we book at the restaurant know that they have the option of talking to the club management and getting a table.

In terms of just getting into the club, I’d say come with a small group, look your best, and try your luck at the door.

Do you have to come into the restaurant to go downstairs, or is there another entrance?

No, there’s a side entrance [just for the club]. It’s not exactly a speakeasy, but it kind of has its own entrance and line.

When is the club open?

It’s usually open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, unless we have a special event or a party. We had a Greenville Records after party recently. It was a Tuesday night, but we said, “Of course” for that.

Jeans' wood-grilled half-chicken
The wood-grilled half-chicken dish is a must-order. Photo by Dylan Warmack, courtesy of Jean’s
Jeans' wood-grilled half-chicken
The wood-grilled half-chicken dish is a must-order. Photo by Dylan Warmack, courtesy of Jean’s

Given that people who get a table may not be able to get another one for a while, what do you think is a must-order?

I think that we might have the best chicken dish in New York right now. The wood-grilled half chicken is amazing. Chicken is a hard thing for a restaurant to pull off — sometimes it can be dry — but ours is tender, moist, and always perfectly cooked. The tuna carpaccio is also one of my favorite dishes, and we have a burger that is getting quite the reputation.

What about drinks? I know you mentioned that martini.

The Dirty Jean’s is really an incredible martini. We use some dashes of chile oil to accentuate it and make it complex. Our beverage director has also been clarifying a lot of the cocktails to give them this really clean, silky mouthfeel.

We also just printed our first wine book, so we have a large wine program now, and a sommelier who has just joined the team. We’re pushing wine in a serious way now.

How new is that development?

Just in the last few months or so, we really developed our book. It was a much smaller offering before that. We brought on the new somm in late March, and he’s crushing it.

Do you have a favorite table inside or a favorite part of the space, personally?

As someone who’s worked in a lot of restaurants, there are always less-desirable tables. Here, though, the main dining room is extremely democratic. There’s not a bad seat in the house. But, we do have one banquette that we internally call the “king’s table.” It’s a hard one to book but it’s definitely where I like to put people who I know are celebrating or who I want to show a really good time. It’s in the center of the room, so you can really see everything.

Jeans' Bistro Burger
The Bistro Burger. Photo by Dylan Warmack, courtesy of Jean’s
Jean's Caesar salad
The Caesar salad. Photo by Dylan Warmack, courtesy of Jean’s

Set the scene for us. What’s the dining room like between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on a weekend?

We book a lot of groups on the weekends. There are a lot of tables that are between five and 10 people, sometimes more, in the center of the room. All of the large tables can turn into one giant table, and that can really change the dynamic. When you have a big group in the middle of the room celebrating, it’s a different energy. It’s a loud, lively, large room.

We have a lot of staff, there are a lot of people. You feel like you’re out even though you’re eating; it feels like a night out. It’s not a quiet, dark restaurant. It’s bustling.

Tell me about yourself. How did you end up in this role at Jean’s?

I’ve been all over the place in the last five years. I spent most of my time in management at the Turk’s Inn and the Sultan Room in Bushwick, which is a 70-seat restaurant and a 300-capacity music venue, plus a rooftop bar and a kebab shop. The restaurant-to-club pipeline is deep rooted for me. Then, I spent time at The Nines around the corner, and really cut my teeth on the concept of luxury dining that still is kind of a clubstaurant — they set up a DJ booth after dinner on the weekend and it always turns into a party.

Those were two perfect segues for me into Jean’s. I know all the guys, they’re all New York natives, and I’m from New York. We developed a friendship and when they were looking for a new GM [general manager], the timing was just right for me. The rest is history.

As someone who has that storied experience at clubstaurants, how do you feel the experience at Jean’s compares? Is it similar, or are things different because the club and restaurant are separate?

We do throw parties up here. Once we get to the later part of the evening, we switch the LED lights from warm yellow to deep red. We don’t have a DJ every night, but it does turn into quite a large hang with a lot of groups. There’s a network of people that know each other and there’s a lot of cross-pollination in the social scene. And I mean, it’s not a fine-dining restaurant. I have high service standards for my staff to execute fine dining, because people are spending money and it’s generally a three-or four-course meal, but it’s without all the buttoned-up, less personal touch that usually comes with fine dining.

 

Jean’s is open from 5 to 11:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.


Ellie Plass is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. Follow her on Instagram and X. Follow Resy, too.

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