First Taste: Early to Rise's homestyle brunch is worth getting out of bed for.
Apple butter French toast and blueberry ricotta pancakes at the popular pop-up turned brick-and-mortar brunch spot, Early to Rise. (Brianna Danner)

First Taste: Early to Rise's homestyle brunch is worth getting out of bed for.


The most important meal of the day just got a permanent upgrade.

For years, chef Andrew McCormack’s Early to Rise was a fleeting pop-up affair—a family-style food orgy before the pandemic, a gourmet counter-served meal after. Now, the beloved brunchery has found a place to call home.

McCormack, who’s toiled in the kitchens at Michelin-approved Spruce and Quince, has the skills to make Early to Rise a splashy destination anchored by unusual flavors and techniques. Instead, he’s chosen a different path. McCormack’s first brick-and-mortar carries on the pop-up’s tradition as a light-hearted, welcoming space in which classic brunch dishes are executed in exquisite detail.

Almost everything at Early to Rise is made from scratch. Their benedicts are stacked on house-baked English muffins, their French toast is made from homemade challah, their breakfast sandwiches are held together by bagels, you guessed it, made in house. They smoke their own thick-cut bacon and ham and make their own cheese for decadent blueberry ricotta pancakes. They culture their own butter then skim the cream for crème fraîche to top the apple butter French toast. Once a year they buy 200 pounds of hot peppers from a farm in Lodi and crank out bottles and bottles of Louisiana-style hot sauce.

The menu at Early to Rise includes donuts, house-smoked bacon, and homemade English muffns and bagels.(Brianna Danner)

The point of Early to Rise is not to do something new and novel, it’s to make the absolute best versions of brunch favorites that San Francisco has ever seen—and it’s working.

Even on their third morning in business, the light-bright restaurant is packed and running full steam. The dining room has been remade from its Automat days into a charming modern diner with chestnut booths below ship’s portal-like mirrors, a communal dining counter and bar, and stained glass accents in Crayola colors. Custom coffee mugs and dishware are illustrated with the restaurant’s signature rooster by Oakland ceramicists Matt Fishman and Kate Gibbs. The bathroom is papered in adorably drawn SF food landmarks.

The menu isn’t large but it’s varied enough to have both quick fixes like donuts and bagels and plates piled high for leisurely meals. Unable to decide on the latter, I begin with the former, a seasonal daily deluxe donut that’s sugared and pillowy on the outside and filled with smooth, tangy bergamot and lemon cream. Java comes courtesy of the East Bay’s Signal Coffee, tea is hand-bagged by McCormack’s dear friend at the Leland Tea Company, and tipples include several styles of sparkling and low-ABV bloodies, plus beer and wine.

The sunny, modern diner style of Early to Rise.(Brianna Danner)

When the pastry’s been polished, I choose three dishes to taste. The first is eggs benedict, which can come either with house-smoked Canadian bacon or garlicky sauteed pea greens doused in a creamy brown butter Hollandaise. On the side is a cloud of grits twice-infused with white cheddar for ultimate cheesiness. Both are dishes I’ve had a million times but never have they tasted quite so delicious.

Although McCormack rarely strays too far off the well-beaten brunch path, the next dish has a less familiar feel, a samusa potato pancake made with peas, roasted carrots, and scallions then drizzled in tamarind, lime yogurt, and garam masala. Warm and comforting, it’s like the inside of a samosa set free and served with a pea green salad accented with basil and roasted carrots.

The samusa potato pancake drizzled in tamarind, lime yogurt, and garam masala.(Brianna Danner)

Finally, it’s on to the custardy French toast which has been slathered with Calvados-apple butter, topped with baked green apples and toasted hazelnuts, and crowned with the freshest of crème fraîches. Instead of sickly sweet maple syrup, it’s bathed in a multidimensional caramel apple version. It’s still almost as good the next morning when I reheat the leftovers at home.

In a few weeks, Early to Rise will add takeout to their offerings for some of the menu’s more portable elements, but neither dining in nor taking out is meant to be a replacement for WiFi-enabled coffee shops and cafes. The restaurant’s goal is to joyfully greet the morning and build an extended family around breakfast, whether that means meeting friends for a boozy brunch or grabbing bagels to nosh in a nearby park. Just a week old, they’re already achieving both.

No matter how it's sliced, Early to Rise is a great way to start the day.

// Opens at 8am Thursday through Monday; 1801 McAllister St. (NoPa),

Chef Andrew McCormack in front of Early to Rise's new brick-and-mortar in NoPa.(Brianna Danner)

Related Articles
Now Playing at SF Symphony
View this profile on Instagram

7x7 (@7x7bayarea) • Instagram photos and videos

From Our Partners