The Best Brunches of San Francisco
AAA Going Places Magazine

In town for the weekend? What better way to jump-start your stay than to sample a savory brunch?

From creative crepes and fanciful frittatas to hearty omelettes, brunch can be a gourmand’s delight. San Francisco’s Downtown offers a plethora of places to experience a memorable early-day feast. Several of the nearby hotels create just the right atmosphere and cuisine to leave a lasting impression.

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Located just two blocks from the main department stores and theater district of Downtown’s Union Square, The Hotel Nikko’s newly remodeled restaurant Anzu, 222 Mason Street, (415-394-1100), provides a duel dining experience for lovers of sushi and steak. Entertained by the smooth jazz sounds of KKSF’s radio broadcast right from the restaurant, you will start your brunch fare with sparkling wine or mimosa.

Swiss Chef Philippe Striffeler describes his menu concept as a place “where land meets the sea.?

“I blend the classical art of Japanese sushi with a traditional American grill.?

The elegant décor consists of marble flooring and mirrored ceilings, hickory and ebony wood tones reflected in modern Asian design. The simple elegance is further enhanced by crisp, white tablecloths and friendly and refined service.

Some special side dishes and entrees in this palatable buffet, which changes weekly, include the Crisp Romaine, Melon, Fig and Chicken Salad; Wild Mushroom Salad drizzled with champagne and balsamic vinaigrette; a primo Prime Rib and sensational Sea Bass, made-to-order Omelettes, and a creative selection of Dim Sum and Sushi, all topped with exquisite desserts and flowing mimosas.

Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch is served on Sundays only from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for $38.00 per person (children 6 to 12 pay $19 and special senior price is $30). Reservations are strongly recommended.

If you are staying near San Francisco’s Financial District and the Embarcadero, start your morning off with a visit to the handsomely appointed Park Hyatt Hotel and its award-winning Park Grill, 333 Battery Street, (415-296-2933).

The artful culinary hand of Chef Ian Libberton has created a most memorable brunch menu for Saturdays and Sundays (11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.). The interior private club atmosphere is perfect for an intimate brunch, but on a warm, sunny day, the nearby Terrace is ideal. Surrounded by trees and flowers, with parasols positioned for shade, you can people-watch with a skyline view of the city while savoring fresh-baked goods and entrees.

Brunch includes a bakery basket, appetizer, entrée, dessert, coffee and juice for $28 or order a la carte. Signature entrées are Eggs Benedict, Grilled Pacific Salmon Hash with Scrambled Egg Whites and Fresh Salsa, or Belgian-Style Malted Waffle with Peaches and Strawberries.

Also available is a Lemon and Lavender Roasted Range Chicken, garnished with truffle potatoes and garlic beans, and Thyme Roasted Prime Rib. Entrées range from $12 to $18.

If you were awed by Paris?Musee D’Orsay, with its gold-leafed, glass dome ceilings, you may experience déj?vu when you breakfast at the Sheraton Palace’s stunning, two-acre high Garden Court, 2 New Montgomery Street, (415- 512-1111 or direct 546-5089), once a carriage entrance for a procession of presidents and socialites.

The Palace Hotel debuted in 1875 as the world’s largest, most luxurious hotel. You relive the Old World charm and grandeur amid marble pillars, crystal chandeliers and plush palms, as the room fills with soft piano sounds to set the mood.

Make your breakfast selections from a bountiful buffet of assorted fresh fruits, egg dishes, polenta with red pepper sauce, meat and fish entrees, delectable desserts—all topped with a sparkling Mimosa or rich caf?served in fine china. Sunday brunch costs $42 per person and is served from 11:30a.m. to 1:30p.m. Reservations a must.

Perhaps one of the City’s most glorious brunches can be experienced at the majestic Ritz Carlton Hotel’s Terrace Restaurant, Stockton at California Street, (415-296-7465 or 800-241-3333) on Nob Hill, while listening to live jazz indoors or in the Courtyard.

The finest china, elegant table linens complemented by the room décor of luscious raspberry and green tones await you with a bacchanal buffet that is fit for royalty.

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Start with the caviar station laden with American sturgeon, salmon and golden caviar encased in freshly prepared blinis, and continue on to a savoring sushi bar and made-to-order omelette station.

If your appetite persists, taste the housemade pasta, blintzes, rack of lamb, and for the grand finale select from a table decorated with desserts to die for.

Sunday Jazz Brunch is $55 for adults and $27.50 for children ages five to 12 years and is served from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended.

