Starting Saturday, November 11, Hayes Valley Champagne bar The Riddler is getting into the brunch game, serving bubbly beverages and lighter brunch fare by the elegant, three-tiered tray. The bar’s “brunch-ish” service begins at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and lasts till 3 p.m., though patrons are welcome to stay through to the start of the full menu service at 4 p.m. and munch on popcorn in between.
“We tried to think about what was missing from the SF brunch landscape, something lighter, healthful, and beautiful,” says Riddler owner Jen Pelka. The result, she hopes, is an offering that someone could enjoy at the bar on their own, perhaps accompanied by the Sunday Styles section, or with a group of coconspirators. “This will be a great gaggle brunch,” Pelka suggests.
The Riddler’s three-tiered tray idea ($24 per person) comes from Pelka’s experience working for famed New York restaurateur Daniel Boulud, who knows a thing or two about presentation. On one tier, riddler chef Zoe Deeg will serve a seasonal fruit salad — at the moment, she imagines some combination of “pears, beautiful apples, lingering summer berries, and persimmons, which are coming along.” On another tier, brunchers can select savory or sweet: A grain bowl (toasted farro, broccolini, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and pumpkin seeds) or chia pudding, which Deeg will make with earl grey tea-infused almond milk. The third tier will hold daily viennoiserie from Jane the Bakery, and drip coffee from Equator and tea from Jane will also be available.
The Riddler’s choice of a lighter offering isn’t just an aesthetic one. It’s also necessitated by the bar’s tiny kitchen which keeps Deeg on her creative toes. Going forward, the two could see subbing in brunch items like salmon rillettes or a baked egg dish. But what The Riddler won’t serve is another eggs Benedict brunch or — god forbid — bottomless mimosas.
“[Mimosas] are typically done with low quality and not fresh orange juice as a mask for really low quality sparkling wines,” Pelka says. Real talk. Instead, she’ll serve a few champagne cocktails — apricot puree and some basil, or blackberry and mint, with a Prosecco or a Cava topper.
Outdoor seating will be available at brunch, and all seating will be first come, first-served, with no reservations.