Presidio Social Club, San Francisco

Building 563 at The Presidio National Park is a long, rectangular wood-framed structure erected in 1903 as enlisted men’s barracks. A hundred years and a few architectural renovations later, it now houses the Presidio Social Club–a Californian restaurant open for dinner and weekend brunch.

Inside the charming building, a welcoming space transports you away from the city and to another time. It’s like entering a time machine and stepping into a place that resembles the setting of Mad Men’s episode portraying Don Draper’s escapades in California. Long live the '60s.

Ample windows flood the dining room with natural light and give diners an enviable view of the park’s oak trees and grassy fields. In the bright space, solid wood tables, straw chairs and chesterfield banquettes. A long white marble bar with leather stools and adjacent palm trees give it the ultimate old California flair. You feel in Palm Springs, even if it’s foggy outside.

The menu

The laminated menu carries on the mid-century theme in its design and features a simple brunch fare with classic American staples, nothing too inventive. About 13 main courses ranging from $10 to $17. Side dishes and helpers go form $2.50 to 7.

The meal

Presidio Social Club’s posh west coast atmosphere doesn’t quite translate into its cuisine. Some dishes are more successful than others but overall the food seems to be stuck in time, in an era when brunch was simply a meatier breakfast. Long before Alice Waters transformed California’s cuisine.

Coffee from Mr. Espresso is brewed strong with a bitter aftertaste. The latte is, well, just a latte, no frothy artistry.

Some of the most interesting dishes are those you order on the side. Like the Brioche Beignets served with maple syrup. Light and fluffy.

The Caramel sticky bun is also very good. Fluffy and sweet.

From the main courses, the Eggs Benedict is a safe bet. The poached eggs are cooked well and you have a choice of spicy Yukon potatoes wedges, hash browns or fries.

The menu’s most adventurous dish is the Oxtail Red Flannel Hash w/ Poached Eggs, Beets, Fresh Horseradish. The tender, tasty oxtail meat is accompanied by sweet beets, wilted spinach and fragrant horseradish.

More traditional palates will prefer the Weekend Breakfast – 2 eggs any style, sausage or bacon. But don’t expect a nice touch (like the freshness of chopped parsley) or a welcomed twist (say, a touch of cream); this is your classic Grand Slam, Denny’s style. With slightly overcooked eggs and dry sausage–albeit it house made, the best thing here are the crispy hash browns.

Also on the traditional side, Cream Biscuits w/ Sausage Gravy & eggs any style. A hearty dish of big proportions. The hamburger bun size biscuits, gravy and potatoes make for quite a starch fest.

The restaurant also offers daily Frittatas like this one, topped with mushrooms and arugula.

In short

I’ll be honest; the brunch fare at Presidio Social Club won’t attract adventurous foodies or convert casual eaters into epicurean enthusiasts. Its food doesn’t have the creativity of Foreign Cinema’s or the care of Canteen’s. But its atmosphere makes it well worth a visit. Let the jazz music play, sip your Ramoz Fizz and enjoy the feeling of being in a mid-century private club. No membership required. But before you light your cigarette, remember, no smoking allowed.

Presidio Social Club is at 563 Ruger St.
Online reservations


Caitlin said...

Oh yum, I LOVE beignets! What a wonderful meal

Sam L. Roth said...

I have never done brunch at PSC, but my dinner there was quite wonderful.
I thought that menu did a great justice to their bygone-era traditional dishes (my grandfather's liver and onions suited even his picky palate) and allowed for terrific variations on classic American dishes (my Kobe beef sloppy joe dripped with decadence but felt like summer camp).
I wouldn't force yourself to return, but I think there are much better-rounded options later in the evening.