Food & Drink

19 Cult Food Destinations Worth Enduring An Insanely Long Wait In Line

When is it worth it to pack a book and hunker down for a comforting plate of fatty brisket or a hot, fresh doughnut?
09/30/2014 11:51am ET | Updated September 30, 2014
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 18: People wait in line at Shake Shack on August 18, 2014 in Madison Square Park in New York City. Shake Shack is allegedly considering going public and holding an initial price offering (IPO). (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

How long would you wait in line for your favorite nosh? An hour? Two? A whole day?

With beloved Chicago hot dog spot Hot Doug's set to close its doors forever on Friday, lines in recent weeks have stretched so long and started so early -- 1:30 a.m.! -- that the tiny restaurant is closing its line to newcomers hours before the place even opens. Some people are waiting at least 9 hours for their hot dogs.

In an industry with many, many options for belly-filling, that sort of dedication to a food destination -- a willingness to brave crowds and stand in queue for hours at a time -- is rare, especially when it can sustain past the excitement that often greets the opening of a buzzed-about hotspot. But some eateries do manage to inspire a dedicated cult of devotees.

When is it worth it to pack a book and hunker down for a comforting plate of fatty brisket or a hot, fresh doughnut? We rounded up 19 restaurants and bakeries that typically share three things in common: Delicious grub, long lines and no reservations allowed.

