Breakfasts East and South Bay
Will be in area late September, among the places we are staying is Emeryville and Gilroy. Please provide some breakfast suggestions for each locale. We will be traveling up the coast from Gilroy to Santa Rosa on a Monday, does that offer other opportunities? Thank you!
Emeryville/Oakland/Berkeley: 900 Grayson is small and tends to be crowded. We didn't enjoy eating and having people lined up, eager for us to leave so they could grab our table. They are the opposite of Brown Sugar Kitchen, which has a great waffle and not-so-great fried chicken - at 900 the chicken is excellent but the waffle was soggy and limp. The burger was very good; if they would just salt it before cooking it would have been excellent. (there is no comparison to beef salted before cooking vs beef salted after cooking).
Doyle St. Cafe gave us a great lunch but the second time a mediocre breakfast, and when the place is busy the service goes straight into the pits. That includes forgetting food that was supposed to be part of the dish, long waits between coffee refills and requests for jam, etc.
900 Grayson uses really good quality ingredients and has a chef who knows their way around his/her pots and pans. The waitstaff is cheerful and quick, and makes the crowded quarters bearable. The regular coffee, however, is so-so, although the espressos are much better.
We certainly liked 900 more than Jimmy Beans or the Gilman St. Grill. But for breakfast, our hearts belong first to Mama’s Royal in Oakland (great eggs Benedict and corned beef hash with poached egg), then to Royal Café in Albany (also a fine Bennie and the Solano Scramble rocks!). Royal has excellent Fair Trade coffee; it is on San Pablo Ave. near Solano and 2 minutes to the 880/580 turnoff that leads to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
We put Mama's first, Royal second. Third is Rudy's Can't Fail, because the short-order cook that started in 2010 was far superior to the previous cooks; but we haven't been back in the last year so s/he may have moved on by now. I wouldn't call Rudy's original location on Hollis St. new; it's the branch on Telegraph Ave. that is a recent opening. Cafe M on 4th St./Berkeley is okay but it's the lunch crepes that are better than the egg breakfast dishes.
Brown Sugar Kitchen and Chinatown are going in the opposite direction if you heading towards Santa Rosa. Commute traffic goes that direction and will not clear up until around 10:30a.
If you want dim sum, to go or eat in, a better bet on your route would be Daimo, 3288 Pierce Street, Richmond, CA 94804, which is open at 9a, all week long. It is just off the freeway at what everyone calls the 99 Ranch Mall, actually the Pacific East Mall on the Center St. exit off 880. It is no better/no worse than places in Chinatown and again, is right near the 580/880 split that takes you to the Richmond/San Rafael bridge.
I assume you already have plans in Santa Rosa? We were just up there and I had a lot of difficulty finding good restaurants open on Monday/Tuesday!
If you're going to put Mama's Royal on the list, you should put Rick and Ann's on the list. It's better to go weekdays when there's no (or little) line, and possibly should be anti-recommended on a weekend (like Mama's Royal) but the place does it all well, in a chez pannise kind of way. Can be accessed easily from Rte 24 / Rte 13 as an on-and-off although you'll spend a few minutes on 24 itself, it's actually a lot closer to e-ville than it looks. Rated #1 breakfast in the entire bay area for a reason.
Bette's Oceanview is in E-ville and is great - but crowds up. Homemade Cafe is very good, especially with the waffles, but TINY. I very much like Meal Ticket, although I'm not sure it's on your way. Very POWER TO THE PEOPLE berkeley style. Roscoe's chicken and waffles is in Oakland, and reputed to be fun - right by the freeway - looks like they're now called "Home Of Chicken and Waffles". Oakland Grill is right near there and still going strong - the food seems a little generic these days, but I'd be happy to find it on a road trip, filled with the local loft tech denizens.
No discussion of East Bay Breakfast is complete until Sam's Log Cabin is mentioned. Very old school diner, not "well known" in the same way as everywhere jaiko listed, and probably better because of it. I've never seen a line there.
For Dim Sum, Daimo is the only thing I can find in the east bay that opens early. All the better-known places (like Asian Pearl, same shopping center, much beloved) open at 11am. So if you really want breakfast, Daimo might be a good choice, if you slide a little later, look out for Asian Pearl.
Gilroy is not well covered by this board -
If we're playing by the emeryville boarder, here's what's open:
Emeryville Public Market - Afghan place, Indian place
Doyle St - reported
Rudy's Can't Fail - reported
Emery bay cafe
Cafe Duetto - limited menu, but some coisante with meat breakfast things
but obviously reaching out a little past the boarder make sense.
We've eaten at Sam's and thought it was good, but a level below Mama's and Royal. I think it's dependent on what you're ordering. There are folks who adore Aunt Mary's/Oakland and we can't stand the place.
We find Daimo equal to L&L which has finally reopened - both as good/bad as can be found in Alameda Cty. We loathed Asian Pearl, whose service was as abysmal (and since we're Asian and eat a lot at Asian restaurants so know what to [not] expect, that's saying a lot) as the dim sum. The restaurants at 99 Ranch have gone steadily downhill over the years; Sichuan Fusion is on its fourth owners and is worse than ever.
Emerville area I would hit:
900 Grayson (many mentions on chowhound)
Doyle Street (kinda bigger - not great, not bad, rarely a wait)
Rudy's Can't Fail - often packed, not that good, but kids like it, especially one of the "pixar" tables
little bit farther up towards Berkeley around the 4th stree area:
Bette's Oceanview Diner
Meal Ticket (yummm)
I do not know where you are from and what your tastes are but you might want to stop in Oakland's Chinatown to get dim sum for breakfast on the road. Tao Yuen on Franklin between 8th and 9th is one of the best. The steamed pork buns and shrimp and chive dumplings are excellent, as are the noodle dishes. I personally don't like their sticky rice in lotus leaf but it's so cheap that, especially if you are not able to get a lot of dim sum where you live, it's worth investing in a smorgasbord (excuse the culture conflation) and discarding what you don't like. Try the har gow (shrimp by itself in a dumpling) and the chow fun or chow mein and the siu mai (pork or beef.) The people working there are really pretty nice to non-Chinese, even if you take a minute or so to order. Parking is tough so have someone circle the block (watch out for J-walkers and slow elderly with giant shopping bags!) while you go in.
If you come from NY Chinatown or LA Chinatown or Hong Kong or something, well, never mind. If you're from Vancouver, double never mind.
If you like Mexican breakfasts, we used to like Cocino Poblana in Emeryville. Lately we've been going to La Estrellita in Oakland because it's closer.
An old standby in Emeryville is Doyle St. Café. A relatively new place is Can't Fail Café (also in Oakland).
A well-regarded diner in Oakland near Emeryville is Claremont Diner.
Located in Gilroy are OD's, and Black Bear Diner. Food at OD's is basic, and simple. For the price it's a good deal. There is always a wait on the weekend. BBD is a small chain that does a good job, and has an extensive menu.
Now if you're looking for someplace to experience I would recommend Southern Kitchen Coffee Shop in S. San Jose. Their menu is practically a BOOK! The servings are massive so pace yourself. One of my favorites there is the Chile Verde Omelet. It's a quirky establishment but the service is prompt, and the food speaks for itself. FYI there is another Southern Kitchen in Los Gatos that is unrelated.