50 Restaurants That Are Actually Worth Waiting in Line For
50 Restaurants That Are Actually Worth Waiting in Line For
The burger at the tiny Au Cheval is astoundingly delicious, easily the best in Illinois and so good that we named it the country's best last year. Two patties (or three, if you order a "double") of no-frills ground beef topped with cheddar, Dijonnaise, and a few thin slices of pickles and served on a soft toasted bun from Chicago's Z Baking. The patties are wonderfully crusty, the fries are fried in lard, and just about everything about this burger is perfect. The line to get into this place stretches literally around the block every day, so owner Brendan Sodikoff (who just opened an equally-packed New York location) is clearly doing something right.
Ben's Chili Bowl (Washington, DC)
Perhaps the most famous eatery in Washington, D.C., Ben's has been going strong for more than 50 years, serving D.C.'s signature sausage: the half-smoke, a thick, smoky, half-pork, half-beef link topped with onions and a spicy chili sauce. College kids, old-timers, and celebrities are all welcome as long as they're willing to stand in line like everybody else - though the president eats for free.
Biscuit Love (Nashville, Tennessee)
Biscuit Love got its start as a Tennessee food truck in 2012, and the biscuits served by the husband-and-wife duo, Karl and Sarah Worley, proved to be so popular that in 2015 they opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant in The Gulch that opens at 7 a.m. daily. Their "East Nasty," a biscuit sandwich with fried chicken, cheddar, and sausage gravy, is a wonder to behold, but a plain biscuit with sausage gravy (chocolate and tomato gravy are also available) is the dish to order. As expected at a restaurant this popular, though, the wait for a table can feel like an eternity, especially if your stomach is grumbling.
Yelp/ Daniel R.
Brenda's French Soul Food (San Francisco, California)
The cuisine of New Orleans has come to California in a big way, in the form of crawfish-stuffed beignets, grillades and grits, fried shrimp po'boys, barbecue shrimp, fried chicken, and red beans and rice. Brenda's French Soul Food is so popular, in fact, that the fact it doesn't take reservations isn't enough to keep hungry locals away; they'll just get in line instead.
Yelp/ Katherine N.
Café du Monde (New Orleans)
It's really true that no visit to New Orleans, Louisiana is complete without a trip to Café du Monde near Jackson Square, a huge, bustling eatery dedicated to the humble beignet, a square of fried dough topped with a mound of powdered sugar. Wait in line for your table (the wait is never as long as it looks), make sure you order a chicory coffee to wash it all down, and pro tip: Don't breathe in as you're taking your first bite, or you'll cough powdered sugar all over your shirt.
Callie's Hot Little Biscuit (Charleston, South Carolina)
Founded in Charleston, South Carolina in 2005 by Carrie Morey, Callie's Hot Little Biscuit is serving biscuits that are essentially perfect, filled with your choice of jam, country ham, pimento cheese, bacon, or most substantial offerings like sausage, egg, and cheese. It's a small, counter-serve establishment though, so get there early and get in line. Even if you're not hungry when you arrive, you will be by the time you get your food!
Yelp/ Edgar A.
Cheeseboard Pizza (Berkeley, California)
There are only a handful of tables in this small offshoot of a Berkeley specialty foods shop called The Cheese Board Collective, and if you want to sample the goods, you're going to have to get in line. Cheeseboard Pizza only makes one type of pizza per day, and it's always vegetarian. If you want to sample that day's (always spectacular) offering, be prepared to wait... and wait.
Clinton Street Baking Co. (New York, New York)
Clinton Street Baking Company is renowned for its pancakes (it's well-established as serving some of the best in New York), but if you wake up on a Sunday morning and expect to roll out of bed and stroll right in, you'll be in for a jolt: Wait times during prime brunchtime can stretch on for more than two hours.
Yelp/ J Giggles L.
Di Fara (Brooklyn, New York)
Domenico DeMarco is a local celebrity in Brooklyn, having owned and operated Di Fara since 1964. Dom cooks both New York- and Sicilian-style pizza for hungry New Yorkers and tourists willing to wait in long lines and brave the free-for-all that is the Di Fara counter experience. When he's on, Di Fara can make a very strong case for being America's best pizza. And if you stand at the counter and watch Dom make your pizza by hand, pull it from the ripping-hot oven with his bare hands, and snip some fresh basil over it with a pair of scissors, it just might be America's best pizza experience as well.
