Friday, July 07, 2006

Mama's, Washington Square, Stockton St, San Francisco

1701 Stockton St, San Francisco, North Beach CA 94133

photograph picture of the french toast made with cranberry orange walnut bread and berries at mamas in washington square north beach san francisco great place for brunch and breakfast be prepared to queue or stand in a long line

The first time I ever visited San Francisco, I was alone, I was lost, I was a tourist staying in a hotel in Fisherman's Wharf. I stumbled upon Mama's in Washington Square not after reading about it in a guidebook, but just because it was the first place I came across. I had no idea it was generally considered to be a tourist magnet, or one of the best breakfasts in town. I don't even recall what I ate on that occasion. FFWD-->

Once I had moved to California, some years later, I learnt that Mama's was the place to take visitors from the UK for an American Breakfast. I have brunched here with both my mother and my grandmother, as well as my good friend Penny who at that time was a mere visitor, but who is now a San Francisco resident just like me.

For breakfast or brunch I am squarely in the savoury camp, but on one of those visits, probably with Penny, we must have decided to share and try a French Toast too. I never order French Toast. Just the idea of it is generally a turn off to me because where I grew up, French Toast is a savoury dish called Eggy Bread, that is served with bacon, fried mushrooms, mustard, ketchup and lots of salt and pepper.

I don't believe there could be a better French Toast in the world than the one I always hope to find on the list of daily specials at Mama's. That is why, at heart, I am still a savoury girl and I still never order French Toast... Unless, of course, I happen to be at Mama's in Washington Square.

Check it out: Cranberry, Orange, Walnut Bread French Toast served with Mixed Berries and Maple Syrup. A side of whipped cream, a glass of fresh pink grapefruit juice, squeezed in-house, and a nice cuppa tea. This French toast is seriously SO good. The cranberries give it a piquant tartness and the hidden walnuts contrast the soft, sweet, pillowy dough with a suprising and welcome crunch here and there. Yes, it is huge and no, I didn't even leave so much as a crumb.

You have to hunt high and low for this dish, it's not on the menu. It wasn't listed on the board in the window either. If you are lucky you might spot it on a list of specials hanging on a hand-written sign behind the counter, by which point you may already have made up you mind to order something else. If you have, this is the time to change it, trust me.

Amy's pancakes were absolutely delicious too, but I don't think they quite have the edge on that magical Cranberry, Orange, Walnut Loaf. Catherine's savoury egg dish, scramble with spinach, cheese, onions and a side of perfectly cooked potatoes is definitely something I might have to order on another visit. But only if I can get some friendly accomodating soul to split two dishes with me and share, one savoury, one sweet, to satisfy both demanding sides of my when-at-Mama's breakfast personality .

Sure - a lot of tourists visit Mama's, but locals listen up - there is a good reason you have to wait in a line, it really is worth it. This is the place to go during the week when you have a lazy day off work and the queues are less intimidating. Call in a sicky, whatever ailment you invent for yourself, mama's will soon make you feel better.

PS. This review was tried and tested which means I have visited Mama's at least three times, or more.

And around this time in 2004: Bistro d'Henri, Paris

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Mama's, Washington Square, Stockton St, San Francisco


  • At 7/7/06 15:56, Blogger Tea said…

    The French Toast sounds delicious. I am just wondering why I, a native to the area, have never been to Mama's. Must rectify this quickly, can't leave all the treats to the tourists:-)

    And I'm with you on savory breakfasts. My one exception are the pancakes at Zazie (I'm posting about them next week). Some things are worth making exceptions for.

  • At 8/7/06 13:05, Blogger Bonnie said…

    If there's one thing I miss about living in the US, or Australia for that matter, it's the breakfast/brunch dishes. Thankfully, I'm pretty adept at recreating them in my own kitchen, but there's nothing better than someone else cooking a glorious breakfast like this one (and cleaning up the mess after it).

    Definately on the to-do list when I make it to SF! Thanks for the tip!

  • At 8/7/06 14:57, Blogger Greg said…

    Mama's was one of the first places we ate at after arriving in S.F. My dad moved us out here from the east and we stayed at hotel located at Columbus and Bay. Hung out in North Beach.Very good memories.Thanks Sam.

  • At 9/7/06 00:07, Blogger Alice Q. Foodie said…

    I love splitting the savory and sweet breakfast - doesn't it just make sense? All pancakes or french toast is a little too sweet, but it's so good in small doses!

  • At 9/7/06 08:23, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great post. Sam thanks for reminding me of this place. I've only braved the line once myself. It was a on a "sick" day when my brother was visiting from out of town and we had the French Toast as well. I have to say the difficult thing is not the line be deciding what to have!

  • At 9/7/06 15:30, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love french toast in all its forms, sweet and savory. There's something about the crunch outside and the moist, eggy inside that I can't resits. I'm sure I'd eat the whole thing too!

  • At 11/7/06 07:30, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You have just given me another invaluable recommendation for my next trip to San Francisco. Thanks again for all of the wonderful reviews, my mouth waters every time!


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