Here's what you know about brunch in San Francisco: 1) it's delicious, and 2) you're gonna have to wait. What you don't know? How long. Well, this should help with that: we hit all of San Francisco’s best brunches on a Sunday between 10:30am and noon, ate a BUNCH of eggs Benedicts, scribbled down the approximate wait times for a party of two at each of them, and put together this guide. Here is our by-wait-time breakdown of SF's best brunches, complete with what the hell you should do nearby while you're waiting.
Wait time: 20 minutes
Why it’s worth it: First of all, 20 minutes in San Francisco is the equivalent to no wait at all, especially when it comes to contemporary American brunch fare. Get the chicken hash (pictured) and have your brunch date get the fried egg sandwich with cheddar cheese, pesto aioli, arugula, and avocado on brioche.
What to do while you wait: Plants vs. Zombies. Definitely Plants vs. Zombies.
Wait time: 25-35 minutes
Why it’s worth it: Fried gator and hush puppies set this spot apart from other Louisiana-style brunches, like Brenda’s. There’s often a live band playing too, so you can count your brunch as culture.
What to do while you wait: Don’t! Make a reservation. Don’t like planning ahead? Get there before 11:30am, when show-goers at the nearby jazz center generally start flooding the restaurant. If you do have a wait, Arlequin Café across the street is good place to get a cup of coffee and there’s plenty of window-shopping along Hayes.
Wait time: 25-45 minutes
Why it’s worth it: The inventive brunch cocktails and the ahhhhmazing duck hash with a fried duck egg.
What to do while you wait: Take your first or second Maven Julius standing at the bar -- the cocktails are why you’re there, anyway.
Wait time: 30 minutes
Why it’s worth it: Delicious comfort food in a legit bar setting makes this Marina spot the perfect place to nurse your whiskey headache with a little hair of the dog.
What to do while you wait: The bar and lower patio have open seating, so order the famed Strawberry Fields and join the party.
Wait time: 30 minutes
Why it’s worth it: Two of life’s greatest pleasures -- breakfast and pizza -- come together to form Breakfast Pizza, aka smoked ham, fontina, and egg nirvana.
What to do while you wait: Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters on the same block opened in September and is worth a visit in its own right for a pre-cup-of-coffee cup of coffee.
Wait time: 30-45 minutes
Why it’s worth it: The upscale British pub fare in the company of taxidermied animals, hand-painted hunting scenes, and plush leather booths transports you to a world far, far away from its lip-of-the-Tenderloin location.
What to do while you wait: The host will text you when your table is ready, giving you the freedom to head to the hotel’s Playroom, a high-tech gamer’s paradise featuring a Plinko game wall, shuffleboard, pool, a Wii, and NES classics like Super Mario Bros 2. Playing video games and drinking mimosas within the same hour? This is the new American dream.
Wait time: 45 minutes
Why it’s worth it: There're the amazing deviled eggs, the whipped, flavored butter served with the lightest, fluffiest biscuits this side of the Mississippi, there's the feeling of being transported to a New Orleans cafe circa 1940, and the high-backed booths that afford just enough privacy to recap your night in full detail. So yeah, that stuff.
What to do while you wait: Sign up on a wait list to see how many people are between you and deviled eggs. The host will give you an estimate and ask that you come back halfway to that time. It’s generally enough time to get a coffee from Jane Café or impulse-buy the discounted books on the sidewalk at Browser Books, half a block away.
Wait time: 45 minutes-1 hour
Why it’s worth it: The recently expanded space means devoted patrons no longer have to wait multiple hours for the to-die-for Eggs-in-Jail, making this breakfast classic (basically eggs-in-a-hole) all the more worth it.
What to do while you wait: They’ll take phone numbers so you don’t have to stand on the sidewalk with the hungry masses. First, stand in another line to get a coffee and cinnamon toast from Trouble Coffee (split a cinnamon toast with your brunch partner to curb your appetite), then head into General Store to browse artisanal housewares, jewelry, books, and 'zines. Ultimate hipster morning: complete.
Wait time: 50 minutes
Why it’s worth it: This menu is so dense with winners, like crispy polenta cakes, pan-fried corned beef hash, and a fried duck egg sandwich, you’ll want to share with everyone in your party.
What to do while you wait: Don’t wait. Make a reservation! You can even do it the day of. We suggest calling from your bed when you wake up, like a boss. If even that amount of planning is too much for you, put your name down on the wait list when you show up and enjoy a Bloody Mary in the lounge, or stock up on hats at Goorin Bros next door.
Wait time: 1 hour
Why it’s worth it: This super-popular spot sets San Francisco’s gold standard for chicken and waffles.