Eggslut (Los Angeles, California)
Yes, the eatery's name is borderline inappropriate, but once you get over it you'll realize that Eggslut takes its eggs very seriously. The bacon, egg, and cheese and sausage, egg, and cheese sandwiches are perfectly constructed (we'll be putting honey mustard aioli on all of our sausage, egg, and cheeses from now on), but the Fairfax is what put it on the map. A warm brioche bun is filled with perfectly soft scrambled eggs and chives, and then simply topped with caramelized onions and Sriracha mayonnaise. It's one of America's best egg dishes, and if you want to experience it for yourself, you're going to have to line up for it.
Franklin Barbecue (Austin, Texas)
One of the most notorious and legendary food lines in America, the queue at Aaron Franklin's Austin, Texas barbecue restaurant is absolutely insane, and a rite of passage for barbecue lovers everywhere. Fans begin lining up at around 5 a.m. on a daily basis for Franklin's legendary brisket, ribs, and sausage, and if you get there after 8 your odds of making it to the front before the 'cue runs out are slim to none. The wait is going to be anywhere from four to six hours, so bring a lawn chair and some beer (yes, even though it's barely dawn) and consider the wait a part of the experience.
Grimaldi's Pizza (Brooklyn, New York)
Located near the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, the legendary Grimaldi's Pizzeria still commands long lines, even though it's moved a few doors down (the original location is now home to Juliana's Pizza, which was opened a few years ago by Grimaldi's founder Patsy Grimaldi - long story). It's a splendid destination after strolling over the Brooklyn Bridge, but remember: no credit cards, no reservations, and no delivery!
Hattie B's Hot Chicken (Nashville, Tennessee)
Nashville-style hot chicken is having its moment, and one of the city's most famous purveyors of spice-drenched fried chicken is Hattie B's. The restaurant is insanely popular, though, and opening more locations hasn't done much to stem the tide of hungry visitors. Those who've braved the wait - and the heat - have said that it's well worth it, though.
Yelp/ Fox E.
Hominy Grill (Charleston, South Carolina)
A Charleston, South Carolina, must-visit, the comfortable and inviting 23-year-old landmark Hominy Grill showcases the classic Lowcountry cooking of chef Robert Stehling as well as his dedication to using only the finest ingredients available in his Southern-style breakfast and lunch dishes. The beloved restaurant is only open until 3 p.m. daily, and it doesn't take reservations, however, so if you want to sample the famous Charleston Nasty Biscuit you're going to have to put your name in and be prepared to wait - especially if it's the weekend. Thankfully, there's a courtyard to wait in, complete with a cocktail window.
Yelp/ Michelle R.
Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que (Kansas City, Kansas)
Formerly known as Oklahoma Joe's, Joe's Kansas City is located inside a former Kansas gas station, and it's one of the best barbecue joints in America - its ribs are especially worthy of renown. A rub heavy with paprika, cumin, brown sugar, and chili powder is the secret to its success, and fans come from miles around to wait in line to sample some.
Joe's Stone Crab (Miami Beach, Florida)
Joe's Stone Crab is one of the most famous restaurants in America; it got its start when Florida's Miami Beach was basically a backwater, and its famous stone crab claws are one of the most iconic dishes in America. Snagging a table can command a very long wait, though.
Yelp/ Joe's Stone Crab
Howlin' Ray's (Los Angeles, California)
Howlin' Ray's owner Johnny Ray Zone has spent time working for some of the world's most renowned chefs, but he found his true calling on a trip to Nashville. What started as a food truck is now a tiny Chinatown storefront serving fresh-from-the-fryer hot chicken made screamingly hot with help from cayenne and extracts of habanero, ghost pepper, and red savina. Yes, Nashville hot chicken has finally made its way to Los Angeles, but if you want to sample it, you're going to have to wait in line.
Katz's Delicatessen (New York City)
The most legendary Jewish deli in America is also its best, serving untouchable pastrami, corned beef, hot dogs, and other classic deli fare. The squat, sprawling Katz's Deli has a peculiar ordering system: You wait in line (in a line that regularly stretches far beyond the front door), take a ticket, order at the counter (make sure you tip the counterman a few bucks - he's the guy who's slicing your pastrami, after all), then you take your food to an open table, and hand them your marked-up ticket to pay on the way out. It's old fashioned, but it works.
Las Cuatro Milpas (San Diego, California)
Consistently rated one of the very best Mexican restaurants in the country, Las Cuatro Milpas is a San Diego icon, with hourlong lines snaking down the block almost constantly. Once you try those rolled tacos and tamales, though, you'll know the wait was worth it.
