HURRY UP AND WAIT
How long would you be willing to wait to nosh on your favorite food? At some popular restaurants around the country, the answer might shock you: three, even four hours at peak times. Eager customers are willing to line up for everything from gourmet fare to humble pizza and pancakes, and most of them say the delicious payoff at the end is worth the wait. We've rounded up spots across the country where you'll need a little bit of strategy — or a lot of patience — the next time cravings call.
DI FARA | BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
What you're waiting for: Hand-tossed pizzas and calzones, served the same way since 1964 by Italian-born Domenico De Marco. At peak times, the wait can be 90 minutes or more, according to Eater New York.
Best time to go: Lines are most manageable right after opening (noon Tuesday to Saturday, 1 p.m. on Sunday) or during the afternoon lull between lunch and dinner. It's closed on Mondays.
Why it's worth the wait: Reviewers rave about the thin crust and simple, fresh ingredients, including high-quality mozzarella and olive oil, and just the right amount of basil.
FRANKLIN BARBECUE | AUSTIN, TEXAS
What you're waiting for: Some of the best barbecue in the country, according to Bon Appetit. Waits can be 60 to 90 minutes on weekdays, and upward of three hours on Saturdays, according to Eater.
Best time to go: Tuesdays and Wednesdays are slowest, and owner Andrew Knowlton recommends coming before 10 a.m. for the 11 a.m. opening. Open only for lunch, Franklin closes when it sells out (around 2 or 3 p.m.) and is closed Mondays.
Why it's worth the wait: Tender meat that is melt-in-your-mouth amazing, devotees say. Waiting in line is part of the experience with beer, lawn chairs, and new friends galore.
BRENDA'S FRENCH SOUL FOOD | SAN FRANCISCO
What you're waiting for: A hearty menu full of Cajun brunch favorites. Waits are at least 45 minutes, and likely longer, according to Extra Crispy. Reviewers report waits up to two hours during peak weekend brunch hours.
Best time to go: Yelpers recommend visiting on weekdays, when many weekend brunch items are available on the breakfast menu without the crazy lines. Breakfast is served until 3 p.m. on weekdays; the full brunch menu is reserved for weekends.
Why it's worth the wait: Reviewers say the food is reliably mouth-watering. Favorites include beignets, shrimp and grits, and fried chicken.
CLINTON STREET BAKING CO. | NEW YORK CITY
What you're waiting for: One of NYC's best breakfasts. It's "a little bit country and a little bit food lab," according to the Michelin Guide. Waits can be an hour or more on weekends.
Best time to go: Any time during the week or weekend evenings. If going earlier on a weekend, you may also get in line virtually after 10 a.m. using an app called NoWait.
Why it's worth the wait: The fluffy blueberry pancakes are outstanding — featured on the Food Network's "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" — and reviewers recommend buttermilk biscuits.
PINK'S HOT DOGS | LOS ANGELES
What you're waiting for: The classics: chili dogs, burgers, onion rings, and other nostalgic favorites, served at an iconic Hollywood location since 1939. Waits can be an hour at peak times.
Best time to go: Owners recommend coming before the lunch rush, from 9:30 to noon, or after, from 2 to 7 p.m. Got the late-night munchies? Lines may be shorter from 9 to 11 p.m. — but may lengthen when post-bar crowds arrive.
Why it's worth the wait: Interesting combinations are worthy, reviewers say, such as the Philly Cheesesteak Dog (9-inch dog with grilled steak, peppers, onions and cheese) and the Three Dog Night (three dogs in a giant tortilla with three slices of cheese and bacon, chili and onions).
PECAN LODGE | DALLAS
What you're waiting for: Some of the best barbecue in Texas, according to Sports Illustrated. Wait time can be at least an hour, Yelpers say.
Best time to go: Dallas Guide Live recommends skipping peak lunch hours and weekends. Try the express counter with a much shorter wait if you're willing to order in bulk (that means taking home at least 5 pounds of meat).
Why it's worth the wait: The beef ribs are to die for, reviewers say, as are the burnt ends.
GARRETT POPCORN | CHICAGO
What you're waiting for: Gourmet popcorn in all kinds of flavors, including cheese, caramel, and kettle corn. Yelpers say waits can vary wildly, from minutes to over an hour, depending on whether tourist buses arrive. The line moves quickly, however.
Best time to go: Opening is your best shot at short lines and fresh popcorn, Yelpers say. Later on, close to closing, may mean a shorter line, but the popcorn isn't as fresh. You can also order online.
Why it's worth the wait: Garrett Popcorn has iconic status in Chicago, and devotees say it's downright addictive — particularly the signature Garrett mix, which combines sweet caramel popcorn and savory cheese popcorn.
DOMINIQUE ANSEL BAKERY | NEW YORK CITY
What you're waiting for: The famous "cronut" pastry — so-named because it's a hybrid of a croissant and a doughnut.
