The Progress is opening tonight, and if the rush of patrons at sister restaurant State Bird Provisions is any indication, it's sure to become one of SF's toughest tickets in about zero seconds flat. State Bird's super-smart staff are already well aware of that status, and are doing the best they can to make the experience easier for guests. But like any restaurant, some things are bound to change while they feel out the space and find their rhythm. In the meantime, here's what you need to know to score a spot for dinner at The Progress.
It's a different scene than State Bird: Unlike State Bird's roving-cocktail-party vibe, everything at The Progress is done family-style and served from big sharing plates tailored to each party size. That means it's less modular and people are likely to linger longer, with fewer table turnovers each night. If you want a quick meal, this is not the place to go; stick with State Bird instead.
The deal with reservations: Like State Bird, The Progress is on OpenTable, and making a reservation online is the best way to ensure you'll snag a seat. To start, they're only opening up their book seven days in advance, which means that if it's a Wednesday, you'll only be able to book a table through the following Wednesday. Once Thursday comes around, the following Thursday will open to the public, and so on. As they work out the flow, they plan to extend the reservation window longer (State Bird's is 60 days, with the 60th day opening in the same way each day). And for those worried about the reservation hacking that plagued State Bird, OpenTable has installed a captcha on The Progress' reservations as well.
Walk in: Unlike State Bird, which reserves a nice chunk of the dining room for walk-ins, The Progress is only offering its bar as a walk-in option for now. While the bar is lovely and does serve food (in addition to full liquor and cocktails, the license for which State Bird doesn't have), it doesn't have any seats, so it's probably not the kind of place you'll want to park it for a full meal. Chef-owners Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski say they'll eventually figure out a way to open up a portion of The Progress' dining room to walk-ins, as they don't want to be a completely reservations-only joint. But for the time being, we'd definitely advise against forming a line outside at 5 pm like the State Bird die-hards do, as you'll likely end up disappointed.
Bring a big party: If you're willing to do a little advance planning and bring a big group, The Progress offers a more tailored experience for large parties of 8-20 people. (State Bird also does this for their two big tables in the back.) You can reach out to them directly to set something up, but keep in mind that this option is really best for enthusiastic, flexible diners, as the cheapest menu starts at $52/person without drinks, and everything is served family-style and chosen by the group as a collective.
Whatever you do, be nice: The staff at State Bird and The Progress are some of the best in the city, and are used to trying to make magic happen in tight time slots. (As Brioza put it in an interview: "Our policy is never to say 'no.' We always say 'yes' and then figure it out after.") With that said, they're still human beings, and under a lot of stress trying to figure out the mechanics of a new restaurant. A smile, a kind word, and some flexibility will take you a long way.
Further intel on The Progress: