Sunday, February 21, 2010

Adventures in San Fran: Breakfasts

Rob and I just got back from a 6-day trip to San Francisco! Believe it or not, this was the first vacation we've ever taken just the two of us. It was also the most fun we've ever packed into a single week. We ran around the city to see a few key sights for the first few days (Alcatraz, Mission Dolores, Fisherman's Wharf, the Painted Ladies, Ghirardelli Square, etc.), then rented a car to explore Oakland, Napa and Sausalito. Oh yeah -- and we had TONS of fantastic food.

We tried to keep things light, choosing fast on-the-go meals over long, extravagant ones. As much in the name of saving time as saving money. But breakfast was the one meal of the day we didn't skimp on. The first three days we went to popular places that came highly recommended from a few different people -- Brenda's, Dottie's and Stacks'.

Brenda's French Soul Food was our favorite by a long shot. We got there before nine on Saturday, but there was still about a 20 minute wait. There must be a lot of early risers in this city!

I started with their specialty drink, a sweet watermelon iced tea (very refreshing) and a coffee and chicory. I don't think I've ever had chicory blended coffee before; it gives it a bitter, earthy kick.

We started with a chicken gumbo. It was loaded with lots of rice and scallions. We were starving when we sat down, so this was a great, hearty start to the meal.

The beignets are a specialty here, so I ordered the flight of four different kinds. -- plain, apple, chocolate and crawfish. I don't think I've ever had real beignets like these before, and they were fantastic. They're a lot like donuts, but lighter, less greasy, and filled with something other than Boston creme.The first was plain, not much to be said about it. The next was my favorite -- granny smith apple with cinnamon honey butter. Kind of like a half-baked apple pie -- deeelish. Next was the molten Ghirardelli chocolate; I saved that one for last. The crawfish (which we lovingly renamed "crawdaddy") was Rob's favorite; it was loaded with scallions and cheddar and rolled in cayenne pepper. The sweet-savory combo was a bit strange to me, so I let Rob have most of this one.Rob had the shrimp and goat cheese omelette with caramelized onions and a fantastic tomato-bacon relish (take a second and put all those flavors together in your head... it is heavenly). It came with the best, flakiest biscuit we've ever had and by far the best bowl of buttery grits I've ever tasted. The day we left I came back here to get an order of grits, a biscuit and crawdaddies to enjoy on our hotel bed until the shuttle bus came. It actually made watching old reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies on our crappy hotel bed quite enjoyable.

652 Polk Street (at Eddy Street)
San Francisco, CA 94102


The next day we dropped the ball and didn't make it to Dottie's until around 9:30. We waited in an hour long line with a bunch of other tourists as sleepy locals ran in and out with their takeout orders.
We thought the sign of quoted accolades outside the establishment was pretty funny. They didn't actually mention anything specific other than "Food... in a coffee shop... where breakfast is prepared." Thanks for telling us what to expect, experts.

We started with grilled jalapeno cornbread with a sweet jalapeno jelly. This was probably the highlight of the meal. The bread was super thick and held together really well, unlike normal cornbread. The sweet-spicy combo was very addicting.

I had one of the specials -- a sweet potato caramelized red onion & gruyere tart. It was sort of like a sweet potato pie with a flaky crust -- I definitely didn't taste the cheese. It came with two biscuits that were forgettable in light of Brenda's, two poached eggs (watery and not done well) and fresh fruit. It was nice to see kiwi, blackberries and strawberries in the mix; anywhere in Brooklyn this time of year you'll only be seeing melon and maybe grapes (if you're lucky).

Rob had another special -- the lamb fennel sausage omelette with roasted garlic, tomato, spinach and goat cheese. All the tomato and garlic made me think of an Italian dinner -- the flavors were almost too sophisticated for early morning taste buds. The side of hash browns were slightly burned on one side to add good crisp. They were a bit over-peppered though.
Dottie's wasn't worth the hour long wait, but I'm glad we did it for the grilled cornbread.

Dottie's True Blue Cafe
522 Jones St (between Geary St & O'farrell St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 885-2767

The next day we headed over to Stacks' for a less touristy breakfast. This place was a lot bigger than the tiny cafes we visited the past few days, and was great for people watching. Especially since they sat us outside in the warm Californian sun... ahhh.

I don't usually get sweet breakfasts, but seeing that we're at a place called Stacks' I couldn't really justify getting the huevos rancheros. Instead, I had the banana macadamia nut coconut pancakes. OH JESUS these pancakes were good. You know how Ben n Jerry's are always really addicting because every bite is different? Same with these pancakes. I kept getting different ratios of banana pieces, macadamia nuts and clusters of shaved coconut. It barely needed any syrup. And oh, they were huuuuge. I could only get through half the short stack. Heartbreaking.

Rob had the crab crepe with chives, jack cheese and avocado with hollandaise sauce. The outer part of the crepe was a little browned, but the inside was stuffed with fresh, not canned, crab. I don't think I've ever had hollandaise on anything with cheese before, but it seemed to work. It was served with (oddly) a bagel and some hash browns.

One of the nice things they do here is leave the whole pitcher of water and coffee on your table. We never had to flag anyone down for refills, but we ran out of table space so fast the waiter had to shovethe carafes into the bushes next to where we sat. Now that's service.

501 Hayes St (between Octavia St & Laguna St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 241-9011

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