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Wait times at restaurants and worthiness of food

I'll never be asked to create titles for magazine articles. We had this discussion on the DC board about some restaurants doing away w/ reservations. What restaurants have you waited over an hour to get into? What was the wait time? Was it worth it? How about the corollary, when is the longest out you've made dinner reservations? Where and was it worth it?

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  1. not an answer to your questions but:

    the factors that govern how long i will wait are, among other things:

    food quality
    total restaurant experience
    whether or not there are other restaurants nearby that offer the same or better ratios for food:price, quantity:price, service: price, ambiance:price (i'd rather wait somewhere than be seated immediately at a restaurant that will seat me next to a table made up of unsupervised middle-school kids),
    wine list,
    parking availability,
    whether the restaurant offers a specific type of food that other, nearby restaurants don't, (seafood done in the style of sinaloa/nayarit)
    whether the restaurant in question offers something that we need for a member of our party that other, nearby restaurants don't (i.e. gluten free, vegan, high-chair, etc).
    distance from my home (if i'm going to be having wine with dinner, i'd rather wait at a place that is near my home than get a reservation far away)
    traffic to and from the restaurant

    and a million other factors that i can't remember right now.

    1 Reply
    1. re: westsidegal

      So what places have you waited a long time for a table and was it worth it?

    2. I think it's not just food worthiness, but also the cache of saying you dined at X.
      It's can be a braggy thing and something that bolsters self-worth.
      I don't need to eat anywhere that I have to wait over an hour in line, let alone 3 hours.

      15 Replies
      1. re: monavano

        I would never do anything for the cache but for good food I would. There's no glory in some of the dim sum places I've gone to but I'll wait. Some CHers will drive over an hour for a meal (isn't that in the manifesto?)--how different is it from waiting in line?

        1. re: chowser

          Very different, imo.
          I'll drive, but I don't want to wait in a line like a lemming for an unknown period of time when I get there.
          If it's a destination, I want a reservation.

          Glory is a good word. I think real foodies do it for the love of food. A place can be a dump, or off the radar, but people will go.

          1. re: monavano

            I'd eat anywhere the food is good whether it's a dump that has no wait or a place that happens to have few seats and has a long line. I won't wait for the Cheesecake Factory or places that don't have good food but a lot of buzz. But to get good food? Sure, an hour is an hour whether it's driving or waiting in line. IMO, a CH can be bothered to wait or drive for good eats.

            1. re: chowser

              Right, and everyone has their limit for waiting.
              That's what it really comes down to.
              There is no right and no wrong.
              Everyone negotiates life differently, so there's no winning or losing this debate.

              The funny thing is, the chains are the most crowded every Friday night.
              Why anyone would wait an hour at Macaroni Grill is beyond me, but people do it all the time.

              1. re: monavano

                Exactly, which is why I'm asking this here. To find out how long CHers will wait for good food and whether it was worth the wait.

                My daughter's friend loves Cheesecake Factory (which is why I had it in mind before) so when I asked where she wanted to eat, at 2 or 3 pm, she said theret. The wait was over an hour. Really? As I walked away, I mumbled something about how could the wait be so long THERE, especially at that time??? My daughter's friend said, "Well, the food is soooo goood!" Okay.

                1. re: chowser

                  Ugh, I know.
                  I don't get it.

                  Also, I think the willingness to wait is not directly correlated to one's chow-worthiness.
                  I don't appreciate great food any less than someone who is willing to wait twice as long as me.
                  I just mention it because I think there is a sense of being a better foodie if one goes to extraordinary lengths to attain certain foods.
                  That's not directed at anyone in particular ;)

                  1. re: chowser

                    I will admit that we don't mind going to Cheesecake Factory. I like their salads, and the Chicken Madeira, and they have a good kids' menu too. It's not one of those places we plan to go to (hey, let's go to Cheesecake tonight!"), but if we're at that mall, it's one of the better options there. They give you a buzzer that will work inside the mall, so we'll go check in at CF, get our pager, and then go walk around the mall for a bit. I wouldn't stand around for an hour waiting around, but the pages allow us to walk around the stores, so that eats up the wait time so we don't feel like we waited.

