HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Best SF Breakfast

  • l

I'll be in SF in November and would love to have some recommendations for great breakfast spots! It can be casual or fancy, cheap or pricey - I just want it to be really good food. Living in socal, I've been so out of touch with what's new and yummy in San Francisco and would appreciate any suggestions. Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. From our last two visits to San Francisco, we tried Dottie's Cafe in the Tenderloin and Mama's on Washington Square in North Beach. These are regularly mentioned on this board for breakfast. Both were great and we enjoyed good food at each place. You'll have to contend with lines though and from line up to being served from our experience was at least an hour, maybe a bit longer at Dottie's. So if you are in a hurry these are not places to consider, but if you have the time I'd recommend them.

    1. Canteen, hands down. The chupacabra, the big pancake, the eggs benedict - there's nothing that isn't outstanding.

      817 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

      1. I would echo Canteen. Also, Nopa and Foreign Cinema for weekend brunch are great.

        560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

        Foreign Cinema
        2534 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110

        1. I echo the recommendations of Canteen and Foreign Cinema for brunch, and would also recommend Brenda's.

          817 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

          Foreign Cinema
          2534 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110

          Brenda's French Soul Food
          652 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94102

          4 Replies
          1. re: JasmineG

            Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays at 2223 Restaurant is also pretty good.

              1. re: Frosty Melon

                I think they changed it to both Saturdays and Sundays - at least that was the case when I was there a few months ago.

            1. re: JasmineG

              We went to Brenda's a few weeks ago and found it to be overrated. The grits were solid but everything else was either overcooked or lacked flavor.

              Mission Beach Cafe is definitely a solid choice.

              Mission Beach Cafe
              198 Guerrero St., San Francisco, CA 94103

            2. Totally forgot about Bar Tartine - perhaps the best French Toast in San Francisco, and the only place I know of where you can order foie gras (panini) for breakfast.

              Bar Tartine
              561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

              1. I like Cafe Bean on Sutter Street. No lines, good food and coffee.

                Cafe Bean
                800 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                Sutter Street Cafe
                450 Sutter St Ste Lbby, San Francisco, CA 94108

                1. SPQR has a great brunch. Mission Beach Cafe serves up good, solid fare.

                  Mission Beach Cafe
                  198 Guerrero St., San Francisco, CA 94103

                  1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                  1. The St Regis has a very nice breakfast every day, although you might avoid the fancier items (eggs a la rousse, etc).

                    The Four Seasons also has an excellent breakfast in a civilized environment.

                    Rose's Cafe on Union street is reasonably good.

                    The best pancakes are the blueberry pancakes at the Lighthouse Cafe in Sausalito.

                    As for the places that others are recommending, be sure to avoid them.

                    Mama's, for example, is an absolutely unremarkable place with an enormous line. So it's bad two ways. One, the food is completely forgettable, and you have to wait in line to eat there. It's as mysterious as the line of tourists at Sears Fine Foods.

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

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: BatrickPateman

                      I agree that Mama's is way overrated, but what's wrong with Canteen and 2223?

                      1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                        Speaking of Canteen, did they start serving breakfast on weekdays again, or is it still just on weekends?

                          1. re: Steve Green

                            Canteen has ceased serving breakfast/brunch on Sundays as of August 2012. Alack.

                        1. re: BatrickPateman

                          Both the Four Seasons and Vitrine at the St. Regis have an above-average hotel breakfast. Well worth trying out if you're in the neighborhood, though quite pricey. Neither of them belongs anywhere near a list of the best breakfasts in San Francisco.

                          1. re: johnq

                            Agreed. To me a hotel breakfast generally is "the best surprise is no surprise at all." But each person has his/her comfort level. I'd take a bowl of menudo in the Mission any day.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Back in the day, Brad Ogden put together a killer breakfast at Campton Place. It was the best.

                              Campton Place
                              340 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

                        2. I second Bar Tartine, fantastic French Toast. Absinthe has a really delicious brunch as well.

                          Bar Tartine
                          561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          1. "Out the Door" on Bush in Pacific Heights. "Just for You" in Dog Patch. Go across the bay to "Bette's Oceanview Diner" in Berkeley, or "Brown Sugar" in Oakland. I also like the menudo on the weekends at "Tacubaya" on 4th St. in Berkeley

                            1. Has anyone tried Serpentine? Shouldn't be crowded like some of the better known.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: bbulkow

                                Kate's Kitchen in Lower Haight....homemade sausage, cornmeal pancakes and real butter and maple syrup...

