- Claire Baker
When breakfast seems too minimal and lunch simply isn’t enough, San Francisco reveals a world of brunch options, including all-American treats, as well as French and Mexican-inspired late breakfasts. These 10 venues are among the best brunch serving restaurants in San Francisco, offering the perfect way to complement any weekend on the West Coast.
Brenda’s French Soul Food
Brenda, a trained and experienced chef who now serves up her own creations in her name-bearing restaurant, is a big fan of crabs. From fishing them to cooking them into exciting combinations for her welcomed diners, crabs and seafood are a prominent feature at Brenda’s French Soul Food. Though built up with the aim of providing soulful French food, the brunch dishes are rather international in style, and internationally appreciated, for they appeal to universal tastes while bearing an undeniably San Franciscan laid back sophistication. Crispy oyster, bacon and scallion scramble; sautéed shrimp, cheddar grits, and spicy tomato-bacon gravy are among the mouth watering options on offer.
Brenda’s French Soul Food, 652 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 345 8100
Mama’s has been open for 50 years and is into its third generation as a family-run business. The Sanchez clan have perfected their breakfasts and have found the winning formula to ensure that the surrounding blocks are encircled by curious customers guaranteed to discover a lifetime favourite. Their homemade jam has something of a local notoriety, while their bread and pastries, also baked in-house, and seasonal specials (March is crab season), are just as fantastic. This is a breakfast institution that allows customers to ‘brunch’ any day of the week.
Mama’s, 1701 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 362 6421
Nopalito has two locations in the city, meaning that even their fans can stay true to their sustainable and ecological values by not having to travel too far across town for a traditional Mexican brunch. Nopalito strives to source all their ingredients sustainably, much like true rural Mexican diners in indigenous lands do by default. The most modern aspect of the otherwise authentically rustic menu is the Tequila Bloody Maria, which is a popular brunch accompaniment when circumstances permit to indulge at an early hour. Nopalito brands itself as a neighbourhood kitchen and the atmosphere is certainly communal and welcoming, allowing visitors to feel at home.
Nopalito Broderick St, 306 Broderick Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 535 3969
Nopalito 9th Ave, 1224 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 233 9966
Outerlands’ speciality is eggs in jail, but this in no way implies that the restaurant is austere or unwelcoming to locals or indeed outsiders. On the contrary, its organic rooting and sea-salt gusts of air from the nearby waterfront are as welcoming as a home-cooked brunch with a personal touch. This place specializes in old brunch favorites, plus innovations and an eco-balanced aesthetic.
Anna and Jennifer have created an upscale American tavern, the Park Tavern, which serves universal delicacies for brunch, afternoon tea or dinner, with a seating area to suit everyone’s needs. Brunch is best eaten on the outside patio, weather permitting, with a boozy smoothie (bourbon, espresso and banana) to brighten up the morning and mood if the sun isn’t out in force. Brunch is served perfectly situated right next to Washington Square, one of the most desirable and serene yet buzzing places to lounge on a weekend morning.
Park Tavern, 1652 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 989 7300
Tucked down a side street and therefore almost the sole reserve of those that are in the know, Schmidt’s is a tranquil alternative to the overcrowded brunch spots in San Francisco’s central areas. The other, quite unique draw is the very German menu, which may not be a typical choice for a late morning wake-up: pan-fried pork and veal terrine; battered hefezopf (Swiss-German braided brioche), French toast with pure maple syrup, and a selection of German beers and sausages to adhere to cultural stereotypes in style. To complete the full Germanophone experience, parts of the menu are in German (with English explanations, of course) and the decor centres around clean lines and monochrome accents. Schmidt’s offers a true Berlin brunch in downtown San Francisco.
Schmidt’s, 2400 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 401 0200
Opened in 1979 in a store that was a quarter the size with nowhere near as much prestige, Zuni’s has blossomed into the darling of San Francisco’s foodie population. This is one of the few occasions when Zuni Café allows orders for the house hamburger, with aïoli, zuni pickles, and optional cheeses, grilled onions and tomatoes. The unusual cultural provenance of the menu and the name have its origins in a Native American tribe, the Zuni, and it’s no surprise that the first menu, in 1979, was predominantly Mexican-inspired. Culturally, it has now branched out, with Italian, French and American influences weighing heavily on the brunch specials.
Zuni Cafe, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 552 2522
On the Bar Agricole website, guests can find the full name of the maitre d’, the chef and the cocktail masters on duty for this week’s brunch. This attention to personal detail gives an idea of the welcome that all brunch-hungry customers can expect in this trendy and well established local hangout. Ingenious touches such as the ‘nib’ in the lemon cocoa nib scone add a hint of special magic to Bar Agricole’s brunch, as can be said for the cast-iron pancake with huckleberries and maple syrup. Rarely do you find huckleberries in a menu and yet Bar Agricole serves them proudly every Sunday. Outdoor seating is available, bringing brunchers closer to the natural feel that the team want to endear; as such, they also source their products from local organic and biodynamic farms.
Bar Agricole, 355 11th Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 355 9400
Maven’s main selling point is the living wall; and the cocktails; and the beautifully designed plates. Come to think of it, it seems difficult to choose just one main selling point. It is therefore best to focus on the quality of the earthy tone, which emanates from the wood, plants and candlelight, as it matches the ethos of Maven as a brunch destination. The venue doesn’t take itself too seriously, playing with its menu and cocktail pairings: burgers, biscuits and gravy Benedict, nettle pesto flatbread and Maven’s Johnnycakes. Since it opened in 2011 with chef Isaac Miller behind the playful menu, it has gained a strong following and has established itself as the perfect antidote for the morning after the night before.
Maven, 598 Haight Street, Lower Haight, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 829 7982
Mission Bowling Club
There are certain staples which must be present on a brunch menu, and without which Sunday morning on the West Coast would feel empty: chilaquiles, French toast and eggs Benedict are perfect examples. Mission Bowling Club, located in the trendy and multicultural Mission District of San Francisco, ticks these boxes. What rarely features on this list, but can be said to be a true West Coast experience, is a round of ten-pin bowling before or after delighting in the traditional staples. The patio at Mission Bowling Club is an extremely popular brunch destination, and with the appeal of a calm yet stimulating game, it is easy to understand why.
Mission Bowling Club, 3176 17th Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 863 2695