Breakfast, we’re told, is the most important meal of the day. And nowhere does that saying ring truer than in San Francisco. So whether you’re faking a sick day, catching up with a friend who’s in town, or just looking for something quick to eat before starting a Wednesday morning, use this guide. Here are the best early-morning spots serving great food all across the city. Looking for our brunch guide? Head here.
photo credit: Erin Ng
Automat is extremely versatile, like Meryl Streep's range of facial expressions. The all-day cafe/bakery and restaurant in NoPa is ideal for everything from quick baguette runs to casual dinners with unfussy salads, sweet potato pavé, and porkchops. Our method of choice is to head here mid-morning, and post up with an espresso drink and a super simple yet decadent breakfast sandwich with sausage, egg, pimento cheese, and buttery bread that crackles loudly when you bite into it. Automat's other morning offerings (and other reasons to get here) include an extremely fluffy horchata donut, a maple-y brick toast, and pastries like cinnamon rolls.
photo credit: Sarah Felker
There's always something new to try at Breadbelly, the bakery and cafe in the Richmond with Asian-inspired pastries and sandwiches that change frequently. Sweet and savory pastries will call out to you, like the soft milk bun exploding with silky coconut pandan cream, and a macadamia nut croissant tart with caramelized edges. You can choose anything here and never go wrong. One non-negotiable is the kaya toast—a slice of milk bread with a squiggle of green coconut pandan jam finished with sea salt flakes.
The New York-style fried egg sandwiches from this counter-service spot in the Mission are what dreams are made of—if those dreams included the BEC. The hand-held concoction comes with American cheese, bacon, and a fried egg on a poppy seed roll. Words that come to mind: gooey, incredible, order this. The other eight fried egg sandwiches on the menu are also worthwhile, like the one with hash browns and smoked bacon on a toasted French roll.
photo credit: Erin Ng
Pineapple King Bakery
Whenever we have a free morning, our first instinct is to spend it working our way through a box of treats from this Chinese bakery in the Sunset. As you might guess from the name, Pineapple King specializes in pineapple buns, and theirs have perfectly crackly toppings and a variety of fillings. We never leave without the ones with gooey mango custard and slabs of guava butter—or a hot dog bun swaddled in stretchy, golden-brown milk bread.
Kate’s serves hearty diner food in the Lower Haight. And while we have no idea why they named their dishes things like the Flanched Flarney Garney or the French Toast Orgy, we do know it all translates to "damn good breakfast." The Flanched Flarney Garney is a breakfast sandwich served with a side of home fries and delicious homemade sausage patties that’s deceptively simple despite the wacky name. The Mindy’s Hash Browns—a huge serving of hash browns wrapped around scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese—is large enough to compromise the suspension in your car. And their cornmeal buttermilk pancakes are impossibly fluffy without losing their cornmeal texture.
If you’re not at Plow when they open (7am on weekdays and 8am on weekends), you’ll be waiting in line for a while. But the line is worth waiting in if you’ve got time because this is one of the best breakfasts in town. The menu is breakfast classics, so think of things that come with sides of maple syrup, bacon, and potatoes. Go for the Plow Plate, which includes two eggs, their amazing lemon ricotta pancakes, breakfast potatoes, and a required nap afterward.
Kantine is a Scandinavian-style cafe on Market Street that makes cinnamon knots, porridges, soups, and sandwiches. This place is well-lit and airy, and will probably make you want to pull up a chair, grab a latte, and completely ignore everything else you have going on today—or, at least, finally start the novel that’s been sitting on your nightstand for months. However long you end up staying at this casual spot, don't pass on the excellent smørrebrød (open-faced sandwich). Each one is layered with things like curried herring with apples and capers, and smoked chicken salad with crispy chicken skin on top
photo credit: Daily Driver
Daily Driver in the Dogpatch is one of our favorite places to grab a seat and mentally plan the rest of our morning. This bagel spot is huge, with two levels and tons of seating, which makes it easy to enjoy a cup of coffee and one of their crusty, wood-fired bagels—they're some of the best in the city. Get them with their housemade gravlax.
photo credit: Susie Lacocque
Cinderella Bakery & Café
Cinderella Bakery has popular Russian and Polish breakfast items like french toast and egg plates, but you're here for the syrniki—sweet, dense cheese pancakes that are fried and crispy on the outside. If you're more in the mood for savory, potato vareniki dumplings all the way. And on nice mornings, the sidewalk patio is a good place to relax—if you can find a seat. This place pulls a crowd.
