Like your average San Franciscan – or human – I’ve spent some of my weekend hours stuffing my face with some pretty stellar brunches, and waiting in some not so stellar lines to do so. I present to you three brunches that stand out among the rest, in the order to which I would like to return (and that doesn’t mean I haven’t already).
Foreign Cinema’s ambiance is worth a thousand words. I’d heard rumors of the fantastic covered outdoor space that allows foreign and independent films to play silently on the wall alongside your meal. But you don’t fully understand it until you’re sitting outside under a canopy of drapes and string lights, eating fantastic food. In the evening, I imagine it’s quite the spot for romance. For brunch, it’s a perfectly bright and cheerful setting in which to enjoy your morning coffee or cocktail with a caramel pecan sticky bun, homemade pop tart, french toast or, in our case, all three.
Here’s a look inside said sticky bun.
Foreign Cinema’s brunch menu is the most unique, changing seasonally and by the Chef’s whims. It offers interesting vegetarian options, as well as a range of light to heavier dishes, complete with eggs (from happy, pastured chickens) or not. We chose the truffle omelet and a thai egg pancake, both of whose flavors were out of this world.
Then came the French Toast. Of all the toasts that promised love, this one finally exceeded my expectations. It was moist and soft; eggy and fruity. Ours was topped with pears, huckleberries and a wonderful butter. The fruits change frequently – I believe the current setup involves pineapple. Like I said, I’ll be going back. And going back, and going back, and…
Okay, I promise I do not have a problem. After enjoying all the sweet things I just told you about, we still ordered dessert. Dessert! After desserts. I think this was a record in sugar consumption before noon. Needless to say, this goat-cheese cheese cake with blackberries and pie crust crumble was amazing. The sharp and sweet creamy cheese was promptly gobbled up.
French Toast? A must.
Don’t Miss: Sticky bun, and everything.
Strategy: Make a reservation!
Zazie is cute, tiny and French. Combine these qualities with lots of hungry brunchers and you have yourself some less-than-pleasant wait times. Zazie doesn’t take reservations for brunch, so if you’re determined you could end up waiting over an hour. The inside is well-decorated but warm and busy and small. There is a beautiful, cozy patio out in the back but, considering everything you’ve just learned, how long do you think it takes to get a spot out there?
The best item I’ve tried on Zazie’s menu is the mushroom scramble. It was a hearty dish with delicate flavors (that didn’t photograph well). The next most enjoyable dish is this flight of sweet pancakes and french toast. The butters and poached pear toppings were tasty, but the items themselves lacked pizzaz. The last menu items worth mentioning are Zazie’s many unique versions of poached eggs, such as spinach and portobello mushroom, bacon and tomato, smoked salmon and dungeness crab with avocado. You can order one, two or three each, with potatoes or a green salad on the side.
Reservations: Not for brunch.
French Toast: The classic is passable, try the Tahiti style with bananas and walnuts instead.
Don’t Miss: The mushroom scramble.
Strategy: Put your name on the list, go walk around Haight St, get your coffee, return to eat.
Kitchen Story is comfortable and feels like your own home, with about fifty strangers laughing loudly over their pancakes. It’s a nice ambiance, but it gets crowded. Just like the first two spots, outdoor seating offers a pleasant reprieve. Their expansive menu offers the most typical brunch items with lots of variety for a group whose members have separate needs. Kitchen Story’s egg dishes come with deliciously seasoned colored potatoes, a scone with sweet butter whose flavor changes seasonally, and sometimes their millionaire’s bacon. Options also include burgers, sandwiches, salads and yogurt. Oh, let’s not forget the bottomless mimosas.
You can see yourself that their Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast is a force to be reckoned with. Heed my warning: Order if you dare. Above is the kid’s plate, which is can be ordered upon convincing the staff you have the heart of a twelve-year-old.
It’s hard to go wrong here, and you will not leave hungry. Each of these three brunch spots are worth a serious try. And remember the important lesson in brunching we’ve learned here today: there is always room for dessert.
Reservations: Not for brunch.
French Toast? Yes, if you have three stomachs.
Don’t Miss: The side of colored, seasoned potatoes.
Strategy: Go early enough, closer to breakfast not lunch time, and you’ll be able to get in. If you go when the world is there (11-2) you’ll probably meet a wait.