When does a dish go from worth the wait to overhyped? We asked diners in eight U.S. cities to dish about their town's most overrated spots, from touristy taco joints to no-reservation brunches. Check out their opinions below — plus our recommendations on where to go instead.
Why it’s overhyped: Wander in during lunch or dinner hours and you’ll find lines forming outside the door. While not a bad thing, it’s also the go-to place for tourists looking for the definitive San Diego taco. Plates usually topped with cheese-laden rolled tacos and nondescript chopped iceberg lettuce simply don’t stand up to the wonderful and expansive tacos the city has to offer.
Try instead: Any number of taquerias in town. On the top of our list is City Tacos for tortillas with inventive fillings like roasted chicken, arugula and golden raisins or Salud! (pictured) in the heart of Barrio Logan for al pastor, birra and more. Read our list for 13 more options.
Why it’s overhyped: Stay clear if you're looking to catch up with friends over quality fish. The scene-y chain (pictured) is loud with tables packed close together and music volume turned up on high.
Try instead: Kuu Restaurant, located in a contemporary space at Gateway Memorial City, features standout Japanese fare artfully presented for an experience as pleasing to the eye as the stomach. You can't go wrong with the menu here from the madai usuzukuri to the uni-crusted king crab. And there's no loud music in the background.
Why it's overhyped: Hyde Park Bar & Grill is so proud of their signature fries (pictured), the potato product is immortalized outside their original location in the form of a giant sculpture. And while throngs of people still swear by them, plenty of others are perplexed by the age-old hype. "Those fries are soooo basic," wrote one commenter.
Try instead: Some swear by the hand-cut fries at P. Terry's, while others lean toward the golden, crispy waffle-cut potatoes at Frank. And for an elevated fry experience, the duck-fat fries with a sous vide egg at Salty Sow never disappoint.
Why it's overhyped: Brunch is a meal that exists in a parallel universe. Most folks wouldn’t think of signing up for an hour-long wait for lunch or dinner, but come weekend mornings, all bets are off. With a strict no-reservations policy, waiting lists at all three locations of this brunch go-to are pages long, and once you're finally seated the experience becomes another exercise in patience, leaving guests wondering if those red-velvet pancakes (pictured) were really worth it.
Try instead: Sure you might have to wait for a minute or two for a seat at Little Pete’s, but once you’re in the coffee flows freely and your breakfast arrives at breakneck speed. The 24/7 brunch menu doesn’t hurt either.
NEW YORK CITY: Veggie burger at Superiority Burger
Why it's overhyped: Del Posto pastry chef Brooks Headley's passion project (a quinoa and mushroom–based veggie burger) has morphed into a full blown brick-and-mortar in the East Village that drew lines when it first opened last month. Unfortunately we didn't find this burger wait-worthy. Although it's a tasty rendition of the dish, we would still put it into the category of "good...for a veggie burger."
Try instead: Shake Shack's 'Shroom Burger (pictured) is just as crave-worthy as their beef burgers. It stacks a fried portobello mushroom cap between layers of cheese and tops it with lettuce, tomato and ShakeSauce. And if you hit the right location...no lines.
Superiority Burger: 430 E. Ninth St.; 212-256-1192
Shake Shack: Multiple locations
Why it’s overhyped: Everyone knows that the aïoli-covered grilled corn (pictured) is one of the most popular dishes at South End hot spot Toro; literally, everyone. (Is the place ever not packed?) But some wonder whether there's anything so special or chef-driven that elevates this to the iconic status it attained. And maybe there's a kernel of truth to that.
Try instead: It's not as "refined" a take, but is that really what you're looking for in your Mexican street food? The grilled corn at Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar is among the Best Things We Ate this year (so far). It's messier, more flavor-packed (that red pepper butter and ash salsa!) and more Southie-saucy than South End–sophisticated. That's not a bad thing.
Why it's overhyped: There's no mystery why a mound of hot, crispy fries crowned with an excess of crunchy bacon, spicy jalapeños and fresh green onions (pictured) is such a crowd-pleaser at this local chain of burger joints. And that's all before they're slathered in creamy ranch dressing. But once the grease appears on the foil beneath the high-calorie concoction, regret, guilt and visions of an extended cardio workout set in.
Try instead: A plate of fresh vegetables. Kidding, kidding. The Gangnam kimchi fries at bbbop Seoul Kitchen's Lowest Greenville Avenue location generally follow the cheese fries template but the kitchen incorporates plenty of creative, genre-appropriate ingredients for a distinct Korean flair. These fries come with either chicken breast, spicy pork or steak, and they're topped with curry, kimchi, cilantro, pickled jalapeños, spicy sauce and an over-easy egg.
Why it's overhyped: If there's one culinary icon that locals insist defines Denver, it's green chile, and the Bubba Chinos chain — which proudly proclaims that "you will not be disappointed" by its "delicious and authentic Mexican food that's fresh, crisp and addicting" — is particularly proud of its version. Though the chain's green chile does have a legion of hardcore fans, the dish is woefully underseasoned and pasty — plus it has a glossy neon sheen brighter than fluorescent lights.
Try instead: At El Taco de Mexico, a lively Mexican joint that Andrew Zimmern called "Denver's quintessential taqueria," the green chile (pictured) is beautifully textured and judiciously seasoned with garlic, pork fat and the heat of fresh chiles. It's nothing short of intoxicating.
Bubba: Multiple locations
El Taco: 714 Santa Fe Dr.; 303-623-3926