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Waiting "on" or "in" line is my cue to leave.

We were downtown this weekend and happened to notice the long queue for Richard Walkers Pancake Whatever. I share the Chowhound distaste for the place- but that's not what this is about.

This is about long waits for food. I simply won't do it. My time on this planet is way too valuable to spend it sitting in line for just about anything. Certainly not Richard Walkers, Perrys, Hash House, 222 or any other place like it. I won't wait on (in) line for any of my favorite places, with the notable exception of Super Sergios, and my limit is when the cars edge out over the sidewalk onto Convoy. But that's a traffic safety issue. And they have two drive-up windows, doubling it's classy factor. Sorry, digressing.

I just can't understand the willingness to gather, like a flock of sheep, waiting for the farmer to fill my trough. And I'm now passing up a great change to riff on grass fed vs corn, but I'm holding my satirical fire.

It spurred the discussion between Ms Name and I:

For what would I be willing to wait? Would I queue up to eat at French Laundry? Il Bulli? Gotta say- I'm not so sure.

So, my question:

Do you wait (on) in line for meals? How long? If there is a bar, does that help? What if the bar is crowded, and one had to wait (on) in line to get a cocktail? What if you have a reservation- do you still wait?

Super Sergio's
4125 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

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  1. First let me give you one of my fav ways to aviod waiting in line for places like you mentioned. Sit at the counter, if they have one. For example; I (we) have never (over 10 years) waited in line on a Saturday or Sunday morning prime time to eat at Broken Yolk in PB, while many will wait 30-45 minutes for a table. We also like sitting at the bar it's lots of fun and the bartenders tend to take care of you let alone giving many samples of their trade.

    Now, I will wait in line for a moderate length of time (30 minutres +/-) for places that don't take reservations and offer chow that is worthy of waiting for.

    Next, at my age, if I (we) eat too late in the evening, we end up tossing, turning and churning (if you know what I mean), so if the place is poplular, we'll go early if we can't make a reservation.

    Lastly, when possible call and make a reservation.

    1. I work to the assumption that if I have a reservation the restaurant can reasonably expect me to turn up pretty much on time and I can reasonably expect my table to be pretty much ready for me.

      I would not generally queue for a restaurant - but such a requirement is most uncommon in Europe.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        In Europe/UK, I have never seen a queue, and would likely pass, if there was one.

        Some restauranteurs in the US seem to think that it enhances the "experience," but not with me.

        When visiting "across the pond," I always make my reservations a month, or so, in advance. Pretty much the same when dining in the US - at least for us.


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          The only time I can recall a queue in recent times was at Tayyabs in London. Very casual, very popular Pakistani restaurant which I caught right at the lunchtime rush hour. I waited maybe 3 or 4 minutes before being shown to a table.

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Les Quinze Nits in Barcelona usually has a queue forming more than an hour before they open for dinner, though I would say it's part of the experience. Arrive at prime dining time and you could easily queue for two hours. Buskers have clued in and keep the line entertained. When I lived in Barcelona I dined there a few times and I would say the line was split equally between locals and tourists (with the strictest definition of locals; I lived there but would file myself under tourist).

          2. re: Harters

            I don't really reserve. I prefer the spontenaety. (sp?)

            1. re: Harters

              Harters, if you mean queuing for a restaurant, for sure, but waiting? Seriously, mate, we live in two very different Europes! (I am charmed to meet an Englishman who sees the UK as part of Europe, though. Kind of rarity it seems what with all the euro-skeptics.)

              1. re: Lizard

                I havnt said anything about "waiting". It is different from "queuing".

                "Waiting" is "Hello, Mr Hartley. Your table is almost ready. Would you like a drink in the bar".

                Queuing is turning up "on spec" and expecting to be fed sometime.

                If it would have been clearer for me to have have written "I queued maybe 3 or 4 minutes before being shown to a table" instead of "I waited 3 or 4.......", then my apologies for the lack of clarity in my post.

                As you know, in the UK, it is commonplace to reserve tables at even the most casual places (even Pizza Express takes bookings now) so queuing or "waiting in line" is rare. It is even rarer in the other Euro countries which I visit regularly. As Bill Hunt also comments, it just doesnt happen here in Europe (exceptions apply,of course, you always have to queue at the Magpie in Whitby, for example - but then it is really only a posh chip shop)..

