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Hidden City Cafe is one of the East Bay's best brunch spots. Who knew?

Morton the Mousse Feb 15, 2007 11:54 AM

The name says it all. This must be the only restaurant from a Chez alum that doesn't keep a publicist on the payroll. Hidden City Cafe is one of those gems that the locals flock to, and nobody else knows about. But the food is up there with the East Bay's best brunch (900 Grayson and Eccolo) and far surpasses those tired old restaurants that people still line up for, more out of habit than a desire to pursue greatness.

The potato is king at Hidden City. I've tried to enjoy homefries so many times, most recently a painfully dull rendition at Sunnyside Cafe. I'm usually assaulted by dry, tasteless, cubes of spud that require gobs of sour cream to liven up. So, when our homefries came out, my first instinct was to order some sour cream. Then I took a bite. My god! Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and bursting with flavor. The kitchen has a true gift with seasoning that makes simple breakfast fare sublime. I couldn't believe how good these homefries were. Four days later I'm still thinking about them.

The potato also triumphed in the Niman Ranch roast beef hash, served with big chunks of beef, peppers and onions. Once again, I was wowed by the expert seasoning and spot-on preparation. The eggs were perfectly fried, so that I could dip each bite of potato in the luscious, runny yolks.

Then, there were the pancakes. Banana nut pancakes, to be precise. The pancakes were filled with big chunks of banana, and topped with a generous serving of fresh walnuts. They were moist without being runny, and as well flavored as the rest of the meal. So often, I'll order pancakes at brunch, only to eat about half of a cake before I get my sugar fix on and become bored. But not with these pancakes; Mrs. Mousse and I fought over the last bite.

The service was wonderful, they clearly take pride in the food coming out of the kitchen. When our hash arrived with a burst egg yolk, the waiter immediately pre-empted us with "the egg burst in transport, sorry about that, I'll bring you another egg right away." When the waiter noticed that the house made sausage went unfinished he remarked, "you know, they overcooked that. Next time you come here, just ask, and I'll bring you some sausage on the house." A good waiter would offer to comp the sausage. But a waiter who has confidence in his product will ask me to come back and try it again.

Prices are very reasonable. We ordered enough food for three people (though we managed to finish most of it, it tasted so good). Total before tip was $25. Considering the emphasis on organic ingredients, large portions, and quality of preparation, an excellent value. I will be back.

They offer beer and wine. I couldn't drink Sunday because I had work to do, but I was definitely eyeing the Chimay.

Despite the crowds, we only waited about 5 minutes for a table. Though people arrived steadily throughout our brunch, I didn't see any party wait for more than 10 minutes. The large space, fast kitchen, and lack of publicity outside of local word-of-mouth keeps the wait times to a minimum.

Hidden City is a gem. Next Sunday, ditch the long waits for the same old Bette, Jimmy, Rick and Ann, and take the short drive to Pt Richmond. You'll be glad you did.

Hidden City Cafe
109 Park Pl
Richmond, CA 94801
(510) 232-9738
Closed Mondays
Beer and wine
Credit cards accepted

  1. AntarcticWidow Oct 26, 2008 08:21 PM

    I had a craving for eggs benedict on Saturday so we headed down for brunch. It was about 10:15am. Almost all of the tables were seated, but more than half were at the end of their meal. Within five minutes of sitting down our orders were taken and our food server brought us our coffee.

    By 11am we still hadn't been served. We noticed that another couple who had ordered about the same time as us also hadn't been served. Because we had things to do, DH told our food server that we would pay for our coffee but we couldn't wait anymore. He walked to the back then came back and said that the coffee was on the house. We thanked him and took off.

    M:y guess is that they ran out of something (eggs maybe???) and that they hadn't even started on our order. Maybe it was a fluke. Has anyone else had issues with slow service there?

    1 Reply
    1. re: AntarcticWidow
      o
      osc3 Oct 27, 2008 05:28 PM

      About 10 days ago on a Saturday I went in looking for the typical brunch menu. They have had some terrific dishes in the past like lamb hash, carnitas-fueled dishes, etc. My server warned me the service would be slow due to a new chef. I asked about the weekend brunch menu and he said there wasn't one. Hmmm. I asked what happened and he said the previous chef had quit. I stayed for some very pedestrian eggs but left disappointed. I hope they can recover.

    2. m
      Munching Mark Jul 6, 2008 03:36 PM

      Tried it out this morning, and thought it was solid, not spectacular.

      Service was polite but disjointed, one in our party was served long before the other person....appropriate apologies, but still lacking in execution/timing on the part of the kitchen.

