At Din Tai Fung, the Waiting is the Hardest Part

Categories: Review Reviews

din_tai_fung_spoon.jpg
Photo by Dustin Ames
But oh, that magic feeling...

It was 7:30 on a Saturday night. I was in a line of people that stretched from Sears to the Carousel Court--spanning an entire wing of South Coast Plaza. From one end to the other, it would be a two-and-a-half-hour wait. But this was only half of it. At 4:30 p.m., I was in another line to put my name and cell number on a list so that someone could text me for the privilege of standing in this line. If it sounds as bad as the DMV, you're wrong--at least you can sit while waiting at the DMV.

This is Din Tai Fung, the first OC outpost of the Taiwanese-based chain famous for xiaolongbaos (a.k.a. juicy pork dumplings). And if you aren't in line trying to get some, you're wondering what the fuss is about.


"Is this line all for that restaurant?" a woman asked one of the security guards the mall hired to control the mobs.

"Are they giving out free food or something?" another wondered aloud as she passed.

I had to shrug when a man on his way to Starbucks asked me, "Is this place really worth it?"

Three hours earlier, as a Din Tai Fung devotee, I would have uttered an unequivocal yes. Now that my initial amusement at the ridiculousness of the queue had turned to exasperation and hunger, I wasn't so sure. I realized at the two-and-a-half-hour mark that in the time I'd been standing, I could've driven to either of Din Tai Fung's Arcadia branches--as I do every other month--eaten and driven back.

Though I anticipated it would be popular, I wasn't prepared for this. But it's exactly the kind of reception that South Coast Plaza's management had hoped for. They knew that enticing Din Tai Fung to open here would attract its huge fan base, some of whom belong to a growing class of affluent Chinese spenders. Fact: In the new Riviera, the rich don't eat caviar; they eat dumplings--these dumplings. And what's a better waiting area for those Din Tai Fung-loving whales than a mall with thousand-dollar purses and Jimmy Choo shoes for sale? Din Tai Fung isn't even an expensive restaurant by South Coast Plaza standards--AnQi is much more high-brow. But in the Asian world, Din Tai Fung has as sterling a reputation as Louis Vuitton.

Shanghainese in origin, but perfected in Taiwan by Din Tai Fung's Chinese founders, xiaolongbaos are bite-sized, soup-filled purses of pork. And just as at every Din Tai Fung, the South Coast Plaza branch has its workers behind a glass partition making the dumplings by hand, one-by-one. You see them flattening the dinner-mint-sized pellets of dough into thin discs; smearing them with the ground pork and aspic filling; then knitting the tops into spiraling folds that crimps them shut. The dumplings are grouped 10 to a basket and steamed. As the pork cooks, the aspic melts into soup--the xiaolongbaos are born.


Location Info

Din Tai Fung

3333 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant


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52 comments
schultzybeckett
schultzybeckett

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dzarzana68
dzarzana68

There are plenty of fine restaurants in Garden Grove and Westminster that serve the same food, maybe better, without the stupid lines.

Hip Ngau
Hip Ngau

No. Time is money. Waiting for 4 hours is wasting money.

Jeff Van Vleck
Jeff Van Vleck

Nothing wrong but when u guys like something y'all go to it like there is no tomorrow! Justsayn

David Ehl
David Ehl

Jolie Christine Ehl, this is why we went there an hour before opening

Andrea Pappas
Andrea Pappas

Hahaha Scott Aston we will bring you AND go to starbucks after

Ricky Mar
Ricky Mar

Actually the bill is the hardest part. #spensive

Deborah Townes
Deborah Townes

Eff you for taking 2 pages to answer the question "Is it worth it? I can't even wait that long.

Scott Aston
Scott Aston

A 4 hour lunch?!?... You should bring @amy Ludwig, seems right up her alley.

Meggie Chan
Meggie Chan

Hoof Hearted no Donnie DTF is so much better than A&J.. If you haven't tried it yet, you should try it in Arcadia. It's one of my fav restaurant yummy!!

Cheryl Fung
Cheryl Fung

Teresa Cisternino Pierce, maybe we should wait until the craze does down a little.

downtownbrown
downtownbrown

Does that mean the lines at Afters are now under an hour?

Cynthia Kim Ostrowski
Cynthia Kim Ostrowski

Andrea Pappas How did you know I have been wanting so bad to go here! Would love to go with you!

Kathy Thanh Bang Bang
Kathy Thanh Bang Bang

The wait til it is even worse than at the Baldwin locations , not worth it !! There's other dumplings place in the San Gabriel Valley that is comparable !

Helen Truc
Helen Truc

Not worth it. Even if the wait time changes in the future.

Ani Stoecker
Ani Stoecker

Matt Reed you two need to go when the lines settle.

Andrea Pappas
Andrea Pappas

Cynthia Kim Ostrowski can we go here at lunch

Don Gotti
Don Gotti

Hype. I'd rather go to A&J's.

Petey Hsieh
Petey Hsieh

I rather wait to get Dunkin' Donuts in SM or Roscoes in Anaheim

Nga Ngoc Doan
Nga Ngoc Doan

7 hours? Wtf. No thanks. My cut off waiting time for food is 15 mins. No rush to try this place.

David Tanaka
David Tanaka

Lmao.........4 hrs to eat xiaolongbao wtf? There is only one thing I will wait that long to eat ;)

949girl
949girl topcommenter

With that kind of wait, what do people do, go to lunch first and then wait in a line until dinner time?  Hardly seems worth it.  

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

You mean you didn't say, "Don't you know who I AM??" to the hostess?


slop101
slop101

All hype eventually fades. The other locations used to have crazy lines as well. Just as those lines died down, the lines at SCP will as well.

Still, 7 hours? What the fuck?

gregbpc
gregbpc topcommenter

I'll wait until the lines die down. I've gone this long without trying it, I think I'll be okay to wait a little longer!  Same thing with the ice cream place on Brookhurst/Talbert in Fountain Valley.  I see 50 yard lines of people waiting in line for ice cream almost every night there.  Same goes for Black Friday..camp out for 4 days to save a couple hundred bucks on a TV..lol

mhip
mhip

@ooaiaa12 Can't someone over there pull this asshole's plug and block their IP?

Every single story now has this spam troll taking up all the real estate.


I wish you brain cancer ooaiaa12

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

Also you said the "aspic" melts into the soup.

Never, ever thought I'd hear you say, "a spic"...LMFAO

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

@gregbpc 

Well, Greg, I know one line we won't be seeing you on is the one to cross the border at San Ysidro...LOL  ;-)

gregbpc
gregbpc topcommenter

@JBinOC @gregbpc Nope..haven't been there in years, and don't plan on going anytime soon.  My vacation dollars will be spent elsewhere. :)

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