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The Student News Site of Lowell High School

The Lowell

The Student News Site of Lowell High School

The Lowell

Brunch on a student budget? Here’s where to find it.

By Cynthia Leung and Stephanie Li

Scroll through Instagram on any late Saturday or Sunday morning, and posts of brunch dishes will flood your screen. Over the past few months, brunch, a fun way to grab a meal with a few friends, is rising in popularity among teenagers. To experience the brunch craze, two reporters set out to the far corners of the city to check out some of the most reviewed, four-starred brunch restaurants on Yelp, searching for popular dishes under $15 not including drinks, tips or tax.


941 Cole St, San Francisco, CA 94117 / (415) 564–5332

Crowds line up outside of Zazie — for good reason. Photo by Amber Ly

As I walked through the doors of the quaint French restaurant, I was met with rows of square tables lined with customers eating mouthwatering meals and chatting with their friends. French movie posters lined the brick wall, and bright lights shone down on the polished wooden tables, giving them a glow. The small-cafe-style interior reflected Zazie’s comfortable and cozy atmosphere.

The small-cafe-style interior reflected Zazie’s comfortable and cozy atmosphere.

Although the waiter seated me in a crowded corner of the restaurant, the flavorful food made withstanding the cramped quarters worthwhile. I was delighted when the waitress delivered a huge plate of Fontainbleu scrambled eggs, which contained porcini, shiitake, and portobello mushrooms, spinach, and fontina cheese, with a side of roasted potatoes and toast. The ratio of mushrooms and spinach to soft eggs was just perfect for me, and the lightly-salted roasted potatoes were savory and delicious. One tip that many patrons may not know is that Zazie has a first-come-first-serve patio seating policy, which means that anyone, including those not on the waiting list, can sit at the patio if he or she is the first one to get to the spot after the previous customers leave. Zazie’s service was efficient, with servers delivering our meals quickly, completing a magical dining experience. This stylish restaurant is the perfect place to eat a satisfying brunch with a few close friends. With its unique design and class, Zazie is full of pizazz.

Mission Beach Cafe

198 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94103 / (415) 861–0198

Dungeness crab and bay shrimp eggs Benedict from Mission Beach Cafe. Photo by Amber Ly

Loud chatter and an upbeat alternative song filled my ears as I walked through the doors of the hip Mission District restaurant. Waiters dressed in casual clothing rushed around the room, delivering plates of food and glasses of drinks and greeting patrons with friendly smiles. The lively, infectious atmosphere quickly surrounded me, and soon, I was feeling the vibe.

The wait to get seated lasted for 20 minutes — short for a Saturday morning brunch in this city.

The wait to get seated lasted for 20 minutes — short for a Saturday morning brunch in this city. My friend and I were seated at a comfy table in a corner of the restaurant, giving us a great view of the entire room. Scanning the menu, I was overwhelmed by all of the choices. Each item seemed extremely appetizing, but after much deliberation, I finally settled for the dungeness crab and bay shrimp eggs Benedict with a side of roasted potatoes, which the restaurant serves only during the weekend.

Thankfully, I was not disappointed by my decision. On my plate lay two toasted English muffins that were lathered with buttery guacamole, topped with a heap of crab and baby shrimp, crowned by two perfectly poached eggs and glazed with creamy hollandaise sauce. I savored each and every rich bite, complemented perfectly by hints of citrus in the crab and shrimp mix.

Overall, my whole dining experience at Mission Beach Cafe was truly satisfying. The staff was friendly and helpful, and the modern-styled interior and the huge glass windows gave the restaurant a glow by allowing all of the glorious Mission sunlight to come in. Although Mission Beach Cafe is not near the beach, it definitely has that lively oceanside vibe.

The Butler and the Chef Bistro

155 South Park Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 / (415) 896–2075

Cafe-style tables and chairs work with the blue-and-yellow color scheme to create a distinct French bistro feel. Photo by Lily Young

Tucked away into a small corner of the SoMa district is The Butler and the Chef Bistro. Reminiscent of a friendly, neighborhood restaurant that one might find deep in a small European village, the restaurant is quaint and full of culture.

The entrance was painted a bright shade of yellow — a cheery contrast to the rustic wood lining. Inside, mismatched wicker chairs surrounded a variety of square and round tables etched with French phrases; my table offered the French revolution’s “liberté, égalité, fraternité.” Playful French music played in the background, the airy tune intertwining with the other diners’ murmurs. Above me, pale blue fairy lights hung along gothic chandeliers imbedded with unlit candles. Sunflower yellow and rust orange walls completed the small town design.

The Butler and the Chef was a refreshing, rural take on brunch cuisine.

Matching the rural feel was the Butler and the Chef’s “Le Brunch” menu, which fused French and American cuisine. The bistro’s famous eggs Benedict was unique from other restaurants’ because of the dish’s fresh, healthy taste. My order of vegetarian eggs Benedict included poached eggs drizzled in hollandaise sauce perched on top of a thick slice of tomato, all of which was laid on an olive baguette and accentuated by basil oil. The difference in textures made each bite into an adventure — runny yolk wrapped in bouncy egg whites, as well as soft, juicy tomato, sunk into spongy bread and toasted crust. A salad of crunchy spinach and julienned carrots tossed with vinaigrette sat on the side of the dish, adding a light complement to the heavier eggs and bread.

The Butler and the Chef was a refreshing, rural take on brunch cuisine. When I was inside, I could almost pretend that I was not in San Francisco, but instead far out in the European countryside. The friendly and cozy atmosphere, along with the countryside undertones, warmed my rainy Sunday morning.