                                Kate's Kitchen
                                471 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  Every time I've been to Serpentine on the weekend there's been a wait (30 minutes or longer). However, they do take reservations for breakfast/brunch.

                                  My Top 5: Plow, Baker & Banker, Zazie, Bar Tartine, and Boulettes Larder.

                                  Boulettes Larder
                                  Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                  Bar Tartine
                                  561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                  Baker & Banker
                                  1701 Octavia Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                  1299 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                  1. re: scarmoza

                                    What was I thinking? I didn't list Cotogna. It should be on this list!

                                2. Butler and the Chef. Best Croque ever and some damned good croissants, as well.


                                  1. I found this old thread in a search for weekday breakfast spots -- so I thought I'd throw a couple of my favorites on there. For Mexican breakfast (esp on weekdays), I love La Torta Gorda, on 24th near Bryant. Everything is awesome and homemade (including the juices, but excepting the coffee). For breakfast I particularly love the tinga quesadillas (with epazote & jalapeños), huevos divorciados (with different sauces), and a big glass of the vampiro (beet juice blend).

                                    Another good spot for breakfast on the weekend is Universal Café, and I second the vote for Foreign Cinema.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: turtl_girl

                                      concur about Torta Gorda. the huevos divorciados probably have the two sauces to play with the 'his vs. hers' joke. you'd probably like the huevos rancheros at Just for You in Dogpatch, made with Hatch chilies -- about the best green chili on eggs in my experience outside of N.Mexico. they have very good cornbread, excellent beignets, but just average coffee.

                                      1. re: moto

                                        Thanks for the tip! I'll try it out...

                                      2. re: turtl_girl

                                        John's Ocean Beach Cafe has good banana walnut pancakes and on the Specials board: pork hash with poached eggs - CASH ONLY. It's across from the SF Zoo on Sloat Blvd.

                                        John's Ocean Beach Cafe
                                        2898 Sloat Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94116

                                        1. re: Cynsa

                                          That place has the best pancakes I've ever had (the banana walnut ones). I don't eat a lot of pancakes, but those were really good.

                                      3. I went to Canteen a few months ago for brunch and was extremely disappointed. Mediocre food with a side of nasty attitude. The best recent breakfast I've had in the Bay area was at Brown Sugar in Oakland. Wonderful food.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: ridgewalker

                                          I've never had better shrimp and grits. And I've eaten plenty in Louisiana

                                          1. re: bienmanger

                                            They're not open for breakfast - but have you had the shrimp and grits at Broken Record?

                                            1. re: scarmoza

                                              Sunday Brunch only until 3 pm (has this changed, scarmoza?)

                                              1. re: Cynsa

                                                I meant that Broken Record isn't open for breakfast but their shrimp and grits are a must try.

                                        2. Two all time favorites for great food and a good neighborhood feel: Ella's at California and Presidio and Rose's at Steiner and Union. Lines are long at Ella's on the weekend, but during the week, you can always get in. And, there is no better view on a sunny day than Louis' just before the Cliff House. Food is reasonable and standard eggs, pancakes and waffles, but you don't care that its not Bar Tartine quality because its cheap and the views are priceless!

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: tcheware

                                            What do you like at Ella's? I was there this weekend and enjoyed their open faced omelette with shredded pork, black beans, ranchero sauce & jack cheese. I didn't get why there's a buzz around their chicken hash, and found it only slightly redeemable when drowned in hot sauce. I didn't care much for their biscuits, but the poppyseed pancakes looked really good.

                                            1. re: hyperbowler

                                              I inevitably have the eggs with grilled polenta. I love their polenta and with poached eggs its a great combination. I do not believe they offer this on weekends anymore, however.

                                            2. re: tcheware

                                              Have you been to Louis' since it reopened after remodeling and changing the menu? Would love to hear a current update.