Yelp/ Jason P.
Leon's Oyster Shop (Charleston, South Carolina)
Leon's is one of the hottest restaurants in Charleston, a fun and inviting space with a long bar, a stellar raw bar, and some of the city's best fried chicken. Reservations can be tough to come by, but we recommend you set your heart on making one before visiting; if you drop in unannounced, you can expect to wait an hour or more.
Yelp/ Tommy M.
Little Miss BBQ (Phoenix, Arizona)
Central Texas-style barbecue has come to Arizona in a big way with Little Miss BBQ, but if you want to sample some brisket and ribs, you're going to have to get in line. And if you want to sample the beef ribs, which are only available on Friday and Saturday, you're going to have to wait even longer.
Yelp/ Heather W.
Louis' Lunch (New Haven, Connecticut)
A true culinary historic landmark, Louis' Lunch is widely regarded to be the birthplace of the hamburger as we know it, invented by proprietor Louis Lassen in New Haven, Connecticut in 1900. It remains a decidedly delicious burger, still made according to the original recipe on the same upright broilers. The building itself, however, is absolutely tiny, and it gets pretty packed during the lunch rush. So if you want one of the OG burgers, you're going to have to get there early, and you're going to have to wait in line.
Lucali (Brooklyn, New York)
At Lucali, chef Mark Iacono is serving what very well might be the best pizza in Brooklyn, and it's no secret. Even though Iacono could easily squeeze a few more tables into his Brooklyn restaurant, he likes to keep things spread out, so there's almost always a wait to get in. In fact, would-be patrons sometimes arrive hours before the restaurant opens to get in line; if you show up during prime time expect to camp out for a couple hours first.
Magnolia Pancake Haus (San Antonio, Texas)
Are the buttermilk pancakes served at San Antonio's Magnolia Pancake Haus the best in the world? Owners Robert and Sheila Fleming are convinced, and you won't find many who've eaten there who disagree. Unfortunately, if you decide to find out for yourself during prime brunchtime, your wait for a table will be a long one.
Mama's (San Francisco, California)
The cozy Mama's on Washington Square is essentially a perfect breakfast and lunch spot, serving top-notch omelets, house-baked breads and pastries, French toast, pancakes, and sandwiches for more than 50 years. If you want to visit, however, you're going to have to work for it: The line to get in forms long before the restaurant opens, and can stretch on for hours at prime time.
Yelp/ David E.
Mother's (New Orleans)
Since 1938, folks have been lining up daily outside Mother's doors to enjoy heaping breakfasts and traditional Cajun specialties. But the real star of the show here is the carving station, where po'boys that are just about perfect are served to those who come to worship at their altar. Your best bet would be to order the Ferdi Special, filled with homemade baked ham (did we mention the amazing ham?), roast beef, gravy, and a special addition that's one of the most delicious foods on Earth: debris (pronounced "DAY-bree"). What's debris, exactly? Shreds of meat and char that fall from the roast beef as it slowly cooks, steeping in rendered fat and juices. You're welcome.
Nathan's Famous (Brooklyn, New York)
The most famous hot dog stand in the country, and still one of the best. Founded by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker in 1916, Nathan's may today be a major chain, but a trip to the original stand in Brooklyn's Coney Island is a pilgrimage that everyone should make at least once. Stand in the same line that millions of others have over the years, place your order, and snap into the perfect embodiment of a summer day: the sea, the boardwalk, and an original Nathan's hot dog. There's nothing else like it.
Neptune Oyster (Boston, Massachusetts)
The narrow, upscale Neptune Oyster is one of Boston, Massachusetts' most beloved restaurants, serving top-notch oysters, clam chowder, lobster rolls, and other seafood-based specialties. But the combination of being very small, very good, and very popular (and not accepting reservations) has led to very, very long lines to get in.
Yelp/ BostonBestEats X.
Nopa (San Francisco, California)
San Francisco's Nopa is bright, casual, fun, and perfect for just about any meal. It has a wide-ranging and accessible menu, which means one thing: It's going to be packed. Pretty much always. If you want to visit this restaurant, which was recently ranked one of America's 101 best, you better get in line.
Pancake Pantry (Nashville, Tennessee)
The Pancake Pantry is a Nashville legend, going strong since 1961. Batters for their legendary pancakes and waffles are made fresh daily from specialty flours and old family recipes, and the results are truly spectacular. But if you want to experience it for yourself, you're going to have to wait in line. The wait is so long, in fact, that the restaurant has even launched its own Pancake Cam.
