I accidently left my Chowguide at work (I know, I know, I should order a second copy for the glove compartment of my car!) so can't remember which 'hound it was (the Big Dog himself perhaps?) whose Chow advice was not to eat at places with crowds (since crowds only meant the crowds ate there...)...but in any case, it was spot on for hubby and me during a recent search for weekend breakfast...
We were headed down Third Street in Dogpatch/Potrero and were hungry. The original plan was to go to Mabel's Just for You on 22nd Street. Found parking a block away with no problem, but Just for You was packed, with a crowd sitting on the sidewalk waiting their turn to sit at tiny tables jammed into a small room (a few lucky folks had tables on the sidewalk: more breathing room, if one didn't count the hungry groups still waiting).
Waiting in line to eat breakfast is just not my idea of a good start to the morning. Then I remembered that there had been prior positive mentions of the breakfasts at Hard Knox Cafe, right around the corner on Third Street, near 22nd.
We walked over, and found an open door and a friendly smile from the server, who encouraged us to take any open table. Indeed, we had our pick of the wide, comfortable red booths lining one wall, as we were the only folks in the place! Hubby was apprehensive: (why is it empty if it is any good?), but felt better as soon as fresh squeezed oj was brought, along with very good and strong coffee (tasted like a Peets blend), served in large ceramic mugs. Soon, more folks wandered in, but the place never got full, we had lots of room to spread out the paper, and we never felt rushed by someone hungrily looking over our shoulder.
We weren't hungry for long. Hubby ordered a spinach and mushroom omelete, I got spinach, mushroom and bacon. Both had fresh sauteed mushrooms and fresh sauteed spinach, and the bacon was top quality. Hubby had his with hash browns, and as prior posts had mentioned, these were the real deal: crispy but not greasy, not a home fry in sight. These were indeed excellent hash browns. On a whim, I had grits instead: I am no grits expert, but I really liked these (in any case, what are grits but an excuse to eat salt, pepper and butter? :-)). Omelets also came with toast,served dry with lots of butter (and jam) on the side. We were full and very happy by the time we would have gotten a table around the corner.
Service at Hard Knox was top-notch: well-paced, friendly, accomodating, and the whole place has a very nice, comfortable vibe, right down to Leadbelly played on the house stereo at just the right volumne...
I'd like to try the beignets at JFY sometime, but will save it for a weekday. I'll also probably get around to trying the southern/soul food specialties served at Hard Knox for lunch and dinner, but in the meantime, I've just found a new favorite weekend breakfast spot! Hubby thinks I should keep it to myself so we never have to wait for a table, but those hash browns deserve more attention.
Hard Knox Cafe
2526 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94107