What to do while you wait: Make a reservation and skip the wait or put your name down and the restaurant will text you when your table is ready, which gives you the freedom to shop around Union Square or just get a head start on the bottomless mimosas at the bar. So... probably that.
Wait time: 1 hour
Why it’s worth it: The boozy milkshakes and killer, flaky biscuits set this a-little-out-there spot apart, plus a covered outdoor patio that allows dogs is a fun setting for bottomless mimosas.
What to do while you wait: Put your name down and head to the cozy Nani Café a half block away to fuel up on coffee. Feeling productive? Target is just a few steps away and an hour wait is just the right amount of time to pick up a new shower curtain, shelving unit, and six other random things you definitely don't need.
Wait time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Why it’s worth it: The eggs Benedict with succulent crab meat. Oh, and the French toast stuffed with walnuts and caramelized banana. OH OH OH, and the cozy ambiance and heated back patio.
What to do while you wait: Put your name down and note that you're heading next door to Finnegan’s to get a head start on your Bloody Mary consumption. Mario, the host, will come get you when your table is ready.
Wait time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Why it’s worth it: One word: beignets. Seriously, get the beignets.
What to do while you wait: The Tenderloin location doesn’t allow for pretty strolling, but Philz Coffee is right around the corner. And next door is Libby Jane Coffee, which brilliantly sells sandwiches and pastries from Brenda’s for those whose hunger gets the best of them.
Wait time: 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Why it’s worth it: This cozy diner experience is hard to come by in San Francisco (it shows with the perpetual line). Also, the breakfast pastries, like the ooey-gooey cinnamon pecan roll, are house-made and amazing.
What to do while you wait: Sorry, you gotta wait in line for this one and the 6th St location means there’s not much to do anyway. Bring a flask of pre-made mimosas and your patience.
Wait time: 2 hours
Why it’s worth it: Once you bite into the fluffy lemon ricotta pancakes or the perfect eggs Benedict, everything that came before it (like the two hours you spent in anticipation), will melt away. It’s that good.
What to do while you wait: After getting the low-down on your wait time, head to Farley’s -- a destination in its own right -- for a cup of coffee and browse Christopher’s Books, an indie bookstore. You can do a lot of learnin' in two hours.
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Amy Copperman is a freelance writer in San Francisco, searching for the no-wait brunch. Find one? Tweet her @acoppergirl.
1. Ella's500 Presidio Ave, San Francisco
2. Boxing Room399 Grove St, San Francisco
3. Maven598 Haight St, San Francisco
4. The Tipsy Pig2231 Chestnut St, San Francisco
5. Rose's Café2298 Union St, San Francisco
6. The Cavalier360 Jesse St, San Francisco
7. Elite Cafe2049 Fillmore St, San Francisco
8. Outerlands4001 Judah St, San Francisco
9. Park Tavern1652 Stockton St, San Francisco
10. Farmerbrown25 Mason St, San Francisco
11. The Corner Store5 Masonic Ave, San Francisco
12. Zazie941 Cole St., San Francisco
13. Brenda's French Soul Food652 Polk St, San Francisco
14. Dottie's True Blue Cafe28 6th St, San Francisco
15. Plow1299 18th St, San Francisco
If you're sick of waiting for hours for your avocado toast, make your way to Laurel Heights for a brunch spot that's gloriously free from the lines San Franciscans have come to expect for the morning meal. Ella's has all your usual brunch suspects, like a daily Benedict, buttermilk pancakes, and a fried egg sandwich. Whatever you go with, start your meal off with the sticky bun appetizer (and maybe split it with a friend, cause it's definitely big enough).
This Hayes Valley gem, situated in the back of a spacious former 19th-century Standard Shirts Factory, will satisfy all your Creole cravings with classics like oysters, hushpuppies, fried green tomatoes, black eyed peas, and po’boys. The theme carries over to the cocktail menu, where New Orleans favorites like the Milk Punch or Ramos Gin Fizz can help you pretend you're actually in the Big Easy and don’t have to go to work tomorrow.
Maven is a chic bar and restaurant in Lower Haight that pairs all of its dishes with different cocktails. The highlight of the menu is the burger, which begins with beef that's ground with a few dashes of angostura bitters and is paired with the Mr. Wiggles cocktail, made with bourbon, amaro, vermouth, and bitters. The bar's morning cocktails make it a popular brunch spot, as do the duck hash and Bananas Foster French toast. The seating is all communal, and the best seats in the house are either on the second-floor loft or at the chef's counter.
