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Aug 5, 2010 05:50 PM

Breakfast in SF

I'm a local, here are my favorites. I'd like to here some other suggestions. Mine range from somewhat posh to quaint.

Zazzie (you'll wait)
Out the Door (get the steak and eggs)
Zuni cafe
Brenda's soul food (introduce yourself to beignets)
Farm table

Dumplings always good too.

Zuni Cafe
1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Out the Door
1 Ferry Bldg Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94111

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  1. According to their website, Zuni doesn't serve breakfast.

    Zuni Cafe
    1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

    7 Replies
      1. re: steve h.

        Bob and I were just laughing about this. Brunch is a total non-event for us. We're generally at breakfast by 8ish. Brunch for us would be "early lunch."

        1. re: c oliver

          Have you had a bloody mary at Zuni? Makes for a mighty-fine early lunch when paired with a few oysters.

          As an aside, my East-Coast clock is dominant for a day or two after touching down at SFO. That's when I walk the Golden Gate Bridge just before dawn. I time it so I tag the Marin side, do a 180 and hit the middle of the bridge (east side) just as the sun comes up. Then it's back to the hotel, shower, dress up a bit and grab a decent breakfast.

          San Francisco is pretty cool.

          Zuni Cafe
          1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

          1. re: steve h.

            Just heaven. We've done a couple of house exchanges with a family in Presidio Heights. We walk the dogs in the Presidio then breakfast (dim sum) on Clement.

            1. re: c oliver

              Zuni has a few outdoor tables that face Market. I've always been envious of folk who slurp oysters, sip gimlets and have their dogs sit at their feet there. It just seems so right.

              Zuni Cafe
              1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

              1. re: steve h.

                Just took our dogs to lunch with us in Reno. Mojitos, calamari and Maryland fried soft-shell crab sandwich on the terrace with dog water bowl and treats for my avatar and her "sister." We used to live in Noe Valley and the little dog and I were regulars on 24thSt. Life is good.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Dogs lend a certain balance to everyday life.

    1. Palace Hotel has a pretty good breakfast buffet in a killer room. Campton Hotel, back in the day, was spectacular. These days? Saturday morning at the Farmers' Market.

      Palace Hotel
      2 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA

      4 Replies
      1. re: steve h.

        When in SF, we're total dim sum for breakfast folks. I can't get it at home so when in SF and NYC, that's IT for us.

        1. re: c oliver

          Yank Sing (Rincon Center) has always been my goto dim sum place in San Francisco. I try to get there by 11:30 a.m. or so. I used to take a table in the back near the kitchen door so I could flag down the good stuff. Now I just ask the cart ladies to shout out my requests to their colleagues. It's kind of fun.

          Yank Sing
          49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

          1. re: steve h.

            Next time hop the 1 California and check out House of Banquet on Clement. See below:


            House of Banquet
            939 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

      2. I like Lulu for brunch. It's never crowded, valet parking, the room is quite nice in day light, full bar, always can get a table and the menu is a combo of their standard items plus sandwiches, a few special egg type things or seasonal stuff like corn on the cob with truffle butter.

        1. I like Town's End Cafe (mostly because it is fairly close, but also because it is good). And Mama's on Washington Square is another place that is mobbed, but it mobbed for a good reason.

          Mama's On Washington Square
          1701 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

          Town's End Restaurant & Bakery
          2 Townsend St Ste 2, San Francisco, CA 94107

          1. I know that many people will disagree with this, but I really like breakfast at Il Fornaio. Yes, it is a relatively small chain - about 20 restaurants - but the food is really good, and I especially love the French Toast there. If you are there when they have the outdoor patio open, it's quite lovely to sit there, so close to the Levi Plaza fountain - a nice way to spend an hour or so on a weekend morning.

            I like the french toast so much I always get it, but I have taken others here (both local and out of towners) and they have enjoyed other things (and if you order something savory they bring a great bread basket).

            I posted about it in the past and got some negative feedback ("why would you choose that when there are better places") and although I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I do wonder if the criticism is due to it being a chain or to the food itself. I've been going there for years and it has been consistently great. (dinner there is fine, but breakfast is what I really love there.)

            When I hear someone say "Town's End" it really confuses me. I've eaten there twice and it seemed fine but there wasn't anything particularly great about it. It was a decent yet somewhat ordinary breakfast. I tried Dottie's once and it was ok. Il Fornaio is the only place in SFwhere breakfast really "wowed" me. (well, Tartine too, but that's pastries, not a full breakfast; the pastries, especially the Frangipane tart and croissant, are great, so there's another hearty recommendation).

            Il Fornaio
            1265 Battery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            12 Replies
            1. re: atjsfo

              I am going out there next week. Have never had Dim Sum for breakfast? Whats the deal with that?