      Prices seemed just a tad high, but not terribly so...maybe it's just 2008 and I should not be surprised. I was a bit shocked by $3.00 for a side of sourdough toast (2 not overly huge pieces), but I guess that's life.

      Pancakes were good, scrambled eggs fine, chicken apple sausage very tasty; this was $11.00 I think. Companion's long-awaited carne asada special was said to be very good.

      Very crowded in front section, the back room a better spot for a bit of space.

      1. courtneyp Mar 21, 2008 08:57 PM

        A bit of trivia: Hidden City was the code name of the Pixar movie "Monsters, Inc." before it even had a title. I worked at their old location in Point Richmond when this movie was in pre-production, and remembered how it was referred to as Hidden City. As a matter of fact, you can see Hidden City featured in the teaser trailer for Wall-E.

        http://www.apple.com/trailers/disney/...

        1 Reply
        1. re: courtneyp
          w
          Waterboy Jul 7, 2008 01:14 AM

          Har! Just about fell out of my chair when Hidden City's front door appeared on screen. Reliable + good eats....but Willow Wood market in Graton has it beat for breakfast. Underwood's better for lunch.

          Not to take away from Hidden City - enjoy eating there every time.

        2. e
          eastbay_eater Mar 20, 2008 12:08 PM

          Did this close? The phone number I tried says it is disconnected.

          3 Replies
          1. re: eastbay_eater
            Steve Green Mar 20, 2008 01:32 PM

            They are not closed --I just called them at (510) 991-6746. This place sounds great--we'll be passing through in a couple of weeks and will be sure to stop by for breakfast. Someone on yelp raved about the burgers as well.

            1. re: Steve Green
              e
              eastbay_eater Mar 20, 2008 04:09 PM

              Thanks! That wasn't the number I found elsewhere on the web, but you're right, that one worked. Plan to try them out!

              1. re: eastbay_eater
                rworange Mar 20, 2008 11:10 PM

                link

                -----
                Hidden City Cafe
                109 Park Pl, Richmond, CA 94801

          2. m
            mustardgirl Jul 2, 2007 06:37 PM

            We had breakfest there Saturday
            I have to totally agree it was fantastic
            omlette, pankcakes, home fries superb
            BY FAR the Best Breakfest in the Bay area , maybe California, maybe the world
            Great coffee too

            1. w
              Waterboy Mar 8, 2007 05:41 PM

              I give it a B as of last weekend. Cornmeal pancakes were very good; other OK or better. Reliable spot for good eats. Not overpriced at all.

              Clearly not a new restaurant, it has a patine of funk, particularly if you use the facilities.

              1. l
                luvness746 Mar 8, 2007 04:40 PM

                I just went to Hidden City Cafe about 2 weeks ago. Pancakes were great...fluffy and light. My husband ordered one of their scrambles, and that was great too! It's a little bit pricey compared to going to IHOP, but the quality is so much better.

                1. Chuckles the Clone Feb 15, 2007 12:39 PM

                  Who knew? We did! It was this post from rworange a couple
                  of years ago that led me there originally:
                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/37050...
                  but there have been a number of others before and since.

                  My experience with the waitstaff has not been as fortuitous as
                  yours. Late in the morning on a busy day they can seem to just
                  give up.

                  But brunch is at least as good as you described and often even better.

                  I'll second the suggestion of the bike trail as the way to get there. A little
                  unpleasant on the last mile down Cutting but otherwise a flat, beautiful ride
                  with a dogpark, Bulb, and racetrack for entertainment, and SeaBreeze Market
                  for a cold one on the way back.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                    rworange Feb 15, 2007 06:51 PM

                    On my most recent visit, there was a great new waiter ... new to me anyway ... who was really helpful and pleasant. The staff there at times can be indifferent and a little cool.

                    Glad you found the place Morton. Here's my most recent post where I had some wonderful fresh Spanish-style Hobb's chorizo. It also has links to other Hidden City posts.
                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                    I had a good pound cake with peaches that time too. Oddly enough, whipped cream always is memorably good at Hidden City.

                    They are known for their banana millet bread, which is light on the sugar and banana flavor, crunchy with millet and buttery.

                    After all these years on this last it was the first time I knew there was a room in the back in addtion to the small front room.

                    Is the bike trail on the beach? Morton, if you didn't go through the tunnel and drive along the beach, don't miss that next time. Spectacular views of the Bay. There are some points where you can see all three bridges at the same time ... bay, gg & San Rafael.

                  2. lemonfaire Feb 15, 2007 12:00 PM

                    Sounds delicious! I'm tempted to bike up the Bay Trail (ride more, eat more) and grab a bite.

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