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Where to Eat During This Year's Burning Man Exodus

The city might feel a little quieter for the next week or so

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As Labor Day weekend draws near, some parts of San Francisco may become eerily quiet as a chunk of the population packs up and hits the road for Burning Man's annual manifestation of artistic revelry. That includes a wide swath of artists, curious techies, adventurous wanderers, and spiritual journeyers, alongside the professional Burners whose basic existence is spent preparing for the yearly debauch. (This year it runs August 25 to September 2.)

So despite this city's penchant for waiting in lines, festival abstainers may find themselves with a bit of breathing room for the next week while everyone's romping around in the desert. Eater SF has reached out to OpenTable in the past, but the online reservations site was unable to find a correlation between lower table bookings and Burning Man. Regardless, though it might be anecdotal, the idea that SF slows down during that week persists.

So for everyone not partying on the Playa, here are some of the generally hard-to-reserve (or just hard-to-infiltrate) restaurants in San Francisco that might be a little easier to get into. While it's impossible to guarantee availability, it's certain that you won't have to trade glitter stickers or weather a dust storm to eat at them. May the Burners be ever in your favor.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Devil's Teeth Baking Company

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Devil’s Teeth may be far out near the beach, but there’s still a line stretching down the block every weekend. Hopefully some surfer dudes are also burners, leaving more hot biscuits for everyone else. The donut muffins are dusted with sugar, and the cinnamon roll is a butter bomb, but locals love the hearty breakfast sandwiches, stacked with eggs, cheese, bacon, and avocado.

The breakfast sandwich at Devil’s Teeth Baking Co Maria M./Yelp

Outerlands

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Known equally for amazing food, brunch, and wait times, Outerlands is smack dab in burner central, occupying a corner of the Outer Sunset in close proximity to surfer hangouts and residential neighborhoods. Stop by for brunch or dinner during this lull in activity.

Dragon Beaux

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This neighborhood spot in the Outer Richmond usually has long waits, but a fogged-in weekend might help cut through the crowd. Serving dim sum at lunch and hot pot for dinner, it’s known for the rainbow of xia long bao, squid ink dumplings, and barbecue pork bao.

Stop by Zazie, which is constantly busy, for brunch and a lovely respite. A beautiful patio might just be the ticket to welcome in late summer on this lovely Labor Day weekend.

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Che Fico

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For anyone who’s been trying and failing to get a reservation at Che Fico upstairs, or hoping to hit up the new Che Fico Alimentari downstairs, this weekend is the perfect opportunity to brave the walk-in. Finally try the grilled, chopped duck liver; pizza with pineapple and fermented chiles; and crispy-skin porchetta.

A perennial Divisadero favorite, Nopa has great late night dining, brunch, happy hour, and every other meal. Lines start forming early, so if you're in it to win it, give this longtime industry favorite a whirl during this week of quiet time.

Eater Archives

Marufuku Ramen

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In a city with many good ramen spots and many long lines, Marufuku in Japantown just might be the longest of them all. Serving Hakata-style ramen, it offers a 20-hour tonkatsu, as well as chicken paitan. Save your broth, and the servers will top it up with another round of noodles. Pro-tip: Join the Yelp waitlist online while you’re on your way.

Bi-Rite Creamery

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Nobody knows lines like the folks at Bi-Rite Creamery, where a sunny day can elicit a queue around the block. Its close proximity to Dolores Park makes it a natural gathering place for free-spirited ice cream lovers. Combine Burning Man with back-to-school, and it might just be the perfect, line-less storm.

Smuggler's Cove

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A pirate den in the heart of the city, Smuggler’s is tighter than a ship, necessitating a doorman and a line every night of the week. But once on board, revelers are in for a three levels of over-the-top tiki decor and more than 80 rum-riddled cocktails, from grog to punch.

Swan Oyster Depot

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The secret has long been out on Swan Oyster Depot, but maybe this week the constant line will shrivel slightly. Or it won't. Either way, these seafood treats are worth a bit of a wait.

Anthony Bourdain at Swan Oyster Depot

Elephant Sushi

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This irreverent sushi spot has several locations across SF to Oakland, and all of them are a squeeze. Grab one of the few seats at the counter for the “chips ’n dip” (spicy tuna with garlic pita chips), “yummy pockets” (spicy scallops stuffed with tofu skin), and “beastie boys” (nigiri with sea urchin, monkfish liver, and quail egg). To clarify, the “Himalayan trout” is in fact a New Zealand fish flopped on a slab of Himalayan pink salt rock. 

Liholiho Yacht Club

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Just kidding! This one will always be busy. Chef Ravi Kapur's laid-back Hawaiian-inspired fare draws crowds nightly, though perhaps the wait at the bar won't be a total nightmare.