The inside of Just For You is covered with everything from old advertisements to vintage band posters to a marlin hanging behind the counter, all of which add to the eclectic, cozy feel of this spot. The menu here has a lot of New Orleans-inspired things on it, like chicory coffee and beignets, as well as standard breakfast items like egg plates and omelets—get the one with carnitas.
photo credit: Remy Galvan-Hale
Devil's Teeth Baking Company
One thing that is guaranteed to make us throw off the covers and jump out of bed: The Special Breakfast sandwich from Devil’s Teeth. It comes on a biscuit, it’s beautiful, it’s topped with softly scrambled eggs and a solid amount of avocado mashed on top. But don’t take our word for it, and just get to this Outer Sunset spot. There's also a second location in the Richmond.
Let’s get one thing straight—this casual Nob Hill spot makes some incredibly good pancakes. And we’ll wait in line here any time for the lemon ricotta version, but if you want something more than just fluffy, morning cake discs, go for the crab Benedict or the chilaquiles verde.
There are several reasons why this tiny takeout-only bakery in Chinatown always has a line out the door—there is limited standing room, and most of the grab-and-go dim sum options are excellent, from char siu bao to turnip cakes to sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf. Everything here is takeout only (there are no seats), but Portsmouth Square is just a few blocks away.
The Mission bakery makes one incredible biscuit sandwich. Full stop. And the best part about them is you can customize everything from the cheese to proteins to spreads, right down to the warm and flaky biscuit itself (buttermilk, cheddar bacon, or dill swiss). This spot is also quick, and has other amazing morning options like pastries and quiches.
The French bistro in Cole Valley is a brunch staple thanks to their absurdly good french toast, “miracle” pancakes, and range of benedicts and scrambles. And since you’re grabbing brunch on a weekday, you’ll most likely miss the big weekend brunch crowds (they start serving at 8am). But even still, sign up online to get on their waitlist just in case (this spot doesn’t take reservations).
We love Tartine Bakery for pretty much everything, but if you’re looking for more of a sit-down breakfast spot, Tartine Manufactory has it beat. The space here is way larger, so even on a crowded morning, it’s much easier to get a table (reservations are available). On top of that, it feels like you’re having coffee inside of an editorial spread in an architecture magazine with its high ceilings, open kitchen, and creative wine glass pergola next to the giant windows. The menu here is much larger, too, with things like coddled eggs with za’atar and grilled bread, along with all of the pastries you could want.
Pizza for breakfast is generally a glorious thing, and in the case of Rose’s Cafe, a thin-crust pie is an occasion worth getting out of bed for. The salmon version with a cracker crust, lox, scrambled eggs, and crème fraîche is enough for two to split, and if you want something else, go with the granola. There might be a wait at this all-day Union Street bistro, but for food this solid, you won’t mind.
Duboce Park Cafe
This low-key corner cafe across from Duboce Park is one of the most chill breakfast/lunch spots around. They have tons of outdoor tables, open windows, and bar seating. And the scrambles and breakfast sandwiches are straightforward and tasty. In other words, this place gets the job done.
Jane on Fillmore
We would get roped into a timeshare at Jane On Fillmore if it were an option, that’s how much we like this place. Getting here early is a good idea because otherwise finding an open table can sometimes feel like being stuck in the middle of a half-off Black Friday sale. You’ll need something to go with your coffee, and that’s where the avocado toast, the egg sandwich, the granola, or any of the pastries come in. Also, just because it’s morning doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a cookie from the case.
Our perfect morning always includes laying around in the sun with our wandering neighborhood cat before heading to The Mill for a light breakfast and coffee. And if you’ve got a full day ahead of you, there’s no better place to fuel up. The NoPa bakery makes incredible housemade bread, which they also serve in toast form, topped with things like avocado, cream cheese and pesto, or seasonal jam. It’s all fantastic, and even better with an espresso drink to wash it down.
Taqueria El Buen Sabor
You may not know Taqueria El Buen Sabor as a breakfast spot, so allow us to change that and kindly urge you not to sleep on their breakfast burrito. The chorizo and egg version is enough to fill anyone up for a long while, and after you’ve spent the day walking around the city, it’s good enough to make you want to come back and eat breakfast for dinner.
The Richmond spot is always mobbed on the weekends, so we like coming to this cafe for a cup of coffee and panko-crusted chicken and waffles on a weekday (when the lines are shorter). If you’re in the mood for eggs, the Mexican scramble comes with black beans, pico de gallo, and tortilla chips, and will keep you full well after lunch.
This place has two locations—one in the Haight and one in the Mission. We’re partial to the original Haight version, but you can’t go wrong with either. Pork Store Café is all about old-school, hearty diner food, with excellent eggs benedicts and Bloody Marys. Always get a biscuit on the side.
Craftsman and Wolves
It can be tough justifying going somewhere for one and only one thing, but even if this Mission bakery only served their Rebel Within muffin, we’d still tell you to go there. It’s a savory muffin with a soft-cooked egg hidden inside for you to find like the $20 you left in your coat last year, except this is better. If eggs aren’t your thing, go for anything else from the pastry case, especially the standout kouign-amann.