The California Bucket List is your daily guide to essential California adventures, from easy to edgy. Check in every day for a new must-do adventure, each tried and tested by one of the Travel section's staffers and contributors.
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Why: The hearty, fresh breakfasts and lunches (homemade jam, Italian sausage, cranberry-orange walnut loaves). The North Beach neighborhood and view of Washington Square Park outside. And the family. The Sanchez clan has owned and run the place for more than 50 years. (Mama Sanchez died in 2000.)
What: Mama's is a casual cafe. You order at the counter then grab one of 47 chairs at 13 tables, no counter. But the food and sense of place are just right, offhand but profound. (For anyone who's been to Santa Fe, N.M., Mama's may set off memories of Cafe Pasqual's.)
This is why, for decades, people have been content to stand in line for their breakfasts, especially on weekends. It was an hour's wait when I ate here one Tuesday in March.
But here's the thing: When I returned two days later at 1:30 p.m., there was no line. So consider this: Mama's is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day but Monday, and serves breakfast any time it's open. If you can, show up on a weekday after the lunchtime rush, say, 2 p.m. You could eat a late lunch. Or be a rebel and eat your breakfast after lunch. That's what I'm doing next time.
And I'll be ordering Mama's Breakfast Sandwich, in which the ham and gruyere cheese harmonize like the Everly Brothers with arugula on brioche.
Where: 1701 Stockton St., San Francisco, 381 miles northwest of downtown L.A.
How much: Specials usually $12-$23. No credit cards.