Getting Sunday brunch in San Francisco is never a quick or easy proposition. Getting Sunday brunch in San Francisco when it’s New Year’s Freaking Day — which this Sunday happens to be — will be a line-waiting horrorshow of slow-drip hangover torture. Seating will be in high demand as many restaurants are closed for the holiday, restaurants that are open will be packed with low-functioning hipster zombies, and wait staff will be understandably not operating at full power. So we’ve listed New Year’s Day brunch hotspots with reputations for seating quickly and efficiently, for you traditional walk-in warrior brunchers who do not have the party weekend foresight to make advance reservations and are not keen on any the of the 900 completely redundant food delivery apps currently available to you.
While it is impossible to anticipate the number of walk-ins that will appear at a given restaurant on New Year’s Day, we can identify some reliable indicators of short wait times. Some places employ seating strategies that are particularly friendly to impulse visitors, like same-day only phone reservations or amply tabled food truck gatherings. In other cases, I’ve data mined the Yelp comments of four-star-reviewed brunch spots and picked out those with the highest ratios of positive reviews mentioning short wait times compared to negative reviews mentioning long wait times.
The short wait-time criteria will exclude the most popular San Francisco brunch spots. But these greasy spoons and backwoods gems are open on January 1, and are among your best bets for getting your grub quickly and heading back to bed — or to bed in the first place? — on New Year’s Day.
Image: Simon C via Yelp
Noe Valley’s NoVY scored best on the Yelp review wait time assessment formula, with a nearly 6/1 ratio of short-wait praise to long-wait complaints. What’s key here is that NoVY lets you call ahead to put your name on the list (they also take normal reservations) and it helps if you’re willing to accept counter seating. And if you’re capable of looking at fluorescent lighting on New Year’s morning, their cheese grater light fixtures are a rather adorable gas.
4000 24th Street between Noe Street and Castro Street (10 a.m. - 4 p.m. New Year’s Day)
Image: Emily C via Yelp
B Star Bar
B Star Bar seems to exist solely to handle the overflow of people who don’t want to wait in line at Burma Superstar, their immensely popular sister restaurant located just a block away. And it works — getting seated at B Star is exponentially quicker. The menu is a little more Asian fusion, but they do serve the celebrated tea leaf salad of Burma Superstar fame. B Star Bar is indeed open for brunch hours, and they’ve got a sweet enclosed and heated back patio to accommodate more seating.
127 Clement Street between Second Avenue and Third Avenue (10 a.m. - 3 p.m. and 5 - 9 p.m. New Year’s Day)
Hookt Donuts, Image via SPARK
SoMa StrEat Food Park and SPARK Food Truck Rallies
You can literally bring your dog for hair of the dog at two different food truck brunch meetups on the New Year’s Day menu, both good options for people who want to watch sports, play games, or dance to DJs. The SoMa StrEat Food Park has 12 food trucks and DJ Reeact scheduled to attend, while it’s new Mission Bay sister venue SPARK currently has eight trucks attending plus giant versions of Jenga and Connect Four. Both events will be jugged up with bottomless mimosas and sangrias, but both are kid and dog-friendly.
SoMa StrEat Food Park: 428 11th Street between Harrison Street and Bryant Street (10 a.m. - 5 p.m. New Year’s Day, free before 11 a.m. and $5 after)
SPARK: 601 Mission Bay Boulevard North between Fourth Street and Merrimac Street (10 a.m. - 5 p.m. New Year’s Day, free all day)
IMage: Jini K. via Yelp
Bernal Star is another case here where the restaurant slashes wait times thanks to a large back patio. But in this case there are no patio enclosures or heaters, so you’re really hoping it doesn’t rain. This is the former Liberty Cafe, now specializing in gourmet burgers and, at brunch, fish tacos, American egg dishes, and the beignets pictured above.
410 Cortland Avenue between Bennington Street and Wool Street (9 a.m. - 3 p.m. and 5 - 10 p.m. New Year’ Day)
Ling N. via Yelp
New Village Cafe
Nob Hill’s New Village Cafe is not a particularly fancy place to eat. It’s eccentric collection of houseplants, old-school coffee mugs and “theme breakfasts” will remind you more of Grandma’s house than House of Prime Rib. It’s your standard, breakfast-all-day hole in the wall, but you can go berserk on the side dishes because they’re all $4 or less.
1426 Polk Street between Pine Street and California Street (7 a.m. - 3 p.m. New Year’s Day)
Nal Q via Yelp
Pork Store Cafe on 16th Street
Here we must distinguish between two different Pork Store Cafe franchise locations. The newer Mission District Pork Store Cafe location has a larger seating capacity and shorter wait times than the original Pork Store on Haight Street. The 16th and Valencia version also has a nicer interior with that wild lampshade arrangement seen above, but both locations have a ‘Make Your Own Bloody Mary’ bar to delight you prior to seating.
3122 16th Street between Valencia Street and Guerrero Street (8 a.m. - 4 p.m. New Year’s Day)
Image: Sarah H via Yelp
Th Chow location at Church and Market has never been known for its short wait times, but instead its comfortably boozed-up wait times at the next door Pilsner Inn where the wait staff will just come grab you when your table’s ready. But this Chow location, as well as the Park Chow on Ninth Avenue, now both use a same-day table reservation system that allows you to simply call ahead and show up. The Church Street Chow’s back patio has tarps and heating lamps while the one on Ninth Avenue has a roofed upstairs patio, so new arrivals do get seated a little more quickly regardless of weather.
215 Church Street between 14th Street and 15th Street (8 a.m. - 10 p.m. New Year’s Day)
1240 Ninth Avenue between Lincoln Way and Irving Street (8 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. New Year’s Day)
‘The Hangover’, Warner Bros. 2009