Just as we begin to tire of kitschy boulangeries and lackluster Italian coffee shops, a place like Rose's Café reminds us how cozy a true European-style cafe can be. Absent are the colorblocked Perrier posters and premade paninis, with simple bistro chairs, velvet booths and house-made pastries filling the space instead.
Primely situated on the corner of Union and Steiner streets, it's no surprise Rose's has become a favorite brunch spot for Marina residents -- but it's worth traveling across the city to experience the charm yourself. Huge windows with gold letters calling out "Wine Bar" and "Trattoria" invite customers inside, and though there's always a wait during brunch hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday), the sunny sidewalk and cheerful vibe make it easier to swallow.
Big mirrors and a long, casual bar make the most of a small space inside the cafe, and a window full of chocolate croissants and seasonal scones is enough to stop any passers-by in their tracks.
Lattes ($3.50) are served in bowls with generous amounts of creamy foam, aligning with the warm, decadent atmosphere. Purists will love the freshly squeezed orange juice ($4.25), thin and tart with pulp floating throughout.
The first item on the short brunch menu (they also serve lunch items during these hours) is an Assortment of House-Baked Goods ($7.75). If you come with two people or more, you should absolutely, hands-down make this a part of your order. "Pastries" at chain coffee shops don't even do justice to the category once you taste the baked goods at Rose's, which are made fresh every single morning. The chocolate croissant is unbelievably flaky, with a gooey dark chocolate center that will have you fighting for the last bite.
The brunch dishes feature your standard eggs, vegetables and sausage, but with Italian flair. The Soft Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Prosciutto ($9.50) are served on a thick, toasted slab of sourdough, with plenty of cream whipped into the eggs for a deliciously fluffy texture.
Rose's version of a breakfast sandwich -- Fried Organic Egg, Heirloom Tomatoes, Spinach & Asiago Cheese on Ciabatta ($11) -- packs a flavor punch without weighing you down, thanks to the soft, chewy ciabatta roll baked in house. Lightly dressed greens on the side maintain a farm-fresh feel.
We're spoiled in San Francisco, and the cynical among us will say you can find a seasonal, artisanal brunch on almost every corner. What sets Rose's Café apart -- besides the lovely feel of the restaurant itself -- are those homemade breads and pastries. Even if brunch isn't your thing, do your coworkers and yourself a favor by picking up a mixed box of baked goods on the way to work. You'll never buy a Starbucks croissant again.Olivia Ware works for Williams-Sonoma, where she contributes to the company blog, The Blender. She also writes a personal food blog at LivBites.com.