Tuesday, August 3, 2010
West Coast Brunch Bets: Mama's on Washington Square
Throughout San Francisco a great brunch debate rages on. The source of this friction can be attributed to two restaurants: Mama's on Washington Square and Dottie's True Blue Cafe. Both restaurants serve up delicious brunch staples such as fluffy pancakes, french toast and countless varieties of eggs, and each morning legions of fans line up outside to get their fill. Since Dottie's menu doesn't change, coupled with the fact that we were staying until midweek, MW and I decided to try Mama's first and sample their brunch specials. Located on Stockton Street, Mama's is renown for their long lines, homemade jams and fresh seafood specials.
We arrived at Mama's and promptly got into line, full of tourists and locals alike. The line was far from short but knowing what to expect, the wait was non-horrendous. Behind us, a group of hipsters started their own dance party, playing music from battery-powered boom box as they cracked open tallboys of PBR. Obviously they had come prepared. The system at Mama's is a bit unorthodox as you are instructed to order and pay first and eat later. The interior feels much like, well, what you might expect from a mom's house. Curtain-lined windows, the smell of delectable food cooking and walls filled with kitschy knickknacks created a warm and homey feel, but what got my attention was a picture of James Beard shaking hands with the owner Mama Sanchez. The service was wonderful and explained the long waits. At no point of the meal did MW or I feel the least bit rushed, making for a relaxing environment to savor your last bite of food or linger over one last cup of coffee.
MW ordered the Dungeness Crab Benedict with Fresh Baby Spinach. Two Poached Eggs sat atop a mound of fresh Dungeness Crab and Baby Spinach on a Toasted English Muffin, covered with a rich Hollandaise Sauce. This dish, like much of the food in San Francisco typified the California food philosophy of using locally-sourced products and preparing them simply, allowing the freshness of the ingredients to shine. The sweet crab meat and minerally spinach, mixed with the lemony hollandaise blew me away. One bite and I understood why the weekend lines snaked down the street.
My Dungeness Crab Omelet with Sauteed Leeks and White Cheddar Cheese was equally as satisfying. Delicately folded inside the omelet was a generous mixture of dungeness crab meat, sweet leeks and a sharp cheddar cheese. Far from the limp omelets found at most greasy spoon diners, the one at Mama's was light and fluffy, a clinic on how one should make this breakfast staple.
Almost every plate comes with a side of toast, which I'm convinced is nothing more than a vehicle for Mama's Homemade Jam that customers rave about. The raspberry jam was very good, not too sweet and miles away better than anything out of a jar, it was very comparable to version found at Clinton Street Baking Company.
If there was any disappointment at Mama's it was surely our Home Fries. Accompanying both of our dishes were a mountain of grilled red potatoes. While the wonderfully caramelized potatoes looked promising, they were undone by a strange unpleasant taste.
Trying to make the most of our wait, MW and I indulged on Mama's French Toast Sampler Plate, which included freshly made Banana Nut, Cranberry-Orange Walnut and Swedish Cinnamon French Toast covered with fresh Berries and Bananas. Using freshly made bread elevated this dish into something more than a simple plate of french toast. The sampler plate rotates depending on which breads are available, with the cranberry-orange walnut being the best of the lot.
I tend to associate New York with having good brunches and use the city's best as my standard. Often disappointed, I came away very impressed with the breakfasts and brunches I had in San Francisco. The incredible brunch MW and I had at Mama's on Washington Square accounted largely for this sentiment. But I'm far from being the only person who says this. Don't believe me? All you have to do is look at the long lines outside of this North Beach breakfast nook and see for yourself.
Mama's on Washington Square
1701 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
To see all our pics click on the flickr link.