- A recent report by data analytics firm Stacker ranked San Francisco’s Plow restaurant as California’s most popular breakfast spot.
- Plow has been in the city’s Potrero Hill neighbourhood for nine years and is famous for its long wait lines, as are many brunch spots.
- I ate at Plow on a Saturday morning and found it to be overhyped.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Perhaps one of the most enduring trends of modern-day America is the weekend institution that is brunch.
The definition of brunch, according to Merriam-Webster, is: A meal usually taken late in the morning that combines a late breakfast and an early lunch. What we, as a society, have translated that into is an excuse to shell out at least $US20 for mediocre eggs and bottomless mimosas at 11:30 in the morning.
While the brunch concept is pervasive in the US, the first meal of the day can look very different across the country. Data-analytics platform Stacker sourced data from Foursquare to find the most popular breakfast spot in each US state. Foursquare ranks the most popular restaurants based on customer check-ins, ratings, category matches, tips, and photo trends. So, based on that criterion, California’s most popular breakfast restaurant is in San Francisco.
Plow has been around for nine years, a waitress told me when I visited recently. It’s located in the city’s Potrero Hill neighbourhood, a part of town known for its sunny, family-oriented atmosphere and suburban-like feel.
The city has no shortage of brunch destinations that have brunch-goers waiting an hour or two to enter, and Plow is one of them. It’s been visited by U2’s Bono and NBA superstar Andre Iguodala, according to the restaurant’s Instagram account. The eatery has 2,589 reviews on review site Yelp. Some are positive – a February 3 review calls Plow a “delicious brunch in San Francisco!”
Others are mixed or negative, with almost every one noting the long wait time. One review reads “This is your classic hype (a bit over hyped) American brunch restaurant, prepare to wait in line!” Another review from January 19 declares her Plow experience was “an ordinary breakfast for an extraordinary wait.”
That’s basically Plow in a nutshell.
I awoke at 8 am on a Saturday morning to trek across the city by Uber to beat the bulk of the Saturday brunch crowd and give Plow a try for myself. Here’s what happened.
A friend and I got to Plow at 9:20 am on a Saturday morning.
There were already people waiting to be seated outside. Most looked like locals, some seemed like they could have been tourists.
Potrero Hill is a neighbourhood about 20 minutes south of the city centre. You can see the high-rise office buildings from the intersection in front of the restaurant.
The hostess said it would be about 40-45 minutes before we would be seated, which was a substantially shorter time than I was bracing myself for.
We put our name on the list and went a couple of doors down to Farley’s, a coffee shop, for some caffeine before quickly returning to the outside of the restaurant. I didn’t want to lose our spot.
To our surprise, my name was called just after about 30 minutes. We were seated in the very back of the restaurant. The space was decorated in a fairly straightforward fashion, considering other trendy places around the city.
And the management did not waste any space – the tables are wedged so closely together. I got up twice to go to the bathroom and couldn’t help but bump into our neighbour’s table in the process.
But that’s a common feat in San Francisco across the board, from restaurants to offices to housing. We’re all living on top of each other.
The menu was dated, so there was perhaps a rotating order of menu items.
The ones that stuck out were the $US26 Dungeness crab scramble (which our waitress immediately said they had run out of already,) a $US23 cold-smoked salmon toast, the prosciutto and gruyere toast, and the cured french toast that came with ginger poached pears.
Our waitress said the restaurant is known for The Plow breakfast plate. It comes with two eggs cooked however you like, two lemon ricotta pancakes, plow potatoes, and your choice of Nueske’s bacon or house-made pork or chicken apple sausage. We ordered two.
We also ordered a couple of glasses of Brut priced at $US9 each. With each Plow platter priced at $US19, that meant our total sat at $US60. A high price tag, but one that isn’t shocking in San Francisco.
High living costs are felt by everyone, including restaurant owners. Rising food costs have forced restauranteurs to price food higher than usual in the past couple of decades, as The San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2016. Those costs are going to be even higher if a restaurant sources locally which, according to the Plow menu, the restaurant does. And although an increase in labour wages is a good feat, they, too, also result in increased restaurant menu prices.
Other factors include increases in city and state permit costs, garbage costs, and linen prices, according to the Chronicle.
So our meal may have seemed annoyingly expensive, and maybe it was, but that’s not the restaurant’s fault necessarily more than it is anyone else’s.
Our Brut pours were large, which we appreciated. We weren’t sipping them for long before our food was brought out to us.
So far we had gotten lucky. Yelp reviews recount horror stories of two-plus hour wait times before waiting another 45 minutes while seated before food is served. We, fortunately, didn’t have to deal with that.
It was immediately evident that the stars of the show were undoubtedly the lemon ricotta pancakes.
They were lemony, sweet, fluffy, and warm.
To my initial horror, a strikingly small amount of syrup came in a tin cup. But given the size of the pancakes, it was actually the perfect amount.
The only bad part about the lemon ricotta pancakes was their size: they were small, which meant they were gone after just a few bites. Womp womp.
The bacon was good. The pork sausage was ok. The homemade hot sauce was adequate. The rosemary potatoes were yummy.
The eggs, for their part, were pretty sad. We devoured our pancakes, and things were downhill from there basically. The mediocrity was apparent, though not unexpected. Overhyped brunch spots are common in San Francisco and elsewhere.
However, we didn’t endure ridiculously long wait lines of any kind, which isn’t the typical Plow experience based on Yelp reviews and what I’ve heard from others who’ve eaten there. Though we did go earlier than the typical brunch crowd. And the Brut pours were generous, another plus. But the main event of the visit, the food, was what should have been the biggest highlight.
I was missing my favourite no-frills neighbourhood breakfast spot right about then, one that serves you buttermilk pancakes the size of your face, meat, and eggs for a total of $US12.
I decided that if I ever went back to Plow that I would go full-on carb mode and simply order the $US16.75 stack of delicious lemon ricotta pancakes, protein be damned.
If you decide to go to Plow, I suggest you do the same.
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