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Combative Brunching

I never thought I'd have to wake up early and fight hordes of people just to get breakfast except for dim sum -- though this has apparently extended to Jewish sandwiches. I have never won that early morning dim sum fight in San Francisco. But I hardly ever win the waking up early race. Went to Wise Sons for our Friday sandwich dinner, got there about half an hour before closing time, actually right before they put out the Closed sign from having run out of most dishes. I was able to score Seth a corned beef sandwich, and myself a club sandwich -- both being made on rye and served with coleslaw because they were all out of other breads, potato salad, fries and chopped liver. If their first three opening days are anything to go by, these guys will be happy in the Mission for a long time. Seriously, running out of chopped liver? I had no idea this was a popular food item.

Both sandwiches were really good, but did get a little soggier than they otherwise would quicker from the thinner rye bread. Being that all the meat (and pickles) are house-cured, it was nicely undersalted. My club came with turkey, crispy pastrami and avocado. Savory, deliciously fried and creamy layers. The coleslaw was excellent, shredded fine, not at all vinegary, but mildly soured and rich. I find thick sliced coleslaw a little threatening to be honest, even though I can see the practicality of not shredding your cabbage to minutely obsessive proportions. This was nice, and easy to pick up with a fork.

We tried to head back there for brunch on Saturday, got there slightly before 10AM, and the line was winding around the block. They have a bakery as well, so sure, people could've been lining up for bread, but we weren't interested in combative brunching. Opting instead for the far slower-paced and quiet Napper Tandy down the road, he had a pleasant sweet pepper and corned beef hash with poached egg on top, and I had their chicken fried steak with poached eggs. The chicken fried steak was delicious, possibly one of the best I'd had in years. Thin, tasty beef patty lightly crumbed with a delectable hollandaise sauce. We decided we'd try for Wise Sons the next day, even though at around 11-ish, when we walked home from Napper Tandy, the lines had hit a lull, meaning it was just about hitting their doorway, and they still looked suspiciously popular.

Sunday morning, I wake up at 9:30, because I depend on poor sunlight and hungry or bored cats to rouse me from slumber. We head to Wise Sons, find the line hitting the doorway, again, and decide to stay in line, eyeballing their tables for people about to leave. They don't have much seating, and we're largely dependent on the kindness of people buying bread or takeout. Luckily, about three tables clear by our turn, so Seth gets their house-cured salmon scramble with bialy, and I opted for their challah French toast and chopped liver and a chocolate egg cream. I have never had challah or a chocolate egg cream, and was deeply curious about chopped liver. Jewish food is unheard of in Malaysia, so everything on their menu was new and peculiar. As for egg creams, I only ever got to try malt shakes when I first moved here three years ago. Malt shakes are from my mother's generation. The guy behind the counter wanted more chocolate in my egg cream, which was sweet. The server making my drink then took the first try back because it didn't turn out right. When my drink came to the table, Seth tried it and declared that it tasted like his childhood. I liked it. Chocolate milk with a tinge of soda. I wonder why it doesn't show up more often elsewhere. The chopped liver and scrambled eggs turned up at the same time. Seth's bialy looked delicious, but the portions were pretty small for the price. By comparison, my chopped liver came with four thin crusts of rye and a mini pate mountain sprinkled with hard boiled egg and something crispy. I most merrily ate each thin of rye with about an inch thick of pate on top because I could. It also came with nicely pickled onions, which I'm sure would have been great to offset the fatty liver, but I am greedy. Thought about getting another egg cream, but the line was still heading around the block while we ate. The French toast actually took susprisingly long to get there, about when we were nearly done with our food. This was just as well, since the chopped liver plate was more substantial that I expected, and I was the only person eating a starter plate for two. The spouse is not into liver. Compared to his scrambled eggs though, the French toast was about two times bigger in every way, slathered all over in orange butter and maple syrup. It was amazingly good, the bread soft, sweet and very heavy, so it was another good thing that Seth was willing to help demolish it. The last bites were taken somewhat hastily. By that point, a large party hung out next to our table and asked us if we were leaving. Again, there's not much room in that place.

I'm probably never going to Wise Sons for brunch again unless there's a good reason to. In all honesty, their brunch food is good, but the small portion Seth got wasn't terribly encouraging. The bigger portions I had, in comparison, came from their normal specialty menu, which is available all week. I'd much rather go in for a weekday brunch, which has a different menu, and get small plates off their specialties, bypassing the crowd, or even late lunch. More than that, the huge lines and constant crowds makes the place a pretty noisy room with high ceilings to eat in. We were glad to have tried it once, but maybe not again until we can find quieter times. There's also a great deal of other places offering brunch in the Mission -- which I think are worth noting. Some places, Boogaloos and St Francis, I might never understand the crowding at. Others, like Nombe, usually very quiet at weekend brunch, deserve more people. Me, I'm still waiting for decent dim sum to show up somewhere close. Proper roast duck shop with giant bowls of skinny noodles. Then I'd fight a few lines. At least, in theory. I need my sleep, and my beige lady-in-waiting needs feet to warm. But if the egg custard tart is good enough...


Feb. 21st, 2012 08:36 am (UTC)
Back home in Malaysia, there is a kind of thick, white bread that is served with local egg and coconut jam. Challah reminds me of this bread. It's really a very lovely thing.