Stories of the epic lines at Toki Underground are at this point legendary. There are ways to avoid them — the restaurant accepts early reservations, and managers are willing to call customers' cell phones when a table is ready.
Balancing these various systems is part of the job of general manager Joe Ostrosky. For this month's Gatekeepers, Ostrosky, who used to play in a band with chef Erik Bruner-Yang before coming to work at Toki, talks about celebrity ramen eaters, how long the waits really get, and how nuts it was on Inauguration Day.
Ok, I show up on Saturday night around 7, 8 p.m. What kind of wait am I in for?
Typically the wait is 3 to 4 hours. On Saturdays we open at 5, and usually a line starts forming at around 4:30 or 4:45. And then from 5 to 5:45 I start taking names.
How big is the line?
Typically about 25 people get in line before 5 on Saturday.
Is the scenario pretty similar on Fridays?
On Fridays, we do close to the same volume. I think on Saturdays since people are off work, they're more willing to get here early. On Fridays, it's usually 6 or 6:15 before it gets super busy.
If people don't want to wait long, when do you recommend they arrive?
Early, between 5-6 p.m., on weekdays. And you can also book on CityEats for early reservations.
What are the rules surrounding the CityEats reservations?
We accept reservations up to two weeks in advance, which we recommend for Fridays and Saturdays. Usually during the week you can still grab an early reservation. It's for 5, 5:15 or 5:30 for a party of 2, or 6 p.m. for 2 to 4 people. But we recommend calling if you can't make a reservation.