I had dinner at the French Laundry last night (Thank you, Lori & David!!) and in due course I will be reporting on the experience. (It was, by far, the finest meal I have ever had).
While I was there I tried to learn a bit about getting reservations and here is what I believe I learned.
FL takes VIP reservations (primarily from the restaurant and wine industry). These reservations apparently are not bound by the 60-day rule. Next, they take reservations from people physically standing in line at about 9:50 a.m. for 60 days out. THEN they start answering the phone. This means that if you want a reservation for dinner on a weekend, you can forget about calling and getting one. This morning ALL reservations for dinner for Friday, August 15th were gone BEFORE they started answering the telephone. I am guessing there may be some slots available for weeknights that survive this process and are available for phone-in reservations -- but this is only a guess.
So, if you want to eat dinner at the FL on a weekend, (or maybe any other time) how can you do it? If you don't work in the food service industry, your choices are: 1) try to get one of the two tables on opentable.com. 2) stay at one of the expensive hotels in Yountville. FL doesn't give any tables to these places, but if you make your reservation more that 60 days in advance, the concierge at the hotel will walk over to FL 60 days before you want to eat there, and try to get a reservation for you in person. 3) Go there in person and stand in line.
Another possibility is to get on the wait list for a cancellation. I was told that they have a "lot" of cancellations, and they fill these up from the wait list. If you can be flexible about the dates you want to dine at the FL, get on the wait list for a number of days. Be flexible, be willing to take lunch if you can't get dinner. And, if you don't clear the wait list, eat at Bouchon, or Bistro Jeanty, or Gary Danko, or Fifth Floor!
Good luck. And believe me, the goal is well worth the quest.
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