My friend Valerie, long time willing co-adventurer of many food and exploratory field trips here in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, and myself drove to San Anselmo with crab cakes Benedict on our minds on the Sunday after I arrived here in Marin last November. I had been thinking about them for a whole year (and a couple of months), so this was an unavoidable moment. And yes, they are the ones in the image above, except I do not like the runny-ness of poached eggs, so I have mine scrambled. Yummm!!
Valerie is the one who introduced me to Comforts at least fifteen years ago, considering I have been eleven years in Hawai’i already; definitely quite some time. I fell in love with the little town of San Anselmo on our first visit – which, incredibly, happened years after my first trips to California. Quaint and pretty, well cared for and with lovely shops and galleries – as well as excellent eateries – and a beautiful residential neighborhood all around, San Anselmo is tucked at the heart of Marin County along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, after Kentfield and Ross and just before Fairfax, if you are coming from the Hwy 101.
I would have taken a few extra pics of the main street, but last Sunday, which is when we decided to go there again for brunch with my camera along, it was raining, and it did not let up the entire time. A view of San Anselmo will have to wait for another day and another post.
The very first time I was at Comforts, there was only the main section you see in the image above, with the take-out deli on the left, the coffee shop and bakery on the right, and a few tables where people could sit and enjoy the food and drinks they had just purchased. This has not essentially changed, and I have been here many times to pick up take-out and desserts that have always been oh-so-good. The selection in both take-out deli and bakery is really excellent and – although I cannot give my direct opinion because, you should know by now, I do not eat chicken – one of the things they are famous for is their Chinese Chicken Salad. They sell that by the ton every day. Valerie would get a craving for it and drive all the way over there just to get some. I am sure she is not the only one.
Choosing is the only problem here, as you will want to have a bit of this, and a bit of that, and that, and that, and that… Everything is truly good and made with fresh and high quality ingredients, and has been consistently so over the years. Comfort is not just in the name either, as there are plenty of comfort foods to choose from. Both savory and sweet offerings change with the seasons, but the selection remains impressive. Besides what is available in the refrigerated display, you can also order salads, soups and sandwiches off the board menu above. And do not forget to check the extra tags lined up along the counter top, because when they run out of space inside the display, they might still have extra offerings in the back.
Displayed around the room, you can find a rather wide selection of other goodies for purchase, some made in house and labeled as such, some made locally, as well as specialties from beyond. You want to make sure to look everywhere, and at every sign, so as not to miss anything. There is wine, cookbooks, magazines, gift items, candies, chocolate, jams, teas and much more, with seasonal specialties added during the various Holidays.
During my first visit to Comforts, I remember talking to Valerie about how wonderful a full service café wold be and, on my next visit, there was one: a small but pretty place where to enjoy breakfast and lunch, with brunch on the weekends, and even seating in the outdoor patio. I know, I know, I am psychic.
The outdoor patio is a popular place both in summer and winter, filled with people an often dogs patiently waiting tied up within reach to the railing by the sidewalk, a water bowl nearby. Except last Sunday, as the weather was just too rainy, and the patio did not get any patrons until no options were left inside; even then, only a few daring (hungry) souls. Except for a beautiful black Belgian Shepherd in a yellow raincoat sitting with his daddy, all other doggies had stayed warm and dry at home, including mine.
The café does not take reservations, so you just show up, sign in and sometimes wait to be seated, especially during the busy times – which is just about every day, as this is a really popular place.
Loaded with camera, lenses and tripod and covered in boots, coat, scarf and hat, I felt cumbersome as I arrived early last Sunday to sign in and wait for a table by the window so as to have the best possible light to photograph the food. I then put on my cloak of invisibility and proceeded to take pics around the deli while waiting for Valerie and Jack to arrive, as agreed, a little later. At nine am the take-out section is usually not crowded, but Sunday the rain made everyone long for something hot and comforting, so I had to move around with care.
The reduced light coming from outside that made it harder for me to photograph, infused the place with an even more homey feel than usual. It truly was Comfort(s).
My friends arrived, and within minutes we had our table by the window, so my plan worked out perfectly. Jack had his first introduction to eating with a blogger and handled it like a pro. I let him have some of my precious potatoes in gratitude.
All of the options on the menu are tempting, but I just had to go for the Crab Cake Benedict again, and so did Valerie, though she opted to have them with a side of fruit instead of the potatoes. Ah yes, the breakfast potatoes at Comforts: they are not to be missed and hard to resist. A lady seated nearby had ordered a (really large) pancake with a (also large) side of those potatoes. I am not big on pancakes, but we could all relate on the potatoes.
Just as Valerie had predicted, Jack went for the Huevos Rancheros with a side of bacon, and thoroughly enjoyed them, as he frequently expressed with lots of “these are good” and “these are so good”. We all love our food, but Jack is a particularly appreciative eater, making it rewarding to cook for him.
Just to round out the flavors, we also shared a very tempting Pecan Crusted Challah French Toast with Blueberries we had spied on someone else’s table. I saved half of my Benedict to go so I could have room for a piece of the French toast while still nice and hot. It was another oh-so-good-I-just-have-to-moan-a-little experience, and it was actually really good eaten cold, like a sandwich, later at home.
The readers from Hawai’i will particularly appreciate the fact that, among the breakfast offerings, there was a Maui Loco-Moco: Prather Ranch ground Chuck Patty, two Eggs, Jasmine Rice, pan Gravy and Macaroni-Potato Salad. Sounds about right, doesn’t it?
I will also mention that one of their most popular desserts is a beautiful, large and white Coconut Cake, even if the Haupia Cake I used to enjoy in a Kamuela café remains unmatched.
It was too busy that day for me to juggle may way through to the other end of the café to take a photo of the cake, and we were too full to order a slice. But there is always next time!
Comforts has been open for about 28 years, yes that long, and it has both remained the same where it counts and evolved where it also counts. It has been voted Best of Marin by the Pacific Sun several times over, including last year, but no surprise there.
The food is wonderful, the staff friendly and knowledgeable, service for both café and take-out is svelte and attentive even at their busiest times.
Oops, almost forgot: the busy bees at Comforts also offer catering!
Something else I promised myself I would mention: every time I have been here throughout the years, I have ooh-ed and aah-ed over the flowers. There is always a beautiful and large flower arrangement above the cookie display case (you can see it in one of the images further up the post), and lovely and unusual combinations that follow the seasons in the hanging containers along the outdoor patio railing (see image above). The indoor floral art is by local florists Pat and Marcia Maffei, owners of Main St. Floragarden, while the outside containers are kept updated with flowers and greenery purchased from Sunnyside Nursery, both also in San Anselmo.
With all of the above, how can you not find your way to San Anselmo for a bite of comfort at Comforts? You are just going to have to put in on your list. Oh, and there is free parking along the street! I have managed to park almost in front most times, especially on weekends.
Soooo… what is your favorite thing to order for brunch? Or are you like me and love those buffet Sunday brunches where you can get a little bit of everything? Hum… I wonder where a good one is to be had in San Francisco or here in Marin. I am open to suggestions.
335 San Anselmo Ave. – San Anselmo, Ca 94960 l ph. 415.454.9840 l fax 415.454.7590
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