Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekend Brunch at Magnolia Pub and Brewery

Modern Take on Brunch in Nostalgic Settings
1398 Haight St. (at Masonic), San Francisco
Haight-Ashbury neighborhood
PH: 415.864.7468
Open Mon.–Thu., noon–midnight; Fri., noon–1 a.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.–1 a.m.; and Sun., 10 a.m.–midnight (brunch 10 a.m.–2:30 p.m.)
No reservations, major credit cards accepted

When I first visited San Francisco more than 20 years ago, I remember going with some friends to check out the psychedelic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and waiting amongst the crowd for some Sunday brunch at the Magnolia Pub and Brewery.

Over the years, Magnolia maintained its popularity for brunch, with diners sitting along sidewalk tables at the longtime pub’s prominent spot right at the corner of Haight and Masonic. I recently returned with my friend Sylvia, who was visiting from New York.

Despite having undergone a renovation a couple of years ago, Magnolia still oozes with history — from the stained glass address sign at the entrance to the slightly tattered bar area along the back.

The layout definitely isn’t the same as I remembered, which back then was simply just a big open space with tables squeezed together. Now there’s a high communal table near the entrance and comfy booths in the center. But what’s cool about this new look is that it maintains the old vibe, with a lot of antique-like objects from the hand faucets in the wash rooms to the tiny Jerry Garcia photo in the far corner.

Magnolia brews their own ales, so I skipped my brunch standby bloody Mary (they don’t serve them anyway) and got myself a Spud Boy’s IPA.

What I recall of Magnolia’s brunch was the typical offerings of omelets and home fries, pancakes and burgers. Today’s brunch menu, put together by new Executive Chef Matthew Kerley, has a more sophisticated take on breakfast with the California spin of sustainable ingredients.

The brunch offerings only number about seven or eight items, and about the same amount for the lunch menu (mostly sandwiches and burgers). Sylvia ended up getting the Crispy Pork Belly ($11) served with cheddar grits and poached eggs and topped off with a few fried shallots.

It was Sylvia’s first time eating pork belly (I reminded her that she lives in the city that’s known for Momofuku’s pork belly buns), and while she liked the taste, she wasn’t all that thrilled about the fatty portions that come with the pork belly cubes.

I thought I’d try the Hang Town Fry ($13), because it was made with hama hama oysters. The plump oysters were at the center of the hang town fry, made with three eggs, ham and tomatoes and topped with some greens and blue cheese crumbles. The overall flavors were nice — and I’m a big oyster lover — but the egg portion was soggy because of the oyster juice.

Still, despite the minor flaws in preparations, I thought the menu was intriguing and wouldn’t mind coming back to try some other items. The service was friendly and welcoming, and the overall vibe of the place was like being wrapped by a warm hippie blanket. This institution remains a classic.

Since I just visited for brunch, I’m not giving my usual Single Guy ratings. But it’s a place worth checking out for its food and historic settings.

Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery on Urbanspoon

More brunch spots:
Bette's Oceanview Diner: "Crazy for Counter Food in Berkeley"
Foreign Cinema: “Now Playing an Innovative Brunch Menu”
La Note: “A Touch of Provence in Berkeley”


Hungry Dog said...

Mmm, Magnolia. This place is just down the hill from me, we go for dinner every so often. Never been fo brunch though. I'll have to check it out. Hello, pork belly?

foodhoe said...

I've sampled their beers, but never the food. Sylvias dish looked beautiful and I've still never tried a hangtown fry yet! I got a vague recommendation about this place a while back, Mr. K would love it.