Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

September 15, 2008 12:50 AM

Restaurant: Mama's on Washington Square

Mama's on Washington Square

1701 Stockton Street
San Francisco, California 94133
If you decide to try Mama's, which WW recommends that you do, wear comfortable shoes; it is inevitable that you will spend some time waiting in line. There is the line outside the restaurant to get in, and the line leading to the location at which you place your order and pay. After paying, you may stand around for a while before you get a place to sit down. However, once inside you can entertain yourself watching the cooking process.

Mama's is open from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday - Sunday. There is seating for about 45 people on two levels. With the exception of a couple of tables that can handle up to 6 people, the other tables are for two, but are regularly moved together or apart depending on the size of parties that are waiting to be seated.

Stan, Jay and I arrived at Mama's at about 8:20 a.m. and there was already a line. Stanley has a fairly complicated formula for figuring out each wave of diners, so that you wait outside for the shortest period of time. It is obvious that the formula is flawed.

WW's advice is, be prepared to be patient. This is not the place to go if you are looking for a quick bite.

The centerpiece of the restaurant is the open kitchen, where a head chef and 2 assistants seem to be in perpetual motion. The menus are hung on the walls above the kitchen. [If you go online you can print out a menu in advance sans the daily specials. The daily specials are written on two small whiteboards, one that shows through the window so you can see it from outside, and the other over the chef's head.]

On average, the restaurant serves 290 people a day, which means each chair turns over 6 times a day.

Once you order and are assigned a table, your meal is served to you by one of 4 serving people. I could not quite figure out the system they used to know where meals were to go as they came off the cooking line. I forgot to ask, but whatever the system it seemed to be unerring.

For some reason, Stanley has gone healthy in his eating habits. You'll recall that at Rocco's he ordered cantaloupe, bananas and cottage cheese. At Mama's he ordered bananas, blue berries and plain yogurt.

Happily, Jay did not succumb to Stanley's new habits, and ordered the Smoked salmon scramble with green onions, bagel and cream cheese, and an orange juice.

Throwing care to the wind for a second time, I ordered the French Toast Sampler plate with 3 kinds of french toast - cranberry orange walnut, banana nut, and Swedish cinnamon topped with bananas and mixed berries and a side of bacon. All of it was excellent.

There is a full menu of breakfast treats, including such weekend specials as Dungeness Crab Omelette with Avocado and Sour Cream or a Shrimp and Avocado Benedict with Grilled tomatoes.

There is also a more limited luncheon menu, ranging from a traditional hamburger to a California sandwich described as Avocado, Tomato, Red Onion, and Jack Cheese on whole grain bread with salad.

I did not check out the restrooms. It seemed like too much work to get through the crowd to get to the back of the restaurant, where I assume they were located.

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