People in San Francisco like waiting in line 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 Frances for party of four, Thursday, 7:00 pm: two hours.
As a resident of the Castro, I’ve grown to love a lot of things about my neighborhood. We’ve got the best movie theater around, delicious cookies shaped like penises, occasional assless chaps sightings during daylight hours, and, increasingly, some real destination-worth restaurants. This is a great development, considering the neighborhood's less-than-memorable cafes and subpar Thai restaurants.
The fairest of them all is Frances, a tiny morsel of a restaurant from Melissa Perello. With a daily changing menu and wine available by the ounce, it's no surprise that Frances has been packed since it opened. While reservations are possible, you best plan your dinner there a couple months out, or at the early bird special hour of 5 pm. Oh, and because the restaurant is so tiny, the maximum party size is four (unless you call to specially reserve a larger table).
Should you get in, start off with a set of spiked market shots. You absolutely cannot miss the smoked bacon beignets, served with a maple creme fraiche good enough to eat with a shovel. Perello has a deft touch with her main courses, too, allowing the high quality of meat and produce to shine. Also, no matter how full you are, you're ordering the Lumberjack Cake — the rich, maple flavor will alter your life.
So, where to pass the time while waiting for a table? Here are our picks:
We’re not sure how Blackbird doesn’t get more acclaim in this cocktail-loving city of ours — their menu is playful, creative, and dependably delicious. Their barrel-aged cocktails are not to be missed, and really, anything made with bourbon is going to be a winner. Even better? They’ve got ideal pre-dinner snacks in the form of “bar jars,” with a dippable, spreadable selection that includes smoked trout, deviled ham, and pimento cheese.
Blackbird: 2124 Market St. (at Church), 415-503-0630
Starbelly should not be your first wait-stop, or your last — their sourdough-crusted pizzas are some of our favorite in the city. But, Starbelly is also a great place to stop for beer and wine cocktails. Not only is this a solid choice strategically (you want to remember your dinner at Frances, after all), but their creative uses of madeira, sherry, and vermouth will make you a quick convert of fortified wine and their kin. And though it will make a dent in valuable stomach space, their chicken liver pate is worth this small sacrifice. Snag a spot on their gorgeous back patio, if you can.
Starbelly: 3583 16th St. (at Market), 415-252-7500
Once the pate floodgates have opened, it’s hard to stymie your desire to continue eating everything. Hi Tops will not make this challenge much easier (you’ve been warned). Not only is Hi Tops the city's only dedicated gay sports bar, it’s a great sports bar, no matter your inclinations. With beer available by the pitcher and a killer menu of well-executed bar food (e.g., pimento cheese, crispy kale salad), we would forgive you if you turned stop number 3 into your final destination. But try not to. Focus on the Giants game on the screens instead of the fried chicken sandwich the hot guy next to you just ordered, share a pitcher, and maybe go for some french fries.
Hi Tops: 2247 Market St. (between Sanchez and Noe), 415-551-2500
Okay, the game went into extra innings. One pitcher of beer turned into three. And your table is not only gone at Frances, they’re closed for the night. Even worse? Hi Tops stopped serving food an hour ago. Thank goodness for Orphan Andy’s, a 24-hour diner that will welcome you with open, fluorescent-lit arms. Forgo all restraint and order a massive breakfast platter with pancakes, or a patty melt, or a milkshake. Laugh maniacally at the “Diet Plates” section of the menu, and add bacon to everything. Don’t worry if you pass out on the table; you’re not the first, and won’t be the last.
Orphan Andy's: 3991 17th St. (at Castro), 415-864-9795