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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Brunch at Ella's Is Still an Event

Posted By on Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 5:11 PM

click to enlarge Ella's fried cornmeal and sunny-side-up eggs, $10.75. - J. KAUFFMAN
  • J. Kauffman
  • Ella's fried cornmeal and sunny-side-up eggs, $10.75.

Part of a series about restaurants that have been around so long they've slipped into a media black hole.

Dinner may bring the prestige, but it's also a high-risk proposition, with high food costs, high menu prices, and a fickle, novelty-seeking clientele. By contrast, the best breakfast-lunch spots never seem to go through the same ups and downs. Ella's, in Laurel Heights, served evening meals for much of its history, but 20 years on, brunch is still the meal that brings the lines, while dinner has quietly faded away.

In 2006, Matt Sklov, who ran the brunch service at Campton Place for three years, and his cousin Andy bought Ella's from founders Danny Wilser and Robert Merryman. You'd barely notice the transition ― same room, same crazy-making trays of cinnamon rolls in the glass case, same unpretentious, careful brunch food.

click to enlarge Chicken hash: no longer miraculous, but still good. - J. KAUFFMAN
  • J. Kauffman
  • Chicken hash: no longer miraculous, but still good.

The restaurant's signature chicken hash ― parboiled potatoes and shredded

chicken formed into a patty and deep-fried ― is dryer than it used to

be when I first went to Ella's in the 1990s. Hey, Tom Jones doesn't belt out "It's Not Unusual" quite as convincingly as he used to, either.

But sunny-side eggs draped over crisp-edged triangles of fried cornmeal mush taste as contemporary as they always did, and Ella's French toast, saturated in brandy-orange custard, shows its age as well as Demi Moore.

Was that the same waitress who use to awe us with her gift for calmly slicing through a packed room like a santoku blade? I couldn't remember, but she never let my coffee cup go dry.

Ella's Restaurant: 500 Presidio (at California), 441-5669.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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