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Brunch: Noe Valley's Favorite Pastime
By Lorraine Sanders
On any given weekend between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Noe Valley's breakfast spots are teeming with hungry patrons. Clusters of Noe Valleons -- from slightly disheveled dot-com warriors to families with babes in arms -- hug the doorways of the cafés along 24th and Church streets, waiting for a coveted spot at a table.
Yes, over the past few years brunch has become an essential part of a Noe Valley weekend. So why are we so fond of going out for breakfast?
Elizabeth Street resident John Bird speaks for most when he says, "Breakfast is my favorite meal to have in a restaurant. Nobody can make eggs sunny-side-up with a side of hash browns like a good breakfast place with an experienced fry cook."
Twenty-ninth Street resident Darren Ortsman, who eats breakfast out 8 to 12 times a month, traces his breakfast mania back to his childhood. "I used to go to the diner with my mom. We'd always eat French toast. [The habit] only got stronger in college," he says.
His favorite neighborhood eatery is Herb's Fine Foods, "for the simple breakfast at a reasonable price," he says. But Ortsman also likes to check out the more crowded establishments like Savor and Chloe's. "I subscribe to the line theory --you know, don't eat there unless there's a line."
David Molinaro, who lives on Cesar Chavez off Castro, also makes weekend brunch a regular ritual. "My best friend and I usually go out for breakfast every weekend, even if it is just for a muffin," he says. Like Ortsman, he frequents Herb's on 24th Street. "There is seldom any waiting at Herb's, and the service is quick and basic. Classic breakfasts too! Basic eggs, toast, bacon, and potatoes. Can you get more American than that?"
Ian Deutsch, another 29th Street dweller, knows his motivation for brunching out. "After a long night out, I want somebody to serve me. I don't want to do any work. In a word--laziness."
Deutsch sometimes makes breakfast at home, he says, "but rarely. It doesn't taste nearly as good as when the professionals make it for you."
While Deutsch laughingly claims breakfast out is all about convenience and food, he admits he likes the social side as well. "I like to discuss the night before among friends around the table."
Where does he go to 'dish'? "Hungry Joe's has a nice familial feeling to it. People often share tables with strangers because [the servers] hate to keep you waiting. The service is great and the food is good," Deutsch says.
Lauren Axelrod, who lives just off the Noe ValleyMission border at Guerrero and 25th, agrees that brunch has become a prime social event. "The most brunch-worthy occasion for me is the chance to catch up with friends I haven't seen for a while." Axelrod finds that several local cafes fit the bill. "I seem to gravitate towards Herb's when I'm feeling like having some basic food, Savor when I'm in the mood for something a little more upscale, or Chloe's when it's during the week and I don't have to brave the wait.
"But what I really like about eating in Noe Valley is the fact that you can take a nice stroll before or after brunch and window shop. I take my dog up to Noe Valley sometimes and we walk around just enjoying the other dogs and people."
Dolores Street resident Philip Marcus also associates a Noe Valley breakfast with a good walk. "Miss Millie's is definitely a place [my partner and I] visit for a special brunch -- and always when we have out-of-town guests. Our favorite plan, weather permitting, is to walk there, have a spectacular brunch, then walk back over the hill. This takes the guilt out of the gluttony."
Jane Peal of 25th Street is another big Miss Millie's fan. "I have always loved Miss Millie's. I love the aesthetic of the decor, the homemade biscuits and jam, fresh squeezed juice, good coffee, and comfortable booths," she says.
And that's saying a lot for Peal, who runs her own meal delivery and catering service.
Hmmm. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and brunch. But first, check out our roundup of local breakfast spots in this issue.