Saturday, July 07, 2007

As The Brunch Turns: Toast and Stacks

Breakfast and brunch, being the most important meal of the day and all, deserves some updated attention in this space. My last take on breakfast was over a year ago, and much has changed, including my secret spot (Maverick) no longer serving brunch at all.

Sidenote: You'll notice that I use the terms "breakfast" and "brunch" nearly interchangeably. For me, the only difference is the hour of the day they're served and the fact that you can't have brunch on a weekday. The food is the exact same for me, even at a big hotel brunch. In fact, it somewhat bothers me when I go to brunch with people who proceed to order a salad or a burger at 11am. It just throws everything off.

Well, two of my current favorite spots for breakfast aren't even mentioned in my last post, and that's because they weren't open - Toast in Noe Valley and
Stacks in Hayes Valley.

Both places take the upscaled-Denny's approach to a straight-ahead breakfast. Scrambles, omelets, pancakes, French toast... the staples, plus a few other slightly-more-interesting items. Both places also take a diner approach to the dining room. Toast is small tables and a counter plus some outdoor seating, though the feel is clearly diner. Stacks takes a more traditional approach with fluffy green booths and big floral arrangements. It's what you would expect at the flagship Lyon's, if there were such a thing. Stacks does get bonus points for being big as well. I'm a bit sick of the typical breakfast spot where eight people eat while three dozen others watch intently.

But the biggest aspect the two places share in common is that they keep it simple and they execute well. When you order an omelet, you get back exactly what you'd expect in balanced, hearty quantities. It's not that I don't like it when breakfast gets a creative culinary edge (Ella's is a positive example that comes to mind), but sometimes it's nice to see a menu with the old standbys.

One other interesting note on Stacks that you'll find reading Yelp is that there appears to be some
neighborhood backlash based on Stacks being a "chain." To be clear, this is now the third Stacks, the other two locations being in Burlingame and Menlo Park. They're owned by a sole proprietor from the Castro named Geoffrey who greeted us at the door in Hayes Valley on our last visit. If this constitutes everything negative about a "chain" for you, then I suspect you generally begrudge others' success if it's not on your exact terms. Go on leading your happy life.

That said, I'm always on the lookout for new breakfast places, be they simple or aggressive on the culinary scale. If you've found something new, exciting, and without a huge line, please
email me and I promise not to write about it.


chanderson said...

Not a new place, but I think Chloe's on Church and 26th is a fantastic spot. It's true, it's one of those tiny places where the wait can be unbearable, but the food is always excellent and the service is always really friendly and hospitable.

Anonymous said...

How 'bout some of the hugely overrated breakfast joints in town? The top one that comes to mind is Polkers on Polk near Vallejo. The food is hit or miss (nothing worse than an omelette with unmelted shredded cheese inside) and the servers are downright rude and act put out to do their jobs. I always want to tell the long line of sheep waiting outside on weekends to go down the street to Rex's.

colleague said...

There's a Stacks' (don't forget the apostrophe) in Campbell as well. but maybe that opened since you wrote this. Strangely enough, it's not on their website. But you can read about it here: