In San Francisco, the city that launched the $4 toast trend, we take breakfast seriously. Some are willing to endure hour-long waits for weekend brunch; 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, an organic farm-to-table cafe, or just the best damn breakfast sandwich you’ve ever had, San Francisco has a table (and a bottomless mug of coffee) with your name on it. Here, the top ten breakfast options in the city.
SF’s best breakfast options
Breakfast comes with a little extra care at Plow, from the 12-hour cold-brewed coffee to the house-made ricotta folded into fluffy lemon pancakes. Since the sun-flooded restaurant closes at 2pm each day, breakfast is the main event. Owners Joel Bleskacek and Maxine Siu source their ingredients from over two dozen local farms, including Ferry Building regulars like Dirty Girl Produce, Frog Hollow Farms, Cowgirl Creamery and Far West Fungi. The menu offers elevated twists on standard morning fare, like French toast slathered in blood orange vanilla bean compote and the “Chinese breakfast:” caramelized pork shoulder, chili paste, ginger and two fried eggs over Jasmine rice. Those interested in sampling the greatest hits can opt for the namesake Plow breakfast: two eggs served with sausage or bacon, two lemon ricotta pancakes, and Plow potatoes. Breads, cakes and biscuits are baked fresh daily.
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 by pastry chef Brooke Mosley; others dig into seasonal spicy-savory breakfast dishes like the “everything” plancha bread (fried egg, goat labneh, avocado, and pickles atop a thick slab of house-made bread) and the cornbread benedict. 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.
Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt of Tartine Bakery launched this roomy, 5,000-square-foot eatery in the Heath Ceramics complex in fall 2016. In addition to Tartine’s justifiably famous bread, the new bakery/wine bar/ice cream shop/cafe offers a destination-worthy breakfast line-up. Of course, the pastry case is packed with over a dozen sweet and savory choices, including a fontina, herb, and pepperoni biscuit and a preserved lemon pie with kale and Moroccan spices. The bready breakfast fare includes an two egg sandwiches (on a griddled English muffin or a toasted bun with porchetta) as well as a range of fancy toasts, with toppings like coddled egg, trout roe, nduja, and stracciatella.
A ravenous line always wraps around the block on weekends; on weekday mornings, though, early risers can snag a seat in less than 15 minutes. You’ll notice steaming stacks of grilled cheddar cornbread slathtered in jalapeno jelly on most tables—follow their lead. The pastries are all baked fresh daily and the smoked whiskey-fennel sausage is made in-house. Order one of the overflowing egg and sausage plates with a stack of the ginger- and cinnamon-spiced pancakes to share.
The ultimate morning-after breakfast can be found at Devil’s Teeth, an unfussy Outer Sunset bakeshop where surfers, kids, and dogs chow down side-by-side at the zigzag shaped parklet out front. (There’s minimal seating inside, dress prepared for chilly weather.) 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.
It’s easy to scoff at this tourist-thronged spot, where a line constantly trails out the door and the decor is best described as country-kitsch. But that’s before you dig into the pillowy, decadent French toast. Go for the French toast sampler to try all five kinds, from brioche studded with raisins, dates, cinnamon, and almonds to chocolate-cinnamon topped with bananas and berries. Though the homey, family-run diner has been around for over 50 years, very little has changed. Bakers still arrive before dawn to turn out fresh pastries and breads and the jam is still made from scratch. Apart from the photographic French toast, Mama is known for her generous egg dishes made with Petaluma Farms eggs, from the gigantic omelettes to the pancetta benedict.
This tiny, European-inspired cafe is a welcome find among the mediocre diners dotting the Tendernob. The daily-changing chalkboard menu is short, locally sourced, and seasonally inspired. Regular highlights include the daily toast topped with mascarpone and fresh fruit, as well as a lofty egg sandwich featuring eggs from the Ferry Building farmers market, cheese from Petaluma, and condiments like housemade creme fraiche or bacon jam. The offerings always include a generous salad, a daily tart, and the house cereal. This is a far cry from Kellogg’s: the satisfyingly crunchy bowl contains toasted flakes, almonds, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, and coconut, all heaped over homemade yogurt and jam.
At this New Orleans-style joint, breakfast begins with beignets. Deep-fried flavors range from classic to chocolate to crawfish, but do yourself a favor and just order the flight. Bypass the pancakes for gut-busting Creole classics, like shrimp and cheddar grits topped with a spicy tomato-bacon gravy and the Hangtown Fry, a heaping scramble of eggs, crispy oysters, bacon, and scallions served alongside grits and a cream biscuit.
Two words: Millionaire’s bacon. The spicy-sweet candied bacon is like crack for loyal regulars at Chef Kasem Saengsawang’s popular Asian-inspired cafe. It’s best enjoyed on the Millionaire’s eggs benedict, which is finished with tomato, asparagus, and a generous dollop of Meyer lemon hollandaise. (Of course, you can also order a side of it to scatter liberally among your plates.) Just don’t come to Kitchen Story expecting a light breakfast. Decadent offerings include mascarpone stuffed deep-fried French toast, Kurobuta pork belly huevos rancheros, and a Monte Cristo sandwiched between Meyer lemon French toast. Even on weekdays, the restaurant has a festive vibe, thanks in part to the long list of “eye opener” cocktails.
Sit at the counter for a view of the skilled spatula-slingers manning the griddle. This narrow diner serves giant, steaming portions of food for under $10. It’s an egg lover's dream, offering all manner of omelettes, scrambles and Benedicts. The specialty is Eggs in a Tasty Nest, which layers two over-easy eggs atop a heap of hash browns, bacon, bell peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic and cheddar.