                But, hey, as we've both commented on more than one occasion , our perceptions and experiences of British food matters are very different.

                (and, yes, I'm very much a minority over Europe - if such a thing was ever offered, I'd gladly vote for Britain to join a United States of Europe - I see it as the only way of preserving "Britishness" against other outside influences.)

                1. re: Harters

                  Well, to be completely fair, booking is usually how I go and my waiting has been, for the most part, limited to dim sum... But I have some other recollections of waiting-- or being told how long it would be before space opens up, going round to the pub and then coming back.

            2. I usually know ahead of time when and where I'm going to eat. Hence I almost always make a reservation.

              If the restaurant does not take reservations, then it really depends on whether I can do something else while waiting. There's this restaurant that I visit quite frequently. It's situated at a very convenient place. They would take my phone number, I would go off shopping, and they would call me when a table is ready. This is not quite the same as one of those crappy pager which works only within a 20ft radius.

              I can tolerate 30mins at the most if there's nothing fun around. For restaurants that are notoriously crowded, I'd schedule myself to either go earlier or later.

              Since I don't drink when I'm hungry, a bar wouldn't keep me. I don't like eating at the bar either. It's often lack of service, or maybe that's just how it is.

              A true reservation means that the restaurant has a table ready waiting for me at my requested time. Remember those little "RESERVED" cards placed on the empty tables? Some restaurants are now using a waiting list system instead of real reservations. Too many times we're being asked to wait 10-15 mins after checking in, which I guess is better than having to wait for 45 mins. It seems like it has become the norm nowadays.

              I don't have the luxury to just drop $500 and 3 hours on a dinner in a heartbeat. It would be a carefully planned special event, hence queuing up outside of French Laundry is not something imaginable to me. High-end restaurants like that don't accept walk-ins either and they charge you a hefty no-show fee for reservations (I swear I don't mean to stir it up!!!). Would I wait patiently in line at home for 3 months to eat at FL? Absolutely!

              1 Reply
              1. re: cutipie721

                When I have reservations, my patience begins to wane at about 15 mins. With but one exception (call place to inform), I have never been more than 5 mins. late. I expect the same respect, and am ripped, when I do not get it.

                Going back some years, I had three reviews, where we were forced to wait more than 30 mins. for confirmed reservations. Not a good thing. I still remember those restaurants well, and would never dine at any again. There are more things in life, than sitting at the bar for hours, with the staff hoping that I buy a lot of wine, or apps. Not my favorite thing to do. I'd rather be walking on a beach with my wife, than sitting and waiting, when someone does not hold up their end of the bargain.

                If I can make international calls, when travel plans go awry, then they can honor my reservations.


              2. I am with you, on long waits for food. It is just not my "style." There is one great restaurant in NOLA (USA), where folk wait in line. In my youth, I have joined that throng. Now, they accept reservations for upstairs. Same food and same good service, but less "traditional." Guess where we dine?

                Same for a James Beard award-winning chef in PHX (USA). They accept reservations for 6, or more, otherwise one waits for perhaps hours. Guess what we do - gather 4 other friends, and make a reservation, or just do not go.

                I am not saying that there is not food on this Earth, that is NOT worth standing in line for, but I can find others, almost as good.

                I love dining with new folk, and often seek out B & B's, just for that reason. I just do not want to commit to a couple of hours of shuffling forward, in hopes that we can dine before Midnight.

                Others love that, and are more than welcome to it. It is just not MY thing.

                One person's opinion,


                1. I don't mind too much as long as I can sit down somewhere, and grab a drink. The longest wait recently was about 30 minutes for Wahaca, but we just drank and talked.

                  And usually I'm with my girlfriend too, so I'll quite happily chill out with her.

                  The one thing I won't do is queue up standing in line for some ridiculous chain restaurant which is designed to pack in as many people as possible like a canteen rather than with any regard to ambience.

                  1. there are certainly places i've waited for. there are a few very popular places in NYC that don't take reservations that i like. One, pearl oyster bar, takes your number and will call you, so you can go to one of the bars on the block and wait it out. Another Ippudo, has ridiculously long waits (1 1/2 hours on a weekday, often). they wont call you, but ask you to call them to check when the time gets close. they'll tell you, when you call how many people are still in front of you - when you show up again, they check off that you are then and then go through the list of parties of your number as they open up. they are in a hood with plenty of cocktail lounges and bars, so i just plan the evening out with the wait in mind.

                    i've lined up for mother's in NOLA (i know i know people - tourist place, but i still like it)

                    and places when i'm just walking in with no plans i expect a little wait - sometime i do and sometimes i don't

                    1. I'll wait in line for dim sum but it's one reason I don't go often. In the cold or the heat, I don't want to be outside and there really isn't much room to wait inside. Plus, listening for your party to be called can be hard in a lot of places with all the noise.

