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Mar 2, 2010 07:38 AM

SF: Pinecrest Diner – “The Food Makers’ … breakfast at 5am

At first I was offended by the prices at Pinecrest. I had the chili con carne omelette -
Homemade Chili Poured over Mushroom & Cheese $9.95

The three-egg omelette was huge and covered with maybe 2-3 cups of chili. An equal portion of hash browns covered the other half of the mega plate … a plate so large it was like the type of platter on which I’d serve a whole roast chicken.

If only size mattered.

If quantity equaled quality then their boast that they served the best breakfast in SF would be true.

The egg part of it was good, a solid classic American omelette, not too thin or thick and not fluffy soufflé style. There was lots of cheese and it was all evenly melted.

The mushrooms were canned. Not bad, but I don’t think I’ve had canned mushrooms since Pinecrest opened in 1969. Not that I had them here as I didn’t move to SF until years later. Still, there was a nice proportion of mushrooms.

The chili … skip it … large brown beans that were way too soft mixed with a bit of ground beef. I would be hard pressed to believe that there was another thing in there … beans and a bit of ground beef … not a single other thing … maybe not even salt.

I chose sourdough as my toast option. To any tourists … this is not the finest example of sourdough. At first I thought it was the plain white bread. Eventually it I detected a bit of tang, but even the worst supermarket sliced sourdough is better than this.

It was served with a cup of some sort of yellow bread spread … definitely not butter. Small containers of Smucker’s jelly were on the table … grape, strawberry and orange marmalade.

The table condiments included Heinz ketchup bottles, Tapatio sauce, sugar, pink and blue artificial sweeteners, salt, pepper and a bowl of Darigold containers of half and half.

The hash browns were fine, though they could have used a few more minutes on the grill for a browner crispier exterior

My thought is that a plain cheese omelette would be a serviceable breakfast. Still, if I were on that street in the middle of the night and needed to eat, Lori’s across the street might be the better option.

Pinecrest has upped the quality of their meat (using Niman Ranch). They should seriously consider re-thinking the coffee which is Farmer’s Brand. They are charging $2.25 a cup for it with refills 80 cents. Perhaps the bad coffee is there to discourage a second cup.

Someone from nearby Hertz stopped by for a cup of coffee to go. I was astounded. I wanted to ask why not Starbucks across the street which was cheaper and better … or even Jack in the Box.

Across the street a steak and eggs burrito poster in the window of a 24 hour Jack in the Box tantalizing taunted me. Jack was the choice of the more food and budget savvy street people.

The beans were a bit too much and I descended down three flights into the bowels of the restaurant to use the restroom. I mistook a storeroom for the facilities which turned out to be around the corner.

The smell of disinfectant was strong enough to kill anything creepy crawly for at least a block. Bright lights were on as further discouragement. Still, I had do something I haven’t done since I was five and my mother insisted on … covering the seat with toilet paper before sitting down To hhc … use Jack in the Box across the street.

Which brings up that this is handicapped unfriendly to the ultimate. With only tight booths and counter seats there’s no place for anyone in a wheelchair. Those with other limitations would find getting to the restrooms difficult.

They do have two highchairs for anyone with young children.

At that hour, not much was going on. For a few minutes a guy wearing a blue headband with silver sparkles put on a show outside the window by playing drums on the yellow Chronicle newspaper boxes.

A Jack in the Box worker, hosed the night off the sidewalk outside that restaurant. Pinecrest threw out a bucket of dirty cleaning water onto the sidewalk.

There are regulars that drop by for a cup of coffee and know the staff by name and visa versa. I was really impressed by everyone who worked there because they were very nice and efficient.

Two ladies retiring from the night shift, stopped by with weary looks on their faces.

Two Asian teens killed the night getting order after order of fries while they played on their phones. The waitress didn’t tell them to leave but reminded them that when the rush started in a half hour, they might need to give up the table for six for a two top.

Quite honestly, I was ready to leave and hung around to see if a crowd would show up. Nope.

The city was just starting to wake up. The first airport shuttles were loading visitors for their trips home. Delivery trucks were parked in front of most of the restaurants wheeling bread, produce, canned goods, etc to the kitchens.

Pinecrest has a few things going for it
- It is open 24 hours
- The staff is great
- It is consistent

There was a recent incorrect post that it had closed which later was changed a brief shutdown to remodel.

Pinecrest was one of the first places I tried a when I moved to SF decades ago. So it is now one of the last places I ‘dined’ as I get ready to leave the Bay Area.

If no one mentioned a remodel, I never would have guessed. The only real difference was two flat screen TV’s on the walls playing endless infomercials.

The food is exactly as I remembered it on my first visit. I never saw a need to go back.

And yet, part of me wants Pinecrest to be eternal …to serve classic diner fare and little seen dishes such as diet plates with canned peaches and cottage cheese, bowls of stewed prunes, etc. I just wish it were better.

“The Food Makers” is on the outdoor awning. And this would different fro other restaurants … how?

Two tourists were coming in as I was leaving. I wanted to say … go to Lorie’s across the street … or wait an hour until something really good opens.

Pinecrest Diner
401 Geary St, San Francisco, CA

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  1. Thanks for taking one for the team. You will be missed!

    1. RWO,
      Thanks for all the great adventures you've taken us on, food wise. You've led me to some fantastic food since I found Chowhound, and I'm grateful. In your absence from the local scene I'll work to try out more of the untested and unknown, in your honor. And to keep this on the topic of Pinecrest--maybe those kids eating only french fries knew the menu quite well.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jillyju

        Somewhere along the line they had ordered the burger as well.

        Thanks to you both. You are both pretty adventurous yourself. However, I hope people will stop by those mainly untested and unknown places for their own sake.

        While I did a fairly good job pre-Chowhound days picking places to eat, branching out and stopping by that place I passed by for years vastly expanded my food world.

        It was fun and more interesting than eating the same dishes at the same places. Out of the hundreds of places I've tried, at most I can count the truly wretched on one hand. The adventure was well worth that small price ... especially for the great finds ... amoung them Vineyards Inn in Sonoma County ... Le Bedaine in Berkeley ... and so many others.

        They food gods smiled on me and gave me a parting gift yesterday.

        Rushing around, quite frankly with limited time I've abandoned chowhounding for the convenience of McDonald's lately.

        Yesterday I took a road I had not planned on. Pressed for time, breakfast was going to be McDonald's. Then I looked up and saw a new restaurant I had been meaning to try. I had to push myself to stop. Curiosity overcame me.

        I walked into the best Brazilian restaurant I've been to in the Bay area.

        I took the time to ask questions and express my interested in Brazilian cuisine ... and oh my goodness ... suddenly this guy was making me all sorts of wonderful things to try ... a little espresso cup of the most wonderful chicken and corn soup fresh from the big black pot on the stove ... amazing ... amazing ... cheese and chicken pasteles ... this is their thing ... they have over thirty types of pasteles fried to order ... a yucca and cocnut dessert that was like the best macaroon I've had in my life.

        I didn't want Pinecrest to be my last post, so I'm glad I lucked across the Brazilian joint.I still want to stop by this afternoon and try the fried quail eggs and the dessert pasteles with a choice of guava, banana, dulce de leche or pineapple fillings. I had a wonderful Brazilian donut filled with the dulche de leche and it was magnificant.

        Had I not stopped ... breakfast would have been a sausage McMuffin.

        Explore, eat, enjoy

        1. re: rworange

          I hope we can read your posts on the Central America board. And we will all have to work a little harder to uncover the deliciousness of every day! Til we read again, thanks, rw.