                                              Garden Court of the Palace Hotel
                                              2 New Montgomery St., San Francisco, CA 94105

                                              Rose's Cafe
                                              2298 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

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

                                              Louis' Restaurant
                                              902 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                              La Torta Gorda
                                              2833 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                We actually just came back from breakfast there. The interior is cleaner, newer and more open and light. The food was just the same as before, as near as I can tell. However, their prices seem to have risen quite a bit since before the remodel (to pay for it?). Their plain omelette is $8.95 and if you add cheese, bacon, tomatoes and onions, the price will rise to about double that. I could see $12 bucks for an omelette with this variety of ingredients, but not $16! One omelette, two coffees and two pancakes cost $26. Great view, of course....

                                                Louis' Restaurant
                                                902 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                1. re: tcheware

                                                  "Per the demands of its landlords, the National Park Service, the restaurant is now serving more organic and local foods. So dining there was cheaper in the past as well."


                                                  1. re: scarmoza

                                                    That, of course, is a good thing, but the omelette is way over-priced compared to even higher quality, more organic and locally sourced venues, don't you think?

                                                    Louis' Restaurant
                                                    902 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                    1. re: tcheware

                                                      Since you're also paying for the view, I don't know if it's fair to compare it to other places in town offering organic ingredients, etc. You might be exchanging a bit of quality for the view. Looking at Louis' menu and comparing it to Cliff House's and Beach Chalet's, it looks like Louis' still offers cheaper options (compared to these two).

                                                      1. re: scarmoza

                                                        You are correct that in comparison, Louis' is still very affordable and downright personable too! Nonetheless, I think they should have an omelette with 3 items standard for about 8.95, the current cost of their plain egg omelette. Bear in mind, you can get three eggs (the # in the omelette) for about $5 on the side. Their other items are still very well priced: pancakes are about $6 for two, as I recall. I guess the solution is that I just won't have omelets there!

                                            3. Splurge and go to the Palace Hotel's Garden Court.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Andrew H

                                                What did you find splurge-worthy at the Palace Hotel's breakfast? I've only been once (a couple of years ago) and was a little disappointed that , for the price, they didn't really offer anything very special - especially not the coffee.

                                                1. re: scarmoza

                                                  I wonder why one would ever go to a hotel for breakfast, except for a business meeting, or if you don't know where the indigenous places are. It raises the question of what, indeed, do people want from their "best breakfast." Elegant or homey? Soulful or gourmet? Loud or quiet? I, for one, seek out breakfast spots with roots in a neighborhood; places where people have been coming for a long time to eat and enjoy themselves in the midst of others doing the same thing. I like places that are warm, friendly, and bustling, and it helps if there's a counter. That's why I keep coming back to Bette's, Just For You, and Brown Sugar.

                                                  1. re: bienmanger

                                                    For me, the best has mostly to do with the quality of the food (ingredients, preparation, presentation), beverages (especially coffee), and service.

                                                    I went to the Palace Hotel based on past Chowhound recommendations when I was looking for the best breakfast in town. The service and atmosphere were outstanding (and those mini Tabasco bottles they give you just melt my heart) - but I wouldn't go back. There are too many better options in San Francisco.

                                                2. re: Andrew H

                                                  The price at the Palace Hotel is certainly a splurge. It's not a bad buffet, but it's not overly exciting by any means. But of course the atmosphere is grand and can be fun sometimes.

                                                  Our new favorite is Radish in the Mission. I've found all of their dishes (breakfast and lunch) to be nicely prepared, full of flavor, and just the right size and price.

                                                3. Sears Fine Food on Powell across from the Sir Francis Drake Hotel...is a staple for SF breakfast, may not be the gourmet fare you are looking for, but has great dollar pancakes and CRISP bacon... and all othe fav's....has been around for more than 70 years and is worth a try also while we are in the neighborhood how about Lefty O''douls....On Geary near Powell. A great place, also with lots of history, good basic food and Bloody Marys if you so desire. Just some thoughts.

                                                  12 Replies
                                                  1. re: BEVSF

                                                    The OP is over a year old. Sears is more of a staple for tourists.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      Yes I noticed the date too late....however the "tourist" remark is way off unless you think Herb Caen and Willie Brown were/are tourists, I do realize it is not a "cool" place...but .....

                                                      1. re: BEVSF

                                                        It has nothing to do with cool. When I first moved here a few decades ago i dutifully followed my zagat recs which included Sears. It was a massive dissapointment ... and that was before they were bought out by the god-awful Lori's Diner people which ruined that place as well. I threw out my zagat book soon after that and a few other tourists recs.

