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SPECIAL TRAVEL ISSUE | SIDETRIPS

Food Processors

October 15, 2000

Click on 'table for two'

Deciding where to dine on vacation--and reserving tables--can be challenging, especially when time differences and language barriers get in the way. A variety of Internet sites have sprung up to solve such problems by allowing you to book restaurant reservations online. Some sites even include pictures, reviews, maps and menus.

But before you rush to your PC to reserve a table at Alain Ducasse, words of warning. First, these services are so new that they feature a limited number of restaurants (and only a few of the hottest tickets). Second, some ask for a credit card number and charge you a fee if you don't show up.

There are two types of sites: those that offer real-time reservations (meaning you can see what tables are open and book one immediately), and those that contact the restaurant for you and send you an e-mail confirming your seating. Here are some sites to explore:

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Book2eat.com: Real-time reservations for a large number of London restaurants (Che, the Ritz). Perk: The site's "Diary" feature has a daily calendar of events around town and recommends nearby restaurants.

Foodline.com: Real-time reservations in 25 U.S. cities, with more than 100 restaurants in Manhattan (Match, the Odeon), but only a handful for places such as Las Vegas. Perk: Great articles and resources on food and drinks.

ireserve.com: Real-time reservations for 10 regions, including Washington, D.C. (Bistrot Lepic, Taberna Del Alabardero) and the Hamptons (Della Femina). Perk: Soon you'll also be able to book appointments with hairstylists, doctors and personal trainers.

iSeatz.com: Real-time reservations in 13 regions. The big city here is New Orleans (Andrea's, Arnaud's). Perk: The site covers a few less-predictable locations such as Lake Tahoe and Nashville.

Opentable.com: Real-time reservations for restaurants in 18 U.S. cities, though there are less than a dozen offerings in some locations. It's especially useful for New York (Lespinasse, 21 Club), San Francisco (Fleur de Lys, La Folie) and Chicago (mk, Tru). It's also not bad for Los Angeles. Perk: A rewards program allows you to accumulate points toward free food.

Restaurantrow.com: This e-mail reservation site boasts 110,000 member restaurants in 7,000 cities, mainly in the United States. Highlights include New York (Four Seasons, La Cote Basque) and Chicago (Everest). Perk: Top 10 lists for major cities help narrow the field.

SavvyDiner.com: E-mail reservations for 25 U.S. cities and Vancouver, Canada. Perk: Restaurants are divided into helpful categories such as "View Dining," "Regional Cuisine," or "Casual Dining."

Top-restaurants.com: E-mail reservations for restaurants in Paris (Tour d'Argent, Spoon), London (Teatro) and a few other British cities. There's a good selection of top restaurants--200 to choose from in Paris. Perk: Their umbrella site, http://wwwreservethebest.com, also takes reservations for hotels and chateaux.

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