In the line for brunch, everyone is hungry, and nobody is patient. (Before coffee, nothing is pleasant.) It’s potentially the most annoying meal to eat at a restaurant. But all that extra hunger means the payoff for delicious, well-timed brunch can also be amazing. In fact, it can make you feel positively giddy. (Or maybe that’s the combination of bacon, sugar, and caffeine.)
In many places, some of the best breakfasts come with a wait. But fear not: As a Professional Breakfast Enthusiast, I have developed a few ways to hack through the hangry wait. Here are seven hacks for getting your griddle in, out, and on to the rest of your day.
Brunch on a weekday
When I used to work in retail, I never had weekends off. That wasn’t ideal for many reasons, but one of the upsides was being able to go out for breakfast when no one else was there. On a weekday morning, even the most popular breakfast spots have a short or nonexistent wait.
Go earlier or later than you normally might
The worst wait is always in the mid-late morning, when the people who were out the night before stumble out of bed and make it to the restaurant. Be smart and go when the restaurant opens, or if it’s really popular, 10 minutes prior to opening. If you can’t make it at opening, time your arrival for the first turnover. Most people will finish in less than an hour, so arrive near the end of the restaurant’s first hour open, and you’ll probably be alright. Hate mornings? Go eat breakfast at 2 p.m., or even later. That’s why we call it brunch.
Play the numbers game
Generally speaking, parties of two will get seated faster than parties of three or more. There are just more places in a restaurant to fit a couple. But brunch is better with friends, right? If you’re meeting friends at one of those places with a long wait, plan to get your conversation in before and after you eat. In the meantime, let the host know that you’re ok with splitting up into two-tops, if that gets you in faster.
Do a little pre-brunch homework
What are you really going out for? The bottomless mimosas? The atmosphere? The food? With so many options, you can pick the restaurant that gives you the thing you most desire. That hip, tiny joint with six tables isn’t going to want you lingering. They have tables to flip! But, the place with the bottomless mimosa promotion is practically begging you to stay and chat (and drink!) some more.
Know your audience
Don’t take your 87-year-old grandpa to the place with six tables, a two-hour wait, and nowhere for him to sit down while you’re waiting. That’s just mean. Conversely, don’t take your broke college roommates to the prix-fixe brunch buffet at the city’s ritziest hotel. When you have a mixed crowd, a large restaurant with an East Coast diner-style menu allows everyone options, and usually has booths. Everyone loves booths!
Use the power of reservations
This is a sneaky trick, especially good for those times when you need to go to breakfast on the weekend with a large party (or with your 87-year-old grandpa). Many restaurants that primarily offer dinner also do weekend brunch. Most of the time, they don’t turn off their reservation system (look on Open Table, for instance). So you can just make a reservation, walk in at that time, and sit right down. No wait because you are a genius.
There’s also no harm in asking the host at your favorite spot if they take reservations, like I did at one of my city’s most popular French bistros. The host gave me his card, and told me to call when I was on my way in so he could put me on the list before I even arrived. Many restaurants will let you call your name into the list as a sort of compromise between taking reservations, and all out mayhem. You’ll never know until you ask.
Pregame: get coffee before
Don’t wait until you’re at peak hangry in the brunch line. Eat a little something, and get your coffee (or tea) before you wait. The easiest way to pregame is to choose a restaurant with a coffee shop within walking distance. Put your name on the list (or leave someone in line, if it’s that special kind of hell) and then go get a drink and a baked good. Everyone waits better with snacks.
Sometimes the wait is just going to be there no matter what. But with a little planning, you can make your meal as drama-free (and bloody mary-full) as possible. I’ll see you at the front of the brunch line.