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snoozeIt was 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and a 45-minute wait stood between me and my breakfast.

I was at Snooze, a celebrated Denver breakfast spot with five locations in the Mile-High City. Snooze is known for its cheeky out-of-the-box dishes, like red velvet pancakes, breakfast pot pie and breakfast tacos. But the eatery’s also notorious for its very long lines.

I thought I was clever to show up at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, but one has to wake up pretty early in the morning to outsmart Snooze’s hungry mobs. There was a throng of mostly 20-somethings, cups of coffee in hand, spilling out the door and onto the sidewalk. The hostess informed me that I would be seated in 30 to 45 minutes. Wisely, Snooze serves free coffee to waiting patrons, and breakfast cocktails are available at the bar.

I grabbed some coffee and loitered for the better part of an hour, poring over skiing magazines on a heated porch while my companion slurped a Bloody Mary. Despite cold hands and a rumbling stomach, the wait was worth it. I ordered the Benedicto Tuscano, a hunk of French bread topped with a ragout of tomatoes, white beans, kale and squash; two poached eggs; cream cheese hollandaise sauce; and shaved parmesan. Our waiter brought us a cinnamon pancake with pecan butter on the house. I would have waited twice as long.

I had discovered Snooze on TripAdvisor. As of this posting, Snooze is ranked 11th of restaurants in Denver, and dozens of reviews mention the eatery’s discouraging wait time and crowds. But the restaurant’s reputation as a perpetually packed house is what attracted me.

In Finding the Best Restaurants on the Road, travel expert Ed Hewitt writes, “It may be counterintuitive, but in some cases it pays to follow the crowds — if perhaps not the tourist crowds. If you find a busy restaurant, chances are good that it is busy for a good reason. … At the very least, your meals will likely be fresh, as high volume usually means food does not sit long.”

A line that curls around the block may look daunting, but it’s a sure sign of a crowd-pleasing culinary treasure. If you can’t stand to stand around for a spell, eyeball the hours posted on the restaurant’s door, and arrive right when the place opens. If the restaurant serves dinner and lunch, show up at 3 p.m. for a snack. Don’t flee from the crowds — follow ‘em and then come back at a better time.

How long would you wait for a table at a sought-after restaurant?

–Written by Caroline Costello

Editor’s Note: IndependentTraveler.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Group, an operating company of Expedia, Inc.

3 Responses to “Travel Tip of the Week: How to Find a Great Restaurant”

  1. shayne says:

    I waited about two hours for a table at the Michelin-starred Spotted Pig in New York. The leisurely dinner was well worth the wait and the $100 + price tag. So good! They don’t take reservations, but give your name and cell number to the host and they’ll give you a ring when your table is ready.

  2. soliteyah says:

    We waited about 45 minutes for the legendary lobster rolls at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, Maine this past fall. They were delicious, and the waiting was part of the experience, I think. But I don’t know that I’d wait much longer than an hour to eat somewhere. Usually by the time I turn up at a restaurant I’m already hungry, so I’m not patient enough to wait so long for a meal, no matter how good it is.

  3. This is all so true. Good advice. I think that an hour is probably enough time to wait. It helps if they’ve got a great bar to pass the time enjoyably.

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