No reservation? No problem. These top eateries harbor little-known bar seats where spontaneous solos can edge the hordes.

CHICAGO: Frontera Grill, 445 N. Clark St., (312) 661-1434
A three-margarita wait for Rick Bayless’ authentic regional Mexican cuisine isn’t uncommon. But savvy white-collar types and solo locals request the small row of kitchenside counter seats. What you forfeit in face-to-face conversation with a companion you gain in entertainment, as cooks prepare tasty dishes such as tostaditas de ceviche, scallops in green pumpkinseed mole, and some of the zestiest salsas north of the Rio Grande.

SAN FRANCISCO: Masa’s, 648 Bush St., (415) 989-7154
Filling former chef Julian Serrano’s shoes, Ron Siegel took over the highly praised and now renovated Masa’s last year — to more praise. Reservations earn dibs on Masa’s 65 seats, but unlike most high-end eateries, Masa’s serves its full menu, including three- to nine-course tasting menus, at the bar. Pop in for foie gras with huckleberries, roast partridge, and a warm chocolate tart.

VANCOUVER: 900 West, 900 West Georgia St., (604) 669-9378
The up-to-date 900 West is where executive chef Robert Le Crom engages his French technique in refining Pacific Northwest ingredients (try the caribou with wild berry sauce). He and staff chat up patrons of the dining counter that borders their open kitchen. A West Coast wine list, soaring ceilings, and arched windows make great dinner company.