North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy, is a must for visitors who want to get the true taste of the Old World blended with the new trendy additions.

Take a walking tour of this historic neighborhood, rich with outdoor cafes, boutiques and restaurants. Visit the Coit Tower, with a spectacular view of the city, and nearby gothic-style St. Peter and Paul’s Church opposite Washington Park, where you can relax.

Directly across stands Moose’s Restaurant, 1652 Stockton Street, (415-989-7800), a perfect place to enjoy Sunday brunch (from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), while accompanied by jazz piano sounds and impeccable service.

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A great buy for the quality, these delectable dishes (which change weekly) can be savored for under $10—all served with yummy housemade muffins. (My favorite combo includes the Buttermilk Pecan Pancakes with Autumn Compote, the Frittata of Mixed Mushrooms and Goat Cheese.) If you still have room, venture into some artfully prepared desserts, like the Meyer Lemon Tart, Whipped Crème Fraiche or Bittersweet Chocolate Bread Pudding.  

Here is the best breakfast deal in town for quality and price, and my personal favorite. Home Plate, 2274 Lombard Street/Pierce, (415-922-HOME), in the Marina/Cow Hollow District, scores with its delectable housebaked scones, rolls and potato-carrot pancakes and apple compote, which accompanies all its egg entrees. Fresh fruit drinks are a refreshing starter.

For good, quick service, despite the lineup of customers, this comfy family-run eaterie offers the most creative custom-made omelettes, frittatas and scrambles made with the freshest ingredients. A wide array of wholesome waffles and pancakes are also highly recommended. Entrees range from $5.75 to $7.75. There are no reservations, so come before 10 a.m. or after 1 p.m., if you want to avoid any wait. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 7 a.m.-4 p.m.

The tourist buses are always lined up in front of the historic Cliff House, 1090 Point Lobos, (415-386-3330), perched high above the Pacific Ocean, facing white crested waves and craggy rock formations.

Also in view are the remains of Sutro Baths and the mammal-lined Seal Rock. With a birds-eye view of breathtaking scenery, you can enjoy Sunday brunch ranging from $10 to $17 (9 a.m.?:30 p.m.) graciously served in the main dining room. Your a la carte menu automatically includes the Cliff’s piping hot popovers and strawberry jam. The Chocolate Chip Waffle is unforgettable, and the Wild Mushroom and Egg Scramble with Onion, Fresh Herbs and Goat Cheese is a favorite.

For buffet buffs, you can go down one more level for a festive brunch ($32.50 per person, children under 12 are $17.50) served from 10 a.m. ?:30 p.m.

If your budget is tighter, the upstairs dining area offers the same spectacular view, while feasting on any one of the 20 oversized omelettes priced under $10. A great deal for the service and quality. This section is open seven days a week (9 a.m.? p.m. weekdays, 8:30 a.m.?4 p.m. on weekends).

In the artsy, quiet area of Portreo Hill, riddled with live-in lofts, antique stores and outlets, stands Aperto, 1434 18th Street, (415-252-1625), known for exceptional Italian cuisine. This cozy restaurant, reasonably priced for service and substance, offers a bountiful brunch Saturday (11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m. ?2:30 p.m.).

Some star house offerings include Eggs del Giorno with home fries, smoked bacon or chicken-apple sausage with foccacia or challah bread ($7.50), Classic Benedict ($9) and Creamy Shirred Eggs with Pancetta Baked in Cream and Marsala-Shallot Jus.

You can walk off your meal as you explore the neighboring shops, including an eclectic bookstore up the hill and an ice cream parlor adorned with 50’s memorabilia.

One of San Francisco’s best kept secrets atop Nob Hill, in view of a breathtaking cityscape, sits The Big Four Restaurant, Nob Hill, (415-771-1140), in the landmark Huntington Hotel. Run by award-winning chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls of the prestigious CIA, this classy restaurant is a quiet escape into Old World elegance and superb service.

Named after four railroad tycoons (Huntington, Crocker, Stanford and Hopkins), the restaurant serves an exquisite breakfast seven days a week (Monday –Saturday, 7 a.m.-10 a.m. with Sunday Brunch from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.). Even Tony Bennett left his heart here and calls The Big Four his favorite restaurant in San Francisco.

The City’s chefs take much pride in the creation of their brunches. Wherever you wake up in San Francisco, the waft of aromatic caf?and a bountiful breakfast are just a few doors away.

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