I didn’t set out on this venture necessarily looking to have a full, sit-down brunch. In fact, it was coffee that drew us to this place called Dolce Amore on the cusp of Lower Pac Heights and Lower Nob Hill on this particular morning. We had pulled up Foursquare in search of a new or interesting place to get a quality cup and this cute cafe serving Illy was calling our name.
Upon arriving at this cafe, we realized that this place was a lot more unique than we had expected – it was also so much more than just a basic coffee shop. As soon as we entered, we spotted the enormous glass case in front loaded with fancy-looking pastries. But, all around us, the space was overflowing with bizarre and interesting art, sculpture, and hand-made jewelry that was all on display and for sale. The place definitely had a swanky vibe along with a bold personality and style completely unique to itself. But, we still were not sure if we were planning to stay for just a cup of coffee or a whole lot more. A simple glance at other diners’ plates easily swayed us to go for a full-blown sit-down meal – those plates looked too good to resist.
This odd shop is actually only open during brunch and lunch hours and considers itself a cafe, bakery, pastry shop, jewelry store, and art gallery all rolled into one. The moment you step foot inside, you’ll undoubtedly realize how completely strange and interesting this mash-up is. We were seated at the sunny, front window bar counter overlooking busy Van Ness. But, this bar top that we would be dining at wasn’t exactly a table or even a bar for that matter. The glass surface beneath our placemats was a fully functioning jewelry case loaded with pieces of handmade artisan jewelry all on display and for sale. At this cafe, we were about to eat a meal on top of a jewelry case – and it was not going to get us dragged out in cuffs.
Beyond the already fully apparent strangeness of the cafe, as we looked around we noticed one other particularly peculiar thing going on at one of the other tables. Two ladies were putting on a formal sales pitch and tech demo to a pair of suit-wearing men and these men were testing out virtual reality headsets right at their table. Only in San Francisco, folks.
Anyway, now that we had decided to have brunch, we looked over the menu. It was a surprisingly long and extensive listing and even had an entire page dedicated solely to beverages. They offered over ten coffee variations and just as many varieties of tea. But, dwarfing those options was the almost half-page section designated to the many made-fresh smoothies they’re able to whip up and I just couldn’t resist giving one a shot.
I asked my waiter for a recommendation from the many offerings and he suggested that I should get the Pomegranate Blueberry Smoothie variety. This thick drink was made by taking strawberries, blueberries, and banana slices and blending them with orange juice and pomegranate juice until smooth. What arrived was a dense, thick, cold, and quite refreshing beverage perfect to enjoy on a sunny morning like this. The $7.95 price tag may have initially seemed high for the drink, but fortunately, the quality, flavors, and portion made this quite a good deal.
In Amy’s attempt to avoid all of the incredibly decadent and delicious sounding carb-loaded options like the waiter-recommended Signature French Toast, Caramel Sea Salt Waffle, and Soufflé Pancakes, she ended up order the very on-trend Açaí Energy Bowl.
Neither of us had ever had an açaí bowl before and didn’t really know what this dish would consist of. We were both envisioning a bowl of fruit or parfait or something of the sort. But, it actually ended up being a kind of ice-cold, frozen Açaí gelato-like substance that came topped with sliced fresh bananas, seasonal berries, and gluten free granola.
Yup, Amy ate a martini glass full of gelato for breakfast! And it was delicious and supposedly healthy to boot. It wasn’t overly sweet, and it certainly didn’t taste like health-food despite the trendy ingredient’s reputation as an antioxidant-loaded super-fruit. This was really quite tasty and even felt a little bit sinful to eat as an entire meal.
For my meal, I didn’t hold back at all. I went all in on their Baked Eggs Benedict which consisted of egg baked over house-made puff pastry served with an incredibly pretty array of greens, melted cheese, and sliced hot link sausage. The attractive assortment was all covered in a tasty, house “special sauce”. This dish was really impressive looking, but it’s beauty was overshadowed only by its utter deliciousness.
The massive portion of sliced sausage was spectacular and it infused this dish with such an incredibly bold, in-your-face savoriness. The baked eggs were light and fluffy with golden yellow yolks just begging to be poked and smeared around the dish. Each baked egg also included its own conjoined flaky puff pastry plate that added a buttery richness to every bite. And on top of it all was that bright, citrusy dressing that tied all of the bold, competing elements together. This was a very impressive brunch dish – one that I look forward to experiencing again.
So, I was taken by complete surprise with this truly, impressive brunch meal. I walked over to Dolce Amore planning only to grab a quick coffee, but found myself uncontrollably drawn inside their unique bizarre cross-over shop to sample their absolutely beautiful looking dishes. It wasn’t exactly cheap, but I wasn’t disappointed by a single thing I ate. San Franciscans may love their brunch lines at places like Brenda’s, Mymy, Toast, and Olea only a few blocks away, but I honestly don’t understand why people would wait in those lines when excellent, off-the-beaten-path brunch options like Dolce Amore exist.
Where else should I go for an unusual and impressive brunch in San Francisco? Let me know in the comments below.
1477 Van Ness Ave. San Francisco, CA 94109