Last Updated: October 23, 2016
Singaporeans are suckers for queuing, and this is the same with queuing at restaurants. Many of us just rush to join the longest queue restaurants, as it usually either means: 1) there’s something free OR 2) there’s something good at the end of the queue.
The assumption that any restaurant packed with a queue definitely has good food is not completely flawed and does have its truths. Some restaurants even purposely try to create a queue (by taking reeeaaallly long to prepare the food) so as to draw even more people.
In this article we’ll explore these restaurants that have some of the longest queues in Singapore, and do not accept reservations. If you want to eat, you have to queue. This article is for you if you’re a sucker for punishment. Note I’m not touching on local hawkers here, which also have their fair share of queues.
*Updated Dec 2015*
The mother of all queues now, Tim Ho Wan Plaza Singapura used to give out free tee shirts that said “IQ3 hours @Tim Ho Wan” if you queued for more than 3 hours. Like running a marathon, but for queuing instead.
With over 5 outlets in Singapore, a newly added one in CityLink, the queuing time has lessened significantly. However, there will still be a slight queue during meal times so, be prepared.
Itacho’s business was so good at ION Orchard, they had to move to a bigger unit at B3. Not only do you have to wait to get in, there’s still more waiting after you order your food which can take 30 minutes or more. Itacho has good sushi, but you have to be reeeaaally patient to enjoy it. The draw is a limited daily special like grilled salmon sushi that goes for $0.40 a plate, and is usually sold out by dinner time.
Related Guide: Best Dim Sums in Singapore History: The Ultimate Guide
Taking the irony of fast food to yet another level, we introduce Jollibee fried chicken chain from Philippines. Singaporeans just love to queue for fried chicken evidently. Impressively, Jollibee is the largest fast-food chain in their country beating even McDonalds. With strong support from the local Filipino community, this super tender fried chicken sees crazy long queues everyday.
Related guide: 30 Famous Local Foods to Eat in Singapore before you Die
I first had Sushi Express in Taiwan, and even then I thought the pricing was damn cheap. Now in Singapore, each sushi is only $1.50/plate, including Ikura sushi. If you know how much other restaurants sell Ikura (salmon roe) for, you would understand why I order 10 plates of it each time I’m at Sushi Express.
The good (or bad depending on your view) thing is that diners have a 50 minute time limit to finish their meal at Sushi Express, ensuring the queue moves and no one hogs the table.
A new indie bistro to open up, as with the usual Indie custom right smack in the middle of nowhere, GRUB is still frequented by many people. Serving ‘responsible ingredients’, GRUB attracts long queues of customers who want to take on the responsibility of finishing a burger. Or their delicious pork belly. No reservations, be prepared to wait in the humid, open spaced Bishan Park.
At Orchird Hotel, there are 3 specialty ramen shops all of which each fit only about 20 people and have crazy queues. I’ve tried Tonkotsu King and was lucky to wait only 15 minutes, but I understand why people queue for this; it’s one of the best tonkotsu ramen soup I’ve had. I heard Tori King, the chicken base ramen soup, has the longest queue which can go up to an hour of waiting.
Food is served quick and generally you eat finish and leave without dillydallying, or face the angry mob staring at you from outside.
Famed for Mr. Teppei’s rendition of chirashi and inexpensive omakase that promises quality ingredients, Teppei’s lunch queues are ridiculous. Though I am not touching on reservation-wise issues, I just wanted to highlight how you have to make a three month advance booking for their dinner timings. Yup. Enough said.
Dinner strictly requires reservations, but lunch is the other way round and you can try to queue for some of their delicious affordable chirashi.
Good old traditional chinese desserts are probably the most comforting of all and it’s a homely feeling western desserts can’t provide. A piping hot bowl of steamed milk with papaya and white fungus will nourish you like no other and a decadent bowl of orh nee (yam paste) will be sure to satisfy any sweet cravings.
Ah Chew Desserts at Liang Seah Street is no new kid on the block and every single time I visit, there’s a queue because everyone knows how yummy and worthwhile the wait is.
Melben Seafood has earned itself a reputation for their claypot crab vermicelli soup that is lusciously umami, paired with the crab’s sweetness. Basically, all their crab dishes are worth your time queueing. If you’re heading down with party of more than four, you can make reservations. Or else, try your luck and walk in.
Nakhon Kitchen serves authentic Thai food that is bound to excite your tastebuds. Not for the faint-hearted, they make sure their dishes live up to Thai cuisine’s reputation of being spicy. Nakhon Kitchen has various outlets all over Singapore but even so, there is always a queue because who who could get sick of good Thai food really. Fret not, for their service rate is fast. Be patient, good things are worth waiting for.
Swee Choon certainly needs no introduction, especially so with their custard buns that are always overflowing with salted egg goodness, or liquid gold as some will call it. Cheap and delectable dim sum is definitely on their menu, the only downside is how popular. The queue will start forming way before their opening hour at 6pm, so get down early. If not, just wait it out, turnover rate is not too bad.
Brought in to Singapore recently, Dazzling Cafe hails from Taiwan and is popular for their shibuya toasts. The service crew are all decked in cute french maid uniforms, serving you a thick and creamy toast that is dazzlingly beautiful. They do serve other desserts but who are we kidding, we’re all head over heels for their toasts and fairytale-like decor.
While there is a queue because it is newly opened, I’m hoping the queue will die down as soon as the hype is over but it looks like you’re still in for a good wait.
Sister concept of Creamier at Toa Payoh, Sunday Folks’ soft serve ice cream and waffle is not only comforting but also photogenic. Just imagine that creamy and saccharine whip of ice cream combining with the fluffy waffles and you’ll well be on your way out to join the queue for this.
Avoid after meal times if you do not want to queue, but if you really must have it at that stipulated time, fret not as people tend to have their dessert and move on.
When Llao Llao first hit Singapore’s shores, it sent everyone into a froyo frenzy that resulted in a snaking line in the basement of Somerset 313. Sanum became the term hanging on everyone’s tongue and is it worth all that wait, you decide. While I do love a good cup of froyo, I wouldn’t queue too long for it, though Llao Llao sure is making the queue worthwhile for many.
Now that they are everywhere and I really mean everywhere, the queue has shortened, but still expect to wait for your froyo during after meal times.
Now you know which longest queue restaurants to queue for next. Leave a comment on which other restaurants Singaporeans love to queue for, and I can write about them in this food blog in the future.
Disclaimer: This list is non-exhaustive and accurate as of publishing date. F&B trends shift quickly, which see businesses losing their queues after a while.