Café des Carbs: Wherein I Brunch Like I am About to Run a Zombie Apocalypse Marathon
There are several places in San Francisco sane people try to avoid when darkness falls, like the blocks surrounding 16th and Mission, the area near 6th and Market, the intersection of Eddy and Leavenworth, and The Marina. Luckily, if you are doing it right, brunch comes during the daylight hours, so a weekend trip to Café des Amis can always be in the cards.
The Dapper Diner French toast at Cafe des Amis comes in brick form.
Okay, okay, planted on the corner of Union St. and Buchanan St., the two-and-a-half year-old Café des Amis is technically in Cow Hollow, but it is close enough that the chance exists one will end up accidentally crossing into The Marina as the sun sets after too many brunch mimosas or Bloody Marys. This might not be as bad as mistakenly hiking across the border into Iran or North Korea, but the general shame and potential for catching something exotic are similar, while the chance of being hit on or being called a "bro" depending on your sex is guaranteed.
The weekend brunch, which runs from 10am to 3pm, serves up a wide-array of small bites, from $1 oysters, various salads, soups, and charcuterie, to more substantial entrees like three types of mussel dishes, omelettes, and sandwiches like a croque monsieur and burger. But what is a solid brunch without alcohol? That is why you can buy a bottle of sparkling for $22 to make your own bellinis and mimosas. Or enjoy the $9 brunch appropriate eye-openers such as the French 75, Pisco Sour, or Corpse Reviver #2 (ask for a #1 if you want to be a trouble maker) if you desire something with more kick.
The Dapper Diner
Once you have started your soigner le mal par le mal treatment, you need to start stuffing your face. If you want to take the savory path, start with the onion soup ($9). This French classic with its gentle sweetness from the caramelized onions, nuttiness from the melted gruyere, and welcoming saltiness from the oxtail broth is guaranteed to slap your taste buds out of their REM slumber. Follow the soup with one of the omelettes, the forestiere ($14) being the preferred selection. It is fluffy and satisfying, topped with mushrooms and bacon and served with a side of roasted potatoes; it should be enough to make you stop regretting the five shots of Fernet you took last night.
Although, depending on the strength or amount of booze you consumed the night prior, or even during your perusal of the menu, you are likely having an inner dialogue with yourself. Or maybe it is not as "inner" as you think if you've been having a lot of fun with the drink offerings. "Self," you say, "a savory brunch is great, but I'm a grown ass adult wearing leggings for pants/sunglasses indoors. I wanna have some fun! And I'm near the Marina, so I'm all about making bad decisions. Sweet, sweet, bad decisions." Well, step right up, because Café des Amis has you covered. For a crisp five-spot, which can't even get you a cheap peep show anywhere in Place Pigalle, you can order a pair of Nutella filled beignets. Yes, they are real, and they're spectacular. Even if you wanted a savory brunch, you should still order these. In fact, if you are walking by Café des Amis on your way to brunch some place else, stop in and get these beignets first. They are little pillows of dough, dusted in powdered sugar with Nutella oozing out of them. They are served with salt-sprinkled milk jam that brings a bright sugariness to the bittersweet Nutella and brown fried dough balls when dipped in it. If you wanted to commit the sin of gluttony, two orders of this would get you there fast.
The Dapper Diner Nutella beignets.
Break out your glucose strips and insulin pens, because dessert for breakfast isn't done yet! The block cut French toast ($14), served with apples and maple syrup, is your next stop. Buttery and airy, the brioche toast is luscious, and the delicate tartness from the apples keeps the sweet syrup in check. Not sweet enough for you? Then perhaps you would prefer to kick start your personal brunch evolution by ordering the dessert version of the above dish, the Caramelized Pain Perdu ($9). Accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream, the sizeable hunk of brioche toast is your "2001: A Space Odyssey" monolith, making you re-evaluate the traditional salty and savory brunches you have relished in the past. The crisp, candy sweet bruleed exterior contrasts the custard-like and eggy center in both texture and flavor. Eating one of these will make you hate your parents for not serving it to you as a child.
So, yes, non-Marina dwellers, Café des Amis is worth the travel no matter what your brunch taste cravings are on any given weekend. As for the Marina folk, if you are interested in a good breakfast, stumble on over, otherwise, keep doing what you do on your weekends with your bottomless mimosas, yoga pants, and falling on the sidewalks. And an added bonus, Café des Amis has a TV at the bar so you can watch athletic NFL/NCAA football players as you cram your face full of carbs and alcohol.