Breakfast (or brunch if you’re lazy) in San Francisco

From an exhibit at SFO airport

From an exhibit at SFO airport

Each person has his own individual tastes and preferences and in San Francisco, neighborhoods can influence food choices. To give you some perspective I was a resident of the Haight and Cole Valley. This post talks about some of my favorite breakfast spots in the city. My list includes joints from several neighborhoods, but I’m sure I am missing some jewels that I never chanced upon. Had I lived in other neighborhoods, the list would likely be different, or longer…

Farmerbrown’s Little Skillet – on Ritch between Brannan and Townsend

Little Skillet Chicken & Waffles & Grits

Little Skillet’s Fried Chicken & Waffles & Grits

Fried chicken, waffles and grits – definitely worth trying here if you haven’t had them yet, and if you have, you know how great the combo tastes. Little Skillet is cash only so be prepared – they do have an ATM onsite. They do a really great job with the chicken – moist inside with lots of flavor and crispy on the outside, not greasy. The waffles are excellent and I always wish I had more. The grits are very creamy and a side is a generous serving. The prices are a little high, but worth it for the couple times a year that we get there. Breakfast for two will run over $20. There are other options beside chicken and waffles for the less adventurous – an array of po’boy sandwiches and sides. If you’re in a hurry you may want to phone in your order ahead. If time’s no issue and it’s a nice day, there’s a small coffee shop next door to grab a drink while you wait. There are a few standing room tables, but no real seating for Little Skillet, so if you’re eating there, be ok with sitting on the curb.

Brenda’s French Soul Food – corner of Polk and Eddy

Omlette at Brenda's

Weekend brunch at Brenda’s is a sea of deliciousness. French soul food and southern favorites make up a menu that includes egg dishes, beignets, gumbo, grits and griddle favorites. I recall one visit where all of the food we ordered couldn’t even fit on the table. The shrimp and grits are great, the egg dishes (benedict and omelettes) are done perfectly, the beignets are big and filling, and the french toast is a joy. The line forms early and stays late, so you’ll want to make sure you show up before you’re really hungry. Tables are pretty close together and the place is bustling.

Pork Store Cafe – on Haight between Ashbury and Masonic

cooking at the Pork Store Cafe

cooking at the Pork Store Cafe

The Pork Store is awesome. This place is fairly small, but packs a punch. Diner style seating allows you to watch the cooks at work or you can grab one of the tables for a more intimate experience or people watching on Haight. The prices here are pretty reasonable and they accept credit cards. I love that they offer veggie sausage for the non-meat-eaters and the grits are never lumpy. The menu is broad for such a small breakfast/lunch joint and ranges from traditional egg and omelet choices galore (with lots of veg options) to chicken fried steak and decked out burgers. Consider possible wait time during peak weekend brunch hours.

Zazie – on Cole between Carl and Parnassus

Zazie's Deux, Deux, Troix

Zazie’s Deux, Deux, Troix

Zazie is my neighborhood favorite, being about a block away from our apartment. Our best bet for getting in for weekend brunch with minimal wait time was to show up about 15 or 20 minutes before they opened and write our name on the list hanging just outside the door. We usually had our choice of tables and service was quick because of the crowd waiting outside. Their back patio is a hidden gem, on a sunny day it’s gorgeous to sit out and enjoy breakfast in this fairly secluded spot. There are two tables out front that are first come first serve, but then you’re surrounded by everyone else waiting for an inside table.

My favorite breakfast is the Un, Deux, Troix – a pancake, two eggs and three strips of bacon. The pancakes are great, not too soggy or dry. My partner switched back and forth between the scrambled eggs Italie, with tomatoes provencales, cream cheese, and basil and the poached eggs Florentine, with spinach and portobello mushrooms. The side salad they prepare with these egg dishes is something I really miss and have not found elsewhere. Definitely try the salad. While those are the only things we’ve tried on the menu, Yelp reviews will be able validate many other great brunch choices at Zazie.

Lava Java – corner of Stanyan and Frederick

Veggie Egg & Cheddar bagel sandwich photo by Audrey K. on Yelp

Veggie Egg & Cheddar bagel sandwich photo by Audrey K. on Yelp

With about 5 tables inside and two or three tables outside, Lava Java is a relaxing neighborhood cafe with a basic selection of coffee/tea and espresso drinks, a decent selection of pastries and baked goods, and stellar breakfast sandwiches. They also serve lunch, but I’ve only had breakfast. The bagel, egg & cheese sandwich is really excellent. I found no other place nearby that serves such a reasonably priced sandwich that’s made fresh when you order it, hot when you get it, and tastes great just about every bite. The bagel, egg, cheese and veggie adds lettuce, tomato, cucumber and onion for a small fee. This place is cash only, but for two it won’t be much over $10 unless you get fancy drinks. You can sit on the bench inside and read the paper while you wait. My partner also raves about their brownie bites.

Still waiting to try big farmerbrown and Mama’s on Washington Square. Other favorites I should get to? Happy feeding!

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About amy de simone
Amy is an active volunteer, traveler and photographer. She is interested in art, libraries, museums and nonprofits. She holds an M.A. in Library & Information Studies and a B.A. in Italian Language & Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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