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How can I get a table at a top restaurant?

No Reservation? No Problem!

OK, let's say it's Friday night, 7:30 and the restaurant is packed. You have no reservation, and the waiting list is a mile long. In this case it's helpful to know the owner, which will almost always land you a table. If you don't, you may need to grease a few palms. Paying the host for a table is common in the movies, but does it work in real life?

Surprisingly, it does, though policies on such "bribing" or "tipping" vary from restaurant to restaurant. Some see it as a normal part of business, while others look down on it with disgust. If you decide to go for it, dress nicely and bring along a single $20, $50, or $100 bill, neatly folded with the amount showing. Isolate the head host, approach him or her confidently, and request a table while discreetly presenting the bill. If the host accepts it and is able to find you a table, tip the staff generously and ask for the host's business card on your way out. This allows you to build a relationship with the host that will make getting a table much easier the next time.

And here's something else to chew on, before you click over to the links on the next page: If you think bribing the host is expensive, wait until you get the bill at Aragawa, an exclusive Tokyo steakhouse. It costs about $550 a person to eat at this top restaurant, which commonly heads Forbes Magazine's list of the world's priciest eating establishments.