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July 27, 2015
The Mill

9 Restaurants Worth Waiting in Line For in San Francisco

Everyone likes to make fun of our city’s long lines for toast, pastries and cruffins (notice all those carbs we seem to enjoy?). But just because you see a line doesn’t mean what is waiting at the end is necessarily worth the wait. Here are some lines that we think are worth it, but only you know your threshold for how long you’re willing to wait for something delicious. 

Tartine Bakery (600 Guerrero St.)
This is the mother ship of all the lines in SF. Whether you’re in line for this famed Mission bakery’s pastries (the morning bun, the pain au chocolat), their croissants or the lauded country bread, you are going to find happiness at the end of the wait, it’s very rainbow/pot of gold style.

Mama's on Washington Square (1701 Stockton St.)
This is another one of the city’s most daunting lines, but you’ll wait in line for brunch anyway, so why not join this one? The menu is rather classic: Mama’s French toast is a favorite (and its cousin, the Monte Cristo, is even better) and don’t miss their homemade jams and carrot cake. Weekends are obviously the longest wait times, so plan your visit accordingly. At least it’s a scenic neighborhood.

Brenda's French Soul Food (652 Polk St.)
Potentially edging out Mama’s in long weekend brunch wait times is this New Orleans-inspired spot, but unfortunately the neighborhood is decidedly less scenic. But then you bite into their beignets, extraordinary biscuits and Hangtown fry (a nod to San Francisco), and all is right with the world. But really, try to time your visit for midweek breakfast instead of weekend brunch. Pro tip: grab your coffee and a snack at Libby Jane café next door while you wait.

The Mill (736 Divisadero St.)
This Divisadero Corridor café and bakery has already been in the nation’s spotlight for its $4 toast, and you can bet there’s a line to go along with it. Josey Baker (his real name) makes some mighty fine bread, with housemade seasonal toppings to go on them, like dark mountain rye with cream cheese, or country bread with almond butter. You’ll also want a Four Barrel Coffee to go with it, and since you’re already in line, you may as well order the whole shebang. 

El Techo de Lolinda (2518 Mission St.)
As soon as warm weather hits the city, a cocktail on the roof of this relatively tall Mission building sounds mighty appealing—to a lot of people. The line is a bit of a crapshoot, sometimes it’s long, sometimes it’s not so bad (buena suerte!). Margaritas, a fantastic piña colada, and their absolutely delicious chicharrones await you. Oh yeah, and an incredible view of the city with a fun party vibe.

Mitchell's Ice Cream and Bi-Rite Creamery (688 San Jose Ave. and 3692 18th St.)
Another thing that happens in warm weather is the lines at these two popular ice cream shops seem to quintuple. Fortunately, ice cream gets scooped quickly, so don’t despair. The only thing you need to ponder is whether you want to go old school San Francisco (Mitchell’s, but they do have tropical flavors like avocado and ube!) or new school (honey lavender or salted caramel at Bi-Rite).

Roli Roti (1 Ferry Building)
This rotisserie stand is always one of the longest lines at local farmers’ markets, and their utterly mind-blowing porchetta sandwich is to blame. It’s fatty, herbaceous, porky perfection. Their chicken is also tops, but the porchetta is a must. Pro tip: catch Roli Roti at other markets instead of the Ferry Building Marketplace for shorter lines.

Golden Gate Bakery (1029 Grant Ave.)
You can’t visit San Francisco without experiencing one of the warm and jiggling dan tat (egg custard tarts) from this storied Chinatown shop. The ladies barking at you inside for your order keep the line moving quickly. The big trick is knowing when they are open or not since they close for vacation. Just consult this handy website before heading over!

Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular insider weekly e-column, tablehopper, about the SF dining and drinking scene, get all the latest news at Follow @tablehopper on Twitter and Instagram for more SF finds!

Photo by Chris Martin / CC BY


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