Once upon a time, there was a small breakfast cafe on Union Street. It was affordable, friendly in an old-fashioned way, and they served really good pancakes and eggs. When the cafe ceased to exist, so did my desire to spend a great deal of time and money in the Marina.
When I arrived at the eastern end of Union Street to try Camino Alto, I was pleasantly surprised by the layout. It reminded me of that other cafe from yesteryear. The ground floor is capacious; the décor is Scandinavian, ivory and bone-colored walls married to blond wood. The clear, corrugated plastic sheeting covering the atrium allows sunlight to trickle down on guests and the assortment of millennial-approved greenery: a cascading spider plant here, a snake plant there, a fiddle leaf fig in the corner.
Camino Alto is an all-day restaurant that closes in the afternoon for a siesta before the dinner service. I went with a couple of friends for a weekend brunch and, except for one other couple, we had the place to ourselves, which seemed odd for a city that loves to stand in line for brunch. Either nobody was awake by 10 a.m. or nobody knew that Camino Alto’s doors were open.
Interior of Camino Alto restaurant in San Francisco July 9, 2022. | Elliott Alexander / Special to The Standard
The brunch menu has many recognizable items, like eggs and waffles but each one has its own, Camino Alto spin. The three we tried were similar riffs on Mexican dishes: Chilaquiles ($15); La Vaquera ($15); and, Klingeman Farm pork belly ($16). Other than lacking a trace of salt, all of the dishes were fresh and hearty.
I forgot to specify that I prefer my fried eggs over easy—and the young man taking my La Vaquera order didn’t ask. The eggs top a hill of beans, avocado, pico de gallo, queso fresco and corn tortillas. All three egg-based dishes read as hangover cures (was the neighborhood sleeping Friday night off?).
We also tried the blueberry masa waffle ($16) and a blueberry lemon scone ($5.50). Unique in my experience, a creamy white “cultured coconut” topping is pooled next to the waffle. It held the consistency of yogurt.
Normally, I take a hard pass on dishes that include coconut, but I’d have this again. The gritty flavor had been smoothed out and something delicately floral was left behind. Adding masa to the batter made for a denser, more filling waffle. The scone—“baked in a wood burning oven”—didn’t make much of an impression for good or ill.
1715 Union St.
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