              1. re: phar71

                Hi phar: Since I'm here and have a few minutes, I'll give you a bit of an answer to try to convince you to try dim sum. Dim sum is a (mainly) Cantonese thing, usually offered for breakfast, though some places serve it into the early afternoon, and you can get some dim sum items into the evening at certain restos.

                When I was growing up in Vancouver (where I still am), most restaurants had small carts that women would push around the room, shouting out their wares. Then you would select what you wanted, often after peeking into one of the baskets to see the offerings therein.

                Most items are quite small, with steamed and pan-fried dumplings of various descriptions being a highlight. You just order a bunch of dishes and tuck in -- so take a friend or three for best results. Also be sure you want to eat a lot of shrimp and pork. Dim sum is tricky with vegheads, though it can be done.

                A lot of restaurants now require that you order from a menu using a checklist, which I don't like as much.

                Many places have pictures so you can see what you're ordering but be prepared to get a few surprises :-). Not usually a problem as most items are relatively inexpensive ($3-6 here, a bit more in SF in my experience and of course depending where you go).

                Tea is also a big part of dim sum or yum cha. If you know what you are doing, you can order teas that will cut the fat content and so on. Me, I tend to just take whatever tea they bring :-).

                Here endeth a very basic primer on dim sum. I hope you go and try it out. There are approximately 1 billion threads on this board with suggestions of places to do so in SF/Bay Area. Happy hunting.

                1. re: grayelf

                  Excellent description, grayelf. Here's a list of the common dishes and what's in them. I've passed it on to others before and it seemed to help. (Makes me hungry).


              2. re: atjsfo

                If I lived somewhere I could not get dimsum, I would definitely do that as well. Breakfast really varies for me depending if I'm in a savory mood or sweet, if I want homey food or something upscale. And breakfast is easy, so often chain type place can have perfectly satisfactory breakfast. Just for you cafe also has beignets.

                It is a hobby of mine to try and eat breakfast in a different place almost everytime I go out. My one go to spot for pancakes is the Fat Lady in Jack London Square (Oakland).

                As an aside, when I was about 8 months pregnant I was having my fat lady pancakes and the owner told me her mother had stopped off to eat the same pancakes while en route to the hospital and in labor herself.....I think they are the grandparents recipe. Very thin and tall stack.

                Other places:
                I like Ella's chicken hash or banana pancakes. Rocco's has Italian breakfast. I happen to like Sears Fine Foods french toast - very eggy, buttery -more savory than sweet. Chloe's has good pancakes - very light and delicate. I like The Grove's bacon and egg breakfast - thick chewy bacon.

                Sears Fine Food
                439 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                Rocco's Cafe
                1131 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

                Ella's Restaurant
                500 Presidio Ave, San Francisco, CA 94115

                Fat Lady
                201 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607

                Chloe's Cafe
                1399 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                1. re: myst

                  Forgot to add a couple links

                  Just For You
                  732 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                  Grove Cafe
                  2250 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                  1. re: myst

                    I heard Ella's is amazing. Putting this on my list.

                  2. re: atjsfo

                    Indeed, the French toast at Il Fornaio is very good, and it doesn't hurt that they use their in-house Filone bread, and serve it with real maple syrup and Mascarpone cheese (photo #1). However, I find that I have to micro-manage my order: I have to specifically ask for it "lightly soaked in the egg dip", otherwise it comes out over-saturated and soggy. I also have to ask for it "very well browned," otherwise it's flabby. About 50% of the time, I send it back to have them do it over again (always because they just ignored my detailed request the first time, or failed to translate it properly into Spanish). But when they do it right, it's worth it.

                    However ... If you are in SF, the French toast at Butler & Chef totally blows away Il Fornaio in the French toast department (photo #2). What amazes me is that they manage to completely soak the bread all the way through, yet it comes out not overly saturated in the middle. Does anyone know how they do this? I'm thinking they might soak it, then let it sit overnight to evaporate off the excess. Or maybe they just cook it for a really long time.

                    Butler & the Chef Bistro
                    155 S Park St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                    1. re: ssfire

                      It could be the egg mix they use (lots of milk) or they could finish the French Toast in the oven.

                      1. re: ssfire

                        Wow, thanks ssfire, now I'm dying to try Butler and Chef.

                        Personally I've never had a bad order of french toast at Il Fornaio, though I have had it more times in Palo Alto than in SF. But that's not doubting you - either I'm not as discerning about it or I've just been luckier.

                        1. re: ssfire

                          No, the key to good French toast (or bread pudding) is to use stale bread. If the bread's not stale enough, the texture is wrong, no matter how you soak it.

                          1. re: Windy

                            Day-old bread is good. Stale bread is not so good.
                            I'm assuming the bread came from a bakery.

                            1. re: steve h.

                              uhockey waxes rhapsodic about Butler and Chef in the OP here, with a paragraph on their French toast:

                              The croque monsieur sounds pretty amazing to a savoury lover like me :-).