                    CF is one of the only chain restaurants we really go to, but even that, we only go maybe 2-3 times a year.

                    1. re: boogiebaby

                      It's nice when you can occupy yourself with some window shopping while you wait.
                      I've been enjoying the fish tacos and salad bar at Ruby Tuesday's of late, and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

                  2. re: monavano

                    Chains are always the longest wait where live. I hate the Olive Garden but I think I once waited two hours to eat there. I was with a group. It still sticks in my head as the worst wait ever.

              2. re: chowser

                Cache? You hiding or storing the food? Sorry, couldn't help myself as a food cache is a concept I'm familiar with from camping. Cachet. I will stop the speeling coorections now.

                1. re: Bkeats

                  LOL, I used Monavano's spelling. It didn't look right but I went with it. But, yes I have a nice cache of food, too. I used to be a stickler for spelling but as I've gotten older and started using my cell phone, all bet's are off.

                  1. re: chowser

                    Since you are a stickler for spelling, I would assume that you put the apostrophe in bets on purpose.

                    Please say you did that as a joke.

                    1. re: chicgail

                      As I said, I USED to be a stickler for spelling. I have no idea what I was thinking/seeing on my cell phone when I wrote "bet's" but thanks for pointing it out. CH is tough to read on a droid, especially for those of us post-50. I forget what sticklers CHers can be. I find reading comprehension can be off as one gets older, too, kwim?;-)

                      1. re: chowser

                        Thanks for your good humor about the apostrophe. Being in the same age group, I know exactly what you mean. Cheers.

                        1. re: chicgail

                          I have to admit it drives me crazy not being able to see well. But I had to decide that it's far better I see well distance when I drive than when I type on my phone.;-)

            2. I'm more inclined to wait on vacation. I have nothing else to do and I won't be back anytime in the near future. That said, the longest I've waited was still probably less than an hour. I tend to eat early so it's never terrible. I never go out for brunch, though. I can't deal with those waits.

              1. In my experience the wait is directly proportional to the hype and inversely proportional to the quality of food.

                That said I don't tend to go to chains and wouldn't wait long.

                But not all waits are equal. If there is a bar I can wait in then no worries, if there are bars close by and they will call me then great. But that assumes the waiting process is well managed - on Saturday I put my name down and went off for a drink as instructed. 10 mins later the phone goes as the drinks arrive.....we have ten mins to make the table or we lose it...!

                1. I don't often go to restaurants that don't take reservations. Those that don't tend to be the very causal sort of place and, generally speaking, there is rarely a wait of even a few minutes. The last occasion there was a wait, they said it'd be around 20 minutes - we went elesewhere. Waiting for a table is not part of my culture.

                  Furthest in advance was two months - for the Fat Duck (then listed at #2 in the world in the San Pellegrino awards). Totally worth the money.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Harters

                    Two months wait at a restaurant like the Fat Duck would be very short in the DC area where it's often a year in advance. What I found in London was the touristy places had long waits but the locals must know better.

                    1. re: chowser

                      The Duck doesnt open its reservations until exactly two months before the required date. And then the tables are gone in minutes. For places at that level of dining, I book as soon as I could.

                      1. re: Harters

                        SIL was set to try and get reservations at Ming Tsai's place in Boston, a year out, for her son's graduation.

                        She'd better put the # on speed dial and say a prayer!

                        1. re: monavano

                          Which one? Blue Ginger? If so that is a very popular spot for Wellesley grads along with Babson and a few others neighboring colleges. The place is tiny too. Rumor has it that Ming will give preference to grads/families who are "regulars" during their tenure and will accept reservation up to 2 years in advance for them. Other than that, yeah good luck to your SIL. :)

                          1. re: foodieX2

                            Not sure which one.
                            I hope they get it.
                            Graduating nephew and his dad are foodies that would really, really appreciate it.

                            1. re: monavano

                              Then don't have them read all the downhill reports on here! Personally I haven't eaten there in years and it was less then memorable. Decent food but nothing special or noteworthy. However I had a fabulous lunch at his new place on the waterfront.

                        2. re: Harters

                          That makes sense. It's not unusual for places to book a year out here. But, getting in when you call is an exercise in itself.