Brunch and the Marina go together like bacon and eggs (and bottomless mimosas), and The Tipsy Pig has all these things, plus everything else you could ever want in a gastropub. Outdoor patio? Check. 40 local and worldly brews? Check. Cocktails? You get the idea. You’re going to want to get here early on a Sunday morning to stake out a spot outside and stay here all day chowing down on huevos rancheros, old-fashioned doughnuts, and the killer burger.
Rose's Cafe is a quaint, mom-and-pop café in Cow Hollow with comforting Italian flare. Its extensive brunch has made it a neighborhood staple for years, but it's also great for a family meal or a low-key date. The daily changing menu has a little bit of everything, but Rose’s breakfast pizza (which can come with egg, arugula, or prosciutto) may be its most popular item to-date. If a smoked salmon breakfast pizza doesn’t appeal, come back for a fresh seafood dinner and some hand-made pasta.
An upscale pub-style joint in Soma from the folks behind Park Tavern, Marlowe, and S&R Lounge, The Cav serves a British-themed menu with hearty standouts like venison tartare; a bacon, caramelized onion, and cheddar burger; and Shepherd's pie.
Nestled into Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights, the handsome, wood-laden Elite Cafe is beloved for its New Orleans-inspired brunch and dinner menus, which feature dishes like breakfast biscuits with fried ham, chicken jambalaya with squash and turnips, crawfish etouffee, and duck gumbo. Make sure you save room for the bacchus, a giant bananas foster sundae with crème fraiche ice cream, chocolate pearls, toasted coconut, and walnuts. In addition to Creole classics, there are exceptional cocktail standbys like a Hurricane, a Sazerac, and (of course) Bloody Marys at brunch.
Outerlands may be famous for its brunch (those Dutch pancakes are baked in a cast iron skillet and are so perfectly fluffy that you may never have another pancake again), but the food is pretty phenomenal at all meals — and the wait isn’t quite so insane later in the day. We’re obsessed with the cast-iron grilled cheese at lunch, the smoked chicken at dinner, and every single baked thing made in-house. Plus, it’s so pretty inside.
If you're looking for a restaurant in North Beach packed with San Franciscans of all neighborhoods, head to Park Tavern. This upscale spot is homey and bustling, and the food is part Southern comfort, part English pub. Every table gets the famed lamb-and-beef Marlowe burger and a starter of smoky deviled eggs, but those in the know will get an extra order of eggs to put on their burger. Park Tavern is also a bonafide brunch hotspot with the best Bloody Marys and a menu filled with griddled goods (pancakes and more pancakes) and savory eggs. And that burger.
This super-popular Union Square spot sets the San Francisco standard for Southern soul food with an upscale menu of BBQ baby back ribs, biscuits and gravy, and cheesy grits. Most notable is the chicken and waffles, also served at sister joint Little Skillet. Bottomless weekend brunch is Farmerbrown's most popular time, and if you don't make a reservation, your best bet is to put your name down and get a head start on the mimosas at the bar.
The Corner Store is set in a completely renovated space that was once a soda shop and then a speakeasy. Now, it's a 20-seat, outdoor-patio-featuring restaurant dominated by a mix of wood and white tile. The menu mixes things up with both small and large plates, which include lamb shoulder pasta, roasted duck breast, and brioche dinner rolls.
Since 1992, this petite French bistro has been a San Francisco brunch institution, where locals and tourists alike have gathered to enjoy awesome dishes in an intimate and quaint setting. It's a Cole Valley neighborhood gem that has countless meals worth lingering over; from its multi-level back porch/garden to its dog-friendliness to the awesome Croque Monsieur, Zazie is a spot that has added permanent character and charm to the city.
Two words: crawfish beignets. We could stop there convinced you’d still check out the brunch at this Tenderloin soul food eatery, but we’ll go on. Get the beignet flight, so you can also sample the classic, chocolate, and Granny Smith apple varieties. The massive menu has more than just fried treats, though. You can chow down on Creole-style favorites like gumbo, shrimp and grits, and andouille omelettes. The brunch wait can be long, but we promise it's worth it -- especially after you try a Creole Bloody.
Dottie's is the diner you need in your life. The SOMA institution serves no-fuss bacon and eggs, whole wheat buttermilk pancakes, and so much more. All of the breads and pastries are baked in-house, and the cinnamon pecan roll and chili-cheddar corn bread are mind-blowingly good. Since such an authentic diner experience is hard to come by in San Francisco, the wait on weekend mornings is pretty long, so don't say we didn't warn you.
This Potrero Hill gem has been a brunch standby since 2010 and makes some of our favorite eggs Benedict in the city. Be prepared to wait, though -- this small space doesn’t take reservations and can rack up two-hour wait times on the weekends. But once you’re seated with a fresh mimosa and those light-as-air lemon ricotta pancakes, you'll quickly forget the time you spent in line.