Okay…we should say, “you may not need ‘em.” Because there are nights. But generally speaking, here are six spots whose size, location, no-reservation policy, and/or casual vibe translates much of the time to an open table with your name on it.
Mount Baker Ridge features a lineup of nicely differentiated burgers—Vietnamese, jerk chicken, and a fine falafel version among them—but we’re partial to the bacon bleu, with fries. Milkshake or cocktail? Tough choice—till you see the infused shakes, lit with bourbon or rum. Psst: Heyday’s family appeal tends to empty the place out on the early side. heydayseattle.com
Tamarind Tree’s downtown sister offers a long menu of freshly conceived Vietnamese plates—salads are to die for—and you can pretty much score a spontaneous weeknight table. Weekends are trickier, but staffers suggest a call before you come can work wonders in lieu of a reservation. longprovincial.com
Renee Erickson’s Capitol Hill knockoff of her own perpetually slammed masterpiece, the Ballard oyster bar Walrus and the Carpenter, delivers much the same spirit (and many of the same oysters) as that joint—without the perpetually slammed part. The complication? It’s sometimes slammed. Which makes it the Renee Erickson oyster bar that’s worth a shot when you don’t have an hour just for waiting. barmelusine.com
Yes, there can be a wait at the exhilarating Asian street-food drop-in in Fremont, where reservations are not accepted for parties of six or fewer. The good news is, tables tend to turn quickly. The great news? You can wait in the adjoining Quoin, one of Seattle’s great cocktail bars (which serves Revel’s whole menu). Go early. revelseattle.com
It’s a solid French bistro food in a very pretty Ballard room—and its relatively large size (with more seating come patio weather) enhances your shot without a reservation. If you do wait, it’ll almost always be shorter than you’d have virtually anywhere else on teeming Ballard Ave. bastilleseattle.com
For reliably laudable versions of Americanized Chinese and Korean stalwarts—red chili chicken, kimchi fried rice—this sleek Chinatown fave has your back. And, almost always, a table. redlanternseattle.com