Restaurant Guide 2012: Cutting the Line

Eating well without the wait.

home ROY runnerup az location cuisine sushi carts desserts hood lines pierce hog five pair trends Portlanders wait to eat. We wait for steak. We wait for eggs. We wait for pizza, tacos and noodles. We wait for pickled things. We wait for decadent, gravy-laden brunches. We wait for doughnuts.

But what if you don't want to wait? Well, you can go to places that take reservations (uh…) or compromise on quality (ha!), or you can take some advice from restaurant managers, servers and a head chef about how to beat the lines. Most of what they told us is fairly obvious, but it's worth repeating.


Sure, it would be fun to grab dinner and drinks after work on Friday, but maybe you should wait until a little later to go? That's what the rest of the town thinks, too. "On the weekends it gets progressively busier as the night goes on," explains Sarah Garrison, operations manager for Toro Bravo. "Some people think if they show up at 9:30 it'll be no problem, but that's not necessarily true. Arriving by 5 or 6 would be the best bet."

The consensus? Try to dine midweek—Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. On a weekend, go as early as you can. And for brunch, even if you're able to peel yourself out of bed early enough for the first round of seating, you have competition.

"People will sit here waiting for an hour before we open just to avoid waiting an hour," says Salty Reed of Screen Door.


Getting a table on Saturday night is easiest if you keep your party small. 

“Just be a party of two. Anything above two and you’ll wait longer,” says Chad Hinman, a server at notoriously tiny Broder. 

Although several popular spots like Screen Door, the Woodsman Tavern and Pok Pok will accept call-aheads or reservations for larger parties, your best bet is to winnow your table down to the most desirables. Once you get to parties of six or more, you're looking at an hour wait just about anywhere you go. And if you just can't bear to eat a meal without your nine closest friends? 


While you're waiting, most restaurants with a bar will happily serve you a drink or an appetizer. "It's definitely more bearable when you have a beverage to sip on," says Rebecca Finley, service manager at Tasty n Sons. "We try to make it as painless as possible."

Although the breakfast wait can feel particularly arduous (especially when you had too many waiting-for-a-table cocktails the night before), Hinman offers some words of encouragement for those dining at Broder: "Have a Bloody Mary and a Danish. You'll get there."


If waiting around just isn't your thing, many eateries will offer to take your cellphone number and call when your table is ready.

"Some people go home and take a nap," says Findley. "I've had people come down here in their pajamas, put their name on the list, and then go back home and go to bed and wait for us to call."

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