Late last year, Taco Bell announced the introduction of an all-new breakfast menu, whose arrival made national headlines faster than you could say "indigestion." Perhaps it was the audacity of a waffle-wrapped taco that stoked people's imagination (or horror). But the chain actually portended a growing trend in contemporary dining, in which gourmands are increasingly turning to foreign flavors earlier in the day -- namely, at brunch. Bay Area dining, as usual, has been well ahead of the curve, long offering all manner of unconventional, ethnic brunch options.
In the Castro, schools of locals have been swimming to Barracuda Japanese Restaurant (2251 Market) for its famous brunch specials. With its Asian take on popular American comfort classics, diners can enjoy dishes such as sweet potato waffles topped with chicken katsu or green tea crepes served with ginger-pear marmalade. Sashimi at 11:30 a.m.? If it works in Tokyo, why not here? Of course, there's no better way to wash down raw fish before noon than with the tentpole of any great brunch outing: bottomless mimosas.
For an even more adventurous take on Asian brunch, head over to Nombe (2491 Mission) in the Mission. The home of the famous ramen burger is no stranger to funky food fusion, including savory Kurobota pork belly pancakes. Served with eggs, cabbage and bonito flakes, they're your ultimate infusion of mid-day umami.
Do you ever wake up in the morning with an insatiable hankering for South American cuisine? Me neither...until I explored the brunch menu at La Mar (Pier 1.5) on the Embarcadero. Here, a cornucopia of salty, unctuous small plates await, like a dish of Peruvian potato, Dungeness crab, avocado purée, and qual egg that marries Mestizo cooking with the staple of San Francisco seafood. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the options, but fret not; there's always next weekend.