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Feb 15, 2007 11:54 AM

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

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

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

    1. Who knew? We did! It was this post from rworange a couple
      of years ago that led me there originally:
      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

        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.

        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. 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. 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. 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