All About Food, Destinations: North America

Breakfast at Mama’s on Washington Square – Is It Overhyped?

March 24, 2014
The short answer to that question: Yes, it is overhyped. Not that the food isn’t good. But is the food amazing enough for me to wait hours like people often have to do to eat there? Definitely not. I also don’t agree that Mama’s is “the best breakfast in town” as quoted in a Time article on the San Francisco: 10 Things to Do. Mama’s has been serving up breakfast in the San Francisco North Beach area for over fifty years and is without a doubt a historical tourist landmark of sorts. But in my opinion, I think there are better brunch spots in San Francisco. In case you’re wondering, “Where in San Francisco could breakfast be better than Mama’s?!”: Check out my prior blog post on the Best Brunch Spots in San Francisco.

I digress. So what can you expect at Mama’s? Here’s a synopsis of my experience. 

The Arrival

If you want breakfast at Mama’s there is absolutely no getting around having to wait unless you send your significant other earlier to wait in line. Then you can show up just as he/she has finally made it to the front! Otherwise, you are guaranteed to have to wait no matter what day or time you come! I learned this the hard way. I thought I was being smart showing up at 8am on a Friday. After all, most people have to work on Friday mornings. For those who don’t work, they’d be crazy to get up so early for breakfast right? Wrong! Lesson learned: There are a lot of people crazy enough to wake up bright and early to stand in line for Mama’s. Upon arriving at 8am on a Friday morning, I was greeted by this lovely long line that had already formed well before the restaurant even opened.

The Wait

While you patiently wait outside, you can start pondering which of Mama’s Specialties you plan to order. Then you should plaster your face on the window and ogle at the heavenly goodness that people inside are eating. Sure, it makes them uncomfortable, but who cares right? You’re starving and you can literally feel your stomach gnawing at itself. And who knows! Maybe if the people inside feel uncomfortable enough, then they’ll eat faster and leave so you can finally have your chance at devouring the delicious breakfast goodies!  

The Ordering

After 50 minutes, which is apparently a short wait for typical Mama’s lines, we were finally granted entry into Mama’s where we were greeted by yet another line. This was the golden ticket line where you finally get to place your food order! Needless to say, I figured it was highly unlikely that I’d ever want to wait to eat here again. So between two of us we ordered two egg dishes and two french toast dishes. Once our orders had been taken and paid for, we stood over the tables like vultures stalking their prey–just watching and waiting for somebody, anybody, to finish eating and abandon their table for our use.

The Food

After a 15 minute wait our food slowly started to arrive at the table. We were ready to pounce on everything in front of our faces! 

Dungeness Crab Omelette w/Baby Spinach & Brie & Gruyere Cheese
The Dungeness Crab Omelette w/Baby Spinach & Brie & Gruyere Cheese was divine! Then again, you can’t really go wrong with anything that has dungeness crab in it! The omelette was perfectly cooked and loaded with chunks of crab and hot melty cheese. Served with bread (I chose sourdough) and potatoes, the meal is very filling. 
Dungeness Crab Benedict w/Sauteed Baby Spinach 
Though I usually prefer an eggs Benedict, Mama’s Dungeness Crab Benedict w/Sauteed Baby Spinach was not as amazing as I had hoped. It was all right, but a bit on the bland side. Any dish that requires you to drown it with salt and hot sauce just isn’t that delicious to begin with. If you want a really good Crab Benedict, I prefer the one at Mission Beach Cafe, which is served with avocado, hollandaise, and orange reduction. Now that’s an explosion of flavor in your mouth!!
Mama’s Famous French Toast Sampler
Lastly, was a sampler plate of Mama’s Famous French Toast. The Banana Walnut french toast tasted like a slice of banana bread with some fried egg on the side. The same goes for the Cranberry Orange Walnut french toast. The Cinnamon Brioche was a standard french toast–nothing particularly amazing or unique. Overall, Mama’s french toast was decent, but not super impressive. Want some “knock-your-socks-off” French Toast? Go to Nopa instead for their Custard French Toast–a thick piece of toast sprinkled with rosemary, candied citrus, and smothered with maple butter! Now THAT is a drool-worthy french toast!

The Conclusion

Would I ever go back to Mama’s? I won’t say “Never”, but the chances of me going again are about as high as the chances of me being the first in line at Mama’s without having to arrive before they open. So not likely at all. 

If you really want to Mama’s off your list I’d highly recommend going early on a weekday. Send one person to wait in line while another goes to fetch some coffee nearby. And when you finally gain access, don’t miss out on trying the homemade blackberry jam. The freshly made jam is absolutely delicious on anything! 

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