San Franciscans love excruciating waits for food, but there are times when hunger is so overpowering that the baby behind you in line starts to look like a rather large and delicious burrito. For moments of weakness this bad, we bring you Six Great Restaurants Next Door: Very good eating places that are easy to get into, and strategically close to the most unbearable lines in the city.
1) Fans of San Tung insist they've got the best Korean-style fried chicken in the city, but 45 minute waits (on a slow night) can suck up your zeal for lip-coating, caramel-colored wings pretty quick. When hunger pangs win, dive right into the huge bowls of Vietnamese soup over at Yummy Yummy next door. There's an extensive selection of pho, and huge, extremely affordable portions of other authentic dishes. Take the crispy-skinned fried chicken to fulfill any San Tung cravings. You wrap thick chunks of meat in a lettuce leaf with fresh herbs, jalapeno and dabs of sriracha, hoisin or soy sauce to taste.
2) When Sushi Zone is madness (as it usually is anytime after 6 pm), try O-Toro. An equally cozy neighborhood gem, it is tucked off the beaten Hayes Valley path, on Oak Street. There's lots of real estate at the sushi bar, which provides the best seats in the house. We like to ask the server for the day's nigiri suggestions, then fill things out with a creative seasonal sushi roll, like the one they've got now with tempura pumpkin. Another bonus: Bi-Rite coconut ice cream for dessert.
3) The buzz around Burma Superstar just won't quit, and if you happen to hit them up during their frequent hour-long waits, we recommend a quick walk for an immediate seat at Le Soleil instead. They do the staples like green papaya salad and imperial rolls right, but if you want something eye-opening like Superstar's tea leaf salad, try Le Soleil's pickled lotus root salad made with thinly shredded pork, crispy fried shallots, roasted peanuts and fish sauce vinaigrette. Now that it's Dungeness season, you should also order the fragrant, garlicky crab noodles.
4) If you want a variety of eggs and pancakes, similar to what you'll find at Mama's, but with zero wait, hit Pat's Cafe around the corner. The benedicts come with a text-book cloak of hollandaise, French toast is bursting with a colorful confetti of fresh fruit, and granola pancakes are enriched with sweet, mashed bananas. Pat's has other homey accents you'll appreciate too, like a cozy, pillowy corner sofa, and peace signs drizzled into the cappuccino foam.
5-6) Where Ike's Place (3489 16th Street) does messy gut bombs better than most sandwich spots in the city, M & L Market (691 14th Street) stacks carefully crafted masterpieces on Dutch Crunch. The owner, May, runs a tight ship, so figure out your order before you get to the front of the line. We suggest the hot pastrami sandwich on a roll with spicy mustard and whatever cheese or toppings you crave. All the sandwiches come with free housemade almond cookies, a great upgrade from Ike's apple lollypops, if you ask us. *PSA: M & L will be closed through January, so grab a banh mi at Dinosaurs (2275 Market Street) in the meantime.
Carolyn Alburger is the editor of Eater SF.