Cliff House, San Francisco (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)
Brunch alert! Whoever invented brunch deserves an award, and they’d certainly receive one from folks in the San Francisco Bay Area. That said, killing time standing in long lines is most definitely not a favorite local activity. This list features some of the Bay Area’s great weekend spots that accept reservations for brunch, are large enough to accommodate a crowd or have extended brunch hours. Hungry food lovers who’d rather sleep late than queue up, take note.
1090 Point Lobos
San Francisco, CA 94121
Nowhere else on earth will you get complimentary signature house popovers served with jam and a view of Pacific waves crashing on the rocks at Lands End. The historic Cliff House, a San Francisco institution, is retro cool right down to the live harp music. Located within the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, the largest urban national park in the nation, Cliff House belongs on the agenda to wow visiting friends and family. Sunday Champagne Brunch Buffet in the Terrace Room begins with attentive servers to top off your flute of bubbly and ends with chocolate covered strawberries. In between, you’ll find eggs Benedict, scrambled eggs, tri-tip, French toast with cinnamon apple jam, bacon, sausage, potatoes au gratin, shrimp salad, fresh shrimp, fresh fruit and more. Check the weather report and call to request a window table when booking Sunday brunch served between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Remember your camera and appropriate footwear for an Ocean Beach walk or Sutro Bath ruins exploration.
1 Yerba Buena Lane
San Francisco, CA 94103
A lively spot with an outdoor terrace in Yerba Buena Lane has a new secret weapon: Executive Chef Jeff Banker, formerly of the Pacific Heights’ celebrated Baker & Banker, is at the helm. Weekend brunch menus feature Baker’s Board (house-made breakfast breads with seasonal accompaniments), Butcher’s Board (daily chef’s selection of house made charcuterie and salumi), Cajun Benedict (griddle cornbread, Tasso ham, braised greens, Cajun hollandaise, topped with a poached egg), and the popular Bluestem Brunch Burger (house ground grass-fed beef topped with hash browns, breakfast sausage, bacon, house made American cheese, a fried egg with pickles avocado and spicy ketchup). A busy bar and cocktail lounge by the big picture windows serves up Rude Awakening and Hair of the Dog alongside classic brunch cocktails like Bloody Mary, Bellini and Mimosa.
The Girl & The Fig
110 W. Spain St.
Sonoma, CA 95476
Holding forth in Sonoma County wine country for nearly two decades, this outpost of rustic French food has built loyal, local fans and an international reputation. Supplemented by cookbooks and a gourmet product line of jam, chutney, compote, vinegar, vinaigrette and herb blends, this is no ordinary brunch experience. More than 90 percent of America’s figs are California-grown, so if you’re keen on the restaurant’s signature salad prepared with arugula, goat cheese, pancetta, pecans and grilled fresh figs, keep the summer and early fall months in mind. Reserve ahead for weekend brunch; the enviable location at historic Sonoma Plaza means that visitors and Bay Area residents alike are drawn to the garden patio and antique mirrored and carved bar on the ground floor of the Sonoma Hotel.
Steins Beer Garden
895 Villa St.
Mountain View, CA 94041
When Steins introduced weekend brunch in 2014, a Silicon Valley problem was solved. True to a German biergarten setup that accommodates up to 400, long communal tables in a large dining hall, plus a spacious outdoor patio, mean everyone gets seated faster. Families, sports fans and their dogs head here for brunch served until 4 p.m. Behind the bar, 31 taps of American craft and imported beers accompany basic brunch classics or a Bavarian-inspired soft pretzel with beer mustard, grilled sausage plate and pork belly Benedict. Don’t miss the beer fruit flight and an Absolut Bloody Mary that’s a meal in a glass topped with a half a garden’s worth of house pickled veggies. Reservations are taken for groups of 10 or more.
15 Shoreline Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Insiders know that since 1937, when the Golden Gate Bridge opened, this unlikely location off the Marin side of the highway has been a well-loved landmark for upscale comfort food. Reserve a table or arrive early enough to get a seat at the bar. Leave your car keys with the complimentary valet service, stroll up the garden path and be enveloped by the landmark’s clubby, vaulted interior with a ski lodge-style fireplace and leafy views. Best advice for first-timers includes two words: Oysters Bingo — pair yours with a house made Bloody Mary that’s got a kick or with Sonoma’s 16 oz. double IPA bottled Pliny the Elder. Other favorites served by super-friendly staff include brunch specialties of the house such as chili-lime brick chicken and barbecued baby back ribs. P.S. — The Buckeye Roadhouse version of s’more pie is famous on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge. Brunch is served until 3 p.m.