(By Lauren Sloss)
Apparently, people in San Francisco like waiting in lines for food (a lot). Sometimes, that wait is worth it. While You Wait, SFist's new guide for how to pass the time while trying to get into San Francisco's most ridiculously popular restaurants, is here to help.
Minimum wait time at Rich Table for party of four, Wednesday, 8:00 PM: two hours.
Haven’t you heard? Rich Table is the hottest restaurant in the Bay! No, really — it’s the truth, statistics say so! I can’t do math for the life of me, but I do know a good restaurant when I see one, and Rich Table is one of them. The pocket-sized corner spot in Hayes Valley has been packed to the gills since it opened in the summer of 2012, and with very good reason. Helmed by husband and wife team Evan and Sarah Rich, the restaurant’s food is creative, genre-bending, and unexpected without being precious. This shouldn’t be too surprising — Evan and Sarah have had separate stints at Quince (Evan), Michael Mina (Sarah), and Coi (together). And, despite constant critical acclaim, it is possible to snag a reservation at Rich Table, though it may be at 5:30 pm, three weeks from now.
Should you fail to plan ahead but are still able to brave the wait, you’ll need to try the now-infamous Rich Table snacks — sardine chips, porcini donuts with raclette dip, and, if they have it, the “Dirty Hippie,” a buttermilk panna cotta topped with puffed hemp seed and similarly hippie-ish grains. From there, the menu is your oyster — the pastas are all exquisite, the salads shockingly flavor packed. Mains are simply prepared and presented, but don’t let that fool you — I had one of the best steaks of my life on a recent visit. Oh, and don’t forget about the cocktails — those are damn good, too.
So yeah, it’s worth the wait. But you’ll need a game plan to pass the time. Where to go?
Hour One: Fig & Thistle
Tucked away on Ivy Street, Fig & Thistle is a wine bar with a whole lot of charm, and very little pretension. The brainchild of former Alembic host Angel Davis, the spot feels like a secret clubhouse for winos with very good taste. Grab a seat on the repurposed bunk bed and a couple of glasses of whatever suits your fancy or, okay, a bottle. You’ve got an hour, after all. Feeling peckish? Snack on a nicely curated cheese or charcuterie board, and be sure to ask for pairing suggestions.
Fig & Thistle: 313 Ivy Street (at Gough), 415-617-9825
Hour Two: the bar at Absinthe
Absinthe doesn’t exactly come to mind when thinking about restaurants that are easy to get into for a proper meal. But the restaurant’s spacious bar area remains an easily overlooked gem. It’ll be crowded, sure, but not crowded enough to prevent you from ordering up one or two of their classically influenced cocktails. Muscle past the theater-going crowd to check out the drink specials (a recent pair highlighted mezcal), or go old-school with a sazerac. If you snag seats, stick with the oysters — you don’t want to go spoiling your dinner with a burger. Not yet, anyway.
Absinthe: 398 Hayes Street (at Gough), 415-551-1590
Hour Three: Place Pigalle
Waiting three hours for a table at Rich Table may not be likely, but it’s possible. This is the time when you need to stay strong, soldier. Step one: avoid all food. Remember the porcini doughnuts! You don’t want to be too full to order them, do you? Get yourself to Place Pigalle. While dangerously close to Patxi’s (and the pizza aromas wafting from Patxi’s ), this is a bar, one without fancy, chef-influenced “bites.” And they’ve got a whole lot of beer on tap. Also, a pool table, to distract yourself. Order up something dark and heavy, or sweet and Belgian. I mean, beer is kind of meal-like, right? Right.
Place Pigalle: 520 Hayes Street (at Octavia), 415) 552-2671
Hour Four Fainting from Hunger: Dobb’s Bar
It’s been four hours. Maybe you drank enough to forget about your reservation. Maybe President Obama took over Rich Table for the night and didn’t have the courtesy to invite you. Whatever the case, it’s just not meant to be tonight. And you have got to eat something, NOW. Stumble down back down Hayes Street to Dobb’s Bar, the bro-ey sports bar addendum to Dobb’s Ferry, the restaurant. They don’t have sardine chips, but they do have french fries covered in marinara sauce, and goat cheese fondue! Plus, you can add bacon to them. Oh, go ahead, add the fried egg, too. You deserve this. Same goes for that chicken nugget burger — the ranch dressing topping will pair perfectly with whatever beer, or shots, you’re drinking.
Dobb’s Bar: 406 Hayes Street (at Gough), 415-551-7700
photo credit: Pig & Thistle