Whatever your breakfast style, San Francisco has you covered. There's a type of breakfast eatery for every personality, and ample spots to choose from in most every SF district. Whether you decide on a long, lingering gourmet meal of cornmeal pancakes or banana French toast, or opt for a quick breakfast sandwich or plate of beignets to share, here are the city's best places to start your morning off right.
Relocated from its Potrero Hill space to a colorful locale in SF's Dogpatch neighborhood, Just for You Cafe has long been delighting its customers with a diverse menu of breakfast eats the includes huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, and cinnamon sugar beignets made-from-scratch. Choose from both indoor and outdoor seating, or saddle up to the counter for an old-fashioned diner-style experience.
Small, cozy, and always bustling, Dottie's is a legendary SF eatery that's just has popular now as it's been since first opening at its former Jones Street location in the 1990s. There's a constant line out the door at this perennial favorite, which serves up American fare such as three-egg omelets and whole wheat buttermilk pancakes with pure maple syrup, though Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' Guy Fieri says its the grilled chili-cheddar corn bread with jalapeño jelly that truly puts Dottie's on the map. Though the restaurant sold to new owners in 2017, its quality remains top caliber.
Plan your timing right and you might score a seat in Zazie's tree-shaded backyard patio—an ideal spot for enjoying this charming bistro's French-inspired offerings. Zazie breakfast menu includes numerous kinds of egg benedict, delicious gingerbread pancakes (served with Meyer lemon curd and Bosc pears), and savory Croque Monsieurs and Madames, the later topped with a sunny-side-up egg. The restaurant is also one of the first in San Francisco to be tip-free.
Like Dottie's True Blue Cafe, Mama's in North Beach is a local institution—meaning you can expect a long breakfast line. But one that's worth it, according to the restaurant's bevy of fans, for its variety of benedicts, French toast (including a best-seller made with house-based cranberry-orange bread), and “M'Omelette's” and a family atmosphere that Mama herself instilled here before passing in 2000. In fact, loyal patrons have been flocking to Mama's since the mid-1960s, and the corner spot attracts both locals and visitors alike.
Wainscoted walls, tables dressed in red-vinyl cloth, and a U.S. map mural that's been overlooking diners for decades provides the atmosphere for this longtime breakfast stalwart, where a regular menu and daily chalkboard special provide a variety of start-your-day options, including the New England Flannel Hash and (my favorite) the French Toast Orgy, a filling plate of orange-spice french toast topped with fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, and honey.
A bit off-the-beaten-path (though easily accessible by both the 43 Masonic and 1 California MUNI bus lines) in the city's Laurel Heights enclave, Ella's is known for its selection of “from-scratch” comfort cuisine and classic American dishes. Start your meal with a fresh fruit plate or some house-made sticky buns, then choose from a selection of eats that includes buttermilk waffles, a chorizo scramble, and an omelette brimming with mouthwatering bacon and cheddar cheese. Weekend brunch offers additional creative fare—like Ella's famous strawberry ricotta pancakes.
San Francisco's Eagle Cafe has an interesting and unlikely history, given its location in the heart of touristy Pier 39. In the 1920s, the building itself was a hash house—one located along the city's northern waterfront and serving a mixed crowd of bus drivers, longshoremen, and artists. It moved to its current Pier 39 location in 1978, and today features incredible views of Alcatraz along with a breakfast menu that ranges from Salmon Benedict to Banana and Pecan French Toast. A handful of breakfast cocktails help the food go down smoother.
Pork Store Cafe (The Haight)
A popular greasy-spoon that's been feeding hungry patrons in the Haight for decades, the Pork Store is known for its crispy hash browns, chicken apple sausage, and droolworthy chicken and waffles. Endless cups of coffee are also the norm, along with vegetarian and vegan options. The Pork Store has a sister restaurant on 16th Street in the Mission.
Situated on the quiet corner of Guerrero and 14th streets—just west of the Mission's lively Valencia Street corridor—Mission Beach Cafe serves up a nearly daily brunch that draws endless crowds on weekends. Slip in mid-week for a shorter wait and the same delicious California-inspired eats, including dishes like eggs benedict with sundried tomato-olive tapenade and black forest ham, and French toast made with brioche from the restaurant's own full-scale production bakery. Short on time?
Stock up on house-made croissants and danishes to-go.
A casual American breakfast spot along Market Street, Homeskillet is the perfect stop for a quick bite or a little lingering. Order at the counter on entry from a selection of omelettes, breakfast sandwiches and double-stacked hotcakes filled with such goodies as bananas and chocolate chips, then grab a number and the staff will deliver the food directly to your table. There's plenty of people-watching out the large windows overlooking 6th Street, as well as plenty of seating for solo diners.
Breakfast at Brenda's can sustain you for an entire afternoon, especially if you start your meal with a pre-entree plate of beignets to share. House favorites at this French Southern-inspired eatery include California's own Hangtown Fry—a scramble done up in true Brenda's style with crispy oysters and bacon—and the Shrimp & Grits topped with spicy tomato-bacon gravy. Grits, biscuits, and Bloody Marys are also par for the course here, along with a changing array of chalkboard specials. Brenda's has a sister property (Brenda's Meat and Three) in SF's NOPA neighborhood on Divisadero Street.
Expect a line out the door—for good reason—at this relatively new neighborhood eatery in Lower Pacific Heights. Sweet Maple is known for its relaxed vibe and creative offerings: items like deep-fried Dixie Bacon drizzled with Tabasco Honey sauce; syrup infused with Jack Daniels whiskey, and everything from a chicken mango melt breakfast sandwich to a selection of “Morning Pizzas.” It's a large space that's warm and welcoming, with ample indoor seating and some outside tables as well. Morning cocktails (think espresso martinis and bitter mimosas) are also on the menu.
An off-shoot of the iconic Tartine Bakery on Guerrero and 18th streets, the massive 5,000-square-foot Tartine Manufactory opened in August 2016 to much fanfare, and has been drawing in crowds since. It's an airy space, with plenty of windows and it's own floor-to-ceiling bread oven and a variety of serving stations—from a central counter for breakfast items to a “Grab-and-Go” station for espressos and pastries. All the food is in-season and baked goods (pain au chocolat, fruit muffins, teacakes, etc) are made fresh on the premises daily.
Perhaps the closest you'll get to an East Coast diner in San Francisco, It's Tops is old-school at its best. The tiny corner space along Market Space has been serving up authentic American eats since 1935 and not much has changed, including the eatery's knotty pine walls and cherry red booths. There are '50s-filled jukeboxes on the tables, and the servers wear vintage uniforms straight out of the same era. Customers saddle up to the counter (or hold out for a booth) to dine on omelettes, waffles, and some of the best hot cakes around. Pro tip: the banana and peanut-butter pancakes are worth any wait.
Both architecturally stunning and incredibly appetizing, Outerlands completely transformed SF's beachside Outer Sunset when it first opened in 2009, bringing a warmth and coziness to the area—not to mention some of the best baked bread in town. With its reclaimed wood interior, open kitchen, and a menu made up of locally sourced organic fare that slightly expands for weekend brunch, featuring such items as Cornish chicken toast and a dutch pancake cooked in a cast iron pan, Outerlands is definitely worth the trek.