Pantry Café (Los Angeles, California)
There's no lock on the door at this nearly 90-year-old Downtown LA institution, which hasn't closed since 1924 and is one of America's best 24-hour diners. Cash-only and with no shortage of long lines, Pantry Cafe is renowned for its ample portions, perfect pancakes and sourdough French toast, apple pie, and French dip sandwich, as well as its steaks.
Paseo (Seattle, Washington)
Paseo is a Seattle, Washington institution, serving real-deal Caribbean food and absolutely mouthwatering sandwiches, including the famous Caribbean Roast, with roast pork shoulder, aioli, cilantro, romaine, jalapeños, and caramelized onions. The original location isn't much more than a tiny shack, though, and lines often stretch far beyond the front door.
Yelp/ Justin C.
Pecan Lodge (Dallas, Texas)
Dallas' most award-winning barbecue joint, Pecan Lodge offers a real Texas barbecue experience. The smokers are fired up 24 hours a day with a mixture of mesquite and oak, sausages are made in-house, and just about everything on the menu is made from scratch, including the otherworldly sides: collard greens, mac and cheese, and fried okra that can't be missed. Get there early to grab your spot in line, because once they run out, they run out.
Philippe the Original (Los Angeles, California)
Countless restaurants serve French dip sandwiches, but the definitive version can still be found at the restaurant where it was invented: Los Angeles' 107 year-old Philippe the Original. Bottom round is seasoned with salt, pepper, and mashed garlic, slow-roasted with a mirepoix until medium-rare, and sliced and placed onto a fresh French roll from a local bakery that's been dunked into jus made with homemade stock and the intensely flavored pan drippings. As the creator of one of America's most legendary sandwiches, it's one of LA's most famous restaurants, so be prepared to line up accordingly.
Philippe the Original/Yelp
Pink's Hot Dogs (Los Angeles, California)
Located on the prime corner of Melrose and LaBrea in Los Angeles, Pink's has been serving hot dogs to celebrities and tourists alike (but mostly tourists) since 1939. That doesn't mean it's not a detour hot dog lovers passing through town should take: The bacon chili cheese dog is a classic, even if the calorie count isn't Hollywood approved. These dogs (and the whole Pink's experience) are worth the wait in line.
Flickr/Ken Lund/CC BY-SA 4.0
Pok Pok (Portland, Oregon)
Chef Andy Ricker's Pok Pok is a Portland icon, serving truly authentic Thai food (including now-legendary wings). If you decide to visit, be prepared to wait; if you visit the Division location, you can at least kill time at Ricker's next-door bar Whiskey Soda Lounge.
Primanti Brothers (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Primanti sandwich is a legendary one, with good reason: It's made with French fries stuffed between two thick slices of soft Italian bread, along with meat of your choice, coleslaw, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. If you visit the original location you should expect to wait in line, but it's one of America's most legendary sandwiches.
Red Iguana (Salt Lake City, Utah)
The best Mexican restaurant in Utah, Red Iguana has been going strong since 1985 and is still family owned. Its massive menu features six different moles (each meticulously handmade), pork doused in red or green chile sauce, slow-roasted cochinita pibil; eight enchiladas, a variety of tacos and burritos, and some outrageous breakfast dishes, among dozens of other specialties. If you're planning on visiting, however, make sure you get there early, or otherwise be prepared to wait.
Red's Eats (Wiscasset, Maine)
Widely regarded as serving one of the best lobster rolls in America, Red's Eats is a small roadside stand in the small town of Wiscasset, Maine, and the wait actually begins in your car - this place causes a traffic jam before people even park and get in the actual line. Expect to wait an hour or more for your roll during peak times, but the roll itself is heaping with fresh, wet lobster - so much it falls all over. It tastes just-cooked and -picked, and it's a great deal. Put simply, it's lobster roll perfection.
Regina Pizzeria (Boston, Massachusetts)
Regina is one of Boston's most beloved pizzerias, a North End destination since 1926. It's spawned plenty of additional Massachusetts locations, but the original is still the best, and the one to visit. So get in line, make some friends, and don't worry about the long wait: the end result is some of the best pizza in America.
Yelp/ Kathryn B.
