In San Francisco, the city that launched the $4 toast trend, we take breakfast seriously. Some are willing to endure hour-long waits for the best brunch in SF; others know that weekday mornings—when the crowds thin and the pace slows—are the best time to indulge in the most important meal of the day. Whether you’re in the mood for a no-frills greasy-spoon, a mind-blowing pastry, or just one of the best sandwiches you’ve ever had (breakfast or not), San Francisco has a table (and a bottomless mug of San Francisco's best coffee) with your name on it. So, here's where to grab the best breakfast in SF.
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San Francisco breakfast
Escape the Ferry Building’s tourist throngs in this refreshingly refined eatery. Lighting designer Lindsey Adelman’s branching chandeliers glow overhead and the gleaming open kitchen is pristine. The breakfast fare is as upscale as the digs. On the lighter side, the yogurt bowl offers your choice of cow, sheep, or goat milk yogurt and is topped with berries and plum sauce. Heartier dishes include the smoked wild king salmon, piled on Meyer lemon toast with a dollop of crème fraîche, and the poached eggs, which are served atop cranberry beans and tomatillos, and topped with queso fresco and purslane.
For all its multicultural prowess, San Francisco has never done Jewish deli successfully. All that changed in 2012 with the opening of Wise Sons, and you can hear the echo of a million Jewish mothers shouting “mazel tov.” Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman have not only nailed it, but done so in a uniquely Northern California way with reinterpreted classics such as house-smoked pastrami on rye with handmade pickles, just-salty-enough chopped liver, and rich, veggie-filled matzo ball soup (self-deprecatingly described as “not as good as your bubbe's”). For breakfast, choose from a curated variety of bagel flavors, then snag a shmear. Or go for the gold with one of their stacked bagel sandwiches, like the bodega egg and cheese with the added option of crispy pastrami. There's also freshly baked bread to take home, and plenty of Intelligentsia coffee.
With its ample outdoor seating, wood-fired pizza oven, and gorgeously wild floral arrangements, this quaint Italian spot brings a little European charm to the Marina. The stars of the morning menu are the breakfast pizzas, whether laden with smoked ham, fontina, and eggs or smoked salmon and creme fraiche. All the bread is made daily in house—a clear vote for any dish served with toast—as are the pastries. Neighborhood regulars pop in on the way to work for the baked goods, whether the fruit focaccia and sour cream coffee cake or a still-warm ham and cheese croissant.
Weekday breakfast is an under-the-radar highlight at this driftwood-paneled Outer Sunset spot. Starting at 9am, neighborhood regulars and Ocean Beach surfers start to congregate, greeting each other by name. Some stick to coffee and the rotating array of inventive baked goods; others dig into seasonal spicy-savory breakfast dishes like the breakfast sandwich on levain bread with sausage patty, cheddar, an egg and arugula or the huevos rancheros with eggs, beans, salsa roja. Most everything on the menu is vegetarian-friendly, but carnivores can add a fried egg or slabs of bacon to any item for two bucks.
This teeny Outer Sunset bakery has a perennial line snaking out the door for cookies, cinnamon buns, limited-edition pies and the ultimate morning-after breakfast. Though the spot serves an assortment of baked goods and sandwiches, the unequivocal highlight is the “special” breakfast sandwich: two eggs, pepper jack cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, avocado, and lemon-garlic aioli served on a homemade buttermilk biscuit. There’s minimal seating inside, dress prepared for chilly weather.