Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sausalito Cafe

I've been seriously craving breakfast or brunch foods lately.

Our cafe at work used to really mix things up and have a constantly changing selection of breakfast foods, but for the past few months it has been exactly the same.  The yogurt parfait bar with house made granola and fresh berries, the waffles made to order with real maple syrup, the house baked pastries, the bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese, etc, were all exciting and delightful at first, but after several months of the exact same thing every day, I've been seriously wanting a change.  I'm not sure why they stopped mixing it up.  Even the pastry team just makes one flavor of muffin and one variety of scone and they rarely change.  I realize how ridiculous and spoiled this sounds to members of the real world where you don't have a cafe providing you free amazing breakfast every day.  But this really is my reality, and I've been desperately wanting things like pancakes, french toast, eggs benedict, and other more "interesting" items.

So, when we had a long weekend for the 4th of July, I decided I was going to take advantage and go out to a weekday breakfast, something I never normally do.  Living in the Financial District, there are a slew of cafes that are open only M-F, only for breakfast and lunch.  And since I work somewhere that provides exactly those meals, I never try them.  I was really excited to check out the places that are always closed when I walk by!

Of course, because it was a holiday, pretty much everywhere was closed on the 4th, and many were closed on the 5th as well.  And I really wanted to find somewhere that served french toast.  Finding and reading the menus for every place around seemed like a very tedious task, so I let technology do the work for me.  I knew I'd be limiting my search somewhat, but I decided to only look at places that were available on Seamless.com, since it has a "food item" search.  I could select the time of day/day of week and find everywhere that had french toast, sorted by distance from my house.  Perfect.  I wasn't going to use Seamless for delivery (seriously, cold soggy delivery french toast? People do that?) but this was an easy way to filter through the options.

It turns out, not that many places offer french toast.  Being my crazy self, I cross referenced each place on Yelp.  Most were located near Union Square, clearly catered towards tourists, and got horrible reviews.  But Sausalito Cafe jumped out.  They have 3 locations in the city, all close by, but only one was listed on Seamless.  They all get decent reviews, except that there are no reviews of the french toast, as they are known for their lunch offerings the most (falafel, gyros, etc) and for their breakfast burritos.  But if the cafe got decent reviews in general, I decided it was worth checking out.

I eagerly pulled up Seamless on Friday morning, ready to place my order. Unfortunately, Seamless said they weren't open.  Oh, no!  My plan was foiled, which confused me, since I'd checked with them before to make sure they'd be open.  So I called, and ... yup, they were open.  I let them know that they weren't listed as open on Seamless, and she took my name and number, and said she'd look into it.  I didn't expect much to happen, but amazingly a few minutes later, my phone rang, and she apologized, and said that Seamless had taken them off for the holiday and forgot to turn them back on.  Fixed!

I placed my order for the french toast to have right away, along with a bagel to save for later.  Unfortunately, in the time it took to figure out the whole Seamless open or not issue, they ran out of the type of bagel I'd been wanting to try (asiago).  They nicely called me again to let me know of the problem, but I was pretty disappointed, as there weren't any remaining flavors I wanted.  The bagels  are from House of Bagels, who also provide the bagels at work, so I've had them many times, although we only get the plain flavors.  I was excited to try a new one, not just have another plain bagel.  (Side note: stay tuned for an upcoming bakery review day for House of Bagels!)

Ok, back to Sausalito Cafe.  I promise I'll stop rambling soon!

I was really impressed with the service, from dealing with the Seamless issue of being offline, to calling me when the bagel selection wasn't available, to greeting me when I arrived to pick up my order.

As I mentioned, they are known more for their lunch items, and I'm definitely interested in checking out their falafel wraps, complete with housemade hummus, or perhaps trying the breakfast burritos or pancakes.  I don't have a lot of reason to skip my free meals at work, but next time we have a holiday, and Sausalito Cafe is open, it will be at the top of my list to return to.  Or, perhaps I'll get sick enough of my same old breakfast everyday that I'll venture there on a normal workday, and, gasp, pay for breakfast :)
French Toast.  $3.99.
At the top of my list of breakfast cravings is french toast.  Now, french toast comes in many varieties.  It can be just standard white sandwich bread, dunked briefly in some batter, and barely seared, like the boring version from Soma Inn Cafe.  Or it can sound amazing, like the white chocolate french toast with roasted apples and pears from Sierra Cafe, that turned out to just be an oily flavorless disappointment.  Or it can be a bit more exciting, like the almond crusted thick sliced brioche french toast with vanilla bean cream cheese and roasted yellow peaches at the now defunct Axis Cafe.  Or it can be absolutely amazeballs like the a brioche french toast bread pudding with stewed apples and quince, crème fraîche whipped cream, and candied pecans at Baker & Banker, which is still the best french toast dish I've ever had.  The most memorable is the one from a cafe in my hometown in NH, that makes theirs from ... glazed crullers (yes, the donuts).  A serving of their french toast is literally, three full size glazed crullers, dipped into french toast batter, grilled, topped with fruit and whipped cream, served with syrup, and a side of bacon fat fried homefries.  Oh my.

