The San Francisco Waiting Game: Which Breakfast Lines are Worth Your Time?
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If you're looking for a truly local way to experience in San Francisco, try waiting in line for breakfast or brunch. A local foodie will think nothing of growling stomachs and harried hosts to enjoy a favorite morning entree at a local eatery. But if you're not familiar with the city, how do you know if the food merits the time in line, even in rainy San Francisco weather? Read on for a primer on which San Francisco breakfasts are worth the wait.
Tartine Bakery & Cafe
600 Guerrero St., Mission • Breakfast daily
Like the famous postman credo, neither rain nor fog nor heat stays the line at perennial Mission favorite Tartine. Those who wait it out are rewarded with flaky croissants that strike the perfect balance of buttery and crispy and come plain or filled with chocolate, almond, or ham. Their slightly sticky, slightly sugary morning buns tantalize with a hint of citrus. Buttery, crumbly buttermilk scones house the bright tang of currants. Those who want something more substantial can opt for croque monsieur, large pieces of Tartine's legendary bread smothered in béchamel and gruyere and topped with either smoked Niman Ranch ham or seasonal vegetables. You may hop back in line for seconds.
560 Divisadero St., Alamo Square • Brunch Saturday and Sunday
Some restaurants are overhyped. And then there's Nopa. The restaurant never disappoints where brunch is concerned. Everything is stellar, down to the herbal tea selection. Menu highlights include savory goat cheese bread pudding served with greens, a perfect combination of complimentary tastes and textures; stewed tomatoes and cheese full of smoky, hearty flavor topped with oven baked eggs; and sweet, eggy, custard french toast that some Yelpers call “the best ever.” Better yet, the line is optional for those who plan ahead. Nopa takes reservations for brunch up to a month in advance, although they fill up almost as soon as they open.
941 Cole St., Cole Valley • Breakfast Daily
Perfect for the indecisive as well as the epicurean, french bistro Zazie settles the sweet or savory debate by allowing patrons to choose the size and variety of their orders. Buttermilk pancakes and pieces of challah french toast come one, two, or three at a time. Eggs Benedict topped with Zoe's prosciutto, wild smoked salmon, portobello mushrooms, or bacon can be mixed and matched. So settle into your chair in the small bistro dining room or snuggle up under a heat lamp on the back patio, order a round of mimosas for the table, and try a little bit of as much as you can. It's all amazingly delicious.
Blue Bottle Cafe
66 Mint Plaza, SOMA • Breakfast daily
The Blue Bottle Cafe is worth a visit for the coffee alone. The minimalist and modern cafe, with its gleaming glass siphons, long, light wood tables, and towering windows also serves meals. At breakfast, perennials like steel-cut oats and baked eggs accompany the menu's standout, a Belgian-style wafel. Its generous toppings of melting butter and oozing syrup swirling to fill the nooks and crannies of the waffle's crispy exterior can be hard to resist, especially when paired with a latte.
2534 Mission St., Mission • Brunch Saturday and Sunday
From the entrance of Foreign Cinema, a short, breezy walk down a red carpet leads to an airy, light-filled dining room strung with twinkling lights. Once seated, order one of their famous bloody marys, and focus on the menu while your lips tingle with the savory drink's exotic spices. The choice between entrees – from a dungeness crab frittata with goat cheese, roasted peppers, and tomato to balsamic fried eggs with roasted heirloom chicories, garlic-potato hash, and prosciutto – is difficult, but a side order of their thick, slow-cooked brown sugar bacon is a must. Classy in name, setting, and fare, Foreign Cinema also offers reservations.
Make sure to plan ahead or grab reservations when possible. These are extremely popular on a lazy Sunday morning and you can easily spend more time waiting in line than eating. Bring along a good book or game to relax with while you wait – and you might meet some interesting people in the bustling café environment.
Meredith Narrowe is a San Francisco-based contributor to San Francisco to Do who loves exploring, discovering, and sharing all that her city has to offer.