Average wait time: Yelpers say lines have dwindled from the cronut's debut in 2013, when hopefuls would wait three or four hours, but an hour is still typical.
Best time to go: The bakery recommends lining up at 7:30 a.m. on a weekday to ensure nabbing a cronut (only 350 are made each day, and the store opens at 8 a.m.). Even better, pre-order as many as a half-dozen cronuts online by logging on Monday at 11 a.m. sharp for pickup two weeks later.
Why it's worth the wait: Reviewers say there's really nothing like a sweet, flakey cronut, and there are unique flavors worth a try, such as pineapple chocolate basil and raspberry Earl Grey.
EGGSLUT | LOS ANGELES
What you're waiting for: Gourmet egg sandwiches, ranging from simple (bacon, egg and cheese) to more inventive (seared wagyu tri-tip, egg, chimichurri, arugula). Wait time can be an hour, according to LAist. Possibly more at peak times on weekends, Yelpers report.
Best time to go: Yelpers say the wait is more manageable if you show up just before opening (8 a.m.), especially on weekdays.
Why it's worth the wait: It doesn't get any better for egg lovers, reviewers say.
ROSE'S LUXURY | WASHINGTON D.C.
What you're waiting for: Southern comfort food with a dash of global inspiration. Bon Appetit named Rose's Luxury one of the best new restaurants of 2014. Waits can be at least an hour, but sometimes quadruple during peak weekend hours.
Best time to go: Tuesdays through Thursdays often yield open seats because would-be diners assume there's a line, chef Andrew Silverman told Food & Wine. Reservations for rooftop dining can be made three weeks in advance, for parties of eight to 12 people. Just hop on the website Monday at 11 a.m. to reserve.
Why it's worth the wait: Waiting is an experience in itself, Silverman says — the pub next door even offers the Waiting for Rose's cocktail. Reviewers say the food doesn't disappoint; Bon Appetit says it's "a game changer."
HOWLIN' RAY'S | LOS ANGELES
What you're waiting for: Authentic, all-natural Nashville-style hot chicken, with six levels of heat (choose from none all the way up to "howlin'"). Wait times go from 90 minutes on a good day to three or four hours on a weekend, according to Yelpers.
Best time to go: Wednesdays, according to LA Weekly, when the crowd is also more subdued. Skip the wait by pre-ordering a minimum of 10 items online — but only six slots are available each day, beginning at 6 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Why it's worth the wait: Enduring one of Howlin' Ray's spicier sandwiches is a badge of honor. The line's party atmosphere that makes it bearable — even almost fun.
UNCLE | DENVER
What you're waiting for: The most humble of foods — ramen noodle bowls — elevated to gourmet status, and other Asian fusion small plates. Waits are around an hour during the week and at least two hours on weekends, according to Zagat.
Best time to go: When Uncle opens, you may be able to put your name on a waitlist for a specific time later in the evening. And you'll only have to wait 20 minutes for takeout.
Why it's worth the wait: It's the perfect marriage of expertly prepared, "old-school" noodles with modern ingredients such as kale or lamb, Thrillist raves. And other reviewers say you can't miss the pork belly buns.
PANCAKE PANTRY | NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
What you're waiting for: Classic Americana breakfast menu filled with more than 20 kinds of pancakes, waffles, and omelets. During peak weekend mornings, gird for at least an hour wait. But reviewers say the line often moves more quickly than expected.
Best time to go: If you can resist the popular weekend brunch, weekday waits are often just 15 to 30 minutes, Yelpers say. Or try off-peak weekend times, such as an hour or two before the 4 p.m. close.
Why it's worth the wait: Pancake Pantry is the rare spot that brings together Nashville tourists and locals, Mashable says. Don't miss the sweet potato pancakes, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
STATE BIRD PROVISIONS | SAN FRANCISCO
What you're waiting for: American dim sum — think small portions of pork belly, Gulf shrimp, even pancakes – all served from a cart. Bon Appetit says 30 minutes to an hour, but that's just to get your name on a list for a reservation later in the evening.
Best time to go: A late-night walk-in after 9:30 p.m. may net a seat quickly, Zagat advises. Otherwise, try to snag the limited number of reservations available online at midnight.
Why it's worth the wait: Being able to sample expertly prepared dishes is more than worth the strategy it takes to get in, reviewers say. They recommend the quail — the "state bird" — and pork belly.
SUSHI KASHIBA | SEATTLE
What you're waiting for: A spot at this small restaurant's sushi bar, watching Shiro Kashiba (called "Seattle's legendary sushi sensei" by Zagat) put his skills on display. Weekend waits can be an hour or two, to guarantee a spot at the sushi bar once the restaurant opens at 5 p.m.
Best time to go: Zagat recommends waiting until after 9 p.m. for one of the last available spots before the 10:30 p.m. closing.
Why it's worth the wait: Reviewers say the sushi lives up to any hyperbole they can think of. Eating the elegant omakase — chef's choice — is the ultimate experience here, and the sushi chefs are passionate about what they're serving.