Anyway, the description on Seamless for the french toast at Sausalito Cafe was devoid of any details.  Where in the french toast spectrum would it fall?  If it is just standard white bread served with nothing on the side, there was no reason to even consider it.  I know that is classic "french toast", but I find it to be kinda worthless.

Since Sausalito Cafe's version is only $3.99, I didn't imagine it had any frills.  The website had an inquiry page, so I wrote in asking, not really expecting a response.  I was amazed when they replied telling me that it was thick sliced, served with powdered sugar and syrup, along with with butter if I liked.

Sounded quite reasonable. While not brioche, thick sliced is certainly better than regular sandwich sliced.  Syrup is definitely required.  So I went for it.  But of course I did it Julie-style, prepared to spruce it up if necessary.  I brought some fresh sliced strawberries and blueberries from the farmer's market, in case I needed to freshen it up, and some toasted coconut and chopped pecans, in case I wanted to add some crunch.  I pondered bringing whipped cream, but carrying a full can of whipped cream seemed insane, and that kind won't hold up once out of the can.  I very seriously considered bringing my own maple syrup, as I thought there was a good chance that they would not be serving real syrup, but I didn't have any easy vessel to transport a small quantity in.  I do have my limits!

My order of french toast contained 4 slices.  I wouldn't describe it as thick sliced, perhaps just a bit thicker than regular sandwich bread?  It was wheat, not white.  About what I expected given the price.  But while it wasn't anything fancy, it was surprisingly well executed.  The spicing was good, with the cinnamon coming through.  It was eggy, clearly soaked a little bit, making it more interesting than regular toast, but not strangely eggy or anything.  Not burnt, not dried out, not soggy.  The back crust was a little crispy, adding a nice texture.  I was really pleasantly surprised.  This was standard french toast, but a good version of it.

As you can see in the photo, it did indeed come with "syrup" ... "Chef's Quality Breakfast Syrup" at that.  As you may recall from my IHOP adventures, I grew up with a godfather who made his own syrup, and never encountered this "pancake syrup" stuff until college.  I was pretty sad when I saw the packet, although I did pretty much expect it.  I kicked myself a little for not bringing my own.  But then I tried it.  Maybe I've been living away from the land of maple syrup for too long, but honestly, it wasn't bad.  Yes, it was flavored corn syrup.  But it was sweet, it was mapley, and it really tasted pretty great with the french toast.  I quickly put away my coconut and nuts, they were not needed.  I had a few bites with my fresh fruit, but I actually preferred it with just the syrup.  Who knew? (Seriously, don't tell any of my east coast family!)

The only thing I didn't like about it was the butter.  I'm not sure if you can see in the photo, but it must have had some pats of butter served on top of it, that melted into giant pools of butter in the container, and soaked into several of the slices.  There was far too much of it for my liking.  In some bites, all I could taste was butter, no matter how much syrup I added.  I've actually never thought of adding butter to french toast, as it oil from searing it is always enough, and I am usually soaking it in syrup.  The very top slice wasn't soaked in butter, and it was the one I liked the best.  Several of the other pieces were kinda ruined from the butter, and unfortunately, there was no saving them, as the butter had melted and soaked in.  I wish it was served on the side, or listed as an option.  When I'd asked how it was served, he did mention "butter if you like", which made me think it was something I'd have to opt into.

Anyway, while this wasn't a crazy decadent french toast extravaganza like some of the other ones I've had, I can safely say this was the best standard french toast I've ever had.  And for $3.99, it is an insanely good deal.  Just make sure to get the butter on the side.
Sausalito Espresso on Urbanspoon
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