Rino's Place (Boston, Massachusetts)
Tucked away in East Boston since the early '90s, Rino's Place is a real-deal Italian restaurant, serving a wide variety of Italian favorites made entirely from scratch. Founded by Rino and Anna DiCenso and today run by their son Anthony, it's widely regarded as being astoundingly delicious, so much so that waits can easily extend to two or three hours for one of the handful of tables. The fact that Guy Fieri dropped by to film a (mouthwatering) "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" segment a few years back didn't do it any favors!
Yelp/ Becca P.
Rose's Luxury (Washington, DC)
This small converted townhouse with attached upstairs lounge is the brainchild of chef Aaron Silverman, who branched out on his own after spending time working for the likes of David Chang, Sean Brock, Marco Canora, and George Mendes. Silverman won 2016's James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic for his efforts at Rose's Luxury, and you can see why: His small menu showcases international flavors (occasionally several in one dish) with a decidedly American twist, and even though the selection is small, it's always big on flavor and creativity. If you want to dine at one of the hottest restaurants in town, however, you're going to have to wait in line.
Snooze (Denver, Colorado)
Snooze has locations in Colorado, California, Arizona, and Texas, but that doesn't mean that you won't have to wait for a table. This breakfast destination is only open until 2:30 p.m. daily and doesn't take reservations, which means that no matter which location you visit (especially ones in its hometown of Denver), you're going to have to be patient.
Sqirl (Los Angeles, California)
Chef Jessica Koslow's insanely hip Los Angeles restaurant Sqirl is a must-visit (and must-Instagram) hotspot. Its menu is loaded with healthy, unique, well-composed, and stunningly beautiful dishes, many of which have already begun to influence menus nationwide. If you want to sample that famous sorrel pesto rice, though, be prepared to wait.
State Bird Provisions (San Francisco, California)
What started off as a place to serve fried quail (California's state bird) to the masses ended up as one of the hottest restaurants of 2013, even snagging the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant of the year, and it's still just as popular as ever. More than 30 small, clever plates are served via dim sum-style rolling carts at State Bird Provisions (it was one of the first non-Chinese restaurants in America to utilize this method), and its very limited reservations policy means that if you want to sample the food, you're going to have to line up.
Swan Oyster Depot (San Francisco, California)
Crowds line up long before the doors open at indispensable San Francisco institution Swan Oyster Depot, a narrow 18-seat counter that's been faithfully serving some of the city's freshest seafood for more than 100 years. Oysters, seafood cocktails, fresh Dungeness crab, chowder, crab Louie, and all sorts of other seafood preparations are made fresh to order by seasoned veterans, and there's just something about sitting at the ancient counter that makes it all taste better. It's a must-visit for seafood lovers, but we suggest you get up early and get in line before it opens if you don't want to be waiting for multiple hours for your stool.
Tim Ho Wan (New York, New York)
The first American location of Tim Ho Wan, which was founded in Hong Kong in 2009 and now has locations in nine countries, opened its doors in New York City in 2016. Hungry diners waited hours for a taste of its legendary dim sum, and the lines are still long today, even though a second location opened in the city last year.
Tom's (Brooklyn, New York)
Occupying a cozy corner storefront in a cute Brooklyn neighborhood since 1936, Tom's is a true honest-to-goodness old-school diner, and when brunchtime rolls around the crowds show up. Lines are known to stretch around the block on the weekends, but it's worth it to experience one of the very best diners in America.
White House Sub Shop (Atlantic City, New Jersey)
It's hard to imagine a trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey without a stop by the White House Sub Shop to get one of their legendary submarine sandwiches. The family-owned shop opened in 1946 and quickly became one of the most iconic sandwich purveyors on the East Coast. You'll see how popular it is when you arrive - the line often extends out to the street.
White House Sub Shop has over 25 different sandwiches, but one reigns supreme: the White House Special. It starts with a soft, chewy sub roll from Formica Bros. Bakery, which is absolutely loaded with Genoa salami, ham, and provolone. They also add lettuce, tomatoes, onions, red peppers, oil, vinegar, dried oregano, and salt and pepper.
Willie Mae's Scotch House (New Orleans, Louisiana)
You haven't truly had fried chicken until you've had it from Willie Mae's, a legendary restaurant located in New Orleans' Fifth Ward since 1956. The chicken is, simply put, otherworldly. Fried to order, the crust is shiny, craggy, light, not greasy, and shatteringly crisp and crunchy. Underneath, the chicken is impossibly moist and juicy. The humble restaurant doesn't take reservations, so get there early or expect to wait in a long line for a table. But the end result will be worth it, as it's quite possibly the very best fried chicken in America.
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