4001 Judah St, San Francisco, CA 94122 / (415) 661–6140

The house pastrami sandwich, with black garlic thousand island dressing, cabbage agrodolce, a fried egg, melty gruyere and a side of greens, is just one of Outerlands’s many brunch offerings. Photo by Lily Young

Although attempting to eat brunch at Outerlands may sound like a daunting task because of the infamous one to two hour wait, it is definitely worth the time. The restaurant’s amazing food and atmosphere overshadow the waiting time, and the relaxing waiting area also seeks to make the experience much more enjoyable than it could otherwise be. Customers waiting for a table are free to sit in the parklet next to the restaurant, which is sheathed in sunlight. On a particularly sunny Sunday morning, the wait is all the more delightful, with Ocean Beach’s waves crashing three blocks away and only the murmurs of fellow diners and the occasional roar of the N-MUNI nearby to be heard.

It was not until I took a few more bites that the ingenuity of the dish became evident.

Outerlands’ menu is deliciously creative, with popular items including the Dutch pancake and applewood smoked bacon. When my order of eggs-in-jail first arrived I was confused. All I could see was a thick piece of sourdough toast, topped with cubes of bright orange squash, fresh leeks, and minced sweet sausage. It was not until I took a few more bites that the ingenuity of the dish became evident. The eggs were trapped in a hole in the center of the toast, giving meaning to eggs in jail. When I cut through the middle of the toast, egg whites drizzled in olive oil escaped.

The design of the restaurant reflected the restaurant’s artful focus, but with touch of classiness here and there. The tasteful mismatch of French windows and rustic wooden tables was paired with iridescent murals on the wall, which provided an vibrant edge to the restaurant’s neutral color scheme of tan and pale blue. The faded Georgia font of its menu and the cute, ridged cup that the checks were delivered in, added to its elegant beachside theme. An intriguing mix of casual and sophisticated, Outerlands is the place to go to for brunch before and after a sunny weekend on the beach.

Red Door Cafe

1608 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94109 / (415) 441–1564

Body-less baby dolls exemplify Red Door Cafe’s eccentric vibe. Photo by Lily Young

Brunch at Red Door Cafe is definitely a memorable experience, but some aspects of the restaurant may not be suitable for everyone.

It was a gorgeous Sunday morning, with the sun shining and the breeze tranquil. However, rather than enjoying the nice weather, I was sitting in Red Door Cafe, trying to decide between inappropriately-named brunch items. One of such items sported a name referring to a married Texan man performing a certain provocative action, and consisted of scrambled eggs topped with salmon, onion, and tomatoes; another was named after a specific sexual deed, and was composed of French toast stuffed with chocolate and crushed almonds, and dusted with powdered sugar.

In the mood for something sweet, I went with the French toast. It arrived covered in a generous coat of maple syrup, which ensured that the powder stayed put on the French toast. Strawberries, blackberries and crushed almonds also accentuated the sweetness of the toppings and the melted chocolate inside the toast. A complimentary cocktail umbrella poked cheekily out of a strawberry to remind me that this was no ordinary restaurant.

It would be an understatement to say that Red Door Cafe is merely eccentric.

It would be an understatement to say that Red Door Cafe is merely eccentric. It is governed by its own laws — in fact, a big sign taped to the window informed potential diners of the house rules, from the restaurant’s refusal to make egg whites orders to its inability to accept parties of more than two. The sign also warned that any attempt to argue about the rules will be met with a response consisting of two expletives and a “nahhhh.”

While the restaurant’s obscure rules are cause for critics’ complaints on Yelp, one complaint that Red Door Cafe’s customers can never make is that the restaurant is boring. Heads of baby dolls lined the shelves above the tables and risqué messages decorated the walls, on which the owner had taped up artwork and thank you notes from previous diners alongside even raunchier signs encouraging diners to go green by having intimate relations with vegetarians.

It was no surprise that the owner himself was just as interesting of a character as the decor would suggest. The moment he brought me and my friend to a table, he dusted green glitter on our noses and cheeks and topped off the look with a glossy rainbow star sticker on each of our foreheads. He was also exceptionally kind and fun, first providing directions to nearby restaurants to a family with young children and later responding to my friend’s praise of the food with a simple “you’re delicious.”

Sweet Maple

2101 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94115 / (415) 655–9169

Sweet Maple’s “The Big Hip” — deep fried French toast with candied walnuts and “fired” bananas. Photo by Amber Ly

With bright lights, hardwood floors, stone sides and earthy-colored painted walls, Sweet Maple is a sophisticated lodge cabin that serves up a delicious brunch.

After a 25 minute wait outside on a bench in the calm Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood, my friend and I finally got seated at the mini-bar, where we had a perfect view of the television and could watch the staff make various brunch drinks. With a quick glance over the menu, I knew exactly what I wanted order: Sweet Maple’s famous Big Hip and Millionaire’s Bacon.

The Millionaire’s Bacon was completely different from the bacon that most people are typically accustomed to.

The Big Hip is a plate of deep fried French toast topped with fresh strawberries. I added “fired bananas,” which were lightly caramelized banana slices, and candied walnuts to complement my order. As expected, my order was delicious — especially with a little bit of syrup drizzled over it. The French toast itself was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the “fired bananas,” candied walnuts and strawberries matched perfectly with it.

The Millionaire’s Bacon was completely different from the bacon that most people are typically accustomed to. Decidedly not crispy, the bacon was thicker and chewier than usual bacon. One of defining characteristics of this special bacon was its uncommon combination of flavors, including sweetness from the brown sugar and maple syrup and heat from the various crushed peppers.

Looking back at this experience, I would definitely come back to taste Sweet Maple’s other menu items. All in all, Sweet Maple is definitely the place to go to satisfy your sweet-and-savory brunch appetite.

Originally published on March 28, 2015

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Brunch on a student budget? Here’s where to find it.