                      I'd only go to special occasion restaurants with a reservation, although at most, that's the only way to get in at most of them, like FL.

                      What surprises me the most is the long lines/wait to the Cheesecake Factory, even at off times. My daughter's friend wanted to go, at 2pm and there was a half hour wait. Really?

                      1. I do not like to wait more than a few minutes, for several reasons. One is that if a place is that packed, your table may be very near the waiting line, which makes me uncomfortable. You feel like there's a stopwatch ticking away as you tuck into your appetizer. The worst time was on a cold, dark evening. When we arrived there was no wait, but by the time the entrees arrived, people were shivering outside the window, about a foot away from us on the other side of the glass.

                        I am also astonished at how long people will wait in drive-thru lanes. On my way to work I always passed a Dunkin Donuts at which 2 dozen cars would line up, extending into the road and bottlenecking traffic. This had to be at least a 30-min wait. There were always parking spaces available, and the foot-traffic line seldom had more than 6 people. Unless a driver has a major physical handicap, I can't imagine not parking and going inside.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: greygarious

                          There's a DD near my Mass. office. i use to think the same way about parking and running in and getting my coffee, not waiting in a line 01 10+ cars..............
                          #1 I parked, went in and when I came out by car was blocked by the line of cars, and o one would let me back out for more than 8 minutes.

                          #2 I went inside and found all the employees were servicing drive thru order.s and I was ignored at the counter.

                          I now pick up the Newman's Own coffee at McDs right next to DD, where any size is always $1.
                          McD has a double DT and the line moves fast,

                          And of course, you don't have to walk through the rain or snow when you're in the DT lane.

                        2. My willingness to wait depends on whether or not a nice bar area is available, where cocktails can be had (and possibly a light bite before dinner). As far as lining up outside a place waiting for a table...that'll never happen.

                          Ever since I moved to Florida 20 years ago, however...I've been continually astonished by how many tourists are willing to queue up in the heat (sometimes for an hour or more) for food that is mediocre at best.

                          1. There's a pizza place in Portland, OR that has a long line every time we go. I don't know if they take reservations for groups, I don't think so, but I'm from Seattle so it's always just my husband and I when we go. We know there is always a line and plan for it. The wait is usually around an hour, a couple of times it's been over an hour. They don't have a bar to sit at but there are seats by the front door and there are a couple of video games to play. IT really is worth it. I definitely don't like waiting an hour plus for a table, but I know that's what it takes to eat this pizza. They also don't have a definite closing time. They close when they run out of dough.

                            1. That's a tough question. With the economy the way it is I've come to expect lines everywhere either due to decreased staff or increased demand (customers) for a place because so many other places have closed. I don't like waiting so my limit for an average place is about 15 mins. for something stellar maybe 30-40 mins. If places don't accept reservations I try to go on a slower night or a less busy time if it is on the weekend. I've learned to be a little more patient because a lot of places are struggling and need my business.

                              1. And as if by magic, we went out on Saturday night, and nearly every restaurant we went to was booked up or too busy.

                                Maybe there's something in this booking lark after all...
                                Although Sunday we went to a great restaurant. But £100 for two days meals between 2 people... My wallet needs a rest now O___O

                                1. I'll wait if it's for a restaurant I'm not likely to get back to any time soon--like when we're on vacation. We were driving up the west shore of Lake Superior in July, and patiently waited at both Betty's Pies in Two Harbors, and the Angry Trout in Grand Marais. But the scenery at both was so wonderful, who could mind? Just gave us an opportunity to relax and take in the view.

                                  1. There's a Thai festival in my area that gets huge crowds. For the food vendors, the Thai people really know which ones are great, and those lines are especially long and slow. Yeah, you have to wait on line for the great stuff. It's worth it. In general at an event like that, I seek out the long lines.

                                    But the same does not apply to restaurants because the general public is involved.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Steve

                                      Yes, and there's the corollary where, if the line is short, when others are long, there's usually a reason for it.