Chef David Barzelay wants to invite you to a dinner party. As with most successful social engagements, the host graciously introduces himself at the door, promptly offers guests a glass of punch, and encourages them to mingle with the 39 other lucky souls who were able to nab a spot at this nightly foodie fete. Lazy Bear is another player in the “don’t call it a restaurant” game: instead of taking reservations, 40 tickets are up for grabs for each event (there are two per night), and diners are treated more like party guests in a home than customers. But what makes Barzelay’s concept so innovative—and enjoyable—is the laid-back vibe. Two long communal tables fill the dining room, and as at the wedding of old friends, guests get up between courses to chat with each other or peek into the surrounding open kitchen. It’s an appropriate graduation for a chef who developed a cult following with his roving underground pop-ups. And beyond the conviviality, there’s the food, which is the real life of the party—and the reason Lazy Bear nabbed a Michelin star in 2016. There’s no menu, and Barzelay himself describes the inventive dishes—such as dry-aged squab with blueberries, chanterelle mushrooms, and sumac—to diners.

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