People in San Francisco like waiting in lines for food (a lot). Sometimes, that wait is worth it. While You Wait, SFist's 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 State Bird Provisions for party of four, Wednesday, 8:00 PM: Ha! You’re joking, right?
Hey, have you heard of State Bird Provisions? Yeah, of course you have — it’s the hottest restaurant in San Francisco, America, the world (evil laugh). It’s so damn popular that tech guys have built bots to snag themselves reservations. And, despite a recent remodel that led to some additional seating (and a supposed bot-battling switch to OpenTable), the restaurant is fully booked, two months in advance, every single day.
Holy crowded. First things first: let’s assume you’re not getting a reservation. And showing up at a normal dinner hour is an exercise in futility. But State Bird, for all of the hype, all of the noise, and all of the crowds, is truly delicious. Husband and wife team Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski are creating food that is flavorful, creative, and exciting — they’re constantly experimenting with flavor combinations and unexpected presentations What’s more, it’s a fun and engaging dining experience — more than half the menu is brought tableside, dim sum-style, allowing you to greedily point and taste everything you see.
That menu changes often, but we’ve loved the guinea hen dumplings in aromatic broth, the hamachi-avocado seaweed cracker, and, of course, the fried garlic bread doughnut topped with melting burrata. And don’t forget about the orderable “commendable” items, too — the namesake state bird with provisions, kimchi yuba with Dungeness crab and smoked egg, and any of the savory pancake preparations are not to be missed. Be sure to save room for dessert (or just cram it in anyway) — their versions of ice cream sandwiches are ridiculously good.
In short: you do want to eat here. And you need a strategy to do so. Your plan? Show up, and line up by 4:30 or so. Put a name in as soon as the doors open. And absolutely prepare to hit the four hour mark. But never fear! WYW is here to help you pass the time. Here’s how:
Hour One: Fat Angel
photo credit: Green Plastic Sandals
Tucked away on O'Farrell Street, Fat Angel is easily one of our favorite wine and beer bars in the city. And, we’d call it a well-kept secret, except this baby’s often packed, too. I know, life is cruel! So, why are we sending you here? First, it’s delicious. The Angel’s got a well-curated, frequently changing selection of beer and wine (including wines on tap). The food menu is great, too; and with a long wait ahead of you, you’ll do well to start with a little snack to tide you over. Try a sampling of their meat and cheese boards, or share a seasonal asparagus and mascarpone flatbread. Avoid the delicious mac ‘n’ cheese — the serving is generous, and you will be full. As for the crowded part — remember, you’re getting there early! Very early. So settle in, split a bottle of something, and try not to check the time too obsessively.
Fat Angel: 1740 O'Farrell Street (at Fillmore), 415-525-3013
Hour Two: Yoshi’s
Yoshi’s may not have the best sushi in the city, but we dig that they’ve worked to make the Fillmore a real music destination again. And thanks to a 5-7 pm happy hour, as well as free music in their lounge area nightly, it’s a great place to wait. Skip the cocktails and sample some sake — that, plus a couple of orders of edamame will put you in great spirits. We’d avoid the sushi rolls, but do see about getting some sashimi and nigiri — the protein will give you strength for the hours to come.
Yoshi's: 1330 Fillmore Street (between Ellis and Eddy), 415-655-5600
Hour Three: Sheba Piano Lounge
You may get into dangerous territory at Sheba. Why? They make some of our favorite Ethiopian food in the city, and a hearty serving of tibs wat and injera is a surefire way to kill your appetite for days (but what a way to go). Risk factor aside, Sheba is a wonderful place to spend an evening, or at least an hour of waiting time. With live jazz, a fireplace, and surprisingly drinkable cocktails, you may find yourself reconsidering your dinner plans. But don’t give in just yet. Stick to the appetizer-friendly “lounge” portion of the menu, and sample Sheba’s variety of sambussas — delicately fried pastries filled with will well-spiced blends of meats, vegetables, or proteins.
Sheba Piano Lounge: 1419 Fillmore Street (between O'Farrell and Ellis), 415-440-7414
Hour Four Guys, Let’s Go to A Movie!: The Sundance Kabuki
photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Here’s the thing about absurdly long restaurant waits — they’re all about expectation-setting. If you expect to eat shortly after you put your name in, you will be miserable. If, instead, you plan around the fact that it’s going to be four hours, your whole night will look different. So, why not schedule your State Bird waiting game around a lovely movie outing at the Kabuki? Not only is it the nicest movie theater in San Francisco, it’s just a few blocks down Fillmore (and our one concession to the Japantown/Pacific Heights side of the street). Reserve your seats in advance, get a glass of wine for the show, and, lo and behold! It’s almost dinner time. You may even have time for a drink and a snack at one of our other recommended spots, too.
Sundance Kabuki: 1881 Post Street (at Fillmore), 415-346-3243