Top Tastes is not a list of all-time favorites, rather the best tastes of the last two weeks (since my last newsletter), often from new openings.
Breakfasting in SF
San Francisco has long been a brunch town. Weekends are packed with brunch attendees staving off Monday. But what about weekday breakfasts? Breakfasting on recent weekdays has yielded three newer options (also open weekends), and one Sunday-only brunch so good I just had to include it.
Sunday Brunch Decadence:
BAKER & BANKER, 1701 Octavia St. (at Bush), 415-351-2500
Husband/wife duo, Lori Baker and Jeff Banker, interact with diners during Sunday brunch at their restaurant Baker & Banker (which I named one of last year’s best new openings in the Guardian and The Perfect Spot). Jeff delivers dishes to tables, chatting with patrons, while Lori spends her time between the restaurant and next door bakery.
In keeping with the delights available for dinner, the fairly recent addition of Sunday brunch offers joys beyond mere scrambles and pancakes. While it’s still Fall, do yourself a favor and order their cinnamon and spice-dusted donuts ($9) filled with a blessedly less-than-sweet pumpkin pie cream. Five to a basket, these warm rounds of fall goodness disappeared from my table quickly. One hopes they will change the filling seasonally, keeping these on the menu.
On the savory side, there’s house-smoked trout on latkes, roasted squash salad, brisket hash, and Cajun eggs benedict. I’d like to single out mascarpone brown butter polenta as the decadent base for eggs in purgatory ($14). Two semi-runny eggs over polenta are dotted with house sausage, swimming in a spicy sweet tomato sauce adding a Southern Italian dimension. It’s an utterly satisfying breakfast dish seemingly half the restaurant ordered.
Delightfully unhipster yet hip:
LITTLE GRIDDLE, 1400 Market St. (between Polk & Fell), 415-864-4292
One of the best things to come along on this stretch of Market in awhile is Little Griddle, a few months old corner breakfast spot and burger joint. Blue collar workers and Civic Center government employees line up for bagels and Zoka coffee in the morning, while a large selection of around 15 burgers is the crowd favorite throughout the day.
Little Griddle was serving the sadly now defunct Spot Bagels. They currently offer New York Bagels (from Richmond, CA), delivered fresh daily, topped with lox, cream cheese, and the like. Their breakfast platters of omelets or scrambles are massive, enough for two at roughly $8-11, with crispy hash browns or salad. I like the Sandbox ($10.75): Black Forest ham, apple-smoked bacon, avocado, crimini mushrooms, yellow onions.
Griddle cakes ($5-8) are likewise massive and come double or triple-stacked, topped with strawberries and bananas, or dotted with pecans or chocolate chips.
Little Griddle’s space is humble. I relish orange floor tiles and the 1970′s spirit of the tiny, triangular space. It keeps the gourmet, local approach from feeling hipster or put on. In fact, it’s a neighborhood joint equipped for commuters, in keeping with San Francisco food quality and values sans pretension.
THE PASTRY CUPBOARD, 1596 Market St. (at Franklin), 415-864-2755
Pastry Cupboard leans towards American baked goods with cakes, pies, cookies and her signature coconut almond macaroons (puffy and cake-like with a caramelized exterior). Scones and danishes cater to a morning appetite, but my poison is a cherry chocolate strudel. With a sugar icing and almonds on top, tart cherries and dark chocolate layer inside a pastry shell with sweet cream cheese. Like a Bavarian version of a danish, it happily pairs with a robust espresso.
A beachside Taste of Ireland:
BEACHSIDE COFFEE BAR & KITCHEN, 4300 Judah St. (at 48th), 415-682-4961
Beachside Coffee Bar & Kitchen (from the owners of neighboring Java Beach) is a roughly three months old cafe at the edge of the city, merely a block from the ocean. Coffee is a highlight here, made with care, cup by cup, sourcing beans from varying parts of the world.
In a cozy, simple space, friendly staff serve vegetarian or vegan bahn mi, fried egg and bacon or sausage sandwiches on brioche, and all things waffles: bacon waffles, Belgian waffles, chicken & waffles.
On a recent rainy morn, I was sold on their Irish Breakfast sandwich ($6.95 regular, or $9.95 large). Transported back to rainier days this Summer traveling Ireland, I was delighted to eat Irish bacon and sausage, white and black pudding, and grilled tomatoes all packed into one sandwich with an egg. Though not quite the supreme blood sausages I’ve had in Ireland or Scotland, they are well-made and the real deal. With an accompanying chutney to dip the sandwich in, I was transported straight back to Ireland’s windswept shores… not unlike our own on a day of massive waves and fog.