Magnolia Pub & Brewery has earned an enthusiastic following over the years from Upper and Lower Haight residents, who have found the restaurant a cozy place to sip a hoppy microbrew with friends. Combine the hip, vintage pharmacy atmosphere with a few comfort food dishes (think fried pig ears and house-made lamb sausages) and you've got the stuff of SF neighborhood dining dreams.
The brunch dishes (served Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) should come as no surprise to fans of the restaurant's dinner menu. Bacon Cornmeal Pancakes ($10) and Pork Belly & Grits ($11) have the warming, hearty quality the food is known for. Quinoa Hash with eggs ($12) is the noontime answer to dinner's vegetarian stuffed squash option, and while no brunch menu would be complete without french toast, theirs is topped with brandied strawberries ($12).
For these gray, foggy San Francisco summers, it all sounds pretty darn good. And a lot of it is.
The Savory Bread Pudding ($11), flavored with mild, melting cheese and dotted with bright herbs, satisfies completely. A few lightly dressed greens counter the richness, and two fried eggs with runny yolks create a perfect, simple sauce. The sourdough base of the French toast balances sweet maple syrup nicely, and somehow, strawberries' flavors stand out in a loaded dish.
Those menu items show the restaurant at its best, but others aren't quite as well-executed. The Chicken Gravy Breakfast Biscuit should be the ultimate indulgence, with fried chicken thigh, cheese and gravy filling the plate. But the chicken begs for a hit of cayenne, and somehow gravy -- the definition of savory goodness -- lacks punch. (And for comfort food, the plate itself feels a little small.) Similarly, the Quinoa Hash needs a hefty shake of the table's hot sauce to elicit any reactions.
Also, don't get your heart set on any one dish before you arrive, because by 11:30 they may be out of as many as three of them.
The bar's lazy, relaxed vibe may be perfect for afternoon beer sipping, but it makes a shaky transition to earlier hours. We're talking about weekend brunch in San Francisco, so waiting for a table is inevitable. Visitors arriving as early as 11 a.m. should come equipped with good conversation buddies and an empty calendar. Maybe then waiting 20 minutes for that first cup of coffee at the bar -- and another 20 to be seated at a table -- won't feel like a chore. If you wake up hungry, consider eating a banana before you leave home.
Once you are sitting in those over-stuffed leather booths, though, the place becomes charmingly intimate. No one will hurry you through your meal to seat the next group; friendly catch-ups could go on for ages over a bottle of Champagne. Just enjoy the company, order that savory bread pudding, and you won't mind the feel of the fog rolling in.