Mama's on Washington Square

Mama's on Washington Square

Food & Drink

Mama's on Washington Square


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The Food Channel is focusing on Breakfast Trends this month. As part of that feature, we have chosen a few favorite restaurants that serve breakfast to tell you more about.

There’s one thing about waiting in line. With all those people, you aren’t alone. And odds are, people are willing to talk—at least about how long the line is.

One gentleman explained the rules to those of us bringing up the rear: “You just get in line, then you get inside and wait in line some more.”

Another said, “I don’t know if anything’s worth this,” to which his female companion replied, “It is. We’re staying.”

Yet another called a friend and said, “So, it turns out the line is crazy long. You have time to get here after all.”

And, as we learned, that’s the thing about Mama’s on Washington Square, in San Francisco. It’s worth waiting for. Even when it’s chilly, damp, and those inside seem to be taking their sweet time.

As I discovered, it’s because they are savoring every last bite. It may be an M’Omelette like the Northern Italian, with pancetta, mushroom, basil, tomato, and garlic jack cheese. It may be the Dungeness Crab Benedict with fresh spinach and a luscious lemony hollandaise, or the Cranberry Orange Walnut French Toast, or the Kugelhopf, which is a house-baked brioche with raisins, cinnamon, dates and sliced almonds.

They also offer an intriguing Chocolate Cinnamon French Toast, and silver dollar size buttermilk pancakes from a recipe made fresh each morning. Then there is their Cranberry Crumb Cake—good enough that people were trying to negotiate to buy a loaf to take home (no dice).

Once inside, you wait in line a little longer and then order at the counter. They work fast to find you a seat once you’ve ordered, though, and will bring freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee as quickly as you ask for it. In fact, part of the atmosphere is watching as they swoop in as soon as a group leaves their table, quickly resetting it and cheerfully making it ready for the next customer.

The tables are as cheery as the staff, covered with yellow plastic tablecloths under glass, matching the splashes of yellow paint covering the interior. The sunny disposition makes up for the close quarters—they pack you in, so you get to know your neighbor.

Everything is made to order and served with homemade jam, the kind worth writing to your own home about. In fact, the server moved the raspberry jam jar a little closer to the French Toast Sampler plate, saying, “Trust me. Put a little of this on instead of the syrup.” He knew what he was talking about.

The restaurant has been family owned for 50 years, and is Zagat rated. They serve breakfast all day, which is only until 3 pm, but offer traditional lunch selections, too. Burgers, a Monte Cristo, salads, and more. How does a Slim Joe Burger on a sourdough baguette with grilled onions sound?

Meanwhile, I eat my French Toast Sampler and turn around from my view of the kitchen to look outside—the line is just as long as when I came. Some are doing crossword puzzles in the morning paper; others are doing either business or gaming on their smart phones. They glance in to see me happily chewing as I accept another cup of coffee, and I know what they are thinking: “She’s certainly taking her sweet time.”

Yes indeed. And savoring every last bite.


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