During our final pass through San Francisco, we set out on a small project to revisit a trio of our favorite breakfast restaurants from when we lived there. San Francisco is a great city for breakfasts – the same cannot be said for Bangkok, at least for Western style breakfasts – and we were excited to indulge in some early morning reminiscing with a few cups of coffee and plates of eggs, pastries, and meat products.
Our first breakfast was at Savor, a southwestern themed restaurant located on 24th Street in Noe Valley. In addition to Miss Millie’s, a now-defunct restaurant that was located on 24th at Castro Street, Savor was a frequent stop for breakfast when I first moved to San Francsico in the late 1990s.
The interior space is pleasant. You walk past the kitchen at the front of the restaurant and find a large dining room and a bright but shaded patio behind the restaurant. The interior is, as mentioned, southwestern and a fireplace lends a cozy atmosphere to the high-ceilinged space. We visited on a weekday morning and the restaurant wasn’t crowded. A friendly bear was our server and he had an amiable, almost maternal manner.
Tawn ordered the Coronado frittata. Years ago, frittatas were on the menu but have been removed and only omelettes remain. Tawn enquired with the waiter, though, and he said they’d be happy to make any of the omelettes as a frittata. This was a nice touch. The Coronado has avocado, sharp cheddar cheese, and onions and is topped with black bean chili, salsa fresca, and sour cream.
I ordered the Santa Fe, one of Savor’s many crepe selections. The Santa Fe has grilled chicken apple sausage with scrambled eggs, green onions, provolone cheese, and salsa fresca. The side of home fried potatoes was disappointing as they are under seasoned and would benefit from the use of some herbs.
One treat at Savor is their spicy cornbread, which is toasted and served with jalapeno jelly. This is what I remembered about the restaurant and was eager to try it again. Like the potatoes, I found the cornbread underseasoned, begging for a little more salt.
Overall conclusion was that Savor remains a comfortable place with friendly service and decent food, but the food seems more about quantity than quality. The quality isn’t bad, mind you, but it doesn’t stand out from the crowd. If they could reduce portion sizes slightly and improve the flavors, then they would have something really special.
The second of the trio is Ella’s, a self-described “neo-classical American” restaurant located on Presidio Avenue where Laurel Heights meets Lower Pacific Heights. More upscale, Ella’s has a sophisticated but inviting look. Waits can be long on weekends but on a weekday morning, we were seated immediately.
One of the two dining areas. Banquettes line the windows and tables are tightly spaced. On a busy morning, there is an energetic vibe and service is very prompt, encouraging a quick turnover. Service was detached and while employees were not outwardly rude, they also weren’t very friendly.
We started by sharing one of Ella’s famous cinnamon pecan rolls. These gooey delights are generous enough for a quartet to share but not as overwhelmingly sweet as, say, the rolls from Cinnabon.
Perhaps the most famous item on the menu is the chicken hash. (Which, unfortunately, is hidden under the eggs so you can’t see it!) Made with a combination of Russet and Yukon Gold potatoes, their hash is an immensely satisfying breakfast. The lumpy mashed potatoes are combined with sage, thyme, parsley, sauteed onions, and mustard, then formed into a patty and fried. My only complaint with this dish is that they garnish it with a heap of raw green onions, which give it a “grassy” feel. I just brush them to the side and enjoy the hash ungarnished.
Tawn tried some French Toast, which was nicely battered and cooked to that perfect point where the bread is rich with the eggy custard but not soggy. Portion sizes are more moderate than at Savor, leaving you feeling satisfied but not stuffed.
One of Ella’s charms is that they bake their own, very good bread. The entry area shows off their baked goods, which are available for takeaway purchase. Overall, Ella’s hasn’t changed in the years since I left and remains a nice place for a special breakfast.
My final morning in San Francisco, I headed down Church Street to Chloe’s while Tawn slept in. Arriving a few minutes before the restaurant opened, I browsed the newspaper and waited on the seats outside. A long-time neighborhood attraction that occupies a small space, Chloe’s quickly has a queue and waits can be long on weekends.
