On a warm morning in Noe Valley, Bad Fish by Sublime plays as diners sip Moscow mules and devour caviar-topped doughnuts. For brunch in the neighborhood, locals have long flocked to Diamond Cafe for classic breakfast or to Vive la Tarte for croissants. Slowly, however, diners have begun to frequent a relative newcomer.
Birch & Rye is no stranger to Noe Valley at this point, having opened in January 2022. Brunch began in February of that year but was shelved; chef and owner Anya El-Wattar says she felt diners avoided the Russian restaurant due to the War in Ukraine. But as of May 2023, the restaurant is experimenting with brunch once again — and as of the end of November, the restaurant is open for brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The ambiance is chipper and fun, but this is no boozy party. In fact, Birch & Rye’s approachable but luxurious Sunday service might be the most San Francisco brunch in town.
Why might that be the case? First, the food is top-notch, and, as San Franciscans tend to love, there’s a lot of caviar. Sea buckthorn tea, which plays like a more complex orange juice, arrives warm on the table. The omelet is a kingly and arrives with petite order of chives, ricotta, and, yes, Kaluga caviar. There’s an enlightened riff on an American diner breakfast featuring eggs — poached, fried, or scrambled — Duroc bacon, and duck fat-fried potatoes. El-Wattar also keeps plenty of vegan and gluten-free options on the menu, such as the vegetarian buckwheat bowl or the charred cabbage. Items can be ordered a la carte, so, unlike when you have to pay $55 for a mimosa bracelet and $17 for a plate of too-salty potatoes just to get in the door, nobody has to get order they don’t actually want.
The restaurant itself, for the uninitiated, offers an inviting and well-lit space. Unlike the creepy, almost clinical ambiance of Hawthorn in The Menu, the back patio is bright, as is the light woody aesthetic rendered by the team at Architects II. On an average weekend, the space fills with ska and Damien Marley tunes, and dozens of diners in dressy but lowkey attire. So far the brunch remains under the radar, but it’s absolutely the brunch San Francisco has been waiting for.
Birch and Rye (1320 Castro Street) serves brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations can be made through Opentable.