I have been called “the world’s most easily bored person.” By someone who knows me well, too. (And yes, despite such insensitive name-calling, we remain married.)
And so there are very few meals for which I would happily line up more than an hour — if I’m going to subject myself to all that boredom, the food had better be nothing short of earth-shattering.
In San Francisco, the one place that commands a wait of at least 90 minutes on most days and still has my devotion is a little corner restaurant on Washington Square Park called Mama’s …
It’s hard to explain why it is that I love Mama’s — which has been serving brunch and lunch to large crowds for more than 50 years.
First, if you arrive anytime after its 8 a.m. opening time, this is what you’ll find — a line that stretches around the corner and almost halfway down the block.
In fact, this line is so long it continues inside, too. About 30 minutes into our wait, we counted exactly 50 people in line. And this was at 11:30 a.m. — the lunch rush had yet to hit.
And then Mama’s kills you, too — as you’re waiting, the line slowly inches past a giant window where you get to watch other people eating.
And they compound all that with a board on which they tempt you with the specials of the day…
It gets worse once you’re inside — we spent an interminably long time standing by the open kitchen, watching the cooks assemble plates of deliciousness that taunted us from behind a glass window.
And I got to spend a fair bit of time pressing my face as close as it would get to a basket holding all the different kinds of bread Mama’s uses to make French toast: Orange-cranberry-walnut, banana-nut, cinnamon swirl … it’s all there.
And yet, in spite of all this, I still adore Mama’s.
The thing to get here is the omelette (or Momelette).
As a nod to our surroundings, the sous chef tried the Californian ($9.50), which came stuffed with avocado, Monterey Jack cheese and very nicely crisped bacon.
Being a little more adventurous, I sampled the omelette with dungeness crab, avocado and creamy brie.
I had initially balked at ordering it because of the $21.95 price tag — but I was glad I did. The crab — some of which came in big hunks — was super fresh and lovely paired with creamy avocado and large chunks of brie.
Since we had waited so long, we decided to order even more food to make our time in line worthwhile. (I should note that we ordered so much food that they gave us a table for five instead of a slender one for two.)
Our third dish was the French toast sampler ($10.95), which featured three kinds: Orange-cranberry-walnut, banana-nut and cinnamon.
Of the three, the banana-nut was our least favorite — the bread was the driest and didn’t particularly lend itself well to being turned into French toast. Once you got past the crunchy caramelized cinnamon-sugar topping, you hit mealy crumbliness. We loved the cinnamon toast and thought the citrusy-zing of the orange-cranberry-walnut was a great foil for all the sweetness on our plate.
Was the wait worth it? If I lived in San Francisco, I’d probably say no.
But as someone who doesn’t have the luxury of taking Mama’s for granted, when given the chance to get in line, I never hesitate.
Mama’s, 1701 Stockton Street, San Francisco, Calif.; 415.362.6421; http://www.mamas-sf.com/