Bi-Rite Creamery (San Francisco)
Premshree Pillai/Flickr
The Bi-Rite brand dates back to 1940, but this hugely popular Mission ice cream shop opened in 2006 and relies on locally-sourced, organic ingredients for its signature flavors like balsamic strawberry, salted caramel and creme brulee. It is consistentlynamed among the nation's best ice cream shops. 3692 18th St. (and 550 Divisadero St.)
Burma Superstar (San Francisco)
Burma Superstar/Facebook
Named among the Michelin guide's Bib Gourmands picks, this Burmese restaurant is another San Francisco favorite that can also be prone to waits of more than an hour. Don't forget to try a rainbow salad or the vegetarian-friendly samusa soup! 309 Clement St. (plus locations in Oakland and Alameda)
Di Fara (Brooklyn)
stabmewithlove/Flickr
Di Fara, which opened in 1959, has repeatedly earned the label of New York's best pizza for several years now, and locals and visitors alike pack into this tiny Brooklyn hotspot as a result. Owner and operator Dom DeMarco runs the show here and has been hitting it out of the park with his basil-topped slices for decades. 1424 Avenue J
Dominique Ansel Bakery (New York)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
Ah, remember the great Cronut craze? While many of the Cronut-obsessed have moved onto other trendy food hybrids like ramen burgers, Dominique Ansel Bakery -- the SoHo originators of the donut-croissant -- is still packing in the Cronut-seeking crowds. Once those are sold out (early, most days), customers can still pick from a wide array of sweets including a chocolate chip cookie shot glass. 189 Spring St.
Doughnut Vault (Chicago)
Doughnut Vault/Facebook
It's unusual not to find a line at the Doughnut Vault in Chicago, but locals still brave it in order to get their fix of these hot, fresh bundles of joy -- one of which was named America's best doughnut. They only stay open until they sell out, so you'll need to arrive early to get the goods. 401 1/2 N. Franklin St.
Franklin Barbecue (Austin)
marksdk/Flickr
If any eatery in the nation can genuinely compare to the sort of crowding happening at Hot Doug's right now, it is Austin's Franklin Barbecue. This hotspot, once named the best BBQ joint in the nation by Bon Appetit, is best known for its brisket, pulled pork and bourbon banana pudding. 900 E. 11th St.
Garrett Popcorn (Chicago)
John Konstantaras/AP Images for Garrett Popcorn
Chicago-based Garrett Popcorn isn't necessarily hard to find these days -- they've established multiple stores nationwide, and it can be purchased online -- but it's still practically synonymous with the Windy City and attracts tourists in droves to its downtown locations. Its "Garrett mix" of caramel popcorn and cheese popcorn is just weird enough to work. Multiple locations in Chicago and other cities
Green Dot Stables (Detroit)
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
You haven't really had sliders until you've had them at Detroit's Green Dot Stables. Sliders come in 21 varieties here, ranging from traditional fare like BBQ bacon to more unusual offerings like fried bologna, "mystery meat" and a beef-peanut butter-kimchi concoction. You'll want the truffle herb fries too. Just come early. 2200 W. Lafayette Blvd.
Ike's Place (San Francisco)
aliceinreality/Flickr
Sure, they might just be sandwiches, but devotees of the New York Times-featured sandwiches served up at Ike's Place are willing to wait for their taste of the Hot Momma Huda (buffalo sauce-covered Halal chicken) or Menage A Trois (BBQ sauce, Halal chicken and three cheeses). A tip from the locals? Call head and order it takeout to avoid the line. 3489 16th St.
Ippudo (New York)
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
The ramen and pork buns at Ippudo are the stuff of legends, so much so that the wait time can be more than an hour to get a taste of the Japanese favorite. You'll definitely want to get there early. 65 4th Ave. (and 321 W. 51st St.)
Magnolia Bakery (New York)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Magnolia Bakery's small flagship shop is another favorite destination for cupcake enthusiasts, especially after it was featured on an episode of "Sex and the City." If you want to see what the fuss is about, other locations abound and the chain has expanded to other cities. Banana pudding and the red velvet cupcake are customer favorites. 401 Bleecker St. (plus other locations in New York, Chicago, L.A. and Dubai)
Mama's (San Francisco)
Jill Clardy/Flickr
Whoa, Mama's! Mama's is loved for their home-made jams, incredible French toast and their "famous" Monte Cristo. Get ready to wait at least two hours -- or more -- during peak times. What is it about San Franciscans and waiting in line? 1701 Stockton St.
The Pantry Cafe (Los Angeles)
the__photographer/Flickr
An L.A. icon, this cash-only diner is open 24-7 and was first established in 1924. Currently owned by owned by former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan, The Pantry is known and loved for its large portions of favorites like pancakes, bacon and sourdough bread. 877 S. Figueroa St.
Pink's Hot Dogs (Los Angeles)
LA Wad/Flickr
This L.A. tourist favorite has been serving up hot dogs since 1939 and is well known for its long wait times and occasional drop-ins from famous types. The dogs themselves, like their classic chili dog, are known for being over-the-top -- and delicious. 709 N. La Brea Ave.
Rose's Luxury (Washington, D.C.)
Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com/Flickr
Freshly crowned America's best new restaurant by Bon Appetit, the line to get into Rose's Luxury in D.C. is frequently long, but diners say eclectic dishes like the pork sausage, habanero and lychee salad live up to the hype. 717 8th St. SE
Salt & Straw (Portland, Oregon/Los Angeles)
¡Carlitos/Flickr
Whether it is at one of their three locations in Portland or their outpost in Los Angeles, Salt & Straw is never short on people willing to stand in line for extended periods of time for a taste of their unusual flavors of fresh-made ice cream. 838 NW 23rd Ave., 3345 SE Division St. and 2035 NE Alberta St. (Portland), 240 N. Larchmont Blvd. (L.A.)
Shake Shack (New York)
AP Photo/Mark Kennedy
Love standing in line for a burger? Shake Shack started as a hot dog cart but has since grown into an ever-sprawling chain based on high demand for their burgers, dogs, cheese fries and -- of course -- milkshakes. They even have a live cam that allows you to track current crowding at their flagship Madison Square Park location, which recently was the site of the restaurant's longest-ever line. E 23rd St. & Madison Ave. (plus other locations in New York and other cities)
Vinsetta Garage (Berkley, Michigan)
Conlawprof/Flickr
Occupying a space that was formerly an auto repair shop, Vinsetta Garage packs in the crowds with its "custom Detroit eats," much of which you'd struggle to find anywhere else on this planet -- a Faygo ice cream topped with Pop Rocks or disco fries (a.k.a. poutine) topped with Ellsworth cheese curds and a whole grain mustard gravy. Plus classic Detroit Coney dogs and a very popular mac and cheese. 27799 Woodward Ave.
Voodoo Doughnut (Portland)
camknows/Flickr
Anthony Bourdain-approvedVoodoo Doughnut is always near the top of any must-see list in Portland, and with good reason. Its bacon maple doughnut consistently draws legions of fans and other bizarre concoctions, some covered in Froot Loops, Cap'n Crunch and M&Ms, also attract crowds. 22 SW 3rd Ave., Portland (plus locations in Eugene, Denver)

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