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Will Wait for Food

Judging by the long, snaking lines you encounter outside burger shacks and burrito huts these days, an alien visitor to our city might think that there was a pre-perestroika, Soviet-style food-rationing program going on. How long are you willing to wait for a hunk of cheese, a spicy tuna roll, or an adorable cupcake? Find out below, and whether it’s worth it.

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Tomoe Sushi
(172 Thompson St.), otherwise known as the place with the line. Tiny, unassuming, and (relatively) cheap.
The Time
Saturday, 8:10 p.m.
The Wait
An orderly but excruciating 1 hour, 21 minutes, and 34 seconds. At the 53-minute mark, you may experience joint pain and hallucinations, and consider retreating to the Chinese foot-and-back-rub shop across the street.
Alternatives
Ushi Wakamaru (136 W. Houston St.), or hire someone to wait in line for you.
Worth it?
As an endurance-training exercise, Tomoe can’t be beat—all subsequent food lines are a breeze. But foodwise, not even Masa would be worth a wait this long.

Sarabeth’s
(423 Amsterdam Ave.), the legendarily quaint house of pancakes on the brunch-happy Upper West Side.
The Time
Sunday, 12:50 p.m.
The Wait
A miserable 55 minutes and 13 seconds spent shuffling around the sidewalk with a gaggle of tourists who block pedestrian traffic and peevish, fed-up locals who look like they suspect the hostess of taking bribes.
Alternatives
Barney Greengrass (541 Amsterdam Ave.). The wait is a lot shorter, the sturgeon and eggs, chopped liver, and matzoh brei are superb, and the lickety-split waiters take orders by shouting “Okay, guys, go!”
Worth it?
For flapjacks with unripe strawberries and sliced bananas? We think not.


Shake Shack
(at Madison Square Park), Danny Meyer’s fast-food phenomenon.
The Time
Friday, 1:34 p.m.
The Wait
A topsy-turvy 37 minutes and 8 seconds, including separate lines to order (neat, civilized) and pick up (hot, sweaty). Note: There’s a secret line for custard and drinks only. And if you order everything at once, you can cut the line later to retrieve dessert as well as dirty looks from all sides.
Alternatives
A New York Burger Co. burger (303 Park Ave. S.) and a McDonald’s McFlurry (22 E. 23rd St.).
Worth it?
An emphatic yes for the best burger in town, extra-creamy custard, and half-bottles of highly drinkable wines.


Burger Joint
(at Le Parker Meridien, 119 W. 56th St.), behind the curtain off the lobby.
The Time
Monday, 1:20 p.m.
The Wait
A clamorous 26 minutes and 42 seconds, with loud classic rock and an overworked, understaffed fry station contributing to the chaos and our temporarily misplacing our ticket.
Alternatives
Primeburger (5 E. 51st St.), for petite, old-fashioned burgers and pie.
Worth it?
Sure, but better to come back in an hour and probably cut your wait in half.


Magnolia Bakery
(401 Bleecker St.), the only cupcake café with a bouncer.
The Time
Saturday, 10:40 p.m.
The Wait
“How long can it take to buy a cupcake?” beamed the optimistic NYU student at the end of a line that pitter-pattered around the corner—25 minutes and 3 seconds, that’s how long, my friend.
Alternatives
For a similarly frothy atmosphere, Billy’s Bakery (184 Ninth Ave.); for better cupcakes, ’wichcraft, Blue Smoke, and brand-new vegan bakery Babycakes.
Worth it?
Not if it were the last cupcake on Earth.


DiPalo’s
(200 Grand St.), cheese and gourmet Italian foods.
The Time
Saturday, 4:03 p.m.
The Wait
You’ll be squeezed in like sardines for 18 minutes and 47 seconds, with shoppers who seem to be catering a Sopranos shoot: “2 lbs Parm, 6 balls mozz, 1 lb prosciutt, 1 lb mortadella, a tub of ricotta,” read one customer’s shopping list.
Alternatives
Alleva Dairy (188 Grand St.), for fresh mozzarella and ricotta.
Worth it?
Yes, the Parmigiano-Reggiano is top-notch, the ricotta divine, and the friendly staff endlessly patient—maybe too patient.

Chipotle
(150 E. 52nd St.), the McDonald’s-owned burrito-barn chain.
The Time
Tuesday, 1:15 p.m.
The Wait
Despite the daunting sight of a chirpy throng of desk jockeys snaking through every aisle of the restaurant, the line moves quickly, thanks to the fastest burrito wranglers in town. Total waiting time: 10 minutes and 21 seconds.
Alternatives
You can fax in your Chipotle order (212-755-9759) and stand in a much shorter pickup line.
Worth it?
Yes, the beef and pork burritos are fresh and tasty, despite a weirdly textured tortilla. Still, nearby Pampano Taqueria’s tacos are better, but the wait there is unpredictable.


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