Brunch is a serious affair in San Francisco and the fact that people are prepared to queue for an hour at 8am to get it shows how picky they are.
‘Mama’s on Washington Square’ has won a slew of accolades, featuring in Time magazine, the Lonely Planet and sitting atop many review websites. I set out bright and early this morning to find out why. Washington Square is in the centre of Little Italy with the prerequisite Italian grandmothers feeding parrots, Chinese ladies doing tai chi and school kids waiting to catch the bus. By 9am the queue for Mama’s already snaked past the next two shops. Determined not to be put off I patiently waited almost an hour before being seated. The staff were fantastic and when they brought me the house special I understood what all the fuss was about.
The French toast sampler consists of three kinds of bread (walnut and cranberry; banana and blueberry; swiss cinnamon) dipped in a special batter and lightly fried. Piled up on a plate with fresh berries and banana, drizzled with maple syrup. It’s got to be one of the best breakfasts I’ve eaten. Stunning stuff.
After a frantic morning sightseeing, I was in desperate need of some lunch, I battled through the painfully touristy ‘Fisherman’s Wharf’ (think Blackpool with a star spangled banner) to get to ‘In-n-out’ burger. A Californian institution, they’ve been serving ‘proper’ fast food since 1948. The chips are made from potatoes fresh for each batch of fries, right in front of you. The beef is never frozen and is freshly ground onsite every day. Oh and they also have a secret menu.
By adding certain words to your order, you can get special things done to your burger. I went for a double-double ‘animal style’ and a chocolate milkshake. Animal style adds chopped fried onions, extra sauce, and mustard grilled patties. The result is just fab. The milkshakes are incredible – so thick you can barely suck them through a straw.
For dinner I was keen to experience a cuisine more closely associated with the Southern states – barbecue. ‘The Pub on Ghirardelli’ is a sports bar that has managed to claw its way up the review site rankings thanks to some superb meat. Great slabs of it are coated in a special spice rub and smoked for up to 14 hours to create a texture so meltingly tender you barely need to chew. I ordered the brisket and pork shoulder. Both were superb, but the star of the show was their jalapeño coleslaw – fresh, homemade and fantastically spicey, it was a really interesting take on a normally mundane side dish.