Not fifteen minutes after they opened, most of the inside tables were full. The space is cozy and the staff is buzzing about, refilling coffee, taking orders, and keeping things moving without ever making you feel rushed. Only open for breakfast and lunch, the restaurant’s daily specials are written on the chalkboard and always include a scramble of some kind as well as a soup of the day.
I decided on buttermilk blueberry pancakes with scrambled eggs. Most breakfasts come with the option of toast, a pastry, or a bowl of fresh fruit. Obviously, I took the healthier option. While simple, the food is made with top-notch ingredients and is well-prepared. Your cup of coffee never gets cold thanks to the attentive employees who keep filling it up.
An F-Market car passes Chloe’s, heading up Church Street to start its day. There’s enough housing the in neighborhood to support a restaurant twice Chloe’s size, but they keep it small and are able to stay on top of the details. Chloe’s really has a neighborhood charm to it.
Of the three restaurants, Chloe’s remains my favorite. While the food at Ella’s is a little fancier, Chloe’s has the scale and charm of a true neighborhood restaurant. Ella’s, located on a busy corner, seems more isolated. Although not a bad choice, Savor is a distant third when compared with the other two restaurants. Its service is friendly but its food isn’t as good as at the other two restaurants.
I like those small, neighbourhood restaurants like Chloe’s. I just don’t like the tables being so close together. All these food pictures are making me hungry and I had a big dinner.
Ella’s and Chloe’s dishes look very delicious. I’ll definitely pay them a visit when I’m up there! Funny that my long time HK family friend’s name is Ella, I call her “auntie Ella”. 🙂
Chloe’s and Ella’s remind me of a couple of my favorite places in Aliso Viejo and Laguna Niguel! Nice looking breakfasts!
I hope the coffee was as good as the meal
Chloe’s does look the most attractive to me.
Your travel and food blogs are always interesting and so enjoyable to read, Chris!
looks delicious! i love breakfast food (but only for breakfast — i’m not one of those people that can do breakfast for dinner). if i ever get out to sf, i’ll have to remember to try chloe’s!
I’m really curious about the chicken hash… You couldn’t lift the egg and give us a peek?! hehe. Too bad my sister inlaw is in Indiana now… I’d have liked to try Chloe’s.
i love how they arranged the fruit bowl at chloe’s. i will have to visit next time i’m in sf!
Chris, I really appreciated the effort you put into this entry. Chloe does sound and look to be the best of the three – seems to have good food, good service, a nice location and nice decor.I’ve just learnt what a frittata is and it looks both healthy and tasty. Again, your detail and honest review of these places inspires me to have breakfast out with a friend or two
@kunhuo42 – @bengozen – When you go to SF, just send me a message and I’ll share some other favorite places you should visit.@ElusiveWords – Sadly, small space and high rents equals tightly-spaced tables. I don’t think they are too bad at Chloe’s, though. There’s enough room to get in and out without your fanny hanging over someone’s home fries.@catstemplar2 – Coffee at all three places was very good.@CurryPuffy – I always think of Ella Fitzgerald, personally.@murisopsis – It basically looked like a patty of mashed potatoes, fried up. Not the most photogenic food! =D@icapillas – Oh, thanks! I’m glad you like them. I look forward to the day when I can write one about visiting you in Taiwan.@slmret – Yes, they really are part of that “California” style, aren’t they? Something that is really missing in Bangkok.@Fatcat723 – Another vote for Chloe’s. Thus noted. =D@stepaside_loser – Glad you enjoy the entries, Andrew. Does Sydney have a big breakfast scene?
@christao408 – What is the protocol when leaving these tight spaces? Does the fanny or crotch face the other diners? And *gasp*… what would happen if I suddenly let loose some gas?
i love breakfast foods. gosh, you making me miss SF again 😦
@ElusiveWords – Fanny towards the person, I think. Would be bad if something slipped out, though. Usually diners will slide their table to the side to allow you a more graceful exit, though.@rudyhou – Sorry, am just trying to drum up empathy among like-minded former SF residents.
sweet! more places to add to my san fran list…
I love Chloe! Their french toast is pretty amazing, too.