REVIVAL | MINNEAPOLIS
What you're waiting for: Casual southern favorites such as fried chicken and collard greens. Wait times at this small restaurant can peak at two and even three hours on a busy weekend night.
Best time to go: Check it out for lunch on a weekday, Yelpers recommend, or between mealtimes on a weekend. Or you can order online through Uber Eats and bypass the line completely.
Why it's worth the wait: Reviewers call Revival the best Southern comfort food you can get up north, and the chicken downright mouth-watering. You can choose from three styles: Southern fried, Tennessee hot, or the taste-bud-scorching "poultrygeist."
RED IGUANA | SALT LAKE CITY
What you're waiting for: Some of the most authentic Mexican food you can get anywhere, devotees enthuse. But the small interior at Red Iguana means waits can hit an hour on weekday nights and two hours on weekends.
Best time to go: Try to wait until between mealtimes on weekdays, but don’t be surprised if there's still at least a short wait, customers say.
Why it's worth the wait: Red Iguana is known for its wide range of tantalizing moles. Reviewers recommend getting a sampler of the sauces before committing to a main dish.
GIACOMO’S | BOSTON
What you're waiting for: Classic Italian food in an efficient, no-frills setting in Boston’s storied North End. Expect to wait in a line on the street for at least an hour, possibly more, on a weekend, Yelpers say.
Best time to go: Customers say they've gotten in with little or no wait early (they open at 4:30 p.m.) or late on a weekday.
Why it's worth the wait: It's hard to find more authentic, reasonably priced Italian, devotees say. The Boston Globe gives the chicken parmigiana and homemade fusilli particularly high marks.
AU CHEVAL | CHICAGO
What you're waiting for: Elevated pub grub or brunch from a stylish, dimly lit West Loop standby. Waits at this small establishment can reach — gulp — three hours or more.
Best time to go: As early as you can on a weekday, Yelpers say. The place opens at 10 a.m.
Why it's worth the wait: Bon Appetit calls everything on the menu "ridiculously delicious" but declares the burger the "holy grail." Reviewers say it truly lives up to the hype, with juicy meat and a buttery bun that’s beyond reproach.
SLYMAN’S DELI | CLEVELAND
What you're waiting for: Classic deli favorites from a mom-and-pop landmark. Half-hour waits are common around lunchtime, and you should definitely steer clear on St. Patrick's day, when the line will probably stretch around the block.
Best time to go: Go for breakfast (Slyman's opens at 6 a.m. on weekdays) or on the earlier side for lunch, reviewers say.
Why it's worth the wait: The corned beef sandwich is as iconic as it comes. Devotees say it’s ridiculously tender and juicy, and big enough for two to share.
MARUFUKU RAMEN | SAN FRANCISCO
What you're waiting for: A small menu of ramen, rice bowls, Japanese sides and sake served by a friendly, efficient staff in a traditionally decorated space. Expect to wait an hour or more.
Best time to go: Cut wait times by showing up well before the restaurant opens, Yelpers recommend — that's 11:30 a.m. for lunch and 5 or 5:30 p.m. for dinner. You can also use the Yelp app to get on the restaurant's waiting list before arriving.
Why it's worth the wait: Authentic fare that inspires reviews such as this: "My life changed in a little over an hour when I had Marufuku for the first time. Seriously … and I don't say this too lightly: some of the best ramen I've had."
LAS CUATRO MILPAS | SAN DIEGO
What you're waiting for: Mexican mom-and-pop classics at a cash-only hole-in-the-wall far from the more polished Mexican restaurants on San Diego's well-worn tourist trail. The line will stretch out the door and down the block, generally taking around 30 minutes to get through, Yelpers say.
Best time to go: Before the lunch rush begins at 11 a.m. or after it dies down. Note that Las Cuatro Milpas isn't open for dinner — it closes at 3 p.m.
Why it's worth the wait: The food is unpretentious and satisfying, and the tortillas are still made with real lard. "Everything you order tastes like a relative cooked it in their own kitchen: It's a familiar taste, yet it feels ideal, what Mexican food should taste like," enthuses San Diego La Prensa.
ESS-A-BAGEL | NEW YORK CITY
What you're waiting for: Breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads, baked goods, and the cornerstone of New York food: fresh, dense bagels. The catch: You may wait up to an hour to feed your cravings.
Best time to go: Definitely on an "off" time that isn't the breakfast or lunch rush, Yelpers say. You can order online, and there's an express line that will hook you up with bagels that aren't sliced or toasted. You can still get any spread you want to go with them.
Why it's worth the wait: Even locals who know they have a ton of bagel options wait at Ess-a-Bagel, because it's that good, Gear Patrol raves. Try the signature: That's a bagel topped with nova (cured, cold-smoked salmon), scallion cream cheese, tomato, lettuce, onions and capers.