                                                        I lived and worked in SF for over 20 years and in all that time i never knew another person who went to Sears other than maybe one time ... and usually like me ... when they first hit the city.

                                                        That is not to say some chowhounds still like the pancakes, but it really isn't a place San Franciscans make a bee line to frequetnly.

                                                        So ... tastes differ ... and Sears may be to your taste. The only thing i strongly disagree about is that it is a locals favorite. Then again i don't hang in Herb or Willie's circle. When they went they were probably able to bypass the line of tourists snaking outside.

                                                          1. re: BEVSF

                                                            I think its charm is its history as a part of Old San Francisco

                                                            Tadich Grill, Sam's... even Tommy's Joint have the patina of bygone times

                                                            1. re: Cynsa

                                                              THANK YOU SO MUCH!...Finally someone out there gets it.

                                                              1. re: BEVSF

                                                                I get it. I just think there are some institutions that deserve their rep and others ... not so much.

                                                                I want tourists to love the city as much as I do, so I'd rather steer them to what is outstanding rather what is mererly old, in more than one way.

                                                                Ghirardelli chocolates, Sears, Boudin clam chowder in a bowl (or anywhere) ... nix.

                                                                Tadich, Sam's, Tommy's Joint, Scoma's ... sure. Not that they are outstanding, but they have some saving graces.

                                                                But as you say ... to each their own taste.

                                                                i've been fuming about gimmicky clam chowder in a sourdough bowl for years. So i'm in a restaurant in Antigua, Guatemala chatting it up with a few tourists there. They ask where i'm from. I say SF.

                                                                "We LOVE the food in SF". they say enthusiastically. I perk up. ":Especially the delicious clam chowder in a sourdough bowl" they continue. I silently, virtually roll my eyes ... at least i hope it was virtual ... and just figure we don't have the same taste

                                                                Then again, I started on this board hating Tadich, until one poster wrote a love store about it pointing out the charms ... I've been a fan ever since. It is one of the best posts I've read in all my years on Chowhound

                                                                So, who knows? Maybe someone with equal passion can cue me into the charms of Sears.

                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                  A great example is red's. You see more locals than tourists. The food isn't that great but there is something about an egg and sausage sandwich before sailing.

                                                            2. re: rworange

                                                              Don't know what year Zagat would have recommended Sears, but it must have been pretty long ago, because as long as I can remember, it's had pretty mediocre ratings. For instance, take the 2000 edition:

                                                              Food: 16
                                                              Decor: 10
                                                              Service: 15
                                                              Out-of-towners "stand in line" to sample this Downtown
                                                              retro coffee shop's "best silver-dollar pancakes" and
                                                              strawberry waffles, but that doesn't stop some locals from
                                                              rolling their eyes and saying "please tell the tourists that
                                                              there are lots of better breakfast spots."

                                                            3. re: BEVSF

                                                              Herb Caen died in 1997, before Sears went downhill and then was taken over by Lori's Diner. When's the last time you heard Willie Brown plug it?

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                I've seen Willie Brown eating in places I didn't think were any good. Actually, he wasn't really eating so much as socializing. Besides, I didn't realize he was a taste-maker when it came to food. One thing I want to address is that the people you see lining up outside of Sears are not locals!

                                                              2. re: BEVSF

                                                                Saying Sears isn't a tourist place because Herb Caen ate there is kind of like saying John's Grill isn't a tourist place because Jack LaLanne ate there. Both are places that were once popular with locals born a century ago.

                                                          2. I'll be visiting San Francisco next month. How many of these breakfast places are in the downtown area? Not sure where as of yet but I do know it'll be Dowtown

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Hungrierthanever

                                                              How about an ocean view and plain good food...try Louis...out near the Cliff house. Packed on weekends not too bad weekdays.

                                                            2. I never understand the lines at Mama's. As a North Beach regular, I always think to myself "it's just eggs!"

                                                              1. I'm addicted to Art's Cafe on Irving: 2 eggs, hash browns, Crystal hot sauce. If hash browns made into a crispy crepe-like disk of yum aren't enticing to you, don't bother. Though the bibimbop is good too.