Curbside Cafe is a place for regulars. Located in the heart of chichi Pacific Heights, just half a block off of Fillmore, it has no reason to be intimate. Crowds of enthusiastic brunch-seekers fill the nearby sidewalks on weekend mornings. But there is something different about this place, where an elderly man sits alone, drinking coffee and ordering eggs benedict as if he's been enjoying the same routine for 20 years.
With its self-described French-American style, the cafe does have a timeless quality. Antiques are placed on shelves near the ceiling, and the tiny restaurant houses only about a dozen tables. Still, there is nothing too precious or kitschy about the restaurant's Frenchness, unless you count the owner, Olivier Perrier, who is also the server and greeter (accent included).
Similarly, there are no surprises on the French- and California-inspired menu. Brunch entrées kick off with a list of benedicts, from the classic version with ham to a vegetarian one starring avocado. Next is a comprehensive list of omelets, offered in a variety of styles -- chicken and sundried tomatoes, or black bean, salsa, and cheddar, to name a couple. In a tribute to Western cuisine, some "South of the Border" options round out the menu, along with a house specialty: bourbon-baked French toast ($9). If you have a sweet tooth, waiters say it's not to be missed.
All of the benedicts look good, but the crab ($14) stands out. The kitchen doesn't skimp on the fresh crab meat, which is sweet and tender and overflowing around the edges of the English muffin. The hollandaise is buttery but still light, and the dish comes with a side of cottage fries -- just your regular roasted potatoes, not too herbal, crispy or salty. (That's the French coming out, not the American.)
The smoked salmon omelet ($14) also comes recommended, complemented by the flavors of ricotta, green onions, and capers. The salmon is flaky, served in the hot smoked style (as opposed to lox), and the ricotta tastes sweet and creamy. The eggs themselves are unremarkable, underseasoned to the California palate, and the capers a bit briny -- but the fillings make up for other shortcomings.
And of course, there are cocktails. The bloody mary ($7) is also not too salty, but in a good way, and it's served with a generous pinch of red pepper flakes, which provide more seasoning than spice. Try the bellini ($6), refreshingly crisp with just a hint of fruit, instead of the usual syrupy sweetness.
Come back in a few months, and you will likely find that the menu hasn't changed too much, if at all. The dishes do not rotate with the seasons, welcoming asparagus and sweet corn with open arms. But just as in a true French bistro, you can count on a taste of the familiar, of something classic and consistently crave-worthy. And if you ever want to shake things up, you can always order south of the border.
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