Town's End Restaurant & Bakery
, as its name suggests, is tucked into a corner just off the Embarcadero steps away from the San Francisco Bay. It makes for good people watching, as the city's lively inhabitants pour into AT&T Park, cars zoom over the Bay Bridge and you play tourist for a day, soaking up a bit of SOMA sun. (However, contrary to what its name suggests, Town's End isn't actually located on Townsend Street. The entrance is on King Street. We have just saved you significant time and confusion.)
Even on a game day wait times are reasonable, and the staff will take reservations, making this an inviting place to stop and sit down for brunch (Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.). Once you do sit in the large, bright space, you'll be greeted immediately with a basket of complimentary fresh-baked pastries, still warm. Brunch is a meal people tend to go into voraciously hungry. We weigh the arguable merits of eating a small snack upon waking up, thus risking overdoing it, and holding out until 11:30, when hungry becomes hangry. As a result, this small gesture has enormous consequences. The scones in particular are surprisingly fluffy and not cloyingly sweet.
Coffee, espresso, mimosas and all the other classic brunch beverages make appearances on the menu, too. There are no fancy French presses, just warm mugs and a bit of cream, kind of like you would drink at home. But you can expect a dash of cocoa powder on top of your cappuccino foam for good measure.
When it comes time to order, you have options. Lots of them. Breakfast combos, pancakes, Benedicts, salads, sandwiches, eggs-with-smoked-salmon specials -- three pages of dishes hearken back to diner-style breakfasts. The menu offers most brunch staples you may be craving, and several more you wouldn't have thought of but also sound appealing, though the ingredients often repeat themselves from dish to dish. The middle page, an insert in the menu, is updated regularly; the date is printed at the top to prove it.
Most dishes are exactly as they are described and live up to expectations. The Spinach, Tomato & Mushroom Omelette ($9.25) is an option for veggie-lovers, but you can also add applewood-smoked turkey, a slightly smoky, deli-like meat that pops up in descriptions throughout the menu. It makes a nice alternative to ham without sacrificing flavor, if you're not opposed to the texture. (As we all know, there is no worthy alternative to bacon.) Most of the vegetables are organic, as are the cage-free eggs from Petaluma Farms.
The Cobb Scramble ($10.75) creates a twist on the standard salad, with both turkey and bacon, tomatoes, green onions, avocado and Swiss cheese. Again, there is nothing revelatory about a scramble, but this one is well-seasoned and fresh tasting. Towns End's portions leave you satisfied but not stuffed, even more so if you opt for a cup of fresh fruit over potatoes or grilled polenta. You can feel okay about diving into that pastry basket first thing.
For a mix of sweet and savory, try the Mary's Special ($10.75): a mushroom, green onion, garlic, and cheddar scramble with two Swedish oatmeal pancakes on the side. Those pancakes may be the only dish you're still talking about after you leave Town's End. With oatmeal, pears, and sliced almonds incorporated into the batter, they are moist, sweet (but not boringly so) and pleasantly textural, thanks to chunks of nuts, grains and pears.
Town's End is a fine place to take your parents next time they come to town, after you sample from the Ferry Building farmers' market but before you hit up Union Square. The staff is friendly, the food is unfussy, and there's something for everyone. Even the person looking for an excuse to sip coffee while watching the ships come in on a sunny morning.
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