Comfort Me, Food :: Brunching Around San Francisco

by Sean Timberlake
Saturday Jan 4, 2014

The social swirl of the holidays has passed. New Year's Eve has come and gone, a memory washed away in a storm surge of champagne bubbles. More than month of cocktails and canapés has left you in a hedonic haze.

But before you kick off that healthy new year thing, treat yourself to a little weekend comfort to recalibrate the senses. You can start the juice cleanse on Monday.

San Francisco has always been a brunchy town, with people queuing up for their weekly dose of omelets and mimosas. Here's a few favorite spots that go above and beyond the obvious eggs and pancakes, and puts their particular stamp on comfort food.

Heart of the City

Anchor tenant to the newly gentrified stretch of Divisadero that's looking a lot like Valencia Street circa 1999, Nopa's brunch menu takes aim at the classics, and gives each a modern twist. Tangy goat cheese gives bread pudding a savory note, complemented with grapes, tarragon and cress. Your basic scramble goes upscale with maitake mushrooms, leeks and parmesan. Even the humble bagel gets a facelift with smoked trout, dill farmer's cheese and crisp radish. Don't miss the braised pork; Nopa has a way with the hog. They also have a way with the bottle; the brunch cocktails center on bright flavors and complex bitters, all the better for digestion, and to settle a weary stomach.
Nopa, 560 Divisadero Street. 864-8643. 6pm-1am all week; brunch Saturday and Sunday 11am-2:30pm.

Bayou by the Bay

Just For You Café
Over the years, Just For You Café's menu has expanded from its New Orleans roots, with Mexican fare, Northern California classic Hangtown Fry and even Filipino sausage longanisa as a side option, but you'd be missing out if you didn't nab an order of their signature beignets. These fluffy puffs of fried dough come screaming hot, generously dusted in powdered sugar, perfect paired up with a mug of diner-grade coffee. Creole crab cakes and Louisiana hot links also tip the hat to Crescent City. The menu is both eclectic and cheeky, with quirky clip-art insets with helpful info. "What's grits?" ponders a mid-century housewife. "It's that pasty white stuff ... like you had in prison." The crowd is as mixed as the menu; with the local branch of the Hell's Angels just around the corner, you never know who you'll sidle up next to at the communal table.
Just for You Café, 732 22nd Street. 647-3033. Monday-Friday 7:30am-3pm; Saturday and Sunday 8am-3pm.

Modern Rustic

Brunch at Plow
There's something about the soft colors and minimalistic interior of Plow that's reminiscent of the pages of Kinfolk magazine: Austere yet homey. That aesthetic is reflected in the food, as well. Fluffy lemon ricotta pancakes are light as clouds, yet not insubstantial. The crispy potatoes are a big draw, so be sure to order some on the side, if they don't come with your dish. Baked goods like coffee cake and scones are also a highlight. If you're really hungry, go whole hog with The Plow; two eggs, choice of protein, two lemon ricotta pancakes and crispy potatoes, or the Chinese breakfast, a rice bowl with braised pork, bok choy and two eggs. This is a spot you'll need to get to early; waits can be long, and the good stuff sells out early.
Plow, 1299 18th Street. 821-7569. Tuesday-Friday 7 am-2 pm; Saturday and Sunday 8am-2pm.

Mexican Comfort

San Jalisco
If you're more in the mood for comfort food like your abuelita made, head deep into the Mission to San Jalisco. On a fairly nondescript corner, far from the crowds, San Jalisco is that holy grail of a San Francisco restaurant, serving a quality brunch at a good price, and no wait. Chilaquiles are arguably, and rightly, the most popular dish here, tortilla chips simmered in salsa and mixed with scrambled eggs. Indecisive? Try the huevos divorciados, two fried eggs with chile verde and chile colorado. Branch out and try some of their other specialties, like the hearty and warming posole, and when it's on the menu be sure to get the birria - goat stew. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it; you'll be a convert.
San Jalisco, 901 South Van Ness Avenue. 648-8383. Daily 8am-10pm.

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