How long are you willing to wait for the best brunch in town?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that come the weekend we all suddenly have an urgent craving for brunch. For many reasons, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Namely: brunch is delicious, you can have cocktails at brunch, you can catch up with friends at brunch, and brunch (unlike dinner) has absolutely no bearing on your bedtime. It really is the perfect meal. But one of the most common pratfalls of great brunch places seems to be that they don’t take reservations. For some, the inability to make a reservation might lead to finding a new restaurant. For others, not being able to make a reservation becomes a challenge: how can we beat the line? Or really: how long are we willing to wait in line for brunch? If question two is the one you usually mull, congratulations: you are a hardcore bruncher.
So, for the diehard diners out there (or perhaps, the diehard line waiters) these are a few restaurants across the country where you can spend a few weekend hours waiting to eat. They all swear their tasty breakfast food makes the long waits worth it.
The Doughnut Vault, Chicago
Serving specialty, handcrafted doughnuts, The Doughnut Vault is known for ultra long lines for a few very good reasons. One: Seriously delicious doughnuts with flavors like pink lemonade, “cuckoo for vanilla crunch cake,” and birthday cake. Two: A menu that changes daily. Three: The Vault closes when the day’s doughnuts are sold out, which happens pretty fast. They know how to appeal to their fans and post the day’s specials on social media, they also post when they’re sold out.
Mama’s, San Francisco
A San Francisco staple, Mama’s has been serving up breakfast to the city for over 50 years. Doors open at 8 a.m. Tuesday to Sunday, but on weekends the lines tend to form well before that. Mama’s is a family run biz and the menu options are fairly traditional. Come crab season though, adding crab to most any order rockets this food to legendary status. No wonder people are outside waiting.
Ted’s Bulletin, Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. may not be a big breakfast town, but Ted's Bulletin is the spot for brunch. Diners are known to line up here, and it’s not just for the homemade pop-tarts (though those certainly have something to do with it). The restaurant is so popular that it now has not just one location or two, but five. With a refreshingly lean one-page menu, the ethos here is simple food done just right. We totally understand why folks line up.
Voodoo Doughnut, Portland, Oregon
People seem to like waiting in line for doughnuts. Example number two: Voodoo Doughnut. When Voodoo first opened they offered some pretty not-so-health-department-friendly offerings — like doughnuts glazed in Nyquil with Pepto Bismol on top. Those days are gone, but Voodoo still offers plenty of out there options; like their namesake doughnut that is shaped like a voodoo doll with red jelly filling for blood.
Brenda’s French Soul Food, San Francisco
Beignets, biscuits, crispy pork belly, shrimp and grits. Though Brenda’s is on the west coast, its menu is pure Louisiana — no surprise as chef Brenda is from the pelican state. The restaurant does not take reservations, and a 45-minute queue for weekend brunch is considered to be short.
Magnolia Café, Austin
Two locations: both with lines. The president has been there, and the show Diners Drive-Ins, Dives featured this spot in an episode. Super -ong waits are also basically unavoidable, but breakfast is served anytime and breakfast includes gingerbread pancakes.
People have been known to wait hours for a table at Snooze, but they keep on going back so it must be worth it. Now with two Denver locations, Snooze is a Colorado breakfast sensation. So what are people lining up for? Pancakes, huevos rancheros, eggs benedict. You name it.
Clinton Street Baking Co., New York
The lines here are notorious (they can easily be longer than an hour), but the pancakes and French toast make it clear why. An avoid-the-line hack is to come here in the evening; breakfast is just as delicious when you eat it for dinner.
Sqirl, Los Angeles
Sensational toast, house made jams, breakfast rice bowls; the food here draws an enormous crowd. As Matt Gross wrote for Extra Crispy of his order at Sqirl, “Time stops. I am not eating the toast. I am the toast. I would have waited twice as long for this.” Amen.
Hominy Grill, Charleston
This is Lowcountry grub, classic and delicious, and weekend brunch here is an absolute must. The chef, Robert Stehling, won a James Beard Award and the shrimp and grits are worth writing home about. And yeah, you’ll wait in line. Just remember, there’s a Big Nasty (aka a fried chicken sandwich on a biscuit) waiting for you inside.
The Breakfast Klub, Houston
The Breakfast Klub has an FAQ section on their website. One of the Qs is, “Why are the lines always so long?” Answer: “When you place your order, you will be assured a table and a great hot breakfast. We knew you had it confused…it’s not a line, it’s a fellowship! We make sure the experience at The Breakfast Klub is worth the wait!” We can’t argue with that.
Pancake Pantry, Nashville
Considered a Nashville must-do, the Pancake Pantry has been making pancakes since 1961. Situated right near Vanderbilt University, weekend mornings you’ll find people lined up around the building to get their Pancake Pantry grub. We have a feeling 50-years from now they’ll still be doing the same thing.
Breakfast Republic, San Diego
S’mores French toast? Mint chocolate chip pancakes? We can see why you’d kill a few hours waiting for brunch here. There is a whole smattering of sweet treat flavored breakfasts, as well as normal breakfast stuff. There are also a whole lot of people lining up to try it.
Marché Artisan Foods, Nashville
Weekend brunch wait times usually hover around an hour, but this East Nashville joint sends people home very happy. What are they waiting for? French-style pastries. Oh, and the crepe du jour.