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Thursday, August 4, 2011

DeRusha Eats: What restaurants are worth the wait?

I hate waiting at restaurants. I'm not a total prima donna—well, I'm a partial prima donna—but I really value the time I have with friends and family, and generally waiting an hour isn't something I'm interested in.

I'm not being crazy here: I'll happily wait 10 or 15 minutes for a table, rather than getting in my car and driving 15 minutes to go somewhere else. And if I make a reservation, I don't mind waiting a couple minutes based on the flow of the room.

But are there restaurants that are worth a long wait?

Monday night two friends, my wife, and I went to Tilia in South Minneapolis. At Tilia, you will wait. You know you will wait. It's part of the deal. On their website, they warn you: "As a 40-seat eatery, Tilia is big on fun and flavor, but small in size. For this reason we do not accept reservations."

The restaurant is small and red-hot. I thought I'd be OK at 7:30 p.m. on a Monday, but alas, I waited for an hour.

After I was seated—we had an incredible server, incredible food, and I tweeted: "No surprise, but the one hour wait at @tiliampls was totally worth it. @andrewzimmern is so right about the chicken thighs - AMAZING."

Kevin Sawyer responded, "@DeRushaEats I don't understand this. What makes up for the 1 hr. wait other restos don't offer?"

To borrow a phrase from my TV gig: Good Question.

It's mostly about the food. If the food is spectacular, I don't mind the wait. The potted meat, the escargot, the chicken thighs, the braised kale with figs, the arctic char... it was fantastic.

It's also about the space. The bar is welcoming. The neighborhood is cute. You can wander. It works.

And it's about the service. I've heard many complaints about the service at Tilia, but I've had nothing but great luck there.

Most places in town take reservations—and I imagine it helps them manage their guest flow as much as it helps you and me manage our lives. With young kids, there's virtually nowhere I'm willing to wait with them. This makes my Friday night dinner choices difficult.

But are there places you'd be willing to wait more than 30 minutes for dinner? Include places that do take reservations—because almost all hold back tables for walk-ins.

Where isn't it worth the wait? And how do you feel about restaurants not taking reservations?

Posted on Thursday, August 4, 2011 in Permalink

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

Old to new | New to old
Aug 4, 2011 12:09 pm
 Posted by  J Shapiro

I've waited 2 hrs for food at On's Thai Kitchen before (though, this has only happened once). I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I don't eat out as frequently as I used to, so when I finally decide that On's is my destination, my mind is completely fixated on her amazing food. I'm not sure that I'd do that for many other restaurants.

With reservations - I've always been surprised that reservations work at all (keep in mind that I'm an outsider to the restaurant industry). With people taking their time eating... late arrivals, etc. So, I think it's completely understandable that some restaurants are dropping reservations. I won't, however, typically go to any of them if I know they are likely to be very busy, unless I REALLY love the food. There are very few restaurants that I would extend this to: Heidi's patio, On's Thai Kitchen, and Tilia.

It's all about quality. In certain cases, the quality of the experience off-sets the negative quality of waiting. In others there are reasonable alternatives to choose from.

Aug 5, 2011 07:32 am
 Posted by  Jason DeRusha

I think Victory 44 and Travail are probably worth waiting for. The vibe is friendly - Travail has that great space in the back to wait at. I waited 20 minutes for Hola Arepa yesterday, and that chorizo and peppers arepa was worth it.

Aug 5, 2011 11:35 am
 Posted by  J Shapiro

Ahh... I forgot Travail; definitely worth waiting for.

Aug 6, 2011 02:42 pm
 Posted by  randallj

sea salt has an almost mandatory 30 minute wait, but, with the park nearby and the good drinks selection, the queue always seems to fly by.

i also sure don't mind waiting at any pub with a good tap selection: busters, muddy pig, blue door, etc.

lastly, many of the better breakfast joints are well worth the wait: birchwood, colossal, grand cafe, victors, etc. that said, i despise the wait at al's. it's no fun being stuck out in the cold or sandwiched between some dude and a coat rack.

Aug 6, 2011 04:02 pm
 Posted by  Spg

I don't wait more than 30 minutes anywhere, and I don't go to restaurants where the wait will be longer unless I can either make a reservation or phone ahead to be on the waiting list. Restaurants that allow neither are simply disrespectful of my time (and others, for that matter).

If you want to eat at (fill-in- name-of-current-hip-restaurant-here) by waiting forever, then that's a personal choice, but we have way too many great restaurants in town to play along. My thinking is that eventually, their ten minutes of fame are over and they'll reconsider. And I will be visiting the places that were always accommodating to begin with.

Aug 8, 2011 09:14 pm
 Posted by  Aaron

Blue Door Pub is worth the wait. Never had a bad meal there.

Aug 8, 2011 09:38 pm
 Posted by  Emmysue

Yep. Blue Door. Every time.

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