Charmaine's Rooftop Bar & Lounge

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Catch Charmaine’s on a quiet night, and the dream scenario is skipping the line, riding up the elevator, and stepping straight out onto the rooftop of the San Francisco Proper Hotel. Settle in next to a fire pit, and feast on cocktails, cheeseburger sliders, and tater tots. It’s much more civilized without the Playa dust.

Rooftop lounge at Charmaine’s Charmaine’s/Yelp

Tartine Manufactory

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The second this beautiful bakery, restaurant, coffee shop, bar, and ice cream shop opened, there was a line. Stop by next week for what might be a more chill weekday experience, though the line has been moving remarkably quickly during the morning rush.

Trick Dog

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Trick Dog always draws a cool crowd, but putting in a drink order on a Saturday night can be a challenge. Get in early, even on a chill weekend, and try the current theme menu, along with baby back rib tacos, chicken nuggets, and an unexpectedly good kale salad.

Mister Jiu's

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Mister Jiu's is consistently hard to get into, so this week is a likely bet to get a plate full of Dutch crunch barbecue pork buns or the roast duck with peanut butter hoisin, without too much advance notice. Definitely head into the bar for one of bar manager Danny Louie's cocktails, and enjoy a little extra elbow room.

So cute, so tiny, such a long wait. This is the nature of Plow, which is a brunch favorite in Potrero Hill. This weekend, give it a whirl. If the line's not shorter, head over to Provender for a coffee instead.

Plow

Devil's Teeth Baking Company

The breakfast sandwich at Devil’s Teeth Baking Co Maria M./Yelp

Devil’s Teeth may be far out near the beach, but there’s still a line stretching down the block every weekend. Hopefully some surfer dudes are also burners, leaving more hot biscuits for everyone else. The donut muffins are dusted with sugar, and the cinnamon roll is a butter bomb, but locals love the hearty breakfast sandwiches, stacked with eggs, cheese, bacon, and avocado.

The breakfast sandwich at Devil’s Teeth Baking Co Maria M./Yelp

Outerlands

Known equally for amazing food, brunch, and wait times, Outerlands is smack dab in burner central, occupying a corner of the Outer Sunset in close proximity to surfer hangouts and residential neighborhoods. Stop by for brunch or dinner during this lull in activity.

Dragon Beaux

This neighborhood spot in the Outer Richmond usually has long waits, but a fogged-in weekend might help cut through the crowd. Serving dim sum at lunch and hot pot for dinner, it’s known for the rainbow of xia long bao, squid ink dumplings, and barbecue pork bao.

Zazie

Eater Archives

Stop by Zazie, which is constantly busy, for brunch and a lovely respite. A beautiful patio might just be the ticket to welcome in late summer on this lovely Labor Day weekend.

Eater Archives

Che Fico

For anyone who’s been trying and failing to get a reservation at Che Fico upstairs, or hoping to hit up the new Che Fico Alimentari downstairs, this weekend is the perfect opportunity to brave the walk-in. Finally try the grilled, chopped duck liver; pizza with pineapple and fermented chiles; and crispy-skin porchetta.

Nopa

Eater Archives

A perennial Divisadero favorite, Nopa has great late night dining, brunch, happy hour, and every other meal. Lines start forming early, so if you're in it to win it, give this longtime industry favorite a whirl during this week of quiet time.

Eater Archives

Marufuku Ramen

In a city with many good ramen spots and many long lines, Marufuku in Japantown just might be the longest of them all. Serving Hakata-style ramen, it offers a 20-hour tonkatsu, as well as chicken paitan. Save your broth, and the servers will top it up with another round of noodles. Pro-tip: Join the Yelp waitlist online while you’re on your way.

Bi-Rite Creamery

Nobody knows lines like the folks at Bi-Rite Creamery, where a sunny day can elicit a queue around the block. Its close proximity to Dolores Park makes it a natural gathering place for free-spirited ice cream lovers. Combine Burning Man with back-to-school, and it might just be the perfect, line-less storm.

Smuggler's Cove

A pirate den in the heart of the city, Smuggler’s is tighter than a ship, necessitating a doorman and a line every night of the week. But once on board, revelers are in for a three levels of over-the-top tiki decor and more than 80 rum-riddled cocktails, from grog to punch.

Swan Oyster Depot

Anthony Bourdain at Swan Oyster Depot

The secret has long been out on Swan Oyster Depot, but maybe this week the constant line will shrivel slightly. Or it won't. Either way, these seafood treats are worth a bit of a wait.

Anthony Bourdain at Swan Oyster Depot

Elephant Sushi

This irreverent sushi spot has several locations across SF to Oakland, and all of them are a squeeze. Grab one of the few seats at the counter for the “chips ’n dip” (spicy tuna with garlic pita chips), “yummy pockets” (spicy scallops stuffed with tofu skin), and “beastie boys” (nigiri with sea urchin, monkfish liver, and quail egg). To clarify, the “Himalayan trout” is in fact a New Zealand fish flopped